Bringing baseball’s past into the future with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is seemingly everywhere now, and I’ve been playing around recently with using it to enhance and colorize some old baseball footage. It’s a long, somewhat tedious process, but the results are cool.

I have long had some old newsreel footage from World Series games played in the 1930s and 1940s. I had it digitized years ago, but only discovered what AI can do to make the video clearer, bigger and more vibrant.

First, I run the footage through a program called VideoProc Converter AI to enhance its resolution. Then I run it through again to upscale the video and make it larger to bring out details.

Lastly, as you can see above, I run it through a program called Pixbim Colorize AI1I don’t get a commission or anything, I just like the programs and if you want to use them or something else you find, be my guest.. (Yes, that’s Joe DiMaggio at the plate. I don’t recall seeing a whole lot of color footage of him, as his career ended in 1951. I’m sure there’s some somewhere.) The AI does pretty well with grass, and pretty well with individual people in the crowd. It does not do particularly well with shots of large crowds, which tend to end up blanketed in sepia. And there’s no way to tell the program that this should be red or this should be green, and no way I can see for it to learn. Still, it’s not bad.

A final enhancement comes from matching the video to recordings of the original radio broadcasts. Luckily, there are a lot of those out there, and I recently acquired a bunch of them, which made this project really sing. Take a look at this video from game one of the 1936 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants and let me know what you think in the comments.

If you like that, you can check out more in this YouTube playlist. I’ll be doing some more over time, including some vintage NFL footage and a high school game from 1957 I recently acquired. Stay tuned!

Kenn Tomasch

Kenn Tomasch

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