Two really cool things... the first is a private company developing a space ship, I have three one talks about it in generalities, one focuses on the technology and one focuses on the red tape it will face: http://www.msnbc.com/modules/exports/ct_email.asp?/news/902224.asp, http://www.msnbc.com/modules/exports/ct_infobeat.asp?/news/903281.asp and http://www.msnbc.com/modules/exports/ct_infobeat.asp?/news/903100.asp.
Another is something I saw tonight. It was a digitally remastered copy of "Singin' in the Rain" and would you believe that AOL had a hand in making it better? First, some history. Color negatives were used for the first time in 1954. Prior to 1954, in order to shoot a movie in color, they had to actually shoot each of the colors (Red, Green and Blue) as separate black and white negatives and then coat the negatives with a color and then layer them all together. In order to accomplish this, Technicolor had developed a camera that had a prism right behind the lense. It had three different films running past the prism. One one side, green. On the other, blue and behind it red. I'm not sure how they were able to do red and blue at the same time, but it worked for them, so I guess I won't think about it for too long. (If you know, please tell me. No one asked during the Q&A session and I didn't want to look stupid in case everyone else understood.) One of the biggest advantage was that the black and white negatives didn't fade like the color ones used these days. So movie companies will actually take the color negatives and split them with a prism to create the three black and white separated films for archival purposes.
One of the problems with combining the three separate films is that sometimes they were a little bit off. You'd get shadows or ghosts on images, or it just wasn't as clear. Well, as clear as they had the potential to be... Warner Bros. has a division that's devoted to figuring out ways to use new technologies to improve the film making process. And one of the guys there was talking to some "image scientists" as AOL. (Image scientists? I kid you not, that's what he called them.) Anyhow, together they came up with some software that would take the three separate films and match them up better than any human or mechanical means had been able to. The software worked really well, but it took 2 minutes to do a frame. (Keep in mind that there are 24 frames per second.) So the guys at AOL came back and mentioned how they have 50,000 processors that handle all of the AOL system and that when it's nighttime in the US, the computers are only running at 10-20% of their capacity. So they said that Warner Bros. could harness some of the unused power and see if that could speed up the process.
So they connected a huge bandwidth direct pipe between Burbank and Virginia, set up the software and sent a frame. Two minutes later, the completed frame was returned. So they sent 10 frames. Again, it was done in 2 minutes. So, how long for 100 frames? 2 minutes. He was getting giddy saying that they decided to really push it and sent 1,000 frames. Two minutes later, it was all done. So using the unused power of AOL, they've been able to crank through and they're working at restoring lots of movies into their archives. The resolution is higher than that of HDTV and improves the quality at every level of viewing.
They also sent the audio out to try to build Dolby 5.1 out of the original mono sound. Not sure how well it did, but the picture? So amazing. From the first time they showed a person, the quality was apparent and amazing. Probably even crisper than the movies shown today. So when Warner Bros. starts re-releasing old movies and they are advertising the quality to be better than when it was original shown in theaters, they're not lying.