"An appreciation for visual storytelling and a deep understanding of the entire production process, from the earliest days of development to the final days of post," says previs pioneer and Proof Inc. Founder Ron Frankel. "They need to have a great eye for timing and composition, and a solid feel for editing. Each individual shot is important, but it's even more important how those shots go together to build a sequence."
Previs Supervisor Nick Markel of The Third Floor agrees. "You need to be a good CG generalist, and have an eye for - and understanding of - composition, staging, and timing to make shots more readable. You have to work fast, take direction, and be able to identify and adapt to the director's style."
Communicating, Frankel adds, is often the most difficult part because creative communication happens through metaphor, gesture, and innuendo. Things aren't said as much as they're inferred.
With the growing Hollywood trend toward producing complex, blockbuster tentpoles, it's a collaborative process that can only grow stronger, partially out of a need for security and also out of a need for creative confidence. "Knowing that the shots can all be accomplished, and having a plan that proves at least one way the story can be told, provides a lot of security," says Halon Entertainment's veteran Previs Supervisor Clint Reagan. "Finding more on the day is a bonus and is likely to happen since everyone is familiar with the scene long before the day of the shoot. A lot of opportunity comes from having that early preparation, which I think allows everyone to arrive confident and even more creative."
Whether the director uses previs as a blueprint that is scrupulously followed or merely one thread in a tapestry of influences - woven together with the performances of the day and the feeling of the light and the set - the fact is previs isn't only minimizing unforeseen expenses, but eliminating a lot of fear and uncertainty that once plagued the creative process. And if it's true, that fear stifles creativity, here's hoping we're on the cusp of a very adventurous era in filmmaking.
Here CGW looks at several big movie releases and the previs work that helped directors achieve their visions.