By Tim Binnall
A decades-old film of the last-known Tasmanian Tiger can be seen in an amazing new light as the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia has produced a remastered and colorized version of the incredibly rare footage. According to a press release, the scene was shot by naturalist David Fleay at the Beaumaris Zoo in 1933 and provides a nearly 80-second-long glimpse of Benjamin, the now-legendary last captive thylacine. While that may sound like a short snippet of footage, the NFSA says that the material actually constitutes "the longest single film of the 10 separate thylacine films known to exist."
In recognition of the 85th anniversary of Benjamin's passing on September 7th, which is a date that has now become National Threatened Species Day in Australia, the archive first created an UltraHigh Definition version of the incredibly rare film and then enlisted colorization expert Samuel François-Steininger to craft a vivid version of the footage. "The 4K scan provided by the NFSA was absolutely stunning for a 35mm negative from 1933," he marveled, noting that "because of the resolution and quality of the picture, there were a lot of details" that one may not have previously been able to discern.
Noting that the colorization project was particularly difficult because "aside from the animal, there were few elements in the frame," François-Steininger explained that he studied preserved thylacine skins as well as sketches and paintings in order to determine the ideal "tints and shades present in the fur." All told, he says, the project took more than 200 hours to complete and the end result is a breathtaking scene showing Benjamin, in full color, roaming around its habitat at the Beaumaris Zoo. The NFSA hopes that the newly remastered footage will serve as both a tribute to the last-known thylacine as well as a reminder of the many creatures remaining on Earth that are perilously close to suffering a similar fate.