NASA restores Apollo 11 moon landing video with graphics technology

Four decades after the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, NASA found that it had accidentally destroyed the archival video footage of one of mankind’s greatest achievements. But Lowry Digital was able to use digital video restoration technology to reconstruct a high-definition version of the footage.

The Lowry Digital software tapped Nvidia‘s graphics chips with CUDA technology — which allows non-graphics software to tap the processing power of the graphics chips. Now we can watch Neil Armstrong take his giant leap for mankind in high definition.

Lowry Digital worked with several video sources to produce the footage. It could take low-quality images from TV broadcast video and 8 millimeter film shot on a handheld camera that was pointed at a monitor at NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek tracking station in Australia. The computer imaging technology was able to remove artifacts like noise, flickering, darkened image corners, blurs and smears. It thus restored the proper contrast and improved the resolution of the footage. The final Apollo 11 video will feature two and half hours of HD video.

nasa-1The Nvidia chips cut the restoration time for each film frame to seconds. Andy Keane, general manager of the Tesla business unit at Nvidia, said you can now see the faces of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin behind their visors. You can also see the stars of the U.S. flag as it is being raised and more details of the moon’s surface.

Enhancing each frame of the video on a CPU-only system would have taken Lowry Digital between 20 to 45 minutes to complete. Tesla GPUs deliver a 100-times boost in performance, cutting the restoration time for a single frame to seconds. The final Apollo 11 video will feature two and half hours of HD video.

John Lowry, founder of Lowry Digital, has helped to restore more than 400 feature films, including classics such as Casablanca and Doctor Zhivago. nasa-3

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