Previz Artist

  • Previz Artist

A previz artist is a skilled generalist with considerable experience in digital animation and a keen eye for cinematography. He or she is a member of the visual effects team who is responsible for creating previsualization animatics during pre-production. At the request of the director, animatics are used to plan various iterations of a complex scene, providing the director with a rough representation of character blocking, the environment, digital effects, and other cinematic elements.


Duties

Working under the management of the previz supervisor, the previz artist is one individual tasked with collaboratively constructing rough animations to represent live-action and visual effects sequences to be shot during principal photography. Each artist assigned to the project will be responsible for a specific task or series of assets, such as modeling and rigging characters, animating characters, modeling the environment, or contributing the lighting and particle effects as with explosion effects. In some cases, artists may have the luxury of pulling character and environment assets from an existing digital library of stock models.

Once the individual elements of the sequence are assembled, artists then create several iterations of what the scene may look like, based on the script and instruction provided by the previz supervisor, who has received storyboards and notes from the director. The animations are not generated at high quality with detail in color and texture but instead are rough approximations used only as a guide for filming. To effectively visualize the director’s intent in a useful manner, the previz artists pay specific attention to the composition of animatic sequences using virtual camera lenses, virtual camera movement, frame composition, staging, and sequence editing.

Skills & Education

Employment as a previz artist requires proven skill in digital art and animation, including experience in modeling, rigging, and character animation. Experience in the use of software applications like Maya is necessary. Furthermore, previz artists must have a thorough knowledge of filmmaking principles such as cinematography, continuity editing, blocking, and scene staging. In working specifically with directors and cinematographers, artists must demonstrate an understanding of camera specifications, film terminology, and the conventions of storytelling. A college degree in computer animation or film and television production is beneficial, as it provides the technical and theoretical education necessary in this career.

What to Expect

Previsualization artists may find fulltime employment within a visual effects studio or digital marketing and advertising firm that specializes in theatrical trailers, title sequences, commercials, and other short-format productions. On the job, artists can expect a heavy project volume with shorter deadlines, leading to higher turnover. Because animatics are intended to be produced cheaply (in relative terms) and quickly, a previz artist may only spend a matter of weeks on an assignment, as opposed to months or years.

Individuals who prefer to spend an intensive year perfecting the finer details of a single visual effects sequence would be better suited to find work in post-production. Previz artists are more concerned with accuracy and effectiveness than aesthetic refinement. It is also important to note that movie-going audiences will never see the work contributed to the film’s early days during pre-production. Previz artists will still get a credit on the film, but they will only have memories (and maybe a DVD extra) to look back on after the project is over. On the upside, artists have the opportunity to work closely with directors and production designers during the crucial phase that will map the entire production process.

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