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28th May 2012
Human arabesque
Title of film: TEDxSummit intro: The power of x
Director: Körner Union
Production Company: Big Productions Paris
1.4 talks with director Korner Union on creating mathematical beauty without computer graphics

Dancers + camera + kaleidoscope = this infinitely gorgeous short video, says the blurb beneath the youtube link. And we totally agree…

Made for Ted X Summit this film celebrates the power of x” to multiply great ideas. How detailed was the original brief and how did you evolve it?

I worked on it with the agency We Are Pi from the very beginning. The agency had contacted Korner Union to consult on their concept as we’d worked a lot with mirrors in our photographic work.

This is when I thought about building a giant kaleidoscope to multiply the dancers and create a human arabesque but it was a very ambitious project with a lot of technical challenges.

Was there a lot of experimentation to find such an elegant solution? And how did you create the kaleidoscope effect?

When I had the idea of building a giant kaleidoscope, I wanted to make it for real. The movie is about the power of people working together so we wanted to make it a performance without the help of visual effects.

I studied mathematics before going to art school which helped me a lot to conceive this tower.

I had to work out how tall the tower would be, how large the final shot would be, and how many arabesque figures we’d be able to see.

I then built a miniature of the kaleidoscope, a small mirror tower I used to test some of the figures of the choreography (with the help of a few drawings and legos), and showed the concept to the agency.

We then had to figure out how to create a 17 meter high mirror tower, and how we could put a camera in it without any wires in the frame, which was also an issue, as initially we wanted to do a one-take performance.

The choreography looks incredibly complicated. Was it?

We worked with amazing choreographers (Icouldneverbeadancer) and great dancers.

We did a precise storyboard with the main figures, and gave it to the choreographers. They built their choreography on it, working mainly on the transitions. This is where I decided to have a changing floor which allowed quicker transitions between the different figures. (You can see it on the making of in Related Content, the dancers are already in place when they enter under the structure.)

We did a lot of tests, shooting the dance rehearsals from the top, and making pre-visualisation in post…

What were the main challenges of the production?

Building the mirror tower, the camera engineering, the choreography…
For example, at the beginning, we could not find insurance for the shoot, because they were afraid the structure would fall on the dancers.

We used Mylar, very light and thin aluminum, for the mirror effect as real glass mirror would have been too heavy and fragile for such a big structure. Then we asked an engineer Didier Roux to work on a system in which a camera could go back and forth inside the tower.

The choreography was a challenge in itself, since the dancers had to enter the structure very carefully. The tower was suspended 80 centimeters from the floor. Any impact would have ruined the shot.

As Korner Union you are not reknown for directing work. How did you win the brief?

Our previous work as photographers did get us noticed with the agency, and when they decided it was a good concept, we convinced them we could do that as well since we had directed a few music videos and experimental videos. I guess that the treatment I did was convincing, with all the tests and storyboard.


Korner Union
Big Productions

Agency: We Are Pi Creative Directors: Hobson-Chant Strategy: Alex Bennett-Grant Agency producer: Jamie Nami Kim Director: Körner Union Production company: Big Productions Paris Producer: Raphaël Carassic DOP: Laurent Tangy Set Designer: Laurent Tesseyre Choreographers: Icouldneverbeadancer Editor: Matthilde Carlier Wardrobe: Elisabeth Rousseau Hair & Make-Up: Avril Carpentier Line Producer: Nicolas Avram Head of Post-Production: Natacha Dolar Post-Production: Mikros Image Music artist: Yasmine Hamdan Producer: Toolbox Audio Sound design: WAVE Amsterdam