Perhaps the best known footage of the now-extinct thylacine, or ‘Tasmanian Tiger’, was taken in December 1933 by naturalist David Fleay at Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart. The black and white video of ‘Benjamin’, the last captive thylacine – taken 3 years before his death – is the longest piece of footage of a thylacine known to exist (there are 10 films in total).
Now the extinct marsupial species can be seen in a new light, as the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has released a colourised, digitally-reconstructed 4K version of the famous video (head to the link for the 4K version, or see the HD version embedded below), completed by Samuel François-Steininger of the Paris-based Composite Films.
Using a high definition scan of the original footage, Samuel and his team then did extensive research on the natural colour and texture of thylacine fur to ensure an accurate reconstruction.
“Regarding the colourisation choices,” Samuel explained, “we could find many different skins in different museums that were well conserved in the dark and kept their colours.” The video team also referenced contemporaneous sketches and paintings of the animal.
Written descriptions of the thylacine’s coat gave them a general idea of the tints and shades present in the fur, information they supplemented with scientific drawings and recent 3D colour renderings of the animal. ‘From a technological point of view, we did everything digitally – combining digital restoration, rotoscoping and 2D animation, lighting, AI algorithms for the movement and the noise, compositing and digital grading.’
While the reconstructed footage of the ‘endling‘ brings the thylacine back to life in some minor way, in reality the species remains tragically extinct – though perhaps advances in biotech may see it resurrected at some point in the future.