Technique uses machine learning to colorize black and white video

A Reddit user managed to color a black and white video using only artificial intelligence. The method he used is actually intended to colorize black and white photos and was presented earlier this week by a Japanese research team.

The redditor, mar_cnu, unleashed the technique on a trailer for a 1964 French film titled La 317ème Section or “The 317th Division,” a film about a French military division trapped in hostile territory at the end of the First Indochina War.

The applied technique, developed by researchers at Waseda University in Tokyo, can realistically colorize black-and-white photos without human intervention. The team uses so-called convolutional neural networks, a machine learning technique that is inspired by the visual cortex of animals.

Although the technique performs excellently with photos, it leaves a lot to be desired in the film. Filling in colors in close-ups in particular causes problems in which images acquire a specific color rather than color differences. It works better with overview shots of the jungle.

With the photos, the use of artificial intelligence for coloring was not entirely new, but first a reference photo was often needed to arrive at the correct use of color or only certain categories of photos could be properly colored.

The code for coloring black and white photos can be found on GitHub, so anyone can colorize their old family photos.

Source: Waseda University