DeOldifying Sydney

What would photos of Sydney from a hundred years ago look like in colour? Using machine learning, Sydney's historical photos can be transformed from monochrome into glorious colour. Thanks to the work of Jason Antic, with his creation DeOldify anyone can use a pre-trained machine learning algorithm to colourise black and white photos.

Bondi Beach around 1900s

How does it work?

It's a type of Deep Learning model known as a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN). The GAN consists of two main parts, one part is the 'generator', this part is trying to find the right colours that would be believable in converting the image from black and white to colour. The other part is the 'critic', which is trying to determine if the image created by the generator looks real or not. There's some back and forth between these two processes until the generator gets so good the critic can no longer tell the difference between a real image and one coloured by the generator.

Coogee Pier from 1929 (recent storms have exposed the concrete piers)

What's so great about it?

Well besides the obvious of doing a really good job of colourising (and restoring) old photos, there are some exciting developments that are worth taking note of, the big one being the sharing and re-using of a pre-trained model. The costs of building a model like this can be quite large, both in dollars and carbon. It's great to see useful models like this, BERT, GPT-2 and many others being made available for others to customise for their own problems using their own data.

If you want to see more of of Sydney (and the rest of Australia) DeOldified, check out our thread on twitter, where we'll be posting more soon!

Central Station from 1930s, complete with light rail on the left (everything old is old again)

Queen Victoria Building 1920s

Marting Place 1920s

Circular Quay Markets 1932 🍍🍍🍍🍍

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