Karl Marx City is a deeply personal documentary by award-winning independent filmmakers Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker. The film explores the potential connection between a family tragedy, the suicide of Epperlein’s father, and the Stasi, East Germany’s notorious secret police.
Epperlein, who emigrated from East Germany to the U.S. after the fall of communism, and Tucker, her partner both on and off screen, weave a complex, intricate story using current interviews with family members and historians mixed with Stasi surveillance footage and propaganda. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released domestically on March 29th.
“The real challenge of Karl Marx City was blending archival sources of Stasi surveillance with our own material,” says Tucker, who not only co-directed but also shot, edited, and did post. “We had hundreds of hours of Stasi material to choose from and the quality was often very poor - coming from VHS and ¾ tape. Continuum’s Image Restoration filters were the biggest help to us.” Tucker has been a Continuum user for 20 years and made the switch from FCP 7 to Premiere Pro for the film.
“We found that using Magic Sharp paired with Premiere’s scaling provided the best results and control,” notes Tucker. “We were able to get fantastic results without taking a hardware upscale pass. The Remover was essential for redacting information from Stasi material and in specific scenes where we needed an empty city. It was super useful to quickly paint out unwanted objects and signs.” The Mocha/PixelChooser (introduced in Continuum 10) was used to track shots for object removal.
All the new footage in the film was shot handheld which presented another challenge. “The biggest thing was being able to tap into the power of the Optical Stabilizer to lock down and smooth shots that were often shot with extremely long surveillance focal lengths - all the way up to 1200mm,” continues Tucker. The Pixel Fixer, yet another filter from Image Restoration, even came in handy to repair dead pixels that appeared on their C300 camera after a shoot in the desert.
Optical Stabilization: Subtle use to smooth motion,shown before & after stabilization pass
“I think the Continuum and Premiere Pro combo is a rock solid foundation for any project large or small,” ends Tucker. “This was a massive project and we never crashed. None of what we do would be possible without the engineers that are constantly improving products and pushing the limits of what can be with a picture.”