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KINO Metropolis at proper speed!

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KINO Metropolis at proper speed!

Old 08-17-05, 12:27 PM
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KINO Metropolis at proper speed!

(I know, I deliberately chose a title for this thread that would raise people's eyebrows.)

I love this DVD - the restoration is gorgeous, except for one thing: it runs at 24fps. Some people think this was the original projection speed (including Martin Koerber, the man in charge of this restoration, who I've been corresponding with). But I hate the sped-up motion that is the result of showing this silent film at sound speed. So I have finally gotten around to editing this DVD for my personal use - I'm about half-way through it, and I've made a surprising discovery.

I've experimented with many different speeds so far. But in the end, there is one speed and only one speed that gives perfectly natural movement: 16fps! From the standpoint of making the music fit, this is an editor's nightmare. I had hoped to slow the film down to 20 or 18 fps and make the music match thru time stretching and subtitles. But time and again, I find myself entering 66% in the speed option, since that is what looks natural.

I'm now convinced that the film was running through the camera at 16fps. If that's true, why would Lang choose to release it at 24 fps? It doesn't make sense, unless he was forced to speed it up under pressure because of its length. (I know there is a mark in the film score stating "28fps" but that would lead to an absurdly fast film.)

Anyway, for me the film plays much better when people move naturally. No more "Keystone Cops" effect when people run, and even reactions and emotions seem more real. Watching what I've done so far has been a revelation - much of what seemed like over-dramatic acting now plays more subtly.

I've been able to make the music fit by changing the intertitles to subtitles, removing the onscreen notes that describe the missing sections, and sometimes stretching the music slightly in SoundForge.

Can't wait to premiere the whole thing!

Mark
Old 08-17-05, 12:40 PM
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this has been researched and debated to death. Silent movies are not supposed to look as "fluid" it was a differnt time.
Old 08-17-05, 12:55 PM
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According to a articles like these:

http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/...f/19_ac_23.htm

http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/...f/19_a2_25.htm

...cameramen of the time disagreed with you. They hand-cranked at 16fps and hated it when theater managers sped up the films for non-artistic reasons.

You're right that we can endlessly debate if the directors of these films wanted them shown with sped-up motion. But for modern audiences used to natural movement, the actual camera speed is much easier to watch.

Martin Koerber has asked to see my version when I'm done - can't wait to see what he thinks!
Old 08-17-05, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by marknyc
But for modern audiences used to natural movement, the actual camera speed is much easier to watch.
many modern audiences also like there movies pan & scan, and they love their classic movies colorized....but thats not correct is it?

Don't get me wrong. I applaud you for taking the time and effort to work on a film you love. Taking the time to do the research and using a good master. This has always been a slippery slope movie, we never got a definitive word from lang himself. So we can leave it open to interpretation. That said. I would also like to take a look at it when your finished.
Old 08-17-05, 01:30 PM
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I thought we had already discovered that people in the earlier 1900's actually did run around like the keystone cops? Anyway, the fact the film was at 24fps didn't ruin the film at all for me, but I would also be interested in seeing how it looks at 16fps.
Old 08-17-05, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by marknyc
I'm now convinced that the film was running through the camera at 16fps. If that's true, why would Lang choose to release it at 24 fps? It doesn't make sense, unless he was forced to speed it up under pressure because of its length. (I know there is a mark in the film score stating "28fps" but that would lead to an absurdly fast film.)
Or unless it was simply a convention of the time to project films faster than they were shot. The city animation in Metropolis, for example, was done at 25fps. Did the evil theatre managers have a hand in that, too?

...cameramen of the time disagreed with you.
Whatever certain cameramen may have thought of it, it was a routine reality in the silent era. As Brownlow writes,:

Walter Kerr, in his brilliant book 'The Silent Clowns,' puts forward his theory: silent films were photographed at 16 or 18 frames a second, but projected at a rate closer to sound speed. 'The result was not only faster than life, it was cleaner, less effortful, more dynamic.' Kerr illustrates his theory with a photograph of the instructions printed on the leader for the 1922 Down to the Sea in Ships: 'Operator: please run eleven minutes for 1,000 ft.'- or 24 fps, the speed of sound. I have projected the film, and found two or three sections too fast at that speed (although the remainder is satisfactory). But that was how audiences saw it at the time. Other, later films, such as The Winning of Barbara Worth, were shot at a speed so close to 24 fps that they are wrecked by being shown at 16 fps. I have even seen an occasional silent, such as The Blood Ship (1928) apparently designed to be projected at 26 fps, since sound speed is too slow for them. (Poverty Row producers like Columbia, who made The Blood Ship, ordered cameras to be cranked faster to fill their reels more economically!)


The Brownlow article also debunks the Victor Milner article to which you link. For example, Milner readily admits that rushes were checked for speed at up to 19fps.

