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Bal guinguette in ultra-high definition

mercredi 17 janvier 2018

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  • moulin_galette_2
    Mathieu Rabeau makes the initial adjustments
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    Setting up the lighting
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    Preparing the PhaseOne XF unit
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    A few accessories, just in case...
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    Focus adjustment
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    All files are inspected directly
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    The level of detail obtained using this technique
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    Inspecting the shots
    © Adrien Didierjean
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    Overall view of the set
    © Adrien Didierjean

Bal du moulin de la Galette: behind the scenes of a gigapixel shoot.

The month of August is drawing to a close, and traffic on Quai Anatole France is still moving freely for now. The Musée d'Orsay is closed, as it is every Monday. The unusual quietness means that certain operations can be carried out that would be completely impractical with the public in attendance. The ultra-high definition reproduction of a masterpiece by Auguste Renoir is one such project. The aim of this shoot is to produce an image of over 500 million pixels.


Mathieu Rabeau is busy adjusting his ball joint. Nothing to do with orthopaedics, we are talking about the essential accessory that allows multiple shots to be taken that can then be perfectly assembled during post-production. To obtain such definitions of several hundred million pixels, the painting is divided into several rows and columns of photographs, which are then assembled into one giant file. The photographer makes his adjustments with extreme precision, for if even the smallest detail in the process is not exactly right, assembling the file will simply not be possible later on.


Aligning the coupler plate with the optical axis, positioning the optical axis on the axis of rotation on the ball joint, alleviating the lens mount by attaching the camera to the ball joint at two points... once all of these special procedures have been carried out, Mathieu, assisted on this day by Léopoldine, still has his work cut out. He has to precisely define his point of view, using lighting that will resolve any problems caused by the glass protecting the artwork. Once this is done, he needs to configure CaptureOne, the professional imaging software used by all agency photographers, to ensure the colours are reproduced to the highest degree of authenticity. This is an issue of fundamental concern when photographing art masterpieces. To keep things brief, this is not a full description of the process: there are many other equally rigorous procedures that required to bring the project to completion.


A number of masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay have been photographed using these intricate and demanding techniques. The results are worth the effort: following post-production, viewing an image of such quality, losing yourself in the details and brushstrokes of the artist, always produces the same childlike wonder. Another rather more futile, but still rather satisfying pleasure is to count the total number of pixels: in this case, one billion five hundred and nineteen million seven hundred and eighty thousand one hundred and thirty pixels.


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