The European house of Photography has been presenting, in coproduction with ArtFx, the experimental works of choreographer Kitsou Dubois. Her video installation, entitled “Perspectives, le temps de voir”, shows dancers moving in a weightless environment. The dancers were filmed during parabolic flights organized in collaboration with the National Center of Spatial Studies (CNES). Recent flights allowed, for the first time, the possibility of filming in relief. Loïc Parent*, head of the 3-D special effects, talks to us about this unique and intricate experience.
What are the filming particularities under these conditions?
«It is filmed using stereoscopy: the principle is to capture two angles of view with a little parallax between them in order to simulate human eyesight – which is to say the five centimeters that separate the viewing angles between our left and right eyes. The problem is that the 35mm cameras are too big to be placed side by side, so the interval created between them would be much larger than the space between our eyes. Therefore, I used a two-way mirror at a 45 degree angle to artificially shrink the distance between the two cameras to zero centimeters. It required very precise engineering and, although other well-known equipment is already available for this purpose, the particulars of this filming situation made it necessary to build something slightly different.»
What are the principle constraints of microgravity?
«Things that function with gravity no longer function in weightless conditions. Everything ends up floating around and the mirrors move which creates disparities among the different images and makes the filming process enormously complicated. Add to that the inability to record images on classic hard drives: during free fall, the accelerometer in the hard drive blocks the recording of information. Within the framework of a CNES flight, there are also protocol constraints that are equally enforced; all of the materials for the film shoot are verified by a security counselor who ensures that everything remains immobilized during the flight and that there aren’t any exposed edges that could hurt someone during weightlessness conditions.»
What was your film set like in this rather unusual situation?
«We filmed aboard the Airbus A300 Zero-G*, an experimental aircraft that does not have any seats. We shared the flight with a team of scientists, so we created our set by partitioning off the space that was dedicated to us using white curtains. It should be noted that the phenomenon of weightlessness during a parabolic flight only lasts a few seconds – the precise moment when the aircraft is neither climbing nor descending. The amount of time for each shot was further limited because, for security reasons, we had to lift the partition curtain and be securely seated throughout the takeoff and landing process. We thought for a long time about how to film in this space and within this restricted timeframe. In the end, it was necessary to create a miniature of the aircraft’s interior in order to plan the exact the placement of each object.»
What was the ultimate goal of this experience?
«Weightlessness was not the end in itself for Kitsou Dubois. Her goal was to question our understanding of movement by exploring it through a different sensory immersion; the parabolic flights were just a vehicle for this type of reflection. Part of the film that was shot during these flights was done using an 8mm Fish Eye camera. For the exposition, she took this film and projected it inside a sphere so that the viewer had a 180 degree field of view. In comparison to my own experience of weightlessness, this technique really works; during the exposition, I felt some of the same sensations that I had experienced in flight. You have to see Kitsou Dubois’s work. She has a particularly interesting and experimental approach to video and motion.»
*Former ArtFx professor, Loïc Parent, is the creator of a production and post-production association, «Band Originale » (Montpellier), and works on various projects: VFX films, commercials, music videos, sports communication, underwater filming.
*L’Airbus A300 ZERO-G is a refurbished airplane used for scientific laboratory research. It is specifically used for parabolic flights that provide up to 22 seconds of weightlessness, by reproducing the conditions of Martian (0.38g) and lunar (0.16g) gravitational environments.
For more information
Exposition “Perspectives, le temps de voir”
from November 22nd to December 11th
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
5/7 rue de Fourcy 75004 Paris
An exposition in coproduction with ArtFx
[small_button]English version by Danielle Harrell, English teacher for ArtFx[/small_button]