Fix Your Movie In Previsualization

Save time and money with affordable previsualization tools

Matt Kelland, Founder, Moviestorm

Previsualization – previz – is a buzzword that sounds more complicated than it is. It’s actually something you’re almost certainly doing already. Basically, it means “seeing bits of your film before you shoot it”. Your storyboards, set designs, costume designs – they’re all previz, after a fashion.

Modern previz adds one extra, very important dimension – shooting a rough version of the movie in pre-production. This was pioneered by Coppola in the 1970s, and was subsequently adopted by directors like Spielberg and Rodriguez. It’s now used by most major studios on big productions. Some directors previz using live action, but it’s more common to create an animated previz – an animatic.

Using animatics rather than live action means you’re less constrained. Using simple software, you can create an animatic on a laptop whenever and wherever it’s convenient.  You can easily film crowd scenes and stunt sequences, or film in exotic locations. You can go back for reshoots whenever you need, and you don’t need actors.

Why create an animatic?

Storyboards are like comic book versions of a film, focusing on key frames with some annotations. Animatics add in dialog, choreography and camera moves, giving you three important elements: time, motion, and sound.

With an animatic, you can see exactly how long the scene will be, check your edit for continuity, and spot issues such as line-crossing. You often find that shots which looked great in the storyboard don’t work as well in context. By doing as much creative work as possible in pre-production, you’re reducing the risk of expensive mistakes later and you’re not making things up on set while everyone stands around. What you’re giving yourself is freedom to experiment without wasting time on footage which will never be used. It’s the opposite approach to fixing everything in post – fix it in pre!

It’s a quick process – with practice, and the right tools, you can block out a two-minute scene in under half an hour. Creating an animatic can reduce shooting time by up to 50% and post-production time by up to 25%. Even the smallest film crews can see immediate savings.

Director Phil South helming a scene from The Sacrament on at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
animatic of The Sacrament
Still from animatic of The Sacrament showing composited scene

Tools for animatics

Major studios use high end tools such as 3DS Max. These give great results, but they’re too slow, complex and expensive for most medium or low-budget productions. An alternative is to use one of the new breed of “film sketching” tools such as Moviestorm, built for speed rather than visual quality. The aim is to create something useful as fast as possible, not a finished animated movie. The main advantage of such tools is that they don’t require any animation or 3D modeling skills, so they can be used directly by directors and writers, not animation specialists.

Approaches to animatics

There are two main ways to work with animatics. Both are useful in different ways – there’s no “right” approach.

The minimalist approach focuses on blocking and includes very little detail. This is often sufficient: it’s a fast, effective way for the director, editor and DOP to get a good idea of exactly what they’re going to film. It helps scriptwriters identify scenes that aren’t working. It can also be useful to actors: they can see when they’re on camera, and prepare accordingly.

The detailed approach involves creating something as close to the final movie as possible: set design, character performances, sound, music, visual effects and so on. Effectively, you’re creating a blueprint for the final movie.

Simple blocking with the minimalist approach.
Simple blocking with the minimalist approach.
Fully dressed and lit set using the detailed approach.
Fully dressed and lit set using the detailed approach.

Whichever approach you choose, and whatever your budget, you’ll find that using animatics to previz your movie changes the way you work. Your movie will come to life much earlier in the process, and you’ll find yourself working much more efficiently in production and post-production.

Find out more about Moviestorm from www.moviestorm.net  Prices start at $75.

Read more examples of using Moviestorm in this free report


Matt Kelland is one of the founders of Moviestorm. Based in Orlando, Florida, he has spent over 20 years applying technology to different creative media, including digital publishing, games, live events and film. He is the author of Machinima (2005) and several other publications about using technology derived from videogames to create movies. More about Matt on http://www.dracofelis.com


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