Six hours of original newsreel footage from the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, six months of work, a team of militaria, clothing and architecture consultants, urban planners, Warsaw experts and historians, 1000 of colour editing hours, 1200 shots, 1440 hours of colorizing and reconstruction, 112.000 selected frames, 648.000 minutes of reconstruction, 22.971.520 megabytes of data – these are only some numbers which help appreciate the enormous effort and means put into the “Warsaw Uprising” project. The result is a 85-minute completely restored coloured and extremely touching film, which shows the Warsaw Uprising with unparalleled realism.
Because of the fragmentary nature of the surviving newsreel material, editing constituted one of the key stages in the production process. The film creators wanted to show more than just the historical event; first, and above all, they wanted to show the people who were part of it. “Insurgents appear on the screen too briefly to fully tell their story. This sparked the idea of the film protagonist to be a person who does not appear in the take, but whose presence, emotions and actions are recorded by the camera operator on film.” – says Milenia Fiedler. “We have edited the material not as an objective recording of reality but subjective truth about the person who experienced this reality.”
Striving for the best quality of the coloured image, the Warsaw Rising Museum announced a competition for the colouring and post-production of the Warsaw Rising newsreels. A jury headed by Prof. Witold Sobociński selected the Orka Studio for this task. The first stage of the process involved stabilisation, which required finding points of reference for each take and eliminating shaking of the image. In the next step, restoration of the material took place, including initial colour correction of the black and white material, stabilisation and removal of image pulsation and imperfections of the film exposure. At this stage the work also involved manually repairing image deformations, removing dirt, dust and film damages and achieving grain control.
Next the film was coloured. Properly colouring the “Warsaw Uprising” constituted a great challenge. Before starting the colouring phase a reference base was gathered of several thousand photographs of weapons and armament, uniforms, equipment, civilian clothing, urban infrastructure, signs, several hundred photographs of different types of setts, flagstones etc. Historical accuracy was overseen by historians from the Warsaw Rising Museum, experts in urban studies and architecture, Warsaw buffs and consultants in weaponry and armament co-operating with the Warsaw Rising Museum.
The colouring of the film was done with unique software, made in the USA. Because the material used in “Warsaw Uprising” was greatly worn out or damaged (most likely due to its developing in difficult conditions and improper storing), it was difficult in many cases to select the right colour. Each take after preliminary colouring required a detailed description and countless consultations with history experts.
After standard colourisation was completed the film producers invited a well-known operator, Piotr Sobociński Jr., to work on the film. As colour grading supervisor, he was responsible for making the film as authentic as possible and for making sure the colours applied in post-production were the same throughout the entire movie.
Besides colouring the black-and-white documentary material from the Warsaw Uprising, The Warsaw Rising Museum opted for providing it with sound as well. Bartosz Putkiewicz, sound director, has been responsible for this exceedingly difficult task. Hundreds of hours spent in the studio trying to reproduce the sounds of the city during the uproar: gunshots, explosions in addition to collaboration with criminologist who reads lips, these are only a few challenges that Bartosz Putkiewicz has faced. As a result, the Warsaw Uprising movie will be, for the first time in history, “heard” and its heroes will speak up from the big screen.
How the “Warsaw Uprising” came to be
The Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Union of Armed Struggle – Home Army Headquarters (BIP) has been established at the end of March and the beginning of April 1940. The main task of BIP was to inform the Polish society about the actions of the Polish government in London, document the activity of the German occupying forces and engage in psychological warfare with the German propaganda. Section A (Information and Film) of BIP organized clandestine workshops on photo reportage, directing and megaphone operation. Among others, the following cameramen and editing specialists worked for BIP: Antoni Bohdziewicz, Wacław Kaźmierczak, Leonard Zawisławski, Seweryn Kruszyński, directors Jerzy Gabryelski, Jerzy Zarzycki, Andrzej Ancuta, Roman Banach, Ryszard Szope, Henryk Vlassak, Antoni Wawrzyniak, photographers Sylwester Braun and Joachim Joachimczyk, historians Aleksander Gieysztor and philologist Prof Kazimierz Feliks Kumaniecki.
Only a small portion of the material filmed by these people survived to this day. After WWII the filmmakers themselves were unable to estimate how much material survived. A full set of films (122 rolls) had been hidden prior to the fall of the Warsaw Uprising by soldiers of the “Chwaty” unit in a cellar of a house at 1 Wilanowska Street. Rolled up film was first placed in automobile gas generators, covered with tight lids and wrapped in tar paper and then put into containers. These containers were dug up in 1946 and the material was transferred for conservation and processing works and afterwards edited by Wacław Kaźmierczak on a 35 mm film entitled “Fighting Warsaw”. Unfortunately, soon afterwards the material “disappeared” in the vast depths of the People’s Poland archives to resurface again in 1956 all cut up into short pieces and carelessly put together without maintaining chronological order.
The “Warsaw Uprising” , to be released soon, was made possible thanks to Jan Ołdakowski, Director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum and Piotr C. Śliwowski, Head of the History Department at the Museum. Jan Komasa came up with the idea for this original storyline. Dialogues were written by Joanna Pawluśkiewicz and Michał Sufin. Actors enlisted for the project included: Maciej Nawrocki, Michał Żurawski, Mirosław Zbrojewicz. We can hear their voices in the film. Colorizing work was supervised by a renowned Polish cameraman Piotr Sobociński Jr. Screenwriting was done collectively by Jan Ołdakowski, Piotr Śliwowski and Joanna Pawluśkiewicz while Joanna Brühl and Milenia Fiedler served as editors. The music was composed by Bartosz Chajdecki. Bartosz Putkiewcz has been responsible for providing sound for what has been, until now, a completely silent documentary material.
Source: the Warsaw Rising Museum and the film distributor Next Film
Photo © The “Warsaw Uprising” – press materials