We often wonder what extinct animals might have looked like if they were still alive today. Even if we have footage of some of the recently extinct animals, it’s still recorded in black and white. But thanks to the advancement in technology, the National Film Sound Archive (NFSA) of Australia has colorized a 1933 footage of the extinct thylacine popularly known as the Tasmanian tiger.
The thylacine was a carnivorous marsupial that lived across Australia but disappeared from the mainland about 3,000 years ago. Some of the species survived on the island of Tasmania until the 20th century from where they got the name of the Tasmanian tiger. When European settlers arrived, the thylacines were hunted in large numbers which endangered the species. The last known specimen named Benjamin died in Hobart Zoo in 1936.
Benjamin was the last known survivor from the thylacine family who was recorded on video in 1933 by a naturalist, David Fleay. The NFSA created a 4K scan of the original 33-mm negative of the film which was then sent to Composite Films in Paris, where Samuel Francois Steininger and his team recreated the Tasmanian tiger’s color and pattern in minute detail. Since no colored picture of the tiger exists, the team had to study different specimens preserved in museum collections and consult different sketches and scientific drawings to create the color closest to what they believed to be the original color of the extinct animal. “From a technological point of view, we did everything digitally – combining digital restoration, rotoscoping and 2D animation, lighting, AI algorithms for the movement and the noise, compositing, and digital grading. More than 200 hours of work were needed to achieve this result,” said François-Steininger.
All the hard work that went into colorizing the video, gave an amazing end result in which the thylacine can be seen in color for the very first time against the grey background. The 77-seconds video shows the tiger pacing around his cage, sitting, yawning, and just chilling in the sun. This gives us hope that we will be able to restore more of the extinct animals’ videos in colorized form so they can still be remembered after all these years.