How a team of videographers captured Notre-Dame in 3D virtual reality three months before the drama
“We would have preferred that our images were never as useful as this”, regrets Victor Agulhon, co-founder of Targo, a media based in the twentieth arrondissement of Paris and specialized in documentary content in virtual reality. In January 2019, he and his team completed the exceptional filming of an immersive report in Notre-Dame de Paris, co-produced by the TF1 Histoire group channel. At the end of four successive filming sessions, the following month they put online, for free access, a documentary which they did not suspect at the time of the future preciousness. “The film revolves around the figure of Patrick Chauvet, the rector-archpriest of the cathedral, who also turns out to be an incredible character. He opened the doors of Notre-Dame, a building he lives and breathes,” Victor Agulhon tells us.
Chloé Rochereuil, co-founder of Targo, was behind the camera from November 2018 to January 2019, in the heart of the building now partially destroyed by flames. Although she had unfortunately not been able to film at the time the famous “forest”, named after the monumental wooden framework of the thirteenth century (partly) and at present completely destroyed in the fire, she had nevertheless had access to areas of the cathedral, inaccessible to the public. Some of them have now disappeared completely. “I had the incredible chance to film the bells, some areas of the roof very close to the spire, but also the naves in very detail,” she says. Images that take on a very special character at a time when the roof of the cathedral is no longer.
A few months ago, my former colleague @RochereuilChlo and his associate @victoragulhon were filming in virtual reality much of #OurreDame. May their work help in the reconstruction of our beautiful cathedral. https://t.co/UtqSropY80
– Marine Benoit (@marin_eben) April 15, 2019
The only real 3D images of the building
The exceptional nature of their testimony is also due to the technical means deployed by Targo. They are the only ones to have captured plans of the almost millennial building in 6K 3D, a very high definition of image, although currently, headsets only allow us to visualize 4K .” We are also the first to have immortalized the building in stereoscopy, a virtual reality technology that consists in showing two different images to both eyes, and therefore to give this feeling of 3D and total immersion.”
Historical, political and memorial value
With his film, Targo is aware of having frozen in time a reality that is no longer, or that now wants to be virtual. “We are aware that these images have taken on in one fell swoop a great historical value and that they will perhaps serve to remember how Notre-Dame was before the tragedy. What we have produced is not modeling, but a capture of reality, with its colossal proportions, its abundant details…”, console Victor Agulhon. He and Chloé watched, in shock, the fire from the heights of the Belleville district.
For now, the duo does not know how their work can be scientifically exploited, when it comes to starting the reconstruction of the building. “One especially imagines at the moment that the documentary can be a communication tool for the church when it comes to raising funds.”What he is certain, on the other hand, is that he will contribute today to this necessary duty of memory.