Incredible Colorized Footage of the Empire State Building’s Construction
A historic film restoration editor has compiled, repaired, and colorized 22-minutes of nearly century-old footage that shows the construction of the Empire State Building.
He uses motion stabilization, speed correction, noise reduction, and dust removal methods combined with other editing techniques. Rick also uses artificial intelligence software to colorize and upscale footage to allow these older films to be appreciated by modern audiences.
The Empire State Building Film
Rick says his Empire State Building construction film, which was recently spotted by LaughingSquid, is a compilation of restored, enhanced, and colorized film footage that shows the construction of the building that took place nearly a century ago. It shows how the base of the building is laid, how all parts are produced in nearby steelworks, and how steel parts are riveted together. The film also showcases the dangers of working at such high construction altitudes, especially at the time, as well as the completion of the structure.
“What many people probably do not know is that the Empire State Building was built on the spot where the famous first version of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel used to be at 5th Avenue (opened in 1897). In 1931 the hotel re-opened in a new location at Park Avenue,” Rick says. “The Empire State Building started with the destruction of the hotel on January 22, 1930, after which the actual construction started on March 7, 1930. It was completed at record speed after only 13.5 months on April 11, 1931 and officially opened on May 1, 1931.”
Rick notes that the building was designed in the art-deco style, was 381 meters high (1,250 feet), and has 102 floors.
“Achieving such a height was only possible because of the use of a steel framework,” Rick says. “As an important symbol of New York City, the building has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.”
Rick cites the source of his footage as Archive.org. While the clips here are not in themselves rare as they are publicly available, the way they appear after his corrections is at the very least unusual and unique.
Some Historians Disapprove of Colorization
Colorization is seen as a way to make historic footage interesting to modern audiences and makes it easier for them to appreciate. Some historians, however, don’t see this as an advantage.
In October of 2020, several prominent historians vocally spoke out against colorization and argued that the addition of color, movement, or frames takes away from the original intent of the capture. Removing dust, scratches, and imperfections while adding assumed color, they said, obscures the past instead of highlighting it.
“The problem with colorization is it leads people to just think about photographs as a kind of uncomplicated window onto the past, and that’s not what photographs are,” McKernan Emily Mark-Fitzgerald, the Associate Professor at University College Dublin’s School of Art History and Cultural Policy, said.
“It is a nonsense,” Luke McKernan, the lead curator of news and moving images at the British Library, said. “Colorisation does not bring us closer to the past; it increases the gap between now and then. It does not enable immediacy; it creates difference.”