What it’s like directing the world’s largest “Where is Waldo”

By on October 30, 2013

Earlier this year, Kamerakind spontaneously contacted me and hired me to play the role of Creative Director/coordinator in their 450 person “Where is Waldo…” project that would be taking place in Traunstein, Germany.

Wanna see the final result? Play the game here! Find Waldo: http://traunstein-wimmelt.de/en/

Here’s a video of me, exhausted after the day attempting to coherently sum up the project:


(watch the full BTS video complete with interviews in german & english subtitles here: http://vimeo.com/73366073)

Having already directed and produced a number of large scale epic shoots, I was ready for the new challenge.

Joining the team as a latecomer only 4 days before the scheduled shoot date, the first thing I had to do was access the situation and puzzle out how we were to transform concept into reality.

I learned that they had already assembled a staff of 60 people, built a custom motion controlled rig to support a D800 and 400mm f/2.8 sponsored by Nikon Germany, secured sponsors to help manage the event and gathered approximately 450 costumed and enthusiastic models interested in participating in the photoshoot.

Arriving at Kamerakind HQ, I found myself facing a wall of over 154 photographs of the town square, covered in little paper scraps of german text and a schedule down to the minute on when each shot was to take place.

Wimmelt 04

Brilliant. Step 1: Translate all german text.

Sabine took the time to break down all the resources they had available in english as I slowly tried to make sense of the talent they had gathered. Batman? African Drums? Hippies? Rocket??!?

How was all this going to fit together and how were we going to be able to actually shoot them in a minute to minute time frame?

After taking the night to sleep on the problem, I proposed to the Kamerakind team that the first thing that had to be done was to actually start building stories into the image. Rather than have the characters separated by individual frames, they would have to showcase interactions that would span the different frames. Why? Because we didn’t want the final image to look like a grid!

Complete

2 days later, we had transformed what had once been non-sensical german text (at least for me =P) into a vague storyline based on the resources that had been gathered.

From there I proposed that we partition the image into small sub-zones rather than having shots planned out to the minute. From experience, planning a shoot down to the 5 minute precision rarely, if ever works so scheduling the day based on zones seemed like a much more plausible strategy.

(the original layout planned)

Wimmelt 07

From that point, the next problem to tackle went straight to logistics: How were we going to organize, herd and group people to the right place at the right time?

After brainstorming for a while, we finally came up with the idea of Avatars and Gatekeepers. While the KameraKind team would remain largely in the tower overseeing operations, we would each need an “avatar” on floor level to gather and group people in the right place at the right time. Constant communication would be needed which meant that phones and walkie talkies were a must. Thankfully, Neumann&Müller had our back for all our communication needs.

The team was split up with Stefan overseeing the technical operations while Ingo took care of making sure that the current piece was fitting together and Sabine to make sure that hair/makeup/costume would be ready at the right place in the right time.

This left me to be free to fill in the gaps – prep the sets that were going to be next and ensure that the various elements that needed to be ready were going to be ready. This meant that I got to run from the tower, to make sure the people were set, down to the town square, to make sure people were happy, and all the way back stage, to see where makeup/hair and costume were at – von wong cape and all.

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In Conclusion:

Playing the role of Creative Director for Kamerakind was a fantastic experience. It’s always interesting working for another entity especially when language is a barrier, but at the end of the day seeing so many people just come together to create something never seen before and knowing that I played a key part in it is such an amazing feeling that despite the 12 hours of sleep spread over 4 days, I felt more alive than ever before.

Curious to know where I was in this adventure? Read my diary entry here.

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Additional BTS photos ©2013 Ernst Wukits - Kamerakinds “Traunstein wimmelt”

  • Eva

    Crazy Germans I’m so proud :D

  • Cheryl Aiken

    love the von wong cape!

  • http://www.kamerakind.net/ Stefan

    Thank you Ben! It was an amazing experience to work with you. Never before we learned so much about story telling and enthusiasm in such a short amount of time.
    I hope we can repeat something like ‘waldo’ again :-)
    Take care!

  • http://www.WrobelStudio.pl/ wrobelstudio.pl

    I am a big positive shock :) Huge project:)

  • http://thinktankphoto.com/ thinkTank Photo

    Great project, Benjamin! Love it.

  • Arthur Brave

    Mr. Benjamin, you just keep blowing my mind. Great work!

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