January 26, 2022

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This is how the Hobbit director used machine learning to rewrite the story of the Beatles

This is how the Hobbit director used machine learning to rewrite the story of the Beatles

In January 1969, the Beatles had 21 days a new album, register documentary film And back to playing in front of the audience. Contracted to Twickenham Film Studios, the idea behind the project came in many ways from Paul McCartney – in what many believe was an attempt to save the group. It all ended with their last concert, their last studio album, and with a documentary that apparently documented the deep struggles within “The Fab Four”.

Since then, this has been seen as the time of the Beatles really Although the breach was not officially completed until the spring of the following year. Several contestants were uncomfortable with Yoko Ono’s presence, and controversies led to George Harrison’s “resignation” to the Beatles for three weeks, before returning somewhat reluctantly.

A few years ago, Peter Jackson had access to 60 hours of film footage and over 150 hours of audio footage from those 21 days, originally from footage from the 1970 documentary.

Have you ever brought back the movie – but the sound?



Peter Jackson is no one in the field of old film restoration, which he showed in the project They will not grow old. Here he got free access to over 100 hours of film footage from World War I – from the archives of the Imperial War Museum. Not a single clip was less than 100 years old, and although it was later criticized for portraying it as if the condition of the raw film was worse than it might actually be, there is no doubt that the digital improvement of the raw material helped make the story accessible to a new audience.

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One might then think that restoring the “only” 50-year-old raw film was a narrow matter, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Well, the shots were in color and made with much better equipment than during the First World War, but it was still necessary to adjust the colors, remove the image noise, etc. And in order to do that, the techniques they used had to be modified according to the type of recording in question.

But there is still talk of things that Jackson and his team have done before. On the other hand, the sound was a problem. in a They will not grow old A new sound has been created – in the form of voice acting and sound effects added to bring the story to life – but you can’t do exactly that with the biggest band in world history.

Problems were in the line


The Nagra IV-S tape recorder is from the late 1960s. Photo: Nagra

Not only were most audio recordings made with old recordings Nagra . tape recorders who made only single recordings, but the band members also gradually got tired of the documentary team that was constantly present and making recordings. The Beatles quickly put sticks in the wheels for them, among other things by raising loudspeakers and playing guitars, to drown out their private conversations, which they wanted to conduct in peace.

However, Peter Jackson’s team developed a machine learning algorithm that, after “training”, was able to recognize not only different instruments, but even the voices of different actors. Thus, mono recordings can be divided into several channels with one instrument or sound per channel. The same technology also allowed one to mute the instruments and actually listen to what the Beatles were talking among themselves.

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For the first time in fifty years.

Jackson explains the technique in This video is on YouTube:

– We developed a machine learning system that taught us what a guitar sounds like, what a bass sounds like, and what a voice sounds like. In fact, the computer taught us what John looks like and what Paul looks like. So we can take these mono tracks and split up all the instruments – we can only hear vocals or guitars. You see Ringo playing drums in the background, but you don’t hear the drums at all. It allows us to remix everything in a very clean way.

The beginning of the end anyway

The conclusion was that yes at that time, there might have been some conflicts and acidity between them, but they are not as serious as one would have thought hitherto. The impression one has now is that the band enjoyed in many ways playing together again and worked to bring back the joy and roots of the old days.

The planned concert did not materialize. Instead, the Beatles ended up carrying some sort of Concert on the roof of the recording studio Soho in London. It was planned a couple of days in advance and was of course interrupted by the police, something the band was clearly prepared to happen. When the police came up to the rooftop and turned off their loudspeakers, they turned them on again and continued playing. The party lasted 42 minutes, and it was the last time the Beatles played for the audience.

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The Beatles: come back It can be streamed on Disney+.