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April 2014
Issue: March 1, 2012

Editor's Letter: The benefits of previs

By: Randi Altman
We could all do with a little more planning in our lives, right? Looking at something from multiple angles and picking the best path to where we want to be. Post pros specializing in previsualization know better than most how much this process can help in the bigger scheme of things.
This month, we take a look at the process and talk to some experts (page 16). We also reached out to others who don’t necessarily specialize in the previs, but do reap the rewards.

Dariush Derakhshani, supervisor, games, at LA’s Zoic Studios is a fan. “Previs can be an indispensable tool for production; it shows us things ahead of the shoot that will help inform, among other things, how to shoot. This can go for simple shoots, as well as difficult situations, because we essentially use previs to get our heads around shoot requirements — basically, how to fit 15 pounds of sand in a 10-pound bag. If nothing else, previs helps figure out what not to do, and that is worth its weight in gold.”

Pixomondo’s Ben Grossmann, Oscar-winner for his VFX work on Hugo, says, “Without previs, we couldn’t have possibly created some of the complex shots in Hugo. The freedom to experiment simply in complicated territory makes all the difference for crafting beautiful sets and camera work. It was so important that we kept a previs team on a portable cart while shooting, so they could follow the camera department around and be available for creative exploration and problem solving.”

For a large show, like Hugo, Pixomondo calls on a dedicated house. In this case NVizage. For smaller projects, or for more integrated work, they do previs in-house at Pixomondo. “Whichever makes the most sense,” he says.

In NYC, Nice Shoes creative director Aron Baxter says, “It’s the sketch of an idea. It’s a time and money saver. It’s an essential part of the process for us and a confirmation that one’s vision is on the right track. It’s not something we’ve really done as a separate service, but when doing big VFX jobs, it’s always a part of the process.”

Ken Kresge, creative director at the NYC’s Napoleon Group, talks about how previs helped on a recent spot. “We teamed up with our production partner Xenon and director Michael Weihart to produce a series of 3D-heavy New Jersey Powerball commercials for Brushfire. The previsualization stage allowed our team to work closely with our clients and quickly make creative alterations on the fly. We worked through any timing issues or animation snags before we locked into the look of the rendered images. Previsualization proved to be the crucial first step of this highly successful project.”