A full package on TIMM TYLER
Director Andreas Dresen discusses Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and his collaboration with ARRI on Constantin Film’s version of the classic German children’s book THE LEGEND OF TIMM TYLER OR THE BOY WHO SOLD HIS LAUGHTER, which hits movie theaters in February 2017.
TIMM TYLER is about a boy who sells his smile. What made you want to film this story?
I've always wanted to make a movie for kids. They're the most important cinemagoers; if we show them good films, we are helping to form the movie patrons of tomorrow. TIMM TYLER by James Krüss was one of my favorite books as a child. It's a timeless, enthralling fairy tale with a moral. I read the novel under my sheets when I was young, and later I always wondered why nobody had ever made a feature film of it. Then I asked (the late producer/director) Bernd Eichinger what he thought, and the project was born.
What was of particular importance to you when it came to the look of the film?
On the surface of it, the story takes place in the 1920s, but we wanted the film to have a timelessness about it that made it more universal. We wanted to make a movie that people could watch in 10 or 15 years' time, without having the feeling that it was old.
How is ARRI involved with TIMM TYLER?
The whole thing is a big package. ARRI is a co-producer and of course we shot with ARRI cameras, working with two ALEXAs and an ALEXA Mini. While shooting we used the Webgate cloud service and other ARRI services as well, including all the image and sound processing. To top it off, we'll be doing the color grading for Dolby Vision at ARRI Media, which I believe makes us the first German production to offer both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.
What do you like most during the postproduction?
For instance, the visual effects. In no other film I've made did I have as many as in TIMM TYLER. Buildings were altered to look older and there were little pieces of technical magic all over, like people walking through mirrors. You need a lot of patience for details like that, but the collaboration with David Laubsch (VFX supervisor) was highly productive and a joy in every way for me as a director. The studios at ARRI@Bavaria Film have everything I need – the technical possibilities are state-of-the-art and the working atmosphere is very pleasant. My time there has been great and the results are clear to see and hear.
Which parts of postproduction do you consider to be the most important?
Well, editing is crucial of course, because it has an enormous impact on how the story develops and the rhythm. But it all interlocks, so it would be fatal to say any one step was less important than another. The color grading does a lot to determine the look of the film, and together with Traudl Nicholson (senior colorist) we found a warm tone without straying into sepia and making it all look like a historical document. The sound is also very important; I worked with Michael Kranz (mixing engineer) on that for the first time – an outstanding, experienced, lovable guy with a really fine feeling for artistic nuances.
TIMM TYLER is also mixed in the Dolby Atmos sound format. Why?
That was an experiment for me. My experiences with 5.1 made me very cautious when using surround channels, because they don't allow you to place sounds precisely, and so often they can end up being more of a disturbance than anything else. But Dolby Atmos is great for exactly that – you can have a bird sing in a specific place in the movie theater, and not just somewhere up the back. You can have thunder roll slowly around the room, and not just from front to back. And you can simply separate the music from the channels at the front and move them a little more to the sides, while keeping a very clear and pure sound; that was particularly useful for us. Tools like this are a huge help when telling a story, and they are where the strengths of Dolby Atmos come into play.
As you said, TIMM TYLER will be graded for Dolby Vision. What are your expectations?
The practical thing about mixing the sound at ARRI@Bavaria Film is that the color grading is right next door. When I heard that they had Dolby Vision there, I asked for a presentation. Now I'm not a techie, and I think you can tell a good story in mono and black-and-white if you have to, but I must say that Dolby Vision is pretty impressive. The much bigger contrast range (HDR) gives the pictures an entirely new vividness and far more depth. While there are only a few cinemas in the world that can show Dolby Vision at the moment, it will be important for the home entertainment sales later on. When less expensive Dolby Vision televisions reach the market, viewers will look specifically for films that offer that quality. So combining Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos on TIMM TYLER assures it a good future.
Does the ever-growing range of technical options help you, or does it just mean more work?
I'm not a big fan of effects for effects' sake. A film should primarily be about its story, but I like to use technology if it helps tell the tale. For example, what VFX and CGI make possible today was more or less inconceivable 20 years ago. If you don't get carried away and see the gimmicks as an end in themselves, like some science fiction films do, then these new options are great.
Can you remember your first contact with ARRI?
I guess that must have been in the 1990s, when I was just starting out in the industry, although even at Babelsberg Film School we preferred to use the old ARRIFLEX cameras. I've worked a number of times with ARRI since then. Many camera people like to use ARRI cameras; Michael Hammon, the director of photography on TIMM TYLER, is an ARRI fan too, so the connection is a long and illustrious one. ARRI was always there somehow.