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"M" (1931) Fritz Lang - 80th Anniversary Restoration

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#1 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted December 25 2010 - 02:51 AM


Hello everyone,

I hope everyone has and I wish everyone a very merry X-mas.  It's been rather a long time since my last visit, and I hope people here will forgive me for "not returning the call" at times.  The reason is simply that things were very busy at this end.  And from what I could gather during my few peeks here once in a while so were the others, especially Charlie and Robert.   But I want to "make up for it" by writing something here with a bit of details of what we did over the year (a sort of an extended blog if you like - I hope noone is discouraged by its length) focusing on one project that we are about to finish and that some of you may even look forward to as it will also yield a Blu-ray Edition (provided you like Fritz Lang's film "M").  The details I put at the end of this post.
Looking back on this year the one term that would describe best most projects we worked on is probably unexpectedly complicated.  Projects that initially were expected to have "just" a remastering status turned out to become more demanding both in picture and sound, some more than others, taking much more time and effort than expected.  The A-Z restoration/preservation of a documentary called VIVA PORTUGAL originally shot on 16mm was especially taxing as it had to be restored from the 3 best surving elements, all having troubles with missing footage, fading, color registration and balance (or rather lack of it), warpage, shrinkage, tears, scratches, severe stains and the list goes on.  It literally was assembled shot for shot, with the sound restored from two magnetic masters that were equally problematic. 

Alongside working also on some great films such as the wonderfully colorful VELVET GOLDMINE, THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE, THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL or THE GREAT ESCAPE our other focus of attention throughout pretty much most of the year was FRITZ LANGS "M". Yes, "M" - again.  Why? some or even many may ask.  Well, the reasons are easily explained.


Now, I myself had pretty much set my focus on the other projects post the release of the Criterion Blu-ray (where Lee Kline and I revisited the color timing on their master in Jan 2010) when yet another grand opportunity came practically out of the blue.  The distributor (Germany's Universum Film) was very keen in releasing documentary materials the other releases do not feature, and there were extensive materials we could provide, including our documentary feature THE HUNT FOR M.   That alone was interesting enough. However, the focus of the discussion of course also shifted toward the issue of the film and the restoration itself, the key question being "if you were to revisit this, would the results show a noticeable difference from the others ?"  
As Robert will no doubt confirm the work on a project is a) never quite finished and b) the only aspects aside from the film elements available that dictate the scope of good you can do in your work are time and budget/money.

With the Criterion Edition, it was a great opportunity to begin with to revisit Fritz Lang's work after our initial work on "M" back in 2003.  However, Criterion's Lee Kline and I had extremely little time to go over the corrections necessary for the various shots.  At the time (as I said Jan 2010) both he and I were happy we could make the corrections at all just in time for the release of the BD.  With that in mind, I would have been (and I said as much) very happy with it to "close the book" and was.  Then, soon after, that call from Universum Film came, opening the door again, but with an entirely different, exciting set of possibilities.

Most importantly, we could work on the material with a LOAD more time, and invested our efforts to go each individual shot for shot, frame by frame, where we could go into much more detail than we had the chance on the Criterion Edition.  Also, what was not to be then(as Lee was not able to come to us here in Berlin) we could do now:  work in our 2K DCI enviroment (suite) with native 2K projection on the 6-meter projection screen.  This, alonside studio 2K displays and monitoring equipment  is essential for such work.   This allowed us to be much more precise and accurate in balancing as well as matching gradation and density - in a way far better than we ever could - to the original makers intention (as laid out by Lang and the various reference materials on record as well as nirate reference materials themselves).

This by itself was very welcome, but the time we had also gave us the opportunity to dig much deeper and for the first time takle and fix long standing issues such the very apparent, inherent instabilities in the picture caused by perforation damage* (mostly on the duplicate negative materials) and copying errors made in the 1930s as well as thick splices, tears, etc**.   In many, many sequences that had to be restored from several elements aside from the OCN the densities and gradation had to be matched as closely as technically possible (which is at times extremely difficult given the difference in generation as developmental issues can make that job hard at best, next to impossible at worst).  But in most sequences, the positions did not exactly match 100%, either on the photochemical restoration elements, since the precision in the photochemical realm has its limits to what you can do.  In very frequent cases the frames would slide downward** very visibly at the beginning of a shot or even when the materials would vary.


