The Fountain + Peter Parks



One of the most unique uses of CGI in film recently was ‘The Fountain’ by Darren Aronovsky. The film has become known for it’s creative use of visual effects - the director claims that the VFX scenes were 98% in-camera effects and only 2% CGI. Watching the film, you’d think there was much more CGI involved, but the majority of the deep-space scenes were made using macrophotography from 'optical sequence’ photographer Peter Parks. Who, incidentally, is not a recognised superhero, but did work on the Superman films. His son, Chris Parks also works with macrophotography, but from a more of a fine arts perspective. There’s a source film from The Fountain here, and you can see a short film demostrating the composition of some of the low-CG shots here.

Essentially, instead of trying to create complex, chaotic fluid dynamics in a 3D application, Aronovsky went back to basics and asked Parks to take high-res macro films of chemical reactions and the movement of various materials in fluid. What’s surprising to know is the domestic materials used to create these sort of shots. I mean, curry powder?:

“Into water they sprinkle yeast, dyes, solvents, and baby oil, along with other ingredients they decline to divulge. The secret of Parks’ technique is an odd law of fluid dynamics: The less fluid you have, the more it behaves like a solid. The upshot is that Parks can make a dash of curry powder cascading toward the lens look like an onslaught of flaming meteorites.”

This idea is close to my heart as during my degree I made my own version of deep space images using printer ink, detergent, paprika, salt, pepper and water. There’s a few of them here. One of my friends, a fashion blogger who I went to art college with, recently compared these images to designer Josh Goot’s dresses. Wahey!

Read more about Peter Parks and The Fountain here and here. There’s a profile of the vfx for the film here.

Love it.