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LunaCognita | March 16, 2010
In this presentation, we will focus on taking a closer look at several interesting segments of film footage from the NASA archives. All the footage shown and analyzed here was originally shot by NASA astronauts during the Apollo missions (1968-1972) on 16mm film, using what was known as the "Data Acquisition Camera" - the "DAC".
The Maurer "DAC" cameras were modified variable frame rate 16mm motion picture film cameras used by the various Apollo crews throughout their missions to film scenes of interest through the windows of the spacecraft, interior spacecraft activities, as well as to shoot exterior footage during lunar surface "moonwalk" operations and Low-Earth Orbit or Trans-Earth-Coast EVA ops in cis-lunar space.
I included a bit more information on the Apollo DAC camera in the brief writeup I did attached to the earlier teaser/trailer video for this presentation - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo81LM...
In the last half of this presentation (starting at 4:30), I show various examples where I employ an enhancement technique known as "frame-stacking" against the raw DAC archive footage. In certain cases, frame-stacking can be employed to forensically attack the raw frames of film and produce an enhanced composite still-frame of a stable (or motion-stabilized) scene. It should be noted that "stacking" is by no means a new method of enhancing video or motion picture film footage. It is a digital enhancement technique that has been around a lot longer than most people would probably believe, and in many cases it can provide us an improved look at some of the deeper image detail that is actually buried beneath the random "noise" in the raw footage.
Frame-stacking exploits the fact that the DAC footage, like any motion picture camera or digital video footage, is comprised of many sequential still images shown in rapid succession to simulate the appearance of motion to the viewer's eye. If the raw footage is providing us with a stable (or motion-stabilized) scene that has no or little movement in the field-of-view, it might appear that the scene is comprised of many individual photographs that all seem to capture the identical view. However, appearances can be deceiving, and the truth is that each of those individual frames making up the raw film footage have slight variances between them, with each one suffering from its own unique random noise artifacts. "Stacking" works by analyzing and comparing all the raw frames that make up a segment of footage, allowing for the detection and subtraction of random noise artifacting from each individual raw frame. Those individual cleaned frames are then stacked together in order to construct a high-resolution composite image of the captured scene.
The first two examples I show in the frame-stacking segment were included merely to demonstrate the effectiveness of this enhancement technique when employed against raw archive footage of a known object - in this case, an Apollo Lunar Module. The first example is film footage from Apollo 9 taken in low-Earth orbit with an automatic 16mm DAC camera mounted to the open hatch of the CSM aiming "up" towards the Lunar Module (which was docked to the nose of the CSM at the time). Astronaut Rusty Schweickhart (LMP) can be seen standing on the porch of the LM, where he was conducting an EVA to test and verify the performance of the Apollo A7-L spacesuit and PLSS life support pack. A magnified split-screen closeup of the LM's Rendevzous Radar Antenna allows for a direct comparative analysis of the raw footage versus the "stacked" enhancement as an example to demonstrate the improvements in clarity that can be gained.
The second demonstration example is not actually DAC footage, but rather is television footage from the Apollo 15 mission showing the LM "Falcon" sitting on the lunar surface, taken with the tripod-mounted GCTA-TV camera. I chose this example of raw GCTA-TV footage because it clearly suffers from rather severe noise issues, providing another good demonstration of the enhancement potential that frame-stacking can offer. As you can plainly see in both the DAC and GCTA-TV examples showing the LM, the stack enhancements offer considerable improvement in image clarity, allowing us to extract detail that in some cases may appear to not even be detectable when viewing the raw footage.
This presentation here is just the first part of a multi-part series focusing on the truth (and the lies) in the Apollo DAC footage. Hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for more to come!
Link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLg8swsX190
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