As microprocessors became more affordable in the 70s, several companies started offering complex electronic boxes to control slide projectors in sync with audio. Clever AV types and creatives were soon producing elaborate slideshows with panoramas, animations, and graphic efx, accompanied by high-fidelity soundtracks. The multi-image format evolved into a thriving global industry during the 80s.
One West Michigan office furniture company went in big – even building a large theater with a stage-wide screen and large projection booth to house their fifteen-projector shows viewed by customers and employees.
The show we’re producing is to promote the furniture company’s executive wood office system.
It’s another “like a” concept – that is – like a sports team, or a race car pit crew, or a garden, or a (insert metaphor here).
This particular “like a” idea parallels the legendary woodwork of 18th century violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, with that of, well, wood office furniture.
The “Antonio” actor had been photographed days earlier in a recreated 18th century workshop constructed in our furniture client’s massive photo studio. (These big shows had big budgets.)
A week later, we’re to shoot talent in Baroque attire “playing” the finished violin.
To make a panorama, studio work was shot on large format 4×5 sheet film from which we’d crop a group of 35mm frames using our optical camera stand. The 35mm film frames were “sandwiched” with clear soft-edge masks in pin-registered slide mounts to make a seamless panorama.
The talent, set, costuming, and accessories had all been arranged – including the acquisition of an original Stradivarius violin from a regional, fine musical instrument broker. The broker had nervously agreed to provide the violin (at some cost, of course). No one was to touch the violin other than the talent who would pretend to be playing it for the still photo panorama. The broker would personally place the Stradivarius into the hands of the posed talent.
In 2011, a Stradivarius sold in London for $15.9 million.
Studio photography with a 4×5 view camera moved at a snail’s pace. Polaroid film was used to check everything before exposing the Kodak sheet film.
Adjust the lights. Shoot a Polaroid. Tweak the set. Shoot a Polaroid. Adjust the lens tilt and back swing. Shoot a Polaroid. Tweak this. Tweak that. Shoot a Polaroid. Have some coffee. Shoot a Polaroid. All while the talent remains on set. And we’re shooting hot lights (tungsten) because of their warmer look.
Mike, the photographer, and I are looking over the most recent Polaroid. Out of the corner of my eye I see the talent, who is holding pose with the Stradivarius, start to sway.
He’s going down.
The cement floor below will exponentially magnify the impact – on both a human head and a priceless musical instrument.
Mike and I rush toward our falling talent.
The violin broker goes for his Stradivarius.
We catch ours. The broker his.
Our talent comes to after a few agonizing minutes.
Pieces of the Stradivarius will not be taken home in a shoebox.
We all regroup in the corporate cafeteria.
Turns out our talent, an elder, had not eaten breakfast that morning. He had overheated. Liquids and protein cool him down sans the thick, heavy Baroque overcoat.
We finish the shoot by mid-day . . .
with refreshed talent, fewer Polaroids . . .
and one intact Stradivarius.