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Chris Parks, Vision3: "3D has come a long way"

The co-founder of Vision3 talks to Ian Sandwell about working on Jack the Giant Slayer, Gravity and the use of 3D as a storytelling tool.

Having worked as lead stereo supervisor on Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer, Chris Parks is currently in post on Alfonso Cuarón’s highly anticipated sci-fi thriller Gravity. Along with Angus Cameron, Parks founded Vision3 who are one of the sponsors of the inaugural 3D Creative Summit, held at the BFI on March 27-28.

“3D has come a long way in the last three or four years,” explains Parks.

“There was a massive phase of hype which wasn’t helpful to the image and made the conversations that we were all having at that stage quite difficult. People wanted to go 3D because they saw it as a sure way to make money, rather than because they felt it was a good medium.

“Now, it’s come around completely and there are questions over what direction 3D is going in and I think that’s very helpful. It means that people are asking those questions right from the beginning [of a project]. It’s the conversation we want to promote and get discussed.”

Parks was involved from the beginning of Jack the Giant Slayer and despite its long gestation, production went “very smoothly”. “Most people found it [3D] an easy transition. The interesting thing from my point of view is how the director and the DP wanted to use the 3D creatively,” recalls Park. “I’m always looking for ways to use the 3D that adds to the experience that the audience gets.”

On Jack, the 3D was used to get a sense of scale between the film’s two worlds – that of ‘real’ world and the giant’s world – and also for texture, alongside creating a visceral feel to the climactic battle scenes. Aside from a couple of shots underwater, the film was shot natively which Parks believes is a huge benefit.

“It really helps me communication on set because you’ve got something visually to look at and you can bounce ideas around. It was the first thing that the DP [Newton Thomas Sigel] had shot in 3D, but he was a joy to work with and really responded well to the 3D despite the challenges.”

While Gravity is seemingly a world away from Jack the Giant Slayer, Parks outlines a critical thing when it comes to making a 3D film of any genre. “The director has got to want to use 3D as a medium for telling his story and that hasn’t always been the case. I think the interesting thing with where we are now with 3D, is that really is the rule rather than the exception,” states Parks.

Parks describes the Piscine scene in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, where a swimmer is gliding through completely transparent water, as a “beautiful” use of 3D and feels that Cuarón has used 3D in “pretty poetic and quite surprising” ways. Gravity will also see 3D utilised in a more intimate style to heighten the audience’s connection to the film.

“We all know that so much communication is non-verbal and 3D conveys a lot more emotion than 2D. I think that’s another area where 3D hasn’t really been used, or hasn’t been seen as an area where it can excel or benefit the storytelling, but it really can.”

It all comes back to the use of 3D as a storytelling tool along with the likes of lighting and costumes, as opposed to something which can make objects fly out of the screen, although Parks feels that gimmickry has its place too – “there are times when it’s perfectly valid to poke the audience in the eye as long as it’s consistent with the story”.

“Alfonso Cuarón was a very exciting director to work with [because] he paid a real interest in the 3D and came to it with things he wanted to achieve. At the same time when we were looking at a scene, he would challenge me to achieve things with the 3D that would support what he was trying to do. If he was trying to change the mood or change how the audience react to something, he would challenge me to use the 3D to help achieve that.”

As for the future of 3D, Parks believes that we’re at a “relatively early stage” in its development and hopes that in 10 or 20 years time, we’ll be able to look back and think that 3D is currently being used in “basic, unsubtle ways”.

“3D has to move on considerably and we need to be pushing it forward. I think we’ll be surprised at how it is being used, how the grammar is developed and the way that audiences read it,” notes Parks. “I think it’s difficult to believe that the filmmakers and the artists that are out there won’t find ways to turn 3D to the benefits of all sorts of genres.”

Jack the Giant Slayer is out in UK cinemas tomorrow [March 22] while Gravity is set for release on Oct 4, both through Warner Bros. For more information on Vision3, visit its website.

The 3D Creative Summit runs March 27-28 at the BFI on London’s South Bank. Screen International is a media partner.

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