Filmmaker returns to Fallingwater to add dimension
April 2, 2014 12:00 AM
Filmmaker Ken Love is shooting Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater with a 3-D camera using two lenses to create an overlapping 3-D image that can be seen without aid of special glasses.
By Mary Thomas / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh filmmaker Ken Love didn't plan to return to Fallingwater as a subject any time soon. He'd already made six films on Frank Lloyd Wright and his projects. But an opportunity to try a new technology that would also benefit physically disadvantaged visitors was too good to pass up.
The technology allows a 3-D viewing experience without wearing special glasses. Mr. Love will talk about his learning curve and his results at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's temporary location, 4764 Route 30, east of Greensburg. Mr. Love's five-minute demonstration film will be shown on a 42-inch Rembrandt 3DTV. Admission is free.
He began his project in June with loaned equipment and permission from Fallingwater to roam the grounds and famed house.
Mr. Love was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's 1953 assertion that "The only photograph that can be made of architecture is three-dimensional. In the kind of architecture that I represent, it's that dimension -- that depth -- that gives it quality and effect. The ordinary camera cannot penetrate, but can only give you elevation."
He uses a camera with two lenses that he has to line up with a selected convergence point. If he's off, the footage doesn't work. He also has to carry heavy lighting equipment for indoor filming because "3-D soaks up the light."
One of the reasons the process has been so difficult is that he can't see the results when he's filming. "I don't have a 3-D monitor on location. I'm shooting blind."
"This is the most difficult project I've ever done," Mr. Love said. "There's no script. Just dealing with the visual texture -- it's a new language for me. It's challenging."
But at a recent demo he was enthusiastic about what he has so far captured, and the footage, played on a tablet, was pretty amazing. Viewers passed the tablet around, adjusting for the personal "sweet spot" where the image popped best. Mr. Love said the larger 42-inch screen has several such spots and can accommodate about 14 or 15 viewers at a time.
"I thought I was done with Fallingwater," Mr. Love said. "It's intellectually intriguing to go back with this."
Sculpture in particular shows well, especially when shot in afternoon light. Flames flicker in a fireplace, and insects flutter in front of and behind blossoms.
Mr. Love sees value in eliminating the glasses associated with 3-D viewing. "After about 10 minutes the glasses hurt a lot of people's eyes, and they get dizzy. They can transmit red eye and other diseases. And they become an environmental issue when so many are discarded."
Most important to him is that the tablets may be used by visitors who cannot navigate the narrow corridors and numerous steps inside Fallingwater.
"It will have great value for visitors who can't go through the house to experience a bit more of its spatial qualities," said Lynda Waggoner, vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and director of Fallingwater.
This complements the continuing effort to make the country home, built in 1936 for the Edgar Kaufmann family of Kaufmann's department store, more accessible, she said. That has included redesigning the entry to the visitor pavilion and, last year, modifying a nature trail leading to the bird's-eye view house overlook to make it accessible to people with disabilities.
Another use would be as a catchy promotion. For example, Fallingwater is spearheading the nomination of 10 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Ms. Waggoner would like to send the film clip to the heritage committee. "It's in 3-D; everyone would look at it."
The select competition -- only one nomination may be made by a country during a given year -- is "a very long process, more of a marathon than a sprint," Ms. Waggoner said. After a submission is accepted a delegation is sent to look at the sites to confirm that they're worthy of World Heritage distinction and to make recommendations. Acceptance would occur in 2016 "if everything goes well."
The demo debuted in January as a "proof of concept" piece at an American Institute of Architects event in New York, where it was well received, Mr. Love said. "Everybody was around the TV. I had to turn it off so the program could begin," he said.
He's hoping the technology will set the bar for historical homes nationwide where access to people with disabilities is not possible due to structural reasons.
He also feels it may "add something to the [academic] conversation. I think it could be transformative in the way we understand Mr. Wright's buildings. An architecture professor could look at [the film] and see how Wright designed things with a new visual vocabulary."
Mr. Love is a film director, producer and photographer who has worked on more than 30 award-winning "National Geographic" television specials. He received Emmy Awards for his work on "Serengeti Diary" (1989) and "Realm of the Alligator" (1986).
His Wright films are "Fallingwater: A Conversation With Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.," 1994; "Fallingwater: The Apprentices," 1997; "Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese Art," 1997; "Saving Fallingwater," 2006; "Felix de la Concha: Fallingwater en Perspectiva," 2006; and "Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterwork," 2011.
The demonstration film will be shown continuously at the museum through April 20, as will one of Mr. Love's Fallingwater documentaries. A Pop-Up Exhibition by sculptor Duncan MacDiarmid continues through April 27. An opening reception with Mr. MacDiarmid will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. April 11 as a part of Art on Tap ( $7 admission includes two drink tickets for All Saints Brewing Company Beer or wine; $5 admission for nonalcoholic drinks). A Salon with the artist will be held at 6 p.m. April 17 (free). A Pop-Up Studio Workshop with Mr. MacDiarmid will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. ($15 includes wine, beer, snacks and materials. Space is limited and must be reserved at 724-837-1500, ext. 110).
Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. Information: www.wmuseumaa.org.
Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: email@example.com or 412-263-1925.
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