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Creating Previsuals... How far is useful ?

Today we're going full bore at the studio creating scenic previsuals for a PBS special I'm working on. It's a concert with mutliple projection surfaces, plus sort of all over background projection rasters. The director has asked us to create a complete show previsual so she can see how all the media layers work, and most importantly for her, how transitions will function and feel.

It's really common around here for us to do previsuals to sell a show or show concept. Also for our internal design process, previzzing helps us to really drill down on spatial relationships.

But this is the first time we're doing a full show viz for the purposes of the director blocking and integrating her larger process.

The idea is utterly reasonable; maybe even compelling (especially for the directors and choreographers). My suspicion is that we're going to do this a lot more, and it has me thinking about how we adjust the studio pipeline and process to accommodate it. It's not an insubstantial effort. 2 days of compositing to create the viz, then render time. Then another day to edit those together in to a finished show. All of this predicated on being done in a larger sense with content of course.

I have a sense of caution about this... It has to do with managing expectations a bit. I've found that when I make storyboards, I will often dirty them up, make them look more sketched, so that some of the intended end result is left to the imagination. When I've made to photo realistic previsuals before, I find that collaborators will sometimes fixate on a detail that they like or don't like, that is really something that will only be seen in the visualization. It won't then be a factor in reality, or if it's intentional sometimes visualizations defy laws of physics and such. The interplay of light and media is really hard to represent realistically and be able to stand by as "what it will really look like"... So when I get asked to viz a whole show, I get nervous about these attachments. I think a whole show viz demands a cognizant commitment from observers that it's still concept and not reality.

Nevertheless I think that we're entering a stage where previsualizing is going to expand beyond it's status of a tool of the lighting designer or production designer, and become more of a generally accessible asset to directors and (shudder) producers as well.

We're having a Production Summit at MODE after LDI... Effectively and efficiently adding full show previsuals to shows as a fundamental design stage, not as an extra, or as a time savings...

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