Le Mural d'Abesses Metro Station - Escalier Ascendant

 This is an interactive panorama represented as a QuickTime VR movie. Click and drag the mouse to pan and tilt the view. Depress the shift and control keys to zoom in or zoom out.

Resolution: 8.2 pixels per degree.

Click here to see the mural on the descending staircase


On the little-used #12 Metro line there is a stop called Abesses (the abbey), which is probably the closest metro stop to the Sacre Coeur basilica on top of the hill Montmartre (martyr mountain) at the north end of the city of Paris. The subway at that point is bored through a tunnel in the mountain more than 7 stories below the surface.

There are then two ways to get up to the surface: either an elevator or the stairs. If you are game enough to try the stairs, you will find a mural painted by many artists on both the outer and inner walls of the 6-1/2 story spiral staircase. The better ones are on the outer wall, since they are much more visible. When you descend back down to the subway, you will traverse a different spiral staircase, with a different mural.

The AbessesUp.MOV and AbessesDown.MOV QuickTime panoramas capture the two outer wall murals, seamlessly, and in their entirety, for the first time.

The pictures were taken in landscape format with a manual 2 second exposure on every other stair with the tripod backed up against the inner concrete wall of the staircase. The bright white spots are the incandescent light bulbs which provided all of the lightin for these photos.

The images were each rotated by 15 degrees (to convert the spiral into a cylinder) and stitched manually using the QuickTimeVR 1.1 Authoring Tools. Normally, these tools require the nodal point of the camera to be stationary for all of the images. Obviously, this is impossible to do with a 60 foot diameter concrete pillar in the middle. However, in this case, I was capturing a cylinder with the camera, and outward radial movement has the same effect (in this case) as changing the focal length of the lens, so I was successful in the stitching.

Unfortunately, I didn't always maintain the camera pointing radially outward, so some of the images were scaled a bit differently on the left and the right. This results in misalignment which is noticable in about a dozen places between the two panoramas. None of these misalignments were touched up by hand.

However, the panoramas were touched up in other ways. The stairs are obviously not cylindrical, and were horribly misaligned. These were simply cropped out on the bottom by painting them black. The top of the stitched panoramas had streaky artifacts from the 15 degree rotation process; these were not painted black like the stairs, because this seemed too obtrusive. Instead, they were touched up in Adobe PhotoShop using the Smear Tool, the Blur Tool, the Rubber Stamp Tool and Gaussian Blurring on selected regions, to extrapolate the paintings out to the edges. I hope the original artists wil forgive me for such re-interpretation of their work at the edges, but it should be obvious where this has been done because of the blurriness in those regions.

The panoramas span about 2400 degrees, or about 6-1/2 revolutions. The resolution is about 700 x 20,000 pixels, and the panoramas are diced into 72 tiles each and compressed with the JPEG compressor.

These panoramas were captured in September of 1995, so they may look different if you visit them now, as art in public places has a life of its own.

I encourage you to take this route to Sacre Coeur via Abesses instead of the more well-travelled route via the Anvers metro stop. Through the former, your heart will be pounding, and your eyes studying the outer wall mural as you slowly take another step to the outer world, where you will meander through quiet, narrow, winding, sparsely-populated, cobblestone streets, past neighborhood shops to the top of MontMartre. Through the latter, you will be pushed up the metro stairs by the bustling crowd of commuters to wait for a break in the traffic on the street so you can walk past scores of T-shirt and souvenir shops. The choice of Parisian experience is up to you.

 last updated 6/25/07