This was another main focus of our attention, along with the many, many scratches, remnants of tears, wire scratches and stains that were, of course, "also on the menu" along with dust removal (the negative elements had quite a load of all)  :o)).  We fixed most of the sequences to a degree where they either move much less visibly or did not move/tilt downward at all anymore depending on what the 35mm elements would allow.  We tested furthergoing stabilization in general, especially on the duplicate negative material, which suffered some perforation problems ("M" is pretty unstable both in X as well as Y axis in those dupe neg sequences) but the results in the end caused artifacts with (too) little gain in return for it to go any further.

Another very important issue was the sound.  The problem here is two-fold:
For one, Fritz Lang intended very clearly (as the variable density sound negative clearly shows) this film to be a silent / sound combination with scenes featuring sound (dialogue, ambient sounds etc) while other scenes were silent with merely a few bits of sound added here or there or scenes with no sound whatsoever.  In many of these scenes he wanted to focus the viewers attention on the image alone, while in the others he added just bits of sound to "rattle" the audience a bit (loud sound of honking cars, bells, shreaking noises and whistles).

Now, this can be said with absolute certainty since the original variable density negative clearly shows how Langs team worked.  In the sections where sound was recorded / intended to be heard the variable density track is visible on the neg; the silent sections are just blank film.  No track lines whatsoever.   The problem for Lang was, however, that once the negative was copied to a positive source, the intention to have total silence at times was severely limited by the nature of the duplicate "movietone"  track: even silent sources had background noise from the emulsion carrier.  So you would still hear some noise, and over the years due to decomposition, inclusion of moisture and dust etc the very fragile variable density track system would deteriorate so the noise floor would increase.


That was the status back in 2001, when Martin Sawyer and his team made a beautiful preservation track of that variable density negative in colaboration with photochemical restoration producer Martin Koerber.   And this preservation master will also be on the Blu-ray Disc Edtion, together with another sound track option that will reflect Langs original intentions - with a new rebalancing of the dynamic detail in the frequency band and reduction of that noise floor.  The preservation track is the basis of that new audio restoration, and after very long tests (and many dissatisfying because of[even slightly] resulting audible artifacts) we are looking at one variation / written program that after having QCd about 1/3 of the films' audio works surprisingly well with regard to the reduction of noise floor without creating distracting artefacts.  As for the scenes / parts of shots that Lang intended to be silent they will be exactly so, with no (unintended) background noise from the V/D track.  I felt it to be important, however, that on the BD the viewer/buyer/collector gets the option to choose what track he or she wants to listen to - and Universum Film agreed (as they did with so many other things re: Extras and the films restoration efforts).   In general, this was and still is a very good collaboration from all sides involved.

For those of you, who are interested, I have listed the various technical data and contents in an attached PDF.  With regard to Qs I am all ears :o)




 
Happy holidays !


TK


Torsten Kaiser
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#2 of 24 bgart13

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Posted December 28 2010 - 04:20 PM

Torsten, Eureka include the English version of M on their release, but there apparently was a French version that was created but should be included (as a variant. Here is a post at Latarnia about this version: http://thelatarniafo....com/topic/9168 Any idea if this could surface anytime too?

#3 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted December 29 2010 - 05:14 AM

This is something we have been working on but I could not yet talk about until now. I can now confirm that the French Version released in 1932 called "M - le Maudit" will be at least part of the Featurette "U"M" DIE WELT IN 80 JAHREN - "M" - around the world in 80 years" where we compare the various versions of "M" (the original 1931 version, the British release version, now also the French release version, the 1960 re-release (copied in the wrong AR, where also a lot of cuts were made and audio added), the 1995 reconstruction, the 2001 preservation and the 2011 restoration. We also compare the 2001 preservation material in its "raw form" before digital restoration and after (2011 status). I will keep everyone posted on "M - le Maudit" status.


