For decades, some of Wim Wenders’ films either remained unavailable due to unresolved rights clearances or could only been seen in poor quality due to material damages. The foundation began to digitally restore them in 2014 and as a result of this work, the public is today once again able to experience these films in optimal quality. Restoring Wenders’ body of work represents one of the central missions and greatest challenges of the Wim Wenders Stiftung.
In preparation, the original film materials were brought together from various storage facilities and documented. The production documents were examined and analyzed with regard to the legal situation. In addition, an archiving concept with a classification scheme for the inventory and processing of both film and documentary materials is being developed. The restoration work itself consists of several stages: the evaluation of all source material, the scanning of the analog material, the retouching of individual frames from damaged film sequences by hand and the stabilization of individual frames, and the reframing of the image as well as its color correction. The sound was already processed digitally back in 2002 by André Bendocchi-Alves. After completion of the restoration work, the source materials are then transferred to the German Federal Film Archive for proper long-term storage. It almost goes without saying that a change of medium from the analog to the digital will rarely pass unnoticed. For this reason, particular attention is paid to maintaining the visual “charm” of the originally analog film images with the idiosyncrasies of their film grain. Whereas the reprocessing of classic films is typically supervised and assessed by curators and archivists in order to make careful decisions for a restoration “in the sense of the director’s original vision”, our situation provides one special advantage: The director himself is involved in the restoration process, thus guaranteeing a processing of the films that is far from an outside interpretation.
The Wim Wenders Stiftung digitally restored eight films over the course of one year. Image processing was done by the company ARRI Film & TV under the supervision of Wim and Donata Wenders and was supported by grants from the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and the centre national de la cinématographie (cnc). Further films were transferred to current state-of-the-art high-resolution digital formats in order to be able to show them in cinemas and on television. The foundation will continue to pursue the preservation of the cinematic work of Wim Wenders and to thus make it accessible to the public on a permanent basis.
Two of the already restored films offered special challenges in their restoration: The reframing of ALICE IN THE CITIES and the music rights of THE GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK.
ALICE IN THE CITIES
ALICE IN THE CITIES was shot on 16 mm black and white negative in the summer of 1973. For 15 years all copies in circulation worldwide were made from the original negative. When a 35 mm dupe negative was finally made in 1988, the original material was already damaged by countless scratches, vertical lines and cracks.
The digital restoration of the film was done in 2014. For this purpose, the original negative was scanned in a resolution of 4K using the wetgate method and retouched and color-corrected in a resolution of 2K. Individual sequences that were too heavily damaged in the original 16 mm negative were replaced with sections from the 35 mm dupe negative.Although shot in the 1:1.37 format commissioned by WDR, Wim Wenders and his cameraman Robby Müller composed the shots for the widescreen format 1:1.66 during the shooting. At the director’s request, the film was also screened in cinemas as such. In the course of its digital restoration, ALICE IN THE CITIES was now finally framed in this preferred format.
Wim Wenders on Reframing Alice:
“As Robby Müller and I were preparing to film ‘Alice in the Cities’ in 1972, we were hoping to be able to shoot in 35 mm with the Arri BL, which had just come out at the time.But then it turned out that the camera was still too hard to come by and our budget was too small anyways. But since we still wanted to shoot with the original sound on location, we were left with no other option than to switch to 16 mm, which we then did, grudgingly. We did stick with the 1:1.66 wide-screen format which was common at the time though and drew it on the viewfinder. That was the format we preferred. But back in those days the TV folks absolutely had to have the 3:4 full frame format, even though I never really knew how you were supposed to frame it. My desire to see it on the big screen was simply only satisfied by the 1:1.66 cinema format… For the restoration – in which the black and white image finally no longer looks like it’s been run through a meat grinder (unbelievably over 100 copies were printed from the original film negative!), although it has of course preserved its 16 mm film grain – I decided to honor my original wish. The film can now be seen in the 1:1.66 format, just as we dreamt it and also framed it at the time. And since television has also become willing to show films in wide-screen in the meantime, and since most devices offer the 16:9 format anyways, we even decided to completely forego providing the old unpopular 3:4 format. I’ve taken the time to describe this in such detail so that no one will think that we messed with the film arbitrarily during the restoration process. We didn’t. The only arbitrary thing was the 3:4 format back then.”
THE GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK
THE GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK was filmed in Vienna and Burgenland in 1971. Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Handke, this was to be Wim Wenders’ first feature film. He would go on to work together with cameraman Robby Müller for many years, as well as with composer Jürgen Knieper and film editor Peter Przygodda.
As the use of the music had not been cleared for the film’s international exposure, the distribution was soon completely restricted to television and in the end, the film remained more or less unavailable for three decades. Within the scope of the restoration in 2014 this problem was solved through the recording of new songs. For the restoration, the original 35 mm color negative film was scanned, retouched and color corrected in a resolution of 4K.
