Andrey Das – Master Pyrotechnician
BTS by Erwan Cloarec
Andrey DAS – Artist Portrait by Erwan Cloarec
I can’t quite remember how DAS and I met… whether he saw my work and started speaking with me or vice versa but I do recall stumbling upon his fan page and having that “oh my god that was you!” moment when I saw a couple of his art pieces on display online. The image in question that really struck me was this one, for those of you that are curious. It also happens to be one of the most popular images on 1x.com
DAS wrote to me randomly one day and told me that it would be amazing if we could work together. I agreed but since he was in Paris and me, in Montreal the idea of a collaboration seemed quite far off… Somehow though, my life decided to throw me a massive curve ball and before I knew it, I was planning a tour across Europe with videographer Erwan Cloarec. DAS was one of the first artists I contacted to collaborate with and although we weren’t quite certain what we wanted to do together, we knew it would have to be epic.
Things were quite challenging to put together with 6 hours of time difference and 5500 kms between us but nevertheless, we managed to whip up a schedule and an amazing abandoned location located just an hour out of Paris with a whole bunch of talent – from fire jugglers, models, light painters and a stunt crew.
Day 1 – Prep
DAS and I met for the first time on the 15th of May to scout the location in advance and make sure that we had a good sense of what we were going to be creating. It’s always a weird thing to meet someone you admire and only know electronically for the first time. You have all sorts of pre-conceived notions in your mind of who this person is and suddenly there they are standing in front of you. Whether they match what you had in your mind or not… it’s still definitely an odd sensation… anyways, I digress.
Since we were going to be shooting in an abandoned building it was absolutely critical for us to arrive prepared – to know not only WHAT we were going to be shooting but WHERE we would be shooting. Day 1 was just that – scouting, imagining and testing – both camera settings, flame strengths and so on and so forth. If you ever plan on doing something similar, definitely make sure that you do trials and error to see what flames look best on your camera.
Day 2 – Shoot Day
Day 2 of our shoot began the next evening at 8 PM – our entire crew of over ten people showed up quite conspicuously at the train station of the local township.
After everyone arrived, we ran into our first hurdle: The gates that were opened the day before that would allow us to park on location were now shut tight. This meant that we would have a hell of a time getting gear (photo, video, tripods, extinguishers, liquid paraffin, kevlar, accessories and more…). Not bothering to panic, Erwan and I did some quick scouting and quickly found an alternative route into the Asylum. Once in place, we quickly unloaded the car only to be discovered by some locals who told us they would be closing the secondary exit. We then had to move all the vehicles back out (though by this time the gear was already safely unloaded and hidden), and had no choice but to park about a km away on the local streets before making our way back to the location – this time in a much more stealthy manner as we had to avoid the gate warden. After about 45 minutes of cat and mouse with the local warden, we were finally ready to begin shooting.
Small note before continuing.
DAS and I had decided that we wanted to take AMAZING shots straight out of camera, without photoshop. It is too easy these days to snigger at a photo and say: “well its just photoshop” so we really wanted to push the boundaries on what was possible to create in camera… something that was REAL. What we wanted to create is simple to do on photoshop… but in camera would be a whole different ballpark. So that was the constraint and challenge we set ourselves, even though we knew it could mean that the shots would be “less perfect” … or even miss out completely.
So how’s it done? Check out the second part of our video! And for those too lazy to watch: In two words –> Multiple Exposure:
With the entire crew featured here:
Conclusion… or not
Although we turned out with some great shots the more complex shots of merging light painting and fire breathing didn’t quite turn out before the sun rose at 5 AM to interrupt us. DAS and I were still certain that we could do far better than just what we did that day… so we reconvened a couple days later, this time with a crew of friends from Strobi.fr. The concept was to create an Angel of fire but how and where we were actually going to make that happen, we hadn’t quite decided yet. Despite the rain, we took a good 3 hours to hunt down the perfect location: A rustic church in the middle of downtown Paris… located right next to a fire station.
The first thing we did upon deciding on our location was waltz straight over to the fire station and ask them if we could take photographs in front of the church… omitting the fact that any fire would be involved. That out of the way, we had…theoretically anyways… asked and been granted permission to take photographs in front of the Church. Were we certain that we would manage to get out of there without being stopped? Nope… but it was definitely worth the gamble!
Since we had decided (still) to achieve our angel of fire in camera, the first step was to do a bunch of tests:
- What was the perfect combination of ISO/aperture/Shutterspeed to get the best wings of flame?
- What type of fireball did we want? What settings for that fireball?
- What sequence did we need to shoot in?
- What power to set the flashes?
All this was done, trial and error, from 1-2 AM… in the rain… in the middle of downtown paris… 3 seconds away from a fire station.
The final result?
With the crew from shoot #2 featured here:
Special thanks to those who helped us make this shoot possible:
- The Workshop Factory
Special Gear used:
- SIRUI T-2205X
with a K20x provided to us by Lovinpix.com
- Nikon D800 – provided to us by Daniel Huturbise
- Liquid Paraffin
- Braided Kevlar Rope
- Umbrella – Provided by Virginie Barrault-Guignard
- Second Video: Nicolas Sarkissian
- Assistant: Virginie Barrault-Guignard, Nicolas Vallet, Regis Matthey, Olivier Lemarchand, Tania Dao-Castes, Sophie, Wen Jie Yang, Antoine Peltier, Opalescence, Joe, Thomas, Baba
- Stunts: David FunxRiders, Burn Crew Concept
- Script Editor: Kara Jeffrey
- Sound Editor: Remy Sealey
- Motion Graphics: Eric Sanchez