Wim Wenders' 3D film project PINA was shot with a mix of Sony HDC-1500s and XDCAM EX PMW-EX3s. HD supervisor Florian Rettich gives us the inside story on how it was done.
Stepping outside the mainstream with Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders’ film PINA brings the life and achievements of exceptional artist Pina Bausch to the big screen. Produced in 3D, the film attempts to do emotional and aesthetic justice to the choreographer's legacy. Florian Rettich, HD supervisor and expert in digital feature film and commercial production, was responsible for defining the workflow and choosing the recording equipment for this ambitious project.
With PINA, Wim Wenders has disregarded commercial considerations and broken new ground in 3D production.
Why 3D was a natural choice
Rettich is not surprised that Wenders has embraced 3D, which until now has been very much the preserve of mainstream movies. “I think anyone who has experienced Pina Bausch's work live will know why, having witnessed the magic unfolding on stage before their eyes,” says Rettich. “Pina Bausch is synonymous with aesthetics, movement, emotion, humanity and – of course – space. A two-dimensional film simply would not do this work justice. 3D enables us to transport the cinema audience right into the middle of the action on stage.”
So how did Rettich go about choosing and planning the camera systems and recording equipment, and what were the challenges?
“A large part of the film was to be shot in the dance theatre in Wuppertal, which meant working in a confined space under theatre lighting,” he continues . “Despite the stereoscopic 3D set-up, the camera system had to be compact enough for us to install it on a telescopic crane. We needed a highly mobile solution which allowed completely remote operation.
“Given these precise requirements, and the need to achieve the highest possible cinema screen quality, there were only a few systems available that ticked all the boxes. So, a few weeks before shooting, we went to the theatre with a vast array of equipment and took some test shots. We tested key factors such as brightness, contrast performance and motion resolution. After post-processing, including editing and colour correction, we prepared a digital cinema copy – then we viewed the result in various 3D sample projections and made our decision.”
“For our purposes, the only option was the HDC-1500 camera from Sony... the system's hyper gamma curves enable us to make optimum use of the camera's dynamic range and present high-quality images for post-processing. Together with cinematographer Hélène Louvart, my aim is always to create neutral, film-like images.”
Neutral, film-like images
“For our purposes, the only option was the HDC-1500 camera from Sony,” says Rettich. “There are several reasons for this – the system's hyper gamma curves enable us to make optimum use of the camera's dynamic range and present high-quality images for post-processing. Together with cinematographer Hélène Louvart, my aim is always to create neutral, film-like images.
“Despite the difficult lighting conditions in the theatre – in which many cameras would quickly reach their exposure limits – the Sony camera still manages to produce exceptionally low-noise, natural shots. Also, the system only requires one cable connection for all the signals and the power input –an important consideration when you have a rather unwieldy 3D rig to move about. A fibre cable allows the cinematographer to control the image and me to control all the necessary camera parameters, synchronise both systems and check the exposure of the cameras. The first camera assistant, Christian Meyer, uses a 3D-compatible CMotion lens control system to control the clarity – fully synchronised for both Carl Zeiss lenses!
“The team under stereographer Alain Derobe is in charge of adjusting the interaxial distance. And everything is done live during the recording. Incidentally, we also used two further HDC-1500s for a 3D Steadycam system and a second unit. For the "making-of" – also in 3D of course – and for a few special shots we used two Sony XDCAM EX PMW-EX3s.”
Six cameras, three rigs
A total of six cameras were used on three different rigs. So how did they manage with so many 3D signals?
“To ensure a lean and reliable workflow while recording, we decided to record on two different media simultaneously – a Sony HDCAM SR system as the master and also a CODEX disk recorder,” explains Rettich.
“The Sony tapes allow both camera signals to be recorded in very high quality on a single cassette, and they are very reliable. The Sony HDCAM SR SRW-5800 studio recorder and the portable SRW-1 recorder write the material to the cassettes – which allow up to 64 minutes of recording – in full synchronisation and with full 10-bit quantisation. For up to four hours of 3D material per day – that is two cameras per 3D unit – it is a huge volume of data. With HDCAM SR we only need four cassettes for that volume – no other tape format has that capability.”
The right decision
On a personal level Rettich is delighted with the way the project has gone: “First of all, I am very pleased that we made the right decision in terms of the equipment,” he says. “For an ambitious project like this, it would have been simply disastrous if we had made a mistake during the preparation phase. I have also been thrilled with how professional and friendly the team has been.
“Our director, Wim Wenders, knows exactly what he wants, he can articulate it precisely and he has the necessary authority on set to turn his vision into reality. He was heavily involved in all the technical decisions from the outset; he asks a lot of questions but he's also open to answers.”
And the end result? “PINA is a truly brilliant film,” concludes Rettich.
Find out more: 3D from Sony Professional