Moscow experts make 3D holograms of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Lev Yashin

Moscow experts make 3D holograms of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Lev Yashin
Users of the Know Moscow. Photo mobile app can catch a 3D hologram and pose for a selfie with it. tells you how 3D holograms of historical celebrities are made.

Before the end of the year, new 3D historical personalities will appear on the Know Moscow. Photo mobile app. As New Year’s Eve approaches, residents and guests of the city will be able to pose for a selfie with 3D holograms of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Lev Yashin, the famous goal-keeper of the Moscow Dinamo Football Club. Their real-life doubles made this project a reality. Learn on about how 3D holograms of historical celebrities are made for the Know Moscow. Photo app.

Searching for a double

Achieving historical similarity is the hardest part of creating 3D images. The process consists of three main stages. First, actors resembling the hero in question are selected. Second, makeup and costumes are chosen. The models are scanned and adapted for the mobile app during the third stage. And 3D technologies digitalise the human look-alike.

“We received more applicants than expected. Up to 150 people from all over Russia visited us daily,” said Yelena Mironenko, who was in charge of selecting actors for the project.

We had to reject doubles without professional acting experience, she noted. “A professional actor can completely transform his personality. His expressions, body language and gestures alone can bring the celebrity back to life. Makeup and costumes are only an addition,” she added.

Finding a double for Leo Tolstoy was the hardest task because none of the candidates was similar enough, she said.

“Colleagues suggested that I take a closer look at screen actor Vladimir Ipatov, 58, who has over 20 roles to his credit,” Ms Mironenko explained. “The first screen tests dispelled all doubts, and a real Leo Tolstoy wearing a white shirt and a long dense beard walked out from the wardrobe,” she added.

In turn, 23-year-old Arthur Marchenko posed as Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This seems like a good choice, as Mr Marchenko has been playing Dostoyevsky at a private theatre company for several years.


“Youth is no hindrance for a good actor. We added some makeup to his facial features, which already resemble those of the great writer. We etched shadows on his face to make him look older than he really is,” said makeup artist Ksenia Baluyeva.

Although Alexei Ustinov, 42, wanted to be Peter the Great from the very beginning, the project’s authors decided it would be better for him to pose as famed Soviet football player Lev Yashin.

“It took me a long time to get acquainted with the personality of my hero. I looked for similar habits that helped me choose an optimal image. For example, both of us like to fish and listen to jazz music,” the actor said.

In the makeup room

A costume artist, makeup artists and assistants rushed about the makeup room of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Yashin. Props and suits, delivered from the Mosfilm Studio, were hanging everywhere.

Makeup artist Ksenia Baluyeva used a large fluffy brush to add finishing touches to Lev Yashin’s face. “We need to achieve a matte-skin effect, for a realistic actor-image scan, because the system is unable to clearly scan glossy skin,” she said.

At last, someone shouted “Action!” The assistant invited the actors inside a studio for making 3D models, which looks like an ordinary office.

“Unlike a video or photo camera, the scanner needs no professional lighting, no background and other intricacies,” Denis Bayev, an expert on 3D scanners, said.

An actor wearing a historical costume and makeup stands in the centre of the room and assumes a previously rehearsed posture.

Image scanning

An expert holds a scanner in one hand and a laptop in another. The laptop’s screen simultaneously shows scanned elements.

“The computer screen quickly helps detect missing details because the model will otherwise remain incomplete. Professionals call these gaps holes,” Mr Bayev explained.

The actor must remain still, while the artist slowly scans each element. “Otherwise the scanner will record two postures instead of one, and football player Lev Yashin would look like Spiderman,” the expert said smiling.

This is why experts always start with the face. After the face is ready, the actor should not change his posture but can now blink or close his eyes. The entire process lasts five to ten minutes.

“The speed depends on how complex the celebrity is. Some details need to be rendered in greater detail. For example, I decided to scan Lev Yashin’s football separately for more authentic volume depiction, which took one extra minute to do,” Mr Bayev explained.

Ten minutes later, a ready-made 3D model appears on the computer’s screen. It can be rotated in various directions, and a monochromatic colour, violet for example, can be applied to it. “The single-colour mode makes it possible to see some of the missed elements,” Mr Bayev added. 

High-tech systems will add some finishing touches, and the automatic image-processing mode is activated after scanning.

“The 3D hologram will be ready in 15 minutes. During this time, the software will correct all drawbacks, it will darken lighter sections and add missing elements,” Mr Bayev explained.

3D holograms hit the streets

Developers of the Learn about Moscow Photo app then start working on the online celebs.

“Before setting 3D holograms loose, we will peg them to two or three reference points on the city map, and we will also upload a brief historical reference note on them,” IT expert Maxim Malyshev, one of the mobile app’s co-creators, said. After that, new historical celebrities will be added to the app.

We chose the 3D scanning method involving actors in historical costumes for greater authenticity, Mr Malyshev said. A celebrity drawn using computer graphics would look less realistic, and people would find it less interesting to take selfies with this image.

“There are plans to upgrade the night-time version of the software, so that 3D doubles would look just as realistic as in broad daylight,” he added.

City residents can download the updated KnowMoscow. Photo app before the year is out.

To use the app, you should stand within 50 metres of the designated coordinates, and you will be able to see a 3D hologram using the smartphone camera. The app’s interface is similar to that of Pokemon Go. To pose for a selfie with a double, you should “catch” him, while moving along the menu’s compass. As soon as the celebrity has been “caught,” you can turn the image 360 degrees, enhance and delete it and take selfies with it.

So far, the app offers the following nine doubles:

  • Viktor Tsoi;
  • Yury Gagarin;
  • Alexander Pushkin;
  • Pyotr Tchaikovsky;
  • Mikhail Lomonosov;
  • Ivan the Terrible;
  • Peter the Great;
  • Napoleon Bonaparte;
  • Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.

Sources at the City Department of Information Technology recalled that the aim of the mobile app with 3D copies is to help young people learn more about Moscow’s history and cultural heritage and to involve them in the Know Moscow main project, which already lists data on over 1,300 buildings, 114 monuments and landmarks, 40 museums, 162 areas and 196 historical personalities. Users can choose 57 different thematic routes and 25 quests on the website or in the Know Moscow app, project manager Sergei Shakryl noted. Information about various landmarks is available in Russian and English.