Wim Wenders Q&A: Oscar Nominated “Pina” in 3D – PART 3

JS:  Did you have to re-think your directing style?  If so how?

WW: Sure.  We realized for instance in the first days of shooting that changing lenses was not only extremely time-consuming, but that it worked against our efforts to make the medium as “naturally-looking” and physiologically correct as possible.  Our eyes don’t change focal lengths, either…  So we ended up shooting 90% of the film on one set of lenses, Zeiss “DigiPrimes” of 10mm, on the SONY 1500. (The other 10% were done on the 14mm…)

Imagining “depth” (and thereby keeping in mind the entire spatial volume the shot comprised) was a whole new idea for me.  In shooting all these different moments of Pina Bausch’s choreography, it meant that I practically had to know every moment by heart, so that we could always (or at least try to) be at the right angle, at the right moment, in order to bring out the best of the dances’ “architecture”…  In fact, designing the camera moves was a sort of “reverse choreography”, a constant reaction to what the dancers were doing, trying to let the cameras dance along.

Wim Wenders on the set of "Pina"

JS: Did you storyboard?

WW: We did not storyboard in the sense that I would make drawings of the shots I had in mind.  But we made floor plans of all the pieces and all the exterior solos with the dancers’ movements drawn in, and then we would establish with an inclinometer where exactly the camera had to be to include which depth and which framing at what moment.  That was some sort of a more “abstract storyboarding”, if you want…  I had to learn to be patient sometimes, before we were able to shoot, but I soon realized that it was time very well invested…

Of course there were a few shots were things went wrong during the filming.  Mind you, when we shot the four pieces during public performances, our takes were always one hour long and sometimes comprised of more than a hundred crane and camera moves.  So not each and every moment was “ideal”, but 95% were on the money.

JS: I loved the shots from the audience, with empty seats and the backs of people’s heads.  It really made me feel like I was part of the audience interacting with the dancers.  How did you come up with this immersive idea?

WW: I have watched Pina’s pieces from many positions in the auditorium, from front row to the privileged seat in the middle from which Pina directed, to seats in the back row or in the balcony.  I very much liked the idea of an “establishing shot” that would put you actually in a “theatrical situation”, with people’s heads in front of you.  That would also give a nice sense of space I figured, apart from reminding the audience every now and then that this was a stage event….

JS: Texture is so important in 3D did you discuss using different textures to maximize the 3D effect with Pina and your Stereographer (like the dirt, water, leaves, and transparent curtains with projections)?

WW: There was abundant “texture”, visual and oral ones and we didn’t have to add much.  The rain on stage was fabulous, and we sometimes used the curtains.  But all this was there already…

JS: We could hear every breath and every move that the dancers made.  How did you approach sound differently for 3D?

WW: I had no idea how to mix sound for a 3D movie.  There was going to be all that space!  Which sound could fill it?  So I covered my bases during the shoot and just recorded EVERYTHING.  Sometimes, in those dance sequences in the theatre, I had twenty mics placed all over the place, to not miss any breath, any step.  I had a microphone on the woman doing the toe dance outside of the factory to hear her moaning and feel the pain of that dance…

Mixing the film was quite a discovery.  We prepared the stereo mix on Pro-tools in a regular mixing facility, with a 2D picture. Everything sounded fine.  The stereo sound was BIG.  But I had a hunch that I absolutely needed to verify it on a 3D screen.  But there was no facility that offered that.  We finally found a place that installed 3D just for us, a big theatre-like room and a high-tech mixing console.  Production just wanted to give me one day to verify the sound in a 3D environment, and then we’d go to print.  But as soon as we listened to our stereo-sound against a 3D image, it didn’t sound so big any more.  On the contrary, it seemed downright wrong.

In 3D your eyes are guided more where to look to, and our sound didn’t seem to follow that.  It actually was missing “depth”.  We weren’t sure how to produce that, but we opened up all the stems and started remixing the first reel. And at the end of a long day, that first reel sounded so much better, and our three-dimensional image was better married to the surround sound.  Production came and heard it and they realized: I was going to need five more days in that environment to complete the film.  They agreed to it.  It was too obvious that you can’t mix and judge a 3D film anywhere else than in a 3D facility.  We learned that lesson…

JS: We know “U2 3D” was a major inspiration for you, but what other 3D movies did you watch to prepare for “Pina” in 3D?

WW: The question is rather: Which films did I NOT see?  However, I found very few films that helped me to shape “Pina”. The decent films that were out in the early times of 3D, when we prepared our film, were almost entirely animation films and as such not really applicable.  There was very little live action stuff, and not much of it was good…   “Avatar” was quite an encouragement, but when it came out on Christmas 2009, we had already shot a huge part of “Pina”.   Still, I thought Cameron’s film was a masterpiece, and although it took place on a distant planet, it very much encouraged me to see 3D as a fantastic future tool to look at our own planet.

JS: Did you see any IMAX 3D movies for inspiration?

WW: Only the “Cirque de Soleil” production in 65mm, quite mind-blowing, but technically no longer any pursuable path. I saw films afterwards, when we were in postproduction for “Pina”…  The third time I went to see “Avatar” for instance was in an IMAX theatre…  When “Pina” came out in Germany, it also played on a couple of IMAX screens, and it looked unbelievably good there. (I just saw “Tintin” on an IMAX screen, loved it a lot, and it totally escapes me why this film was not more successful.)

IN PART 4: Wim shares if he plans on making more 3D movies, to convert or not to convert, and find out what question I asked Wim Wenders that provoked him to say,” Man, Jon, I have been waiting for that question ever since I have been showing “Pina” to audiences!  THANK YOU!”

Wim Wenders w/ German Chancellor Angela Merkel @ “Pina” 3D Premiere.

This piece was lightly edited for clarity.


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One Response to Wim Wenders Q&A: Oscar Nominated “Pina” in 3D – PART 3

  1. ghada boulos says:

    I think this is going to be the new direction for cinema and photography. Great job Jon on this interview, I’m sure you will continue to amaze us with new brain factory ideas .

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