They hand-cranked at 16fps and hated it when theater managers sped up the films for non-artistic reasons.
See the above-referenced Brownlow article again regarding the specious claim that cameramen always hand-cranked at 16fps. For example, Brownlow couldn't find a single 1925 production that was shot at 16fps. You're also ignoring that the cue sheets, often provided to theatres by the producers, typically called for speeds faster than the filming speeds. As Brownlow cites, "'Examination of hundreds of cue sheets for silent films,' said James Card, former curator of George Eastman House, 'has failed to turn up a single one which indicates a film should be projected at 16 frames a second.'" The theatre manager conspiracy theory is rubbish.

You're right that we can endlessly debate if the directors of these films wanted them shown with sped-up motion. But for modern audiences used to natural movement, the actual camera speed is much easier to watch.
Yeah, and some people find pan & scan easier to watch than a correct widescreen transfer. Screw "modern audiences" and making cinema "easier" for them.

DJ
Old 08-17-05, 01:54 PM
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^^^^Similar logic as those who decry Warner's "ultra resolution" for technicolor titles (the three strips would never have lined up so cleanly!) or the use of clean negatives for transferring old films (reveals wires and faux-looking backdrops that the poor quality dupes used to cover up!).

If I could get a DVD of "Metropolis" that ran at the speed it was shot, I'd replace my current disc without hesitation.
Old 08-17-05, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by djtoell
Or unless it was simply a convention of the time to project films faster than they were shot. The city animation in Metropolis, for example, was done at 25fps. Did the evil theatre managers have a hand in that, too?



Whatever certain cameramen may have thought of it, it was a routine reality in the silent era. As Brownlow writes,:

Walter Kerr, in his brilliant book 'The Silent Clowns,' puts forward his theory: silent films were photographed at 16 or 18 frames a second, but projected at a rate closer to sound speed. 'The result was not only faster than life, it was cleaner, less effortful, more dynamic.' Kerr illustrates his theory with a photograph of the instructions printed on the leader for the 1922 Down to the Sea in Ships: 'Operator: please run eleven minutes for 1,000 ft.'- or 24 fps, the speed of sound. I have projected the film, and found two or three sections too fast at that speed (although the remainder is satisfactory). But that was how audiences saw it at the time. Other, later films, such as The Winning of Barbara Worth, were shot at a speed so close to 24 fps that they are wrecked by being shown at 16 fps. I have even seen an occasional silent, such as The Blood Ship (1928) apparently designed to be projected at 26 fps, since sound speed is too slow for them. (Poverty Row producers like Columbia, who made The Blood Ship, ordered cameras to be cranked faster to fill their reels more economically!)
The Brownlow article also debunks the Victor Milner article to which you link. For example, Milner readily admits that rushes were checked for speed at up to 19fps.



See the above-referenced Brownlow article again regarding the specious claim that cameramen always hand-cranked at 16fps. For example, Brownlow couldn't find a single 1925 production that was shot at 16fps. You're also ignoring that the cue sheets, often provided to theatres by the producers, typically called for speeds faster than the filming speeds. As Brownlow cites, "'Examination of hundreds of cue sheets for silent films,' said James Card, former curator of George Eastman House, 'has failed to turn up a single one which indicates a film should be projected at 16 frames a second.'" The theatre manager conspiracy theory is rubbish.



Yeah, and some people find pan & scan easier to watch than a correct widescreen transfer. Screw "modern audiences" and making cinema "easier" for them.

DJ
Oh, sweet! We're almost at the part where Matt Damon asks him if he likes apples . . .



Old 08-17-05, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Malloy
^^^^Similar logic as those who decry Warner's "ultra resolution" for technicolor titles (the three strips would never have lined up so cleanly!) or the use of clean negatives for transferring old films (reveals wires and faux-looking backdrops that the poor quality dupes used to cover up!).
It's not the same thing. Colorization of black & white movies would be a more accurate analogy. Slowing down films meant to be viewed with sped-up motion contradicts the artistic intentions of the original filmmakers to placate ignorant modern audiences who don't like the old style.
Old 08-17-05, 04:03 PM
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It's nice to hear that people are interested in seeing my version of Metropolis at the actual shooting speed. I hardly think that presenting this film at the speed it was shot is comparable to colorizing or cropping films.

I don't want to break any copyright laws, but if someone can figure out a way for me to share the work I've done (it'll be hundreds of hours of work before I'm through), let me know. I wouldn't want to make any profit off it.

Mark
Old 08-17-05, 04:17 PM
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The problem with the Kino release is that it suffers from speed-up due to the PAL to NTSC transfer. It only runs 4% too fast, not 50%.

djtoell, great post.
Old 08-17-05, 04:19 PM
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I'd love to see that too. I don't know how you can share it legally, though, short of inviting us all over or making an extra copy that we pass around. Perhaps someone who knows better will chime in.

I don't know enough about silents to have a position on whether or not changing the speed in this manner is good, bad, or neutral, but it certainly sounds interesting, and good for you for going to the trouble of trying it out.
Old 08-17-05, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by talemyn
Oh, sweet! We're almost at the part where Matt Damon asks him if he likes apples . . .




