Rock legend Brian May revives Victorian 3D – BBC REEL

Rock legend Brian May revives Victorian 3D – BBC REEL

3D photography has been regarded
as the poor man’s photography, the poor relation of photography,
all through photographic history. It’s very strange. It’s been
kind of looked down upon. But I think there’s no justification for that, and one of my missions
in life is to really put 3D photography, where it should
be in photographic history. Well, all my life I’ve been keen on
stereo, as you probably know. When I went to college I used to go into
Christie’s – Christie’s auctioneers in South Kensington. I had no money
so I couldn’t buy anything, but I could view everything and I got to
know what all these things did – all these beautiful old cameras,
wonderful old Victorian viewers. So I have a good general knowledge
even from those times of how things work and how they… how they made
stereoscopy a national craze. It was huge. The London Stereoscopic
Company in 1858 boasted a million views. This is a very big time and
they went all round the world, to the States, particularly in France,
where it was a huge craze as well, and the Victorians could see the
world through the stereoscope. My own company is called the London
Stereoscopic Company and obviously it’s inspired by the 1850’s original
London Stereoscopic Company which became defunct about 1930, and really
I’ve trodden a path very similar to what they did. I’m just obsessed with
the idea of people getting back into this technology and enjoying 3D as I do. 3D is all about getting two views really. That’s what stereoscopy is. We have two eyes and the reason we see things in wonderful, glorious 3D
around us is because our brain puts these two slightly different pictures
of the Universe together. So what you’re trying to do in 3D
photography is to recreate that effect. So what happened was, I’m eating my
Weetabix cereal as a kid, about seven years old, and out of the Weetabix
packet, pops a little card. Which looks like that. And you have two
pictures side-by-side, which are very flat and not very inspiring,
but I turned it over and it says “You must get a Weetabix 3D viewer.”
And here it is. And what you do is you put the card into the viewer.
Like this. It just slots in. I’d never seen anything like this in my life.
This was a revelation to me. But you look through, and instead of two
flat pictures of hippos. You have… wow! Suddenly it’s like there’s a
window and you could fall through the window into the mouths of these
incredible creatures. So to me this was magic. I thought, ‘why doesn’t
everybody do this the whole time?’ ‘If you can take 3D pictures, why
would you bother taking 2D pictures?’ You know, ‘why isn’t this
worldwide-endorsed?’ So that was the beginning of my complete enchantment
with stereo and it’s never left me. So, with my pocket money – two and sixpence to be exact
– I found in Woolworths, this little camera. It’s a VP Twin – the first
camera I ever owned. It’s not a high quality instrument, but it gave me
what I wanted. And what I did was put it on the table and go ‘click’. Move
it on the table, sliding, and ‘click’ again and I have my two pictures
and I put them together on a card. So these are the first attempts
that I made. I took a picture of my dad decorating the kitchen from
outdoors and it’s not a perfect stereo picture, but it does work.
So if you put it in the viewer like the Weetabix pictures, it
works just fine. And this is in my Queen book, reproduced. I then
got my dad to do the same thing and he took a picture of me in the
garden and then he took a picture of me on my bike, which was also
very new and exciting at the time. So these I have as little
treasures from my childhood. We all remember where we were
when something that affects us deeply happened. Like the
death of Kennedy, for me, the death of Buddy Holly. And I remember exactly where we were when
Neil Armstrong put his foot on the Moon. That’s one small step for [a] man.
I was down in Cornwall with Rog,
our drummer One giant leap for mankind.
In the very early days of Queen. We were doing a sort of tour of
Cornwall at the time, I think, with the legendary drummer of Cornwall,
who was Rog, and we’re all in his mum’s house clustered around this
tiny little TV screen about this size and we all watched it. It seemed like
the most incredible thing ever and to me it still seems fresh and new
and exciting. This is the space age, isn’t it? But you know, 50 years
– I’m 50 years older and… No one had ever done a 3D book
on the whole Apollo history and we thought ‘can we do
it?’ ‘Is it possible?’ ‘Is there enough material?’ The astronauts
actually were trained in 3D. Mostly. Although very often I think they were
too busy to really remember it and practise it, but they were taught
how to do the ‘cha-cha’ thing, so take a picture here, take a picture
here, and eventually it would become a 3D picture. So occasionally you’re
lucky enough to find one of those, but it’s fascinating. For me it’s a
passion. I’m completely geeky where this is concerned so if we’re on
tour with Queen, I’ll be back at the hotel at 3am trying to put two of
these images together, which Claudia has sent me, and make them work as a
3D [image]. So that’s what you see in the book. In the back of your
Mission Moon 3D book, you will find what you need to view in 3D,
which is the OWL Stereo Viewer. I’m very proud of this book.
I think it’s one of the most beautiful we’ve ever managed to
make. We’re quite a long way down the line now with stereo books.
I think this is the sixth book we’ve done. A lot of it’s been classic 3D
– Victorian 3D – which I love, but it’s the same principle. And
this, if anything, brings Victorian 3D technique into the 21st Century.
And, you know, it’s still the best. I always had some kind of stereo
camera with me and that’s why I was able to make this book because over
the years touring and in studios and whatever with with my group, with
Queen, I always had the stereo cameras. This is the analogue camera
that I use; a Stereo Realist. It’s a wonderful piece of engineering,
just wonderful. Made in the 1950s. There’s all sorts of little shots
in here, they’re sort of candid pictures, because people were so used
to me having this camera around. They weren’t self conscious, so they’re
nice little kind of intimate views of what life was like on stage,
but also offstage for us as a… as a growing bunch of musicians…
adventuring into the world. So I was very happy to be able
do this. This ties up a lot of ends for me. I was glad
that it actually made a book. I wasn’t sure if it would. When
we started on the project I thought ‘do I have enough stuff?’
But, actually we had loads. VR [virtual reality] is the distant
descendant of the Victorian stereoscopic viewer. And yes, it
is rather strange to me. Now we can see the world; you can have
a virtual reality experience of like being beside the Pyramids,
and this is exactly what the Victorians did. The Victorians
saw all these incredible places for the first time in incredible
realism in their little dark rooms at night, looking through with
candles lit and looking at their stereoscopic pictures. So, yeah,
I love it and VR has made this stuff possible again, or it’s made
it more accessible because you don’t have to explain what it is to
people – every kid knows what VR is. So you present them with
a stereoscope and they get it.


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