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#4 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted December 29 2010 - 09:59 AM

One thing more as I have gotten Qs about this:


The film will have optional subtitles in GERMAN as well as in ENGLISH.

The main documentary THE HUNT FOR M / THE HUNT FOR THE FILM ELEMENTS in Disc 2 is narrated in English and will have optional German subtitles.

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#5 of 24 FoxyMulder

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Posted December 31 2010 - 04:44 AM

Is there any timeframe for the release of The Great Escape on blu ray and is it going to look film like and fantastic, 2013 would be an anniversary but thats a long way off. ?


Good to see classics like M get some restoration work but i have to say i do not mind a little hiss on the audio of older films.


     :Fun Movie Quotes:

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"Maybe it's a sheep dog... let's keep going" 

"Please doctor, I've got to ask this. It sounds like, well, just as though you're describing some form of super carrot"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


#6 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted December 31 2010 - 06:26 AM

THE GREAT ESCAPE was done for broadcast, for Blu-ray the "new" MGM hopefully will invest (and that is what it would take) a lot of manpower, research and money in deriving a new preservation material.  The film's elements are riddled with problems due to a number of causes.

As for "M" - please do not misunderstand - this is not about a little hiss here or there; infact, it is not about hiss at all.  "M" suffered greatly from the, how can I put it ... "adverse effects" of the use of the variable density sound system that, unfortunately, reflects very audibly remnants of dirt, dust, moisture and mechanical flaws. And through the decades, a lot of that had piled up. As a result, the noise floor (background and artificial) is so high it becomes very distracting.  Martin Koerber found a workable solution for PRESERVATION back in 2001 with the track copied off the sound negative, which was eventually worked on and mastered by the sound engineers of Kirch (Taurus) Media in Germany and Martin Sawyer in London.  All DVD editions and Blu-ray editions tried to address the noise floor rumbling and scratching noise further since with digital filtering, but the original holds much more potential. 

The original PRESERVATION TRACK will be on the edition, as well as a new, 2011 RESTORATION TRACK that addresses both the reduction of the noise floor to a great degree but preserves the dynamic range and the issue of the originally silent sequences that could for technical reasons at the time of the original screening not be presented silent and had undesired noise under them (which has gone worse since then).


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#7 of 24 Stephen_J_H

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Posted January 11 2011 - 09:12 AM

I just saw M for the first time on TCM HD and loved it. I look forward to the fruits of your labours, Torsten, as I totally understand what you mean about the noise floor and the condition of the elements.


"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#8 of 24 OliverK

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Posted February 04 2011 - 03:22 AM

Torsten,


thanks for the interesting reading, I will make sure to get the Blu-Ray of M.


Could you please elaborate a bit on the work you did on The Hallelujah Trail?

I would also be interested to hear where we can expect to see the result of your work on that one.


Thanks!


Oliver




#9 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted February 19 2011 - 09:16 PM

Sorry for not responding for quite a while:

Re: HALLELUJAH TRAIL: the new master was already aired Jan 3, 2011 on German Television (ARD) in High Definition.  However, I am sure it will eventually be shown at another time.

The Cover artwork of the Mediabook (Collector's Book) with its 60 pages (so it will be a thicker book) and the slipcover are ready. M will look like this:



http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


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#10 of 24 OliverK

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Posted February 20 2011 - 01:19 AM

Thank you, even the packaging for M looks fantastic and the extras seem extensive.


Could you give a few details on The Hallelujah Trail?


With this being an anamorphic 65mm production it would of course be interesting to know what materials were available to you (sound and film elements) and what you made of it and of course if is was the longer or shorter version.


Or should I open a new thread regarding The Hallelujah Trail?


Originally Posted by Torsten Kaiser 

Sorry for not responding for quite a while:

Re: HALLELUJAH TRAIL: the new master was already aired Jan 3, 2011 on German Television (ARD) in High Definition.  However, I am sure it will eventually be shown at another time.

