'City of Samba': Rio Carnival in tilt-shift
Photographer Keith Loutit’s 'The City of Samba' video (see above) is an incredible look at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The video is shot with a combination of stop motion and tilt-shift photography, and the must-see work has been making the rounds on social media recently even though it has been on Vimeo since 2012, when it won Vimeo’s Top 12 of 2012 award.
The video opens with a glorious 'miniature' panorama of the city. Seemingly tiny gondolas summit a mountain with the jerky hesitation of a Tim Burton animation. Ships crest waves and then fall out of focus. A helicopter performs a rescue at sea, and then Carnival unfolds. Captured from a vantage point above the fray, the video shows the hectic celebration as a crazy animated dance.
A second video, 'The Lion City' (see below) featuring Singapore was released last year and while it hasn’t made the same impression on social media, it’s even more brilliant and uses advancements of the techniques Loutit pioneered for 'City of Samba' (Frankly we’re surprised he hasn’t been hired to make opening credits for an HBO series or for a Christopher Nolan movie).
His site says he uses a combination of 35mm DSLRs and lenses he's adapted from large-format work but we wanted to find out more, so we spoke to him via email. The explanation of his process is almost as interesting as the video results. Here's what he said:
'Most of my earlier work with tilt-shift required large-format bellows or repurposed enlarger lenses. In both cases the principle is the same: using a lens that projects an image circle much larger than the 35mm sensor allows for a degree of tilt above and beyond ordinary manufacturer tilt-shift lenses. In the case of the large-format bellows there was no modification required, but the enlarger lenses required some custom mounts that allowed for a full range of tilt in any direction away from the sensor plane.
'For focal shifts using tilted lenses such as in 'The City of Samba', focal shifts were performed step by step during the time-lapse shooting. In other cases the focus of large-format bellows were 'cranked' using a car tyre wrench that created a gear system that allowed for very slight focal adjustments. By moving the front lens element further and closer to the sensor plane while in tilted position, the tilt-shift focus can be animated.
'In the film 'The Lion City', the techniques were advanced further using digital processes that create artificial focal planes based on the geometry of the entire scene. This allows for some amazing effects such as focal storms, and dramatic day to night sequences that animate through the city.
We also asked Loutit how he got such astounding access to the parade of Carnival - in many of the frames he’s clearly shooting from right above the action.
'I collaborated with a good friend and director Jarbas Agnelli who shot the film with me, and also composed the musical arrangement. We first met in person at the Guggenheim Museum where our works were being featured there as part of 'Youtube Play - A Biennial of creative video at the Guggeheim'. At this event, the idea hatched for the Carnival film and through Jarbas's contacts and local resources we were able to gain exceptional access to the event across multiple days to create all of the camera angles that you see within the film'.
It helps to know people in high places. For more information on Loutit or his work, visit his website at keithloutit.com.