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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



Alsop's baton rises and falls. She moves to the energetic beats of the music, but is never lost to it. Her eyes constantly flick from score to orchestra to image timeline notes to the immense screen. Images appear, shift from screen to screen to screen, embracing the music in a synchronized, magical pas de trois.

Once the primed images were ready, visual designer Alex Nichols went to work. “This was a unique project for me,” says Nichols in his Berkeley, Calif., studio. Crafting some initial sketches in Adobe After Effects, at first he found it challenging to respond to the piece other than scientifically.

“Then we got the music from Philip Glass, and I began to understand what this piece was going to be,” Nichols recalls. “Because Frans gave me such a strong, solid progression of images in a suggested timeline, I was freed up to really work at it musically.”

Nichols spent nearly two days just listening to each section of the score. Once he knew the major shifts in the music, he began to build a rough outline of steps to set Lanting's sequences to dancing.

It wasn't always a stroll through the park. “Glass and Riesman spent a lot of time choosing the music,” remembers Nichols. “Some pieces were very challenging. For instance, the animals section didn't follow what Frans and I had imagined it should be. But you know what? It took us someplace else and ended up being a kind of counterpoint to our original ideas. Glass' music is so great for this type of thing.”

To create the huge digital files needed for the performance, Nichols had Lanting's studio reduce the prime image files to a general working size of 2000 to 3000 pixels wide. “Video resolution was pretty crude compared to what Frans works in for books and prints,” says Nichols.

For some sequences, such as birds flying across all three screen segments, Nichols needed larger files of a 4000 pixel width or more. “There was so much information to drag across the screen,” he says, but all the imagery had to conform to the 72 dpi constraints of the presentation system, comprised of three digital video projectors running in sync.

Nichols built the program sequence by sequence into the seven sections called out in Lanting's outline: Elements, Beginnings, Out of the Sea, On Land, Into the Air, Out of the Dark and Planet of Life.

Nichols used a Mac G5 and Adobe After Effects to create an overall composition space 1920 pixels wide by 480 pixels tall. Months later, when all seven segments were finalized, he divided, then laboriously rendered them into three separate 640 x 480 pixel compositions—left, middle and right—one for each of the three Eiki 6000 projectors.

 



 

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