The Cover artwork of the Mediabook (Collector's Book) with its 60 pages (so it will be a thicker book) and the slipcover are ready. M will look like this:









#11 of 24 Brian Borst

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Posted February 22 2011 - 06:07 AM

Torsten, this packaging is absolutely a revelation compared to the mediocre covers of catalog titles we've seen far too much recently. It looks beautiful.

I know the main documentary will have english subtitles, but what about the rest of the bonus features?


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#12 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted May 20 2011 - 02:01 AM

I am very sorry that I could not respond earlier.  Hope to do better now that the restoration of "M" is finally done.

OliverK,

THT should best be discussed in another thead, as it had little to do with "M" (color and all Posted Image). We can discuss the issue there.


Brian,

thanx so much for your praise, glad you like it.  The main documentaries are in English, the technical featurettes are not, but pretty much self-explanatory most of the time.  We tried our best and most with the tiny budget the distributor added for for these things (such as subtitling in a foreign language as Germany is their main territory). But we made sure that it is a worldwide open viewable release on both Blu-ray and the Disc 2 DVD, so the BD is A/B/C and the DVD Region ALL.


"M" has its day of release today, and I have some digital camera shots that hopefully illustrate a bit as to what this collector's book looks like in "reality".   A couple of pix are a wee bit blurry, the camera was on low batt.  Sorry about that, I hope its okay for now.


Best

TK


http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


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Torsten Kaiser
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#13 of 24 OliverK

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Posted May 20 2011 - 02:29 AM

Very nice and ordered now that you are willing to also tell us a bit about THT Posted Image 



#14 of 24 Brian Borst

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Posted May 20 2011 - 07:02 AM

Wow, it looks absolutely incredible, Torsten Posted Image. Now I just have to find a place to buy it. Lang was a great director, but he could've thought of a title that's a bit more search-friendly Posted Image.


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#15 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted May 21 2011 - 03:25 AM

http://www.amazon.de...05991354&sr=8-1


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#16 of 24 Brian Borst

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Posted May 21 2011 - 06:11 AM

I probably should have mentioned that I don't have a creditcard, sorry about that. If you could recommend any stores that accept PayPal, I'd be very happy. I hope I'm not being too difficult.


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#17 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted May 21 2011 - 07:27 AM

http://www.jpc.de/jp...ay/hnum/3080494


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#18 of 24 SD_Brian

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Posted May 21 2011 - 09:54 AM

Does anyone know of a way to make the amazon.de site display text in English?



#19 of 24 FoxyMulder

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Posted May 30 2011 - 07:47 AM



Originally Posted by SD_Brian 

Does anyone know of a way to make the amazon.de site display text in English?



Just use Google translate, thats what i use when i buy from France or Germany. You can have it translate the whole page but also put individual words into it to translate the buttons on checkout.


     :Fun Movie Quotes:

"A good body with a dull brain is as cheap as life itself"   

"Maybe it's a sheep dog... let's keep going" 

"Please doctor, I've got to ask this. It sounds like, well, just as though you're describing some form of super carrot"

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


#20 of 24 Torsten Kaiser

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Posted June 26 2011 - 09:26 AM

This was sent via e-mail to the editor / team of DVDBeaver today in response to their review containing some errors in text and especially the made/used screen grabs in that review:


Hello Gary,


I was told you published a review with screen grabs of the recently issued 80th Anniversary Restoration Edition of Fritz Lang's "M" on your website.  We restored "M" over the course of seven months (Fall 2010 to April 2011) photochemically, photooptically and digitally in picture and digitally in sound.  While being very generous in praise on the overall look of the edition and the many extras we produced the report unfortunately does not mention any of the three key aspects of that restoration and has a few errors that I would like to bring to your attention for correction: 


