Parke and Autio hit it for six at Sundance

The Summation of Force, an experimental virtual reality film directed by Australian photographers Trent Parke and Narelle Autio, was shown at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January.

The 14-minute short film was selected to show as part of the festival’s New Frontier Program, which focuses on experimental VR work.

‘In a moonlit suburban backyard, two brothers battle one another in an otherworldly game of cricket in this stunning black and white live-action study of the motion, physics, and psychology of sport,’ is how the Sundance Program describes The Summation of Force.

The film is a collaboration between Parke and Autio, a married couple who often work together, along with filmmaker Matthew Bate. The cast are the photographers’ two children.

‘We shared everything during the making of this work,’ Parke told The Australian. ‘Together we created the narrative, both directed the photography. The cinematic lighting was because of Narelle. It’s funny, a lot of people see more of me in this work but it looks the way it does because of her.

‘We often joke that while it is called The Summation of Force, for us it is the sum of all things, the 20-odd years we have spent together and in photography and art, in a shared love of sport and of course our children. It has taken those years together, in photography, developing our art to make this work, and it would not have been made without each other.’

The award-winning photographers’ film wasn’t originally intended to be a VR production.

After filming over two years, and premiering the film as an ‘eight-channel moving image work’ in 2017, VR studio specialists Jumpgate came onboard to explore turning it into a 360-degree immersive production.

Autio says the couple had no preconceptions of VR and its capabilities, but as the project developed it became apparent how it could be used.

‘We photographed our backyard in single frames and built it as a set, then inside that set we had the moving image stitched in,’ Parke said. ‘Because it was shot at night we were able to build a seamless world. For props we used fish tanks, the wheelbarrow, ordinary things that we could turn into the surreal and strange because of the lighting.

‘When he visited, Matt Bate was astonished at the set, the small backyard. He couldn’t believe it and how we’d taken these tiny sections to create a scene and shot it until we got it right. We basically had one camera and three lights, and shooting over and over.’

The VR version launched the 2017 Adelaide Film Festival.

The film is inspired by filmmakers such as David Lynch, and the recent low-budget Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard.

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