The marsupial wolf or thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian wolf, Tasmanian tiger or thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial originating in the Holocene. It was native to Australia , Tasmania, and New Guinea and became extinct in the 20th century .
Naturalist David Fleay filmed the last images of this species with original black and white footage at Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart, in December 1933 , and they have since been kept in the archives of the NFSA (National Film and Sound Archive Australia). .
Now, Fleay’s film has been colored so that we can enjoy the coat color of Benjamin, the last captive thylacine. The images show the tiger lying down, walking around the perimeter of the small enclosure, opening its mouth wide as it yawns, smelling the air and scratching itself.
Fleay, a conservationist who made progress in breeding endangered species in captivity, was bitten on the buttocks after filming the movie. At just under 80 seconds, Fleay’s footage is the longest individual film of the 10 separate thylacine films known to exist .
The NFSA scanned the original film negative using a Scanity HDR (high dynamic range) film scanner and sent ultra high definition ProRes files to Samuel François-Steininger of Composite Films in Paris and his team began extensive research before embarking on the coloring process.
“For the thylacine, I faced a different kind of challenge and responsibility . I had to take care of the rare filmed images and pay tribute to the last representative of a species, who disappeared 85 years ago. I care a lot about animals and discovered the history of the thylacine while I was living in Australia in 2012, and it really touched me, “the expert explained.
As he stated, the 4K scan provided by the NFSA was absolutely impressive for a 1933 35mm negative, although it was very difficult to colorize because other than the animal there were few elements in the frame. And due to the resolution and quality of the image, there were a lot of details – the fur was dense and a lot of hair had to be detailed and animated.
“Regarding the coloring options, we were able to find many different leathers in different museums that kept well in the dark and kept their colors,” he added.
In addition to the original skins kept in museums, the team had to rely on sketches and paintings due to the lack of original images or color images that could be used for research.
Written descriptions of the thylacine’s fur gave them a general idea of the tints and hues present in the fur, information that they supplemented with scientific drawings and recent 3D renderings of the animal.
“From a technological point of view, we did it all digitally , combining digital restoration, rotoscopy and 2D animation, lighting, AI algorithms for motion and noise, composition and digital grading. It took more than 200 hours of work to achieve this. result , “Steininger explained in a statement.