A few days ago a friend told me that an article on the German artist Julius Von Bismarck had been published in a supplement of the newspaper El Pais de Espana as a result of his participation in the most recent edition of PhotoEspana. A few days before, a different friend had mentioned a similar article, only in the digital edition of the same newspaper. (You can read the link here). The article also talk of Santiago Sierra, a Spanish artist with whom Von Bismarck collaborated in his NO project. In turn, as I write this post, another friend has just given me another link to an article on the same topic. The reason I mention this, is because last October I talked about Von Bismarck and Sierra, and a few days later I wrote a post about “gobos” and projectors in general.
In that post I praised the political concept of the work of both artists whilst explaining how to build your own “mini image fulgurator” for little money. My surprise came when a month later a prestigious Spanish advertising agency proposed the idea of developing a prototype of the same idea on a larger scale, for an important advertising campaign. I received the surprising news in Montevideo airport, about to return to Spain after having developed a workshop for a strobist technique, and the idea excited e a lot. Upon my return to Barcelona I began to develop a 4×5 format gobo projector that reach a projection of 70 metres and be fire from the flashes of the compact cameras of the event participants.
The complexity of the development was the synchronisation and power. The had to be clearly projected 70 metres from a wall because I would not be close to the “target” like Von Bismarck in his political works.
For the synchronisation I counted on the support of Bach Import who lent me an Omnicell slave unit that proved more effective than the range of the Wein units. The slave unit was connected to a PocketWizard transmitter which transmitted the signal to a receiver connected to the flash. I did the first tests on the street with a Bowens flash and I came up with the idea of improvising a symbol/sign that I could design on a black adhesive, and then cut it by hand and stick it on a 4×5 glass plate.
Another problem to solve in the tests was the flash power – for this I used a TravelPak from Bowens.
My Bowens flashes are 750W/S and I needed to see if projection of the symbol was sharp at a long distance, and if not, estimate the necessary power of the flash for that distance. I decided to ask the studio ‘BarcelonaStudios’ to lend me a hand by testing their Elinchrom gobo projector with a generator on the door of their studios.
With the timing, power, and the projection issues resolved, it was only necessary to find a solution of recharging the flash quick enough, as many simultaneous shots were going to be fired with the compact cameras of the participants. To solve this issue I went to some other generous colleagues, this time the people of Top Studios, and they allowed me to test with some equipment by Profoto. I developed a provisional adapter from Bowens to Profoto and got to work.
The Profoto’s recharge time was very fast and the projection at different distances worked perfectly.
Using a 4×5 plate projector, the next matter at hand was the choosing of the right lens. It would need to have an image circle for that format, and be able to focus. I built the box with a device to move the plane of the plate and the lens that worked best for the invention was a Fujinon W 5.6/125 large format lens, with a fixed extension tube.
The entire invention took a week of design and testing, and when the prototype was finished the client decided that they didn’t want to take a chance on it. The planned campaign was very shocking and fun, but every venture has its risks. Now my Fulgorito (Little Fulgurator) will be at home for another occasion – but for those of you who are in Madrid, I recommend as I did last October that you do not miss seeing the real “Image Fulgurator” by Von Bismarck, and to meet him and Sierra.
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