Iceland is a cool place. Quite literally, it’s a beautiful, harsh, unique place on earth where, it seems, no much lives. We travelled there in search of a mythical Ice Cave in which an artist, Isaac Julien, would make his next works.

Somewhere out there…

What did we do?

Our key job was to add a giant, wooden, staircase inside the cave. It sounds like a straight forward task, however, the staircase would need to be to scale, which in its original form is 5m². It was also required that the performer be able to climb to the top and back down again. The original stairs, designed by Lina Bo Bardi can be found in Brazil.

The Recce

After a five hour journey, through the bleak scapes of Iceland, under the northern lights and being chased by a mega-storm, we arrived at our destination.

Looking for the cave from our Super Jeep

Armed with cameras and a LiDAR scanner we set out to capture the cave in 3D so we could plan a set build with the art department. We needed to know where the stairs could go and how big to make them. Bearing mind the originals are massive; we had to carefully plan where they would fit.

The original staircase

As far as we know, nobody has scanned an Ice Cave and we were unsure if it would even work but fortunately, it did, well enough for us to acuratley select a position and pre-plan our build.

Working with the extremely talented Icelandic art department we devised a scale build of a partial staircase. This allowed performances on and off the steps in the cave itself and real light interaction, enabling us to see real shadows and the way the snow gathers around the touch points.

Panoramic image of the ice cave

The Plans

The tech-vis document created to locate the pillars of the staircase

Above is a short fly-thru of the LiDAR scan showing the positions of the five pillars. This was built and rendered from Scene.

Original plans for Lina’s staircase

After a four day shoot, we returned to the UK and the works was rough cut. Because we only built a partial set in Iceland, we couldn’t capture the performance of the walk up to the top steps. This had to be captured separately on a greens screen stage.

We rigged full-size staircase to mirror the proportions of the actual steps allowing a safe walk up and down. We couldn’t build to the full height so we shot the performance in two with a seamless take over from one shot to another. This provided the illusion that the actress walks the full height of the stairs.