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March 2013

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Previs It's not just for visual effects. By Marc Loftus Studios have been using previsualization techniques to troubleshoot challenging visual effects sequences for years. But there are many applications for previs that extend beyond visual effects. Those working on live-action projects can use previs to determine their practical needs on-set. Is the stage large enough to accommodate the crane? Can the camera actually be moved at the speed required for the shot? Are matte paintings required for the whole shot or for set extensions? In CG-driven productions, previs is used to generate assets that can initially be used to help work out a shot and then be further developed later in the pipeline for inclusion in the final product. By using previs, filmmakers can determine which elements need to be given the most attention to detail, and what they might be able to cheat for a background element. Previs can also be used to determine camera moves and the edit, so that no time is wasted working on assets that won't make it on-screen. Here, a handful of studios detail the process as well as applications that might be overlooked... and how producers can benefit from this preproduction technique. THE THIRD FLOOR Eric Carney is one of six founders at The Third Floor ( in Los Angeles, a previs studio that opened in the summer of 2005. Members of the team had worked together at Lucasfilm, and following the completion of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, decided to take the previsualization expertise they had developed to the Los Angeles market, where they could help productions before beginning principal photography. While previs services were not a new concept, Carney says the business has increased 10-fold since opening up shop. "Producers and studios and directors have grown to see the value of it and how to leverage off of it." The Third Floor has offices in London too, and collectively, their team is comprised of more than 100 artists. Teams tend to be much smaller than those working on VFX or animation for films, he says, noting a typical team could consist of eight to 14 members. A spot might require two weeks of work. Features could span several months, or, in the case of the new Sam Raimi film, Oz: The Great and Powerful, more than two years. The studio also spent about 22 Post • March 2013 Post0313_022-24,26-previsRAV5finalread.indd 22 a year and a half working as the sole previs provider on Jack the Giant Slayer, a Warner Bros. film, out now. The team worked closely with director Bryan Singer, producer Patrick McCormick, VFX supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, visual effects producer Arthur Windus, and visual effects and motion capture facilities Giant Studios and Digital Domain. The project was shot on a stage in the UK. Previs serves as a blueprint for a film, more so than storyboards and the script, says Carney. It can help determine pacing and storytelling, as well as give an idea as to whether or not a shot is working cinematically. It's also used to troubleshoot and plan for any shots that might be complicated or require stunts. Additionally, it can help determine what practical sets will need to be built, if any. In the case of Jack the Giant Slayer, previs was useful in determining the amount of space required to present the action, much of which takes place in and around a farm house. "We used previs to determine how to lift the house," says Carney. "Should they use risers? A gimble? Really impactful decisions related to how it will be filmed, the schedule, and how expensive it would be? Specific answers." With the film featuring a 24-foot-tall giant, it would be easy to let the budget spiral out of control. "We tried to keep a lid on it," he notes. "We asked, 'How many times can we see the giant?' These are traditional filmmaking challenges." Modus FX provided previs and final effects for the Discovery series Strip the City. 3/4/13 3:57 PM

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