Old 08-17-05, 07:23 PM
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Wouldn't this kinda be like taking all the shaky camera shots in Batman Begins and replacing them with more steady shots because it "is much easier to watch"?
Old 08-17-05, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by marknyc
I don't want to break any copyright laws, but if someone can figure out a way for me to share the work I've done (it'll be hundreds of hours of work before I'm through), let me know. I wouldn't want to make any profit off it.
That might be a tough one. Although it fell into the public domain in the US in decades past, Metropolis had its copyright restored in the mid-1990s (along with a host of other works of foreign origin that had become PD). The US release from Kino is licensed from the German rights holders.

You might have a fair use argument in your favor, but I think that making the entire film available for sharing would be a difficult barrier for you on that, even if you were doing it for free. You might have a decent fair use claim if you just wanted to present select scenes to show a comparison, though. Fair use is a bit too foggy of a legal concept to make a hard determination either way.

DJ
Old 08-17-05, 09:01 PM
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That means it'll be 33% longer in its run time (nearly 3 hours)... that's a loooooong movie!
Old 08-17-05, 09:27 PM
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Wow, I feel really bad some people are giving you a hard time. I'm really truly impressed. Regardless of how I personally feel about the film (which isn't even to say that I think you're wrong) I'm always happy to see people motivated by something that truly interests them.

There's a quote in a film that I happen to be fairly partial to that says, "In the end, a man's life isn't measured by the importance of his accomplishments; merely by the fact that he has accomplishments. And personally, I wouldn't have it any other way."

At one of the galleries on the DC mall a year ago they had a guy who, as modern art, slowed Psycho down to a speed where it took a whole 24 hours to watch it. A lot of people complained that it was stupid and on a whole lot of levels it was, but there was a great fun in the absurdity of such a uniquely bizarre accomplishment.

Surely your version of Metropolis has a great deal more sense behind it than the 24-hour Psycho and I, for one, truly look forward to seeing it if you find a way to let us.

Cheers,

Jesse Custer
Old 08-17-05, 09:34 PM
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marknyc,

I with you on this one. If someone wants to advance the argument that Lang wanted the clock hands behind the father to move at an absurd pace and that makes sense to them ... as my kids say ... 'whatever.'
Old 08-17-05, 10:01 PM
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But i have never seen a documented article with lang speaking out about this. As much as he spouted off about hollywood in his late years, you think if he had any problems with it he would have been more than happy to speak up.
Old 08-18-05, 12:34 AM
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In the end, we will never be absolutely sure of what Lang wanted or what he would want today's audiences to see. The question is: is a 16fps version of Metropolis a valid experiment, since we already have a 24fps version and there is debate over the film speed? From what I'm seeing so far, it definitely is.

I just finished the catacomb chase sequence, and I can't tell you how much better I feel it is. It's actually frightening to watch Maria run into that dead end when you see her move in real time. When shown at 24fps, the sequence has evoked laughter from every audience I've seen the film with, and also never moved me. Now it's appropriately scary.

Surprisingly, runtime will not be much longer. Since I'm using subtitles rather than intertitles, most of the music is falling right into place. I occasionally have to trim some static scenes down a little, but not as often as I expected. And I've done far less stretching of the music than I planned on.

Can't wait to see how the robot creation scene looks in real time!
Old 08-18-05, 01:49 AM
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I'm all for this experiment, and would love to see the end result.
Old 08-18-05, 05:26 AM
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This almost akin to taking old Daffy Duck cartoons and slowing down the voice to Mel Blanc's natural register. Daffy Duck actually has the exact same voice as Sylvester the cat (Mel Blanc's natural speaking voice with added lisp) but was recorded slowly and played back at normal speed which changed the pitch. Kind of interesting as an exercise, but ultimately a bit frivolous. Not that I wouldn't be interested in seeing it, though.

As far as copyright is concerned, that KINO version surely must be under copyright as it is "value added."
Old 08-18-05, 07:21 AM
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It seems that this discussion is more about the movie itself than anything to do with the DVD production. So, it may be more appropriate in the movie forum.

While I'm at it, I should mention that any discussion of distributing the film will lead to this thread being closed.
Old 08-18-05, 10:26 AM
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I'm surprised at the comparisons being made in this thread: colorizing, panning and scanning, steadying hand-held camera shots, and slowing down Mel Blanc's voice! Weird.

Is it strange to want to see this film at the speed it was shot? And are we all absolutely certain that Lang would be opposed to it? Certainly directors would not want to see their films colorized or cropped (I don't know how to respond to the Mel Blanc thing), but are we sure silent film directors would be angry if modern audiences saw their films at the actual shooting speed? It's quite possible that some would prefer it if they knew audiences were used to natural movement in sound films.

Film preservation is not always about recreating the original experience exactly - a number of restored films have been released in versions that look better than the original. Was everyone here opposed to the re-release of "Vertigo" in 70mm and stereo? It was not released that way originally. And in the case of Metropolis, reasonable people can disagree as to how it was first shown. I guess I just don't see what's so awful about what I'm doing.
Old 08-18-05, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by marknyc
I'm now convinced that the film was running through the camera at 16fps.
Interesting observation and sleuthing. I will try it out on my copy of the DVD, if I get the opportunity. Thanks for pointing it out.

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