This video clip needed more than 4 months to be totally finished, 5 nights of shooting and more than a thousand takes from the top of the Eiffel Tower with many other nights and hours dedicated to post-production work. You can read about my experience with filming this below but I think, given the final result, it was all worth the effort. I hope you enjoy my magical proposal in Paris!
The Plan: The Technique of Light Painting The technique involves shooting a landscape or a scene in which a bright object is moving. The exposure time is particularly long (several seconds)giving free rein to imagination. You can draw light patterns while the shutter remains open, with any light source (flashlight, cell phone screens lit, etc.)
The Preparation I had to plan ahead... I bought all the equipment necessary for filming and I begin by doing some tests.
Scouting The Location Initially, I thought of the Western view from the Eiffel Tower from the first floor. So, I buy a ticket which takes me to the second floor and head down the stairs to the first, it doesn't seem quite right and for some reason, I think up the crazy idea of trying the 3rd floor.
With this, the project would be even more challenging: 2km between the point of view of the 3rd floor to the name "LAURENCE" painted in light on the Champ de Mars. Moreover, how would we identify different specific point markings for each letter at such a distance? We needed these markings for the project to work.
I thought at first to use a powerful laser pointer from the 3rd floor, impossible... not only are lasers of this scope banned in France but at this distance, one small shake of the hand would move things off course exponentially. We had to find another solution.
The Idea of "Light" The next day, at Bastille, I bump into my friend Nat and we sit down for a drink. I explained the problem to him--how do I create specific identification points on the ground for every letter that allows us to shoot from the 3rd floor of the tower?
After a moment of reflection ...Eureka! He had figured out a solution: instead of pointing to each corner of a letter from the 3rd floor with a laser, why not do the exact opposite instead, start at the ground going back to the computer and camera to identify the points. This solution was perfect.
The Theory in Practice And A Lot of Hope A few days later, we all meet at the foot of the tower. One guy on the 3rd floor with all the equipment in his backpack. The rest of us moving towards the end of the field, preparing to make the markings.
Our guy on the tower installs the equipment, attaching the camera to the fence, starting the computer and launching the applications, etc. We wait for his instructions on the ground.
We start and are able to make markings up to 3 blocks away before the computer stops responding due to the very cold weather. He is unable to restart the program, or even the computer.
I thought I planned for all scenarios and anticipated all parameters, but I hadn't thought about the temperature of operation of a computer. It was really cold on the ground and much colder up in the tower and our guy is starting to freeze and needs to come down.
Annoyed, exhausted and frozen, I sit down on a bench in the Champs de Mars and resign myself to completely abandoning my project, thinking it is totally impractical.
One of the guys sits down next to me and tries to cheer me up by telling me not to give up and that one day soon it will be warmer and we'll try again.
The Rainbow Two days later, I decided to try again. I check the weather forecast in the afternoon. I can't believe that the temperature has risen by 6 degrees Celsius from two nights ago with no bad weather in sight and partly cloudy skies for this evening.
I leave early and as soon as I get in the car, it starts to pour. I know that the weather can change from minute to minute, and pray that it all clears for shooting.
At 6, I arrive near the tower when a miracle happens--the wind chased the clouds away and a gigantic rainbow appeared just above the tower. I take it as a sign from the heavens.
At 7, I pull up to the site to check out the view. The light is simply magical, a clear sky, the Eiffel Tower all dressed in lights, the moon shining beautifully... It all creates a surreal setting. The mixture of colors and coincidences are simply perfect and more than I could have hoped for, for my magical proposal in Paris video.
At 8, the gang joins me and we have just 3 hours to make my dream of a light painting. Things go well but we run into some problems with distortion because of angles and perspectives and other little glitches. We end up spending a total of 5 nights trying largely in the cold, rain and wind but it was worth the trouble.
The post-production work took even more time, over weekends to get everything right and in the right tempo. I think these efforts paid off, given the final result.
Epilogue The days that followed found me looking for the perfect place to project the video. I wanted a place that is in a key location in Paris in the Champs-Elysees.
After several days of searching, I found the perfect spot : "Le Sens" Avenue de Ponthieu, a restaurant-bar (the most popular in Paris), closely located to the "most beautiful avenue in the world. I immediately walked in and asked to meet the boss. After showing him my film and telling him what I wanted to do, he very kindly agreed to let me do it in his restaurant.
We planned for the 25th March 2010, when the best table in the restaurant would be reserved...