Saturday, December 1, 2007

Comments by Scott Squires

Here are some excerpts from a correspondence I've had with the wonderful Scott Squires who is an incredible visual effects veteran. Some great critque and tips for all previz artists.

Hi Tony,
You've got some nice work. Most of the previs work done here is related to visual effects and heavy stunt work. That usually means some type of action sequence .......

(article continued in comments section)

1 comment:

previz said...

Scott's email continued......

(On reply to "Looking Back")
action sequence (trucks, planes, helicopters, creature, etc) where there are complex ideas and shots that need to be communicated as compared to standard pure acting sequences.
You might want to consider some demo material along those lines. (Think of some of the larger films in the past couple of years and where you would think they'd have previz)
You could show the initial storyboards and the final previz. That helps your clients see how the process works and what they can gain from it.
Note that you have to make sure to keep the camera real (i.e. not go through the floor, etc) and to consider adding the camera info to the shot (i.e. show the focal length, car speed, etc) that might be of value for those planning the actual shot.
One of the issues that comes up in previs is speed and location. In most cases the director wants someone to be in a nearby room during pre-production and they want them to be fast.
Typically the previs company sends over 1 to 5 people to focus on creating the previs for the show. In some cases the previs company's tend to be more of an agent that hires freelance previs artists to work on specific projects.
You might also want to add some post-viz work to your reel and tell people you can handle that. In this case the plates are already shot but there's still some creative discussions regarding a shot or the editors may want something before the vfx company can provide it. You take the plates, do some 3D tracking if necessary and block in animation as needed for the foreground or background.

(reply to "car chase")
Hi Tony, Yes, that's more like the standard previs I see. My suggestion here would be to have a visible ground pattern. Maybe it's more visible in the full size images but it wasn't possible to tell in the web video when or if they were moving. The pattern was only visible when they were stopped and on the ground. Seeing wheels rotating and a basic pattern (cracks, occasional rock, etc) on the ground would have helped to make it clear. Sometimes the camera or characters make very linear moves where they start from a stop instantly go to a constant speed. Your previous is more valuable if you can not only get the visual ideas across but if it can be used a real design tool. There's nothing worse for the director to get on the location and find out there's a flaw related to the real world requirements. Make sure you don't cheat the speed of the vehicles a lot or other things that would become more evident when everything is photographed (wheel motion etc). In these types of action sequences you might also want to do a top render or other descriptive angle. This would show where your different cameras are and show the trajectory of the trucks. This would be a big help for the stunt people, drivers, dp and the director so they could map out the basic motion. The speed of the vehicles and amount of travel would also be useful information. Scott

(on previz software)

Hi Tony,

Some people use modified game engines to work on previs ideas with the director but the majority of previs company's here tend to use Maya. You can use other packages but if there's a need to hand off the work (or bring you on after another team) then model and animation conversion can become a problem. That was one of the problems on Fantastic Four. One of the teams used ligthwave(?) and the other used Maya.
Also note that many of the vfx companies use maya so in some case we'd pass models or rough animation files back and forth. This provides the vfx people with a starting point or the previs people may have to incorporate something from the vfx company. For the Hulk, ILM provided the director with a laptop to do realtime composition and design but he didn't take advantage of it. much depends on the director and his schedule. Most of the time they provide the storyboards and brief rundown of the shots and the previs people work on it to show updates later that day or a few days later.
Design tool in terms of analyzing the shots. in the case I described a top view so the stunt drivers knew what they had to do along with the rest of the team.
What you're discussing is design of the look which is possible for specific projects but unlikely. Studio executives/producers don't have much of an eye for watching previs. If they want to get a mood or lighting type of test they'll have the director of photography shoot something. Even if you provide something the director of photography probably won't be thrilled that you're making the creative choices and his only task is to physically do the real lighting.
Of course the internet could be a whole new market (youtube, etc) where as a previs artist you can create self contained short films as you have done. It's a different beast than features or traditional previs.

Post is what is done after a movie is shot. If there was greenscreen that was shot and they needed to put in a background the previs people would track and create a rough of the background.
Likewise if there were some object or action (flying car, etc) that could be added on top of a background plate. The whole point of this is to:
1. Make sure the selected footage is good
2. Give the editors something to work with since the vfx company may be a few months from working on the shot.
2. Work out concepts so the vfx company doesn't have to re-invent the wheel.