GovLaunch: How Can Images Recover Sound?

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    Allison Primack

    Over the past 10 years, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Library of Congress have been working together to try to find a way to listen to old “mute” recordings, without further damaging them. How can they do this?

    “The idea is simple,” GCN reported. “Make a high-resolution digital image of a sound recording and develop software to analyze the image and reproduce the effects of a phonograph needle.”

    The Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc., or IRENE is now being used by the Library of Congress doing just this. They have taken some of the recordings from the Smithsonian Institute, and sent them to the audio-visual campus in Culpepper, Virginia for analysis.

    IRENE is evolving toward a fully automated system capable of handling imaging exposure, focus, start-stop, parameters and selection. Software then combs over the image to remove obvious faults such as dirt, scratches and wear. Algorithms track and determine the center point of the imaged grooves and “play back” the record with a virtual stylus, producing a digital .wav file without touching the original recording.

    What benefit can we receive from recovering historical recordings?

    How else can we utilize the IRENE software?

    IRENE: Key to unlocking mute recordings

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