How was it done? A Recreation of Philippe Halsman’s ‘Dali Atomicus’ – Part 2

How was it done? A Recreation of Philippe Halsman’s ‘Dali Atomicus’ – Part 2


So it was never going to be easy to
replicate ‘Dali Atomicus’ – We’ve gone to a lot of work to create this set that
you can see behind me let me talk you through a little bit about what we’ve
done the first problem to overcome was building the background the walls using
the original Philippe Halsman image as a reference we created the wall to match
so in the corner there was a pillar with the dado rail which we’ve applied here
then there was a length of straight wall and then angled wall as you can see one
of the complicated parts was it looked like there was a staircase landing we
don’t know what it was in the shot we couldn’t find any history about whether
it was a landing or what it was but we built something to replicate that part
of the shop that position of the shot then we have the actual painting itself
Leda Atomica by Salvador Dali this features in the Dali Atomicas
photograph and it was actually Philippe Halsman’s inspiration for creating the
photograph because in Leda Atomica everything is floating nothing is
touching which is why the same happens in the actual photograph then we have
things like the picture frame which was left empty and Dali painted the picture
into that afterwards and the easel which as you can see we have hanging suspended
on wires we have these two strange sheets of plastic on the floor that are
in the original photograph that we had to match the shape based on the
perspective of the camera now the perspective of the camera was an
interesting one because we didn’t know the distance away from the set that the
original picture was taken it wasn’t possible for us to understand that
distance there was no record of it we don’t know which lens so we had to work
with a preset distance and build the set based on that in the original picture
there was also some wooden flooring what looked like wooden flooring but with a
border so we created that wooden flooring using this lino
patterned wooden style floor here then the objects themselves we have the
hanging chair or the chair that was suspended in the shot so you can see
we’ve got that on wires now we couldn’t obviously use flying cats in the shot so
I decided to change those for a couple of other items here I used a it’s a
replica of the melting clock which is a feature of one of Dali’s other
paintings The Persistence of Memory where we have the melting clock and I’ve
actually set I think the clock to the right time as it was in the painting and
then here I wanted something with a bit of energy so I used a toaster with toast
popping out of it but instead of toast I included a couple of my own pictures and
I also did a version with a couple of Life magazine covers to pay homage to
Philippe Halsman. Let’s move on to how we got all this in position here well we
used monofilament line strong line three point connections going up to our
ceiling rig which we had to rig up to our main girders of our studio and that
allowed us to get the overhead light the main light in position
where we needed the light to create exactly the same type of shadows and
lighting as them as the main shot each item is suspended as you can see and it
was carefully positioned until we found the exact right position to match the
original photo so that was done very precisely and very accurately now the
lighting itself is quite complex first of all we had the main light which we
had to calculate the position that main light to match the lighting on Dali and
to match the lighting of the shadows on the floor and importantly this shadow on
the wall down here was absolutely crucial as was the shadow on the floor
because these are the clues the visual clues that we were given from the
original picture and we used a single light source with a large reflector dish
from up high above to recreate that lighting but the
lighting is far more complex than that throughout the rest of the set to see
that we’ll have to go over here so for example the lighting on the toaster it’s
highly reflective metal now to catch a reflection on the metal here and on the
metal here required lighting on the white floor so this patch of light
coming from this flute here illuminating down onto the floor is the lighting
that’s giving me the lighting in the side of the toaster here here the
lighting that we’re seeing is coming from a light patch on the floor over
here if we move on to the toast popping out of the toaster this is lit by a very
tight gridded light here directing the light making sure that it runs out of
the main shot so it’s not going to affect anything in the shop here on the
clock I’ve just got a subtle amount of light from a tight Fresnel beam on this
Pico light running to hit the clock but then it’s dissolving away so it’s not
affecting anything further beyond that. Only a subtle amount of light we didn’t
want any light on the chair at all because in the main shot the chair is
silhouetted so that had to remain silhouetted as it does more light was
needed on the toaster that’s created by a subtle patch of light on the cove wall
in the background illuminating an area there only very subtly just enough to be
picked up in the reflection in the metalwork now in my shot in my version
the shot I wanted to add a little bit more than the original so I’ve got the
original picture but I’m shooting on a high res Hasselblad camera and it’s
allowing me to shoot more wide angle to capture more of the set so that I’m
creating something a little bit more unique now to do that I also wanted to
capture the person throwing the water because I’m going to have someone here
throwing the water into the shot as in the original a lot of people the
misconception is that the water is thrown from the right hand side of the
camera in but actually it’s thrown from the left so I’m using this gridded
spotlight here to capture a little bit of detail on the purse
and throwing here so at the moment although the main light for the main
shot was probably only a single light setup and that single light is our main
light in addition for the extra sort of details that I’ve added into the shot we
have the main light is 1 light, 2 lights, 3 lights, 4 lights, 5
lights, 6 lights, 7 light setup! however as I say the main Dalí Atomicus
picture was probably accomplished with one or two lights having analyzed the
the the shot the difference with my shot is that I needed to bring detail onto
this and onto this in several areas and because it’s chrome metal that required
a lot of lighting patches on the floor to do that. Now to freeze the action
because we will have our actor jumping in the air to represent Salvador Dali
and we’ve also got the liquid flying through the air
I needed fast flash duration so again I’m using my broncolor scoro packs
which will give me the fast flash durations to freeze that liquid and
freeze that motion the Atomicus means basically everything in suspended
animation so it would be no good if I wasn’t able to freeze the liquid and
freeze the actor in the air because obviously the whole idea of the shot is
all of these items suspended in animation including Dali in the air and
including the water in the shot so from my main camera position I’m able to
determine my composition to match the original shot and you can see very
faintly the wires here which actually in the final Philippe Halsman shot they
were retouched out in using traditional retouching methods of painting on the
print here we can see that all my objects match up in terms of the
pedestal the painting the easel frame and the chair and the landing but what
I’m going to do is slightly different I’ve gone to a wider angle lens
and my test shot on the wider angle lens reveals more of the set so I’m able to
retain a portion of the image that will be exactly the same perspective and
match the original shot but I’m also able to include more of the studio set
more of the whole setup and more of the other people that are
going to be in the shot contributing such as throwing the water cleaning up
helping with lighting etc that sort of thing so I want to create my own version
of the shot that we can zoom in on that matches the original picture so here are two of my final results and
I must say I’m very very excited with what the team and I have achieved here
here you can see the wider angle version of the shot but if I bring up the
overlay of the original Phillipe Halsman and Dali image we can see that
the position of the pedestal their panels on the floor and the extension of
our floor itself even joins perfectly into our picture into the original the
corner position of our wall on our set matches the corner position on the
original as does the angle of the lines of the back wall and the position of the
easel and then we very closely match Dali’s position and the clock with the
position of the cat and also this landing in the top right hand corner of
the shot but most importantly and most difficult was getting our actor to jump
at the right moment and have the water thrown through the air at the right
moment and captured in the right shape at the right time this was always going
to be the biggest challenge and fortunately we’ve achieved it we have a
similar position to the water interesting refraction of light running
through the water here on that particular shot and the breakup of the
water over the Salvador Dali painting of Leda Atomica in the background so I’m
extremely happy with that version and we also have another version where we
achieve a similar result if we zoom in on the picture and I bring it in and we
study the detail you can see how our chair is silhouetted how our actor has
invoked that emotion of Salvador Dali we have the flow of the liquid running
through the shop and tailing off here the panels on the floor everything
working really really well to match the original
or picture so I’m very very pleased with what we’ve achieved in accomplishing
this very very challenging reproduction of this famous historical image.

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