Three key aspects of the restoration:


a) almost all shots (except for 2, which we could not confirm 100% as being filmed with a fixed position camera) were stabilized - frame by frame and after detailed analysis to make sure we do not interfere in the original filming process - from inherent photochemical perforation damage jitter and inherent copying errors, presenting for the first time a (vastly more) stable image throughout (note that none of the panning shots were stabilized in order to preserve the accurate filmed image).  


b) the film is now also more complete than on any other previous presentation since (its ban in) 1934. Much of the film's missing footage that was missing in various (mostly interrupted) sequences was found in a now preserved 35mm duplicate negative film element located in France. Most shots of "M" are now complete or almost complete.  Both Criterion and Eureka (who bought the 2003 Criterion master, the same master was color re-timed in early 2010) are based on previous stages (in other words are not as complete).


c) The sound:  the restoration soundtrack is representing exactly the intentions by Fritz Lang as clearly evident on the preserved Original Variable Density Negative.  That means that the various sequences that are supposed to be absolutely silent now, for the first time ARE silent.  We were extremely careful to preserve the soundtracks technical integrity when we also reduced, not eliminated the inherent noise floor in the negative (see more in-depth information in my conversation with my very respected colleague Robert Harris here). 
All the fine details of the sound track - for the first time presented in their true form without being filtered - are audible now.  Still, we wanted to present the enormous challenge we faced so we included also the preservation soundtrack made in 2000/2001 as a another option.

  

Now, as I said earlier, your review is (in text) mostly very favourable. However, there are some errors in the report I would like to bring to your attention for correction.


1.  Peter Kürten is mentioned as having participated in the audio commentary. In actuality, Kürten was the charged, tried, convicted, sentenced and executed murderer that "M" was based on.  He was arrested and charged in 1930, tried in 1930 and 1931.  The sentence and execution took place in 1931. He most certainly did not contribute or participate in the audio commentary - in any language.


2.  Very important: the screen grabs published do NOT properly represent the encode on the Blu-ray Disc.  The grabs suggest that the image is less detailed in sharpness, resolution as well as gradation and density (detail in greyscale and shadow detail) compared to the other releases.  In fact, we have been called and e-mailed  by other reviewers who noticed your report and who independently from one another reported that the grabs you published looked "too soft and too bright" and that this problem had been noticed before (such as in the review of THE ISLAND, notably the Paramount edition).   I would kindly ask you to look into this, as also our own check clearly shows that, while both master and encode are pretty much "in sync" (something we went to great pains to insure) your published "screen grabs" do not show the measured and authorized video signal.*
Also, I send you two frames that illustrate pretty well what I mean - one from your website, the other from the actual encode.



DVDBEAVER IMAGE Frame 92628


http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


ACTUAL IMAGE Frame 92628


http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/


Now, two other small "items":


3. The actual High Definition confines are 1280x720 or (and this is what matters in this case) full resolution 1920x1080.  There is no 1080x1960.


4. The documentary "THE HUNT FOR M" (containing two parts - THE HUNT FOR M and THE HUNT FOR THE FILM ELEMENTS - as it is actually named) is in total 96 minutes. 


*=  The problem with published screen grabs (in general, so yours as well as those from other sources) is that theý are being presented as actual representations of an BD image. But, as in this case happened, this is very often not true, either because settings are wrongly adjusted or equipment is faulty. Whatever the reason, the reader is being presented with an image that is skewed and that he or she therefore is lead to believe to be different from what it actually is. Screen grabs are notoriously fickle – to be absolutely sure of the integrity of the frame image presented the actual file and the made grab would have to be confirmed/QC’d on a waveformer and vectorscope before publishing. The reality is, none of the reviewers have such equipment. Also, one frame, even IF represented correctly, cannot possibly represent the entire encode much less the master of the film to be properly judged. For instance, the instabilities that marred the film for such a long time - even in the 35mm film preservation element of 2000/2001 – and which were fixed now in the 2011 restoration, cannot possibly be conveyed by means of simple screen grabs of one frame a shot to show before and after. Just food for thought.

  My very best,

TK     



Torsten Kaiser
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