I have joked before about making a movie about Francis O’Neill, imagine my surprise when I was able to bring the famous chief of police and music collector to life with a couple of clicks of my mouse! MyHeritage.com has made freely available a tool called Deep Nostalgia. It allows you to take a photograph and make the subject smile and nod back in a short movie clip. The results can be surprisingly realistic, although sometimes a little unnerving.
Having played around with Deep Nostalgia a little, I find it works best with old photos, such as the iconic one of Francis O’Neill used above. This might be because the subject had to sit rigid and blank-faced for the long exposure time required in those old photographs. The effect of this must assist the Deep Nostalgia algorithm in doing its work.
There is something thrilling in using new technology to animate and preserve the past. Francis O’Neill was no stranger to it: he was one of the first to use Edison wax cylinders to record the Irish musicians of his time. On the Dunn collection website, you can even hear his voice from across the centuries introducing each piece.
My aim in writing Chief O’Neill was to bring us back to his life and music and show why it is still relevant today.