Making the Case for Previs

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Tue, 12/13/2011 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

Animators at the Previs (short for previsualization) Department of 20th Century Fox say their work has saved productions time and money and even better is putting creativity back at the heart of filmmaking. One of their main tools is Xsens’ MVN Motion Capture system. A recent example is the 20th Century Fox release X-Men: First Class. With the script calling for an action scene involving six characters fighting inside a flying plane the Previs Department used the real time capability of the Xsens MVN Motion Capture Systems to quickly record elaborate fighting motions for all the characters involved instantly reviewing each take as performances were developed and refined. Camera placement camera motion and camera lenses were then worked out virtually resulting in a shot-by-shot breakdown of the scene. In this case the scene did not make it to the final cut of the film a decision made at much lower than traditional cost due in large part to the Xsens MVN. “We were able to develop the scene in just two days. Traditional key frame animation would have taken much longer and would have involved more artists” says John Griffith cinematic director at 20th Century Fox. “Previs is rapidly gaining ground in the development process of moviemaking today.” The process of realizing the director’s creative vision typically requires a large crew and budget especially in action-packed films. The challenge is to cut costs while maintaining the deadlines. Productions increasingly rely on the previs process for exploring creative ideas developing narrative structure and defining the technical layout. The previs process creates detailed animation during preproduction thus replacing traditional storyboarding and animatics. It generates preliminary versions of shots or sequences with 3D animation tools and a virtual environment enabling film and TV directors to plan technical solutions and decide on the most efficient production methods. Previs is quickly gaining popularity in the production of feature film television commercials and architecture. By first creating a 3D animation proxy of the movie – complete with virtual sets actors and props – filmmakers can now design and plan their films at much lower cost while speeding up things in the digital production pipeline. Xsens