New Delhi: Lowry Digital, part of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-Adag), was behind the restored footage of the Apollo 11 moon mission released by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) earlier this week. The video highlights from the mission, including images of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin stepping on to the lunar surface, were unveiled to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
Anil Arjun speaks to Sidin Vadukut about Lowry Digital Corp.
In May this year Nasa handed over around two-and-a-half hours worth of footage from the mission to California-based Lowry Digital in a $230,000 (Rs1.12 crore today) deal to restore them to full high-definition quality. The footage is to be incorporated into a library of space material open for use by the public.
What made the project particularly complicated was that all the original video footage caught on Apollo 11’s on-board camera had been lost. After a three-year search exercise that began in 2006, Nasa admitted at the press conference that original tapes may have been erased and recorded over.
Experts at Lowry had to fall back on low-quality recordings of the original broadcast to piece together the new film. “The originals were lost. And all the surviving footage was in a variety of formats and quality. It was a highly complicated exercise,” said Anil Arjun, chief executive of Adlabs Films Ltd, Lowry Digital’s parent firm.
According to a Lowry Digital press release, one of the key sources was an 8mm hand-held camera that was aimed at a monitor at Nasa mission control in Houston during the live broadcast in 1969.
Arjun said Nasa picked the restoration specialists for the project based on the “company’s vast proprietary technology and many years of experience in complicated restoration projects”.
To carry out the restoration process, Arjun explained, Lowry used a proprietary technique. Called The Lowry Process, the technique compares information from hundreds of frames in the original footage to extrapolate contrast, resolution and noise levels.
Lowry Digital, which currently has around 100 employees, was acquired by Adlabs Films in April last year. Arjun explained that Adlabs acquired the restoration experts in order to add to its portfolio of media services. Lowry Digital currently provides movie restoration, image fixing and colour correction services. The company was founded in 1988 by John Lowry who previously worked on film footage for the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions. The company was later part of digital audio company DTS, before being bought by R-Adag for $7.5 million.
Lowry is also involved with Adlabs Media BPO, the media process outsourcing firm announced by R-Adag in May. Some of Lowry’s proprietary technology is being used by Adlabs Media BPO in Mumbai to restore 1,000 films from the National Film Archive of India.
Prominent Lowry Digital projects include recent films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D, and restoration of around 300 classics, including Casablanca and Citizen Kane.
Arjun said that the complete restored Apollo 11 footage will be ready by September.