The phone rang a few weeks ago at JMR Electronics, in Chatsworth, Calif. On the line was a company called Lowry Digital, of nearby Burbank, Calif., a pioneering expert in film and video restoration.
Lowry Digital was working on a rather unusual deadline job at the request of NASA: The 1969 video from the Apollo 11 moonwalk needed to be restored and put into archivable digital form for wide distribution in time for the 40th anniversary of the event on July 20.
The job, which Lowry chose to accept, was to get this brittle video data package ready for national showing at a press conference and for television networks to air that day and any time thereafter.
Here was the crux of the problem: The original film taken on the moon by astronauts Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Neil Armstrong had been lost over the course of 40 years. The video that Lowry had to refurbish was simply an analog film of the television screen images being telecast from the moon on that summer day in 1969.
And that video is-as everybody who has seen it knows-not good quality. The archival video clips of Armstrong's moonwalk are vague, monochromatic images; it is difficult to get any sense of depth or clarity.
Again, the challenge: It all had to be ready for prime time within a mere few weeks, and it had to be archived quickly and securely. JMR, which has been in the data storage peripherals business since 1982 and now specializes in scalable storage software for large OEMs, has been doing customized data storage and other projects for the military for a long time, so it was called into action.