Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member Latest Breaking News General Discussion The DU Lounge All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


(82,120 posts)
Sun Apr 14, 2024, 06:51 PM Apr 14

A.I. Made These Movies Sharper. Critics Say It Ruined Them.



A.I. Made These Movies Sharper. Critics Say It Ruined Them.
Machine-learning technologies are being used in film restoration for new home video releases. But some viewers strongly dislike the results.
By Calum Marsh
April 13, 2024

In 1998, Geoff Burdick, an executive at James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, was hunched in front of a 12-inch monitor at a postproduction house, carefully preparing “Titanic” for release on LaserDisc and VHS. A state-of-the-art computer process had made it possible for Burdick and his team to scour the film frame by frame, removing tiny imperfections embedded in the original negative: little scratches, flakes of dirt, even water stains that smeared the image. The computer could erase these blemishes using a kind of copy-paste tool, concealing the defects with information from another frame.

Burdick, now a senior vice president at the company, told me that this process “seemed like freaking magic at the time.” And yet the results were not entirely well-received. “There were a lot of people who said that this was the most beautiful VHS they’d ever seen in their life, because we’d gotten rid of all that gobbledygook,” he recalled. “But there were a lot of folks who said, ‘This is not right! You’ve removed all of this stuff! If the negative is scratched, then we should see that scratch.’ People were really hard-core about it.”

In the decades since, home video formats have reached higher and higher resolutions, with VHS and LaserDisc giving way to DVD and Blu-ray, and eventually to ultra high-definition 4K discs, known as Ultra HD Blu-rays. As the picture quality has improved, restoration tools have evolved with them, making it easier than ever for filmmakers to fine-tune their work using computers. Several of Cameron’s films, including “The Abyss,” “True Lies” and “Aliens,” were recently released on Ultra HD Blu-ray in newly restored versions that are clearer and sharper than ever before — the product of painstaking attention from Lightstorm and Cameron himself. “I think they look the best they’ve ever looked,” Burdick said.

But as with the old “Titanic” home video, these restorations have proved controversial, with many viewers objecting strenuously to their pristine new look. What has caught the particular ire of critics is the fact that these versions have been restored, in part, using artificial intelligence. Park Road Post Production, the New Zealand company owned by the filmmaker Peter Jackson, helped clean up Cameron’s films using some of the same proprietary machine-learning software used on Jackson’s documentaries “The Beatles: Get Back” and “They Shall Not Grow Old.” The images in Cameron’s classic blockbusters were refined in a way that many felt looked strange and unnatural.


Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies” when streamed, top, and when viewed on the new Blu-ray version — made with the help of artificial intelligence. (20th Century Fox)

Bill Paxton with Schwarzenegger in the film’s streaming version, top, and the Blu-ray version. Details in the background and colors in the foreground are clearer in the new take. (20th Century Fox)

Jamie Lee Curtis in the streaming version of “True Lies,” top, and in the new Blu-ray version. Critics say skin texture is a casualty of the A.I. process used in restorations. (20th Century Fox)

Tom Arnold and Schwarzenegger in the streaming version, top, and the Blu-ray version. Higher-resolution viewing platforms are driving the use of A.I.-enhanced restorations. (20th Century Fox)

13 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies


(495 posts)
4. I really can't tell the difference. The gradient could also just be a setting on the streaming device vs the blu ray?
Sun Apr 14, 2024, 08:28 PM
Apr 14


(13,703 posts)
5. Many movies benefit from restoration without the use of AI
Sun Apr 14, 2024, 10:36 PM
Apr 14

For example, the Powell/Pressburger masterpiece "The Red Shoes," which was made in 1948, was extensively restored after damage to the negative from, among other things, mold and shrinkage.

Here's a write-up about this very film's restoration:

And here's an intro to the movie by Martin Scorsese for its Criterion release:


(13,703 posts)
10. "Dancers who could act"
Mon Apr 15, 2024, 01:12 AM
Apr 15

Powell and Pressburger cast the movie specifically with dancers who could act rather than actors who could dance. The stunningly-beautiful Moira Shearer was a prima ballerina in real life who started studying dance when she was ten years old. The awe-inspiring ballet scene used a company of 53 dancers assembled specifically for it.


(13,703 posts)
9. It was "The Red Shoes" that brought "The Archers" to my attention
Mon Apr 15, 2024, 12:55 AM
Apr 15

This movie so enraptured me that I made it a point to review all the Powell/Pressburger "The Archers" movies I could find. These guys were truly amazing! "Black Narcissus," "A Matter of Life and Death," "I know Where I'm Going," "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" are other films of theirs I've seen and they're all totally captivating.


(15,610 posts)
12. I recently watched the 4K version of True Lies
Mon Apr 15, 2024, 01:47 AM
Apr 15

I thought it looked fantastic. Especially since before now, True Lies was only available on DVD, not even regular Blu-ray. Certainly nothing made the movie look oddly darker like all of these enhanced/restored comparison images look.

What was odd is just as the movie started, I was thinking "This doesn't look 4K", because the opening titles text had a very soft-edged look - something easy to make much sharper just by redoing them from scratch.

After that, however, nearly everything looked great. Maybe occasionally not as sharp as you might hope, but still at least very good. I never thought skin textures looked odd, as was mentioned in the OP.

Since James Cameron is still around to give his approval, this is also a case where there's worry about the original creator not approving.


(38,467 posts)
13. If it's the creators doing the enhancement, well why not? It's their work to do with as they please.
Mon Apr 15, 2024, 08:40 AM
Apr 15

The funny thing is that most people simply let their smart televisions do up-scaling and other enhancements, paying little attention to their televisions picture and sound enhancement settings, which can be adjusted.

When I see televisions in other people's homes they are usually set up for some unnatural looking "sports" or color-enhancing mode that I find irritating. Or worse, some "brilliant" mode that is only meant to sell televisions to shoppers in the big box stores.

Okay, I'm some kind of Luddite. My favorite video format is DVD and my favorite movies are all the sorts of stories that can be told perfectly well with 480p video and simple stereo sound.

When the DVD format was new great care was taken when movies were down-scaled from the original film to get the the highest possible quality from the DVD format. Alas, modern DVDs often look and sound like they were down-scaled for the WalMart bins using some default setting in an automated process.

Latest Discussions»General Discussion»A.I. Made These Movies Sh...