The co-director of London based 3D services company Vision 3 talks about working on projects from Pirates to Horrid Henry, the challenges facing the 3D market and why he’d love to see a Mike Leigh film in 3D.
Set up by Chris Parks and Angus Cameron in 2008 in response to a growing need for 3D content in the UK, London based company Vision 3 has recently completed the 3D work on Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,Vertigo’s Horrid Henry and CinemaNX’s motorcycle documentary TT3D.
Other projects include David Attenborough’s Flying Monsters in 3D, which recently screened at the IMAX and a 3D concert show of Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite tour at the 02 Arena.
Currenty in the works is the first 3D film to come out of Scandinavia, Magic Silver 2, a magical children’s adventure feature. Vision 3 has also been working with a major US studio on one of the summer’s biggest movies.
Adam May is the company’s head producer. He was previously the development producer for Bigger Pictures, a production company headed up by former C4 commissioning editor Darren Bender, where he developed stereoscopic British horror film Carrion’s Wake.
Why was Vision 3 set up?
There were lots of productions looking at working in 3D but they didn’t really know where to start. We wanted to come in a fill that gap. But we decided right from the start not to be a technology company and not to align with any particular technology. We decided that if we did go down the kit route, we would be very beholden to the kinds of films we could work on.
At what stage do you come onboard a project?
We come on as early as possible at the storyboard stage, working with directors and really trying to think about how 3D can be used as a story device.
What gets banded about is about how to use 3D “creatively”. That term has became overused. We like to think about using 3D in an intelligent way, in the same way that sound is used. It’s about the subtle things we can do with the cameras that can really enhance the story. It completely depends on the genre as to how we use 3D. If we were shooting a straight drama we would probably tone it down a lot but if it’s for the kids market it is going to be bold.
Since you set up, the 3D market has exploded with all of the tent pole movies this summer using the device…
But we are very much still in phase one. The whole market is still evolving. It will be really interesting to see what happens after the summer films this year which from what I’ve seen so far are really moving forward another step. And then this time next year they will move forward again.
What was your involvement in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?
We were the UK unit on Priates, they had a main unit in Hawaii. A lot of the main unit came over. We came on as the UK unit, so we did a lot of second unit work and a lot of the stuff that was in Greenwich and the Serpentine.
In that instance we were working closely with Panovision. It’s a good example of combining a supplier like Panovision with our kind of expertise, because it makes it easier for overseas companies to go to the camera house they trust.
Overseas productions come to the UK as much for the craftsmanship and the artisans as the locations and the tax break, so we want to build onto that.
As well as working on Pirates, you also did the 3D for Horrid Henry and motorcycle documentary TT3D. Is the market opening up to different genres?
Yes, and my passion lies with the smaller budget films, the £3m-£5m films. Because that is where we can add real value and that’s where the most difficult stuff is going to come from, with limited resources. They become a lot more ideas driven. Hollywood films by their very nature have to be so pre planned that the flexibility and the ability to evolve doesn’t happen as easily.
But there is still the perception that shooting in 3D is too expensive..
It’s really feasible now for a £3m British film on a 7-week shooting schedule. That’s very recent, even post Horrid Henry, thanks to a combination of technology getting better and expertise.
We got close to doing Alfie Hopkins, we did a lot of camera tests, and for whatever reason they couldn’t get across that final hurdle with the 3D. It would have been great.
Off the back of that, we are trying to think long term about how we can counter that. If we can create a haven where a great script on a tight budget has a way to still get across the line, that would be ideal.
What kind of films would you like to see using 3D?
We want to go beyond the big action films and the horror films and the epic battle scenes and use 3D for really sutble films.
We did the 3D on David Attenborough’s Flying Monsters which has just had a cinema run in the UK. Looking at the script people thought it would be amazing because of the dinasours flying, but the most interesting stuff is the fossils. It is very difficult in 2D to get a sense of the shadows and light. Working on the smaller moments are what is really fascinating.
The end game would be a Mike Leigh or a Ken Loach film. That would be taking a kitchen sink drama where the story is so intimate, and making you feel like you’re actually on that sofa, you’re in that room. If I’ve got a goal over the next year, it’s to try and encourage British films under £7m to have a go.
Do you come up against opposition from DoPs and directors who are used to working in 2D or are they embracing 3D?
It can be a distraction for a DoP, who has a hard enough job as it is. It’s making that conversation and being very respectful of the director and DoP and helping those guys get to the place they need to in terms of telling the story.
It’s interesting for directors. One by one they are looking at it beyond what is portrayed in the media, they are looking at it as a new set of tools. I’m sure some directors will be desperate to make a 3D film and will be on the hunt for a 3D script to satisfy that curiosity. But I think the really great 3D projects will come off the page.
It will be fantastic to see Scorcese’s Hugo Cabret. I think by the time it comes out that knife edge moment will have passed.
What changes are you noticing in the market for 3D films since you started out?
The market is becoming more serious. In the early stages there was a huge amount of curiosity. At MipCom last October , every TV distributor had to have a 3D project, and it was a similar thing at Cannes in the film market, they all had to have a 3D film, because if they didn’t they would feel like they were behind the curve.
But this year at MipTV in April, it suddenly changed. The quality control has become much tighter, the market has become less flooded. The buyers are becoming much more discerning about what’s good 3D and what’s bad 3D.
The first round of 3D films following Avatar will die out pretty quickly. And there is a wave of interesting films coming out - Captain America, Harry Potter, Tintin, Hugo Cabret, John Carter Of Mars. And I can’t wait to see [Baz Lurhmann’s] The Great Gatsby.
People are eager to see great 3D. After the summer rush, it doesn’t look like slowing down. Most people think pre Olympics is when it’s really going to kick off.
Films like The Last Airbender and Clash Of The Titans have given 3D a bad name and Kung Fu Panda 2 didn’t do as well at the box office as expected..are you worried that the love affair with 3D is diminishing?
With Clash Of The Titans, the intention was there, but the way that it was approached was in a very technical way. It was too much technology led. We try and look at how the 3D will be used throughout the script.
People are over-worrying about bad 3D and playing it too safe. It comes from people not knowing the capability of 3D. The public don’t want to be reminded every five seconds that they are watching a 3D film with things constantly coming out and poking them in the eye, but by the same token they want to walk away and feel it was worth the investment.
The way you get around that, is to make the experience worthwhile. If audiences are paying more, you’ve got to give them more.
But I still think the cost of putting 3D into 2D cinemas is a bit of a hot topic.
What are you future goals?
We would like to get more involved with production. We want a body of work, and some examples that can demonstrate what can be done and when we get to the stage. We want to work on the most interesting projects. I want to make sure that lower budget producers know that it’s feasible so that we can move the British process forward.