Computer Graphics World

September/October 2013

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Page 24 of 52

Previs It was 1971, and a 25-year-old Steven Spielberg was so nervous about shooting his first feature, Duel, that he quickly hired a sketch artist to draw out every shot on a long strip of paper, which he then proceeded to tape along the four walls of his tiny motel room, so he'd know exactly where he was – and was going – during the hectic, 13-day shoot. Indeed, directors have been trying to previsualize their films long before looking through a lens or exposing a single frame. And while those old films of Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Alfred Hitchcock have an unmistakable polish through their extensive storyboarding, what we're seeing today is a level of visual choreography that's a step above even films from those masters. This year alone, millions of moviegoers watched, mesmerized, as Tony Stark flitted deftly across a jungle of cranes and gantries surrounding a sprawling shipping yard. Working in tandem with a fleet of Iron Man suits and dodging gunfire from rabid super-soldiers, he tries to rescue the president strung up over a docked oil tanker. On a storm-whipped sea, viewers saw terrified fishermen stare slack-jawed as alien leviathans rose from the deep to slug it out with massive, man-operated robots. And far away, as Krypton crumbles all around, they watched Jor-El ride his winged H'Raka and spar with General Zod before launching his only son, Superman, to his new home on Earth. It's all a whirlwind of action that unfolds with such balletic editing and precise, orchestrated staging and effects, it's hard to imagine how it was conceived through storyboards alone. That's because it wasn't. It was conceived in previs. In the wake of soaring audience expectations, shrinking schedules, and ever-growing artistic ambition, previs is expanding into a juggernaut department. Far from just being the birthplace of a director's vision, in the words of previs pioneer and Proof Inc. Founder Ron Frankel, previs is slowly becoming "a nexus of interdepartmental communication. " Orchest ra "Historically, previs came out of effects, so we're very well integrated there, but we also interact well with the art department and with camera, he says. But previs is also " enfolding other departments as well, including lighting, wardrobe, and sound, because, as Frankel says, "previs is frequently the best – and in some cases, the only – way for various departments to get together and discuss their common challenges. " Aaron Weintraub, VFX supervisor at Toronto's Mr. X, which previs'd Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, agrees. "Today, we're seeing a convergence of the three phases of production. Because of virtual production technology, camera moves from previs can survive through the shoot and on into post. The artwork, assets, and pipeline set up in " previs, he adds, are leveraged throughout the shoot and into postproduction, eliminating uncertainty and reaping cost-savings everywhere. " production elements are folded As back in, previs becomes postvis, which becomes actual VFX and postproduction. " 22 ■ CGW Sep t em ber / O c t ober 2013 ■ THE THIRD FLOOR conducted previs and postvis processes for Iron Man 3.

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