Samsung and the AFL bring historic footage to life in colour via artificial intelligence — including a match played by WWI soldiers

WWI soldiers playing football, London, 1916 (image: AFL YouTube)
  • The AFL and Samsung have partnered on a new video series featuring remastered footage from historical games.
  • The footage was remastered from black-and-white to colour images using artificial intelligence technology that identified objects such as grass and the players.
  • The series features a men’s WWI exhibition match played in London in 1916 — the first AFL match played outside of Australia — as well as a women’s exhibition match played after WWII.

Samsung has partnered with the Australian Football League (AFL) on a new series featuring remastered content from matches played during and after World War One.

The first episode of the series features Australian Diggers playing an AFL exhibition match in London on October 23, 1916 – the first AFL game played outside Australia – with its images updated from black-and-white to colour.

The footage was re-worked using the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) artificial intelligence system. It was able to get the right colour through identifying separate objects in the images, such as the players, the grass and the crowds, according to a media statement from the AFL.

The second episode features a women’s exhibition match that took place in Melbourne after the Second World War in 1947. At the time, four Victorian clubs played a round robin competition to raise funds for the Red Cross – Food for Britain appeal.

AFL general manager, commercial, Kylie Rogers, said the footage brings the historic moments to new light for fans and the families of the descendants.

“To launch with this remastered coloured vision of historic Australian Rules Football vision allows us to celebrate how the game has shaped Australia and its culture,” she said in a statement.

“The team at Samsung Australia and our own AFL Media team have done a fantastic job to utilise this technological innovation and bring to life the colour footage that represents a meaningful connection with sport and the role it plays in bringing people together,” Rogers said.

In a YouTube video released by the AFL, the remastered footage was screened on a Samsung QLED 8K TV, with Western Bulldogs player Easton Wood and author Nick Richardson providing commentary.

Richardson wrote the book The Game of their Lives about the 1916 match and explained that the footage had been hidden in a British film library.

“This footage was actually hidden away for years because it was misfiled in a British film library as Australian rugby,” he said in the video.

When speaking about seeing the match for the first time in colour, Richardson said, “I think it’s just fantastic. I mean you can actually get a real sense of who they are.”

“The beauty of having it being remastered is that it provides a wonderful testament to those young men.”

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