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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Frans Lanting - LIFE

For world-renowned photographer Frans Lanting, the Life project became more than a display of photography

Lanting sent the finished image sequences to Glass and longtime collaborator Michael Riesman, who produced seven new or previously unperformed compositions.

Now Lanting had the backbone to choreograph his images into a live performance. The baton passed to Alexander V. Nichols. An award-winning lighting director and visual designer, Nichols creates multimedia productions for prominent ballet and theatre companies, such as the San Francisco Ballet and the Actor's Conservatory Theatre.

The tools of their collaborative trading became QuickTime movie sketches and face-to-face meetings. But before Alex Nichols could begin to set Lanting's images to Glass' music, he needed them in projectable digital form. That required the scanning of transparencies as well as matching them to digital images, since Lanting had switched to all-digital photography during the creation of the Life project, replacing his Nikon F6 film bodies with Nikon D2x, D1x and D100 cameras.

Once film and digital selections were made, it was then time to roll out the drum scanners. “We used 100 MB TIFF files for our primes,” remembers Yann Nicolas, Project Manager at Lanting Studios in Santa Cruz. The drum scans (Heidelberg Tango scanner, ProPhoto RGB color space) were done by Bill Atkinson in his home studio and Bob Cornelis (www.colorfolio.com). “Then we spent lots of time matching scans to the originals.”

These prime files were split into layers in Photoshop for dust and scratch removal, color correction, vignette correction and so on. Throughout the process, the staff strove to maintain the uniform feel Lanting wanted between the Kodachromes, E-6 and digital images. “It's difficult to express in words,” says Nicolas. “Call it a linear-scale look that you get throughout.”

Maintaining fidelity called for a variety of tools and procedures, such as Photo Mechanic software, used to extract JPEG header images. Embedded in NEF files, headers are used to review images in the field on the camera's LCD back.

“Another thing that helped was that Frans, until recently, shot digital and film side by side,” says Nicolas, “which gave us slides to guide our image priming in Photoshop.”

Lanting, renowned for exacting technical acumen, did his best in the field to minimize Photoshop work back in the studio, which could take hours for a single image. “He'd shoot a gray card beforehand as a benchmark,” says Nicolas. “He also made copious notes while shooting.”

There was one commandment: faith to the original image was mandatory. No digital manipulations were advised or tolerated.


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