Wim Wenders on the music for THE GOALIE’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK:
“When I shot my first feature film ‘The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty Kick’ (based on the novel by Peter Handke) in 1971, German public television station WDR was the main sponsor. Back then, co-productions between cinema and television in the sense that we are familiar with them today didn’t exist yet. Since I didn’t even dare to dream of any other uses for the film than German movie theaters and of course television, I definitely didn’t skimp on my music selection when it came to the source music back then and I put a lot of my favorite songs in the film. The German rights were covered by GEMA (the German equivalent of ASCAP) anyways. As the film then did in fact go on to enjoy an international (albeit modest) career, for instance winning the International Film Critics’ Award at my first festival in Venice in 1972, being screened at MoMA in New York etc., the question of the music rights became a problem for and then finally an obstacle to distributing the film. That’s the reason why ‘The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty Kick’ has neither been available for cinema screening nor on DVD for decades now. In the scope of the extensive 4K restoration of the film, the Wim Wenders Foundation obviously had to come up with a solution to this problem as well, in order to be able to make the film available again around the world. Any attempt to obtain all of the rights to the original music, and that for the whole world to boot, would have been completely delusional. The price for such an undertaking would have approached that of the original production costs for the entire film, which would of course have represented an absurd investment on the part of the foundation. For this reason, we only purchased the rights for some of the original pieces, in particular for those in the background of scenes with dialog. By contrast, where other songs are heard in passing emanating from jukeboxes or radios, we decided to simply produce new ones. Michael Beckmann put a band together for this purpose and wrote new songs and lyrics with them. Really beautiful tunes were created in the process, tunes which are every bit as good as the original songs. The guys managed to imitate the sound of the Sixties as faithfully as possible. In order to achieve this effect, they worked with instruments and analog recording techniques from the 50’s and 60’s. As a result the difference between old and new is imperceptible or nearly so in most cases. We didn’t change anything in the original mono sound mix for the film, and of course we also didn’t make any changes to Jürgen Knieper’s original score. I really hope that these music substitutions will not bother anyone. They were the condition for being at all able to have the film seen once again.”
A documentary about the restoration work of the foundation
DIGITALLY RESTORED FILMS
The digital restoration of the film was done in 2015. For this purpose, a 16 mm archive copy was scanned, retouched and color-corrected in a resolution of 2K. All work was carried out at ARRI Film & TV Services Berlin.
In the up-coming years step by step more films are going to be digitally restored by the Wim Wenders Stiftung. For the following films the restoration has already started or is scheduled for this or the next year:
When referring to “resolution”, it is always also a matter of the specific technical system within which this term is being used or defined. We use “resolution” in connection with the number of picture elements or pixels (1 pixel = 1 information unit = 1 piece of information about color) which a scanner is capable of scanning, or which a television or projector is able to display. For digital cameras it has become customary to name the total number of pixels that a sensor can show (more sounds better), although it is of course important to consider the total area of the physical sensor over which the pixels are distributed. Simplifying it a little bit, we can say that the more pixels a camera or scanner sensor has, the more information can be recorded. Therefore, the higher the pixel concentration, the finer the structures which can be recorded and then “perceived”. It follows that the image in high-resolution pictures will be sharper due to the higher quantity of information recorded. Since the technology here is constantly being developed further, over time various standards have been established in order to keep the variety of recording and display devices manageable.
Incidentally, these formats developed out of television technology. TV is rectangular but not square, and so it is that a format specification (when one doesn’t opt to add up all the pixels) normally consists of the possible horizontal and vertical picture elements, e.g. 1920 x 1080. However, as various rectangular formats exist (1:1.37, 1:1.66, etc.), where the horizontal side is the longest one and the vertical side is adjusted accordingly, most of the time only the number of vertical pixels will be given (e.g. 1080).
SD (or Standard Definition Television) is a format that was defined for television and as a result made its way into the world of video technology. The standard refers to a resolution of 720 x 576 pixels (width times height = 414,720 picture elements) and an aspect ratio of 4:3. It was replaced by the HD standard (High Definition). Due to rapid advances in the technology, different “sizes” developed within the HD format. The smallest is the “720” format, with 1280 x 720 pixels (equaling 921,600 picture elements). This is approximately twice as big as the SD format and accordingly equipped televisions were advertised as “HD ready”. Almost simultaneously the next largest format “1080” was already being introduced, featuring 1920 x 1080 pixels (equaling 2,073,600 picture elements). Devices which supported this format bore the label “Full HD” or “HD ready 1080”. Both formats are used for transmission of television broadcasts and for Blu-ray discs. The next largest formats from 2K on are not yet common broadcast formats in the world of everyday television production.
The further developments within the HD format carry the labels 2K and 4K. “K” stands for “kilo” and means – as is also the case for weight – 1,000. Therefore “2K” stands for 2,000 and the resolution is a slightly improved Full HD resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels. The vertical resolution has remained the same – the only thing that has changed here is that space for more information has been defined in the horizontal. The 4K format, also known as “Ultra High Definition” (UHD), represents a significant jump, increasing resolution to 4096 x 2160 pixels (equaling 8,847,360 picture elements). These two formats are primarily used to digitize films for cinema projection.
For a normal color motion picture shot on 35 mm film stock, a subsequent digitization in a resolution of 2K will unfortunately fail to capture all image details or exposure, color and contrast spaces. In order to achieve this, a resolution of roughly 3K is necessary. When scanning a 16 mm film 2K is however sufficient for recording the entirety of the image information. Therefore 35 mm films intended for the cinema are scanned in 4K resolution and of course possibilities also exist to scan film stock in even higher resolution, which makes sense for example with 70 mm film stock.
For the digital restoration of the films of the Wim Wenders Stiftung we not only scan the actual film image that you can see when viewing a projection print, we also scan the area around it, including the perforations. The positioning of the perforations in relation to the film image helps us to recognize fluctuations in the image and to counter them. The full film image in 4K resolution which we now also have at our disposal – and which has never been seen in this form in theaters or on DVD – also offers us the additional possibility of correcting the image detail in case it has suffered damage.
For the scanning of the film stock we made use of the ARRISCAN, a film scanner specially developed by the company ARRI, which, in addition to “normal” material, is also able to process shrunken or moderately damaged film stock directly. For this purpose the running speed and contact pressure on the film material are both variable and it is possible to advance the film through the machine without using the perforations. The so-called “archival gate” allows for the above-mentioned capture of the entire film up to and including the perforations. Particularly dirty or scratched material can also be pulled through a fluid during the scanning process: with the aid of this “wet gate” process, dirt is removed and the fluid fills up scratches, rendering them invisible to the scanner.