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Automatic Colouring of Black and White Images Using a Machine Learning Twitterbot

Not an FCPX story, but an accidental discovery via Twitter. With machine learning set to take a bigger role in editing, one Twitter account is already auto-colourising photos. Spoiler: They are doing video too.

Machine learning is the new phrase to include in any writing  about the future of software. It's a very posh way of saying that computers can learn to do tasks without having to be programmed at every step.

Adobe very proudly gave us a sneak peak of Project Scribbler that auto-colorised portraits. Quite interesting, but worth a watch just for the lady presenter's humour.

Pretty impressive stuff using Adobe Sensei and a good indication that machine learning will end up in video and photo editing apps in the future. 

Apple isn't being left out either as their recent 'jobs vacant' board showed a vacancy for a ML expert to work in their video apps department.

And of course Philip Hodgetts has been talking about ML use in video for a long time. Based on his previous predictions, he's probably right too

Which is all background in the runup to a discovery of ours via Twitter.

Finnian Anderson posted an article on how looking at colourised photos from World War Two got him and his colleague Oli Callaghan thinking could they could automate the process using machine learning and AI.

We shall save you from the science, (which is well worth a read on how they did it) but we will mention that they ended up using a model developed by PHD students at the University of Berkeley. That model has already 'learnt' from over 4.5 million images at ImageNet.

They very cleverly automated the process into a 'Twitter Bot" so all you have to do is tweet a black and white photo to @colorisebot and it will tweet back the colourised version.

It normally takes under 10 seconds to process and has produced some pretty amazing results.

 Screen Shot 2017 10 19 at 01.42.53 1

image courtesy of Finnian Anderson

We had a go too and although you can get some amazing looking effects in seconds, it does seem to be a bit hit and miss. Then again, everytime you submit a photo, the process gets better, so by the time you have read this article, it will have already absorbed the info from the pictures we submitted! The bike photo is pretty amazing.

colorisebot 1

colorisebot 3

colorisebot 2

So where is the interest in this for video editors? It wouldn't take a huge amount of code to build a plugin to auto colorise b&w photos without having to do the Twitter dance, but what about video?

This is where Finnian and Oli are already ahead as they claim to be the first to auto-colorise video by breaking it down into an image sequence, running that through the process and then restitching it together.

Not as convincing as the stills and it all looks very yellow, but this is the future happening now. Give it a try yourself with some black & white images.

Oh, did we mention the author of the bot, Finnian is 17 years old? Maybe Apple should give him a call about that job! :)


Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.


BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

amazon kindle BF

Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.


Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!


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