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Astaire Unwound

May 21, 2014

Can’t believe no one ever thought to do this before. This is Fred Astaire’s famous ceiling dance from Royal Wedding. If you haven’t seen it before a) shame on you, and b) here it is (the good stuff starts about 1 minute in):

It’s a pretty famous scene, and I assume that most people know how it was done, but if you don’t; the room and the camera were both on a cylinder and would turn together. So when the room is turned upside-down, so is the camera. So he’s dancing on as the room (and camera) turns, and when he’s dancing on the ceiling, both the room and the camera are upside-down. Everything in the room is nailed down, except the couple of things that he handles, which are magnetic.

And here, someone composited a behind-the-scenes of how it was done, showing the room and camera as they rotate:

The coolest parts are the magnetic photo, and just thinking about the process. There wasn’t video playback back then, so they’d have to shoot it and hope it looked like what they wanted it to look like. Any re-shoots would be after the film was developed, processed, and projected to see if there’s anything that didn’t work. I don’t know, but I’m assuming they went through a version or two to make it look this good.

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