Modern Editing Software Used to Improve Film Footage from the Early 1900s

Film footage from the early 1900’s, when hand-cranked cameras were all the technology available, aren’t exactly high-quality. Choppy, jumpy, and sped-up, the people in these films look anything but natural.

One YouTuber, however, has taken it upon himself to enhance some footage from this time period and, in the process, produced something much closer to today’s standards of clarity and stability.

The source of the above film is debated, but general consensus is that some of it was shot in Cork, Ireland and all of it may have originated from the work of the Mitchell and Kenyon film company. Wherever it came from, YouTuber and videographer Rick88888888 from Leidschendam, The Netherlands has taken today’s editing software to it and made it somewhat eerily more realistic.


The magic was performed in part using motion stabilization and frame interpolation software. The motion stabilization took the normally choppy video and steadied it, while the frame interpolation took the frame rate from 18fps to the standard 24fps while filling in the resulting extra frames. Rick then applied video enhancing software to upscale the old footage to “HD quality,” although the software can only do so much.

The nature of this sort of thing is that it won’t come out perfect. Parts of the video look as strange as any old video, while others show their subjects moving so naturally you forget you’re watching footage shot around the year 1900. But even though it’s not perfect, we were still quite impressed, and we think you will be too.

(via Imaging Resource)

  • Josh_Ellis

    Desperately needs some added motion blurring too*, but still cool.

    *Adding motion blur to each different element would obviously be a pain, so I’m not disappointed. It’s just painfully obvious that it’s lacking the typical motion blur typical of modern film and the shutter speeds we use.

  • Carlos Garcia

    Every single person on this video is now dead. Weirded me out.

  • oldtaku

    Not to mention the complex audio filtering required to remove Yakkity Sax.

  • Marc Osborne Jr

    he says they are upscaled to HD but wouldn’t it be great to get a new 2k-4k film transfer from the original 35mm film? Then the quality would be even more amazing!

  • Brian

    *Video* from the 1900’s?? Before the invention of any video equipment? Hello?? It’s called motion picture FILM for a reason! Oy, vay!

  • Dov Hechtman

    Sadly not that impressed. way to much done on automatic thats aded its own issues to the footage. When any large object crosses center screen the stabalisation software loses track of the background and stabilizes only foreground objects causing a weird sliding smooth movement effect. The pan across a street of people as the camera travels down the street goes spooky as the stabilization software grabs the one man walking in front of the camera and to the side and hes suddenly ice skating not walking down the street.
    The shots of the boats suffer from this and the shots of the trolley and wagon are just so bad as they cross in front of each other as obvious examples of where the automatics fail.

    Film from that time period was hand cranked you did not have crystal controlled electric moros to exactly run the film at any specific film speed E.G. 24 fPS. What your article dos not state is that film being shown would also be hand-cranked at approximately the same speed it was shown at a theater so anyone watching film back then would see it looking as normal and realistic. Simple eye hand coordination of the projectionist gave enough feedback for whoever they were to keep the film running at the right speed, people look like they are going to fast just slow down the cranking motion

    The expectation that film from that era looks like a benny hill sketch comes from the fact that the older films exposed at a lower speed were transfered to be shown as was on later 24 FPS projectors without compensation for the slower FPS the footage was shot at. This is the standard way in cinema to speed an image up and its called under-cranking, good examples of under-cranking check out the car chase scenes in “Mad Max”.

    Another important point is that the 18 FPS listed i your article is an approximate until the industry standardized speeds with the advent of controlled electric motors cameramen would crank the film humming a tune in order to keep a consistant constant motion as they cranked the film through the camera. Film speeds from that time period could be 18 they could be 15 or even 20 or more FPS and can even vary throughtout the footage if you had a not so accomplished cameraman running the camera.

    On another point cameras were extremely high quality back then if you can ever get a chance to see film from back then thats still in pristine condition its incredible. The jumping bad images you see in old footage come from old film thats had its sprockets damaged as well as the footage having then been copied gain and again over time causing the images to become degraded and muddy as well as bake in hair and dirt scratches etc,,

    Original nitrate stock from that period was known for its amazing clarity and detail, again if you ever get a chance to see pristine old footage its almost holographic in how clear and detailed people apear in it. What it was not know for was its stability (Remember “nitrate” film) and quite literally had a tendency to burn and or explode. This is why old projectionist booths in very old theaters are fireproof bunkers so as not to let exploding film stock kill the audience.

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks Brian :)

  • Wil Phu LeMaul

    Exactly. Too bad the writer of this piece has absolutely NO knowledge of early cinematography. It was NEVER jumpy or shaky during the time period it was produced, having been projected on appropriate equipment at the correct speed. Sheesh.

  • Vangelis

    So will all be after 100 years….

  • Joe Healy

    The first few minutes were definitely taken in my home city of Cork by the Mitchell and Kenyon Film Co. Haven’t spotted my grandparents yet though!

  • Daniel Goodale-Porter

    I don’t think I saw one person without a hat. Interesting how fashions change.

  • Filice5

    Does anyone know what the music was that was used for the soundtrack? I loved it!

  • Josh Zytkiewicz

    I’d love to see this done on footage that’s been digitized at a higher quality with the dust and scratches removed.

  • vbassist

    film from that time doesn’t necessarily look bad. i saw buster keaton’s “the general” (1926) from a 35mm print a couple of years ago, and it looked beautiful. if they stored it decently enough, it should look ok.

  • Roy

    From the video’s description on YouTube:

    “The music is “Chanson du Soir” and “Arco Noir” from Harvey’s Strings of Sorrow album.”