I don’t know much about the math that does this, but it is very cool:

Colorization Using Optimization

Read more…Some Israeli scientists have come up with an algorithm that saves a great deal of time in the process of colorizing black and white images. Of course, I advocate artistic uses of colorization, as in the upcoming Sin City and not the Ted Turner-advocated alteration of movies intended to be black and white.

Which maybe makes me a little hypocritical that I’m excited by this Variety report:

Sweetening its increasingly lucrative friendship with Hollywood studios, Imax Corp. is developing proprietary technology that would allow live-action, 2-D films to be converted into 3-D for giant Imax screens.

I love me some IMAX 3D. I even went to see the dull Polar Express in support of that glorious technology. Of course, Express was planned for IMAX 3D, even if it didn’t always take advantage of it. 3D animation is a natural fit for 3D projection. Since it would be easy enough to re-render other 3D animations (no new technology needed, just go back to the original computer file and add a second camera), I’m surprised Pixar hasn’t cut a deal to re-release Finding Nemo or Dreamworks to 3D-ize Shrek.

But 3D or not 3D for live action raises new ethical questions akin to the debate about colorization. Today’s big budget action flicks, whose trailers always close with some big explosion-propelled car or rock or superhero swooping toward the fourth wall, would seem to be logical choices for this treatment. But what about a movie whose emphasis is solidly on characters and environment? Would The Godfather still be The Godfather in 3D — just as Citizen Kane threatens to be a very different movie if colorized?

My temporary answer is no, 3D-izing is of lesser harm than colorizing. Right now I’m imagining it as the equivalent of remixing a mono track to stereo on an old movie. It just improves the experience.

But some enterprising techie might come along with a 3D-izing technique that made me cry artistic foul. 3D movies have been around a long time and have never really been competitive with regular 2D movies that told a good story. What IMAX should really be working on is cheap digital 3D cameras that some enterprising artists could use to make must-see movies, the kind that up the total of IMAX theaters.1

UPDATE 3/18/04: People interested in the image manipulation will also love this, it’s a paper by Microsoft researchers describing how to remove large objects from the foreground of pictures – automatically! Region Filling and Object Removal by Exemplar-Based Image Inpainting (large .pdf)

UPDATE 2/4/06: Worth 1000 Photoshop colorization contest.

[Found via Flickr’s Gary Jones]

1. “As of Dec. 31, there were 248 Imax theaters operating in more than 35 countries.” — the same Variety article [sub. req.]