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5Qs: Niall Thompson, CEO & Co-Founder Of Previz

Nils Porrmann and Niall Thompson founded dandelion + burdock (d+b), a digital design and technology company, in 2005 and have produced, both creatively and technically, large-scale live entertainment projects for a broad range of international clients. To complement this, they also have ten years’ experience working with web technologies to produce interactive exhibits and applications. Recently, they saw a need in the market for an online previsualization tool for live events to improve project workflows for creative teams and production companies, and thus, founded Previz.

Live Design chats with Thompson, CEO of the new company, about the software tool and his participation in LDI2017 session, “ScreenOps: A Panel Discussion on Planning Playback Operations for Scenic Video,” moderated by Laura Frank.

1. What inspired you to found Previz? What was the need in the market?

In content workflow, there is a constant need for work-in-progress (WIP) renders. With the type of projects we work on at d+b, there is a need to show multiple angles and situate the client in the arena or theatre as opposed to on a flat canvas. This helps the viewer relate to the content in a 3D space. Media servers do this, but they have a high learning curve and are not required or essential at the beginning of a project. Our animators often pursue a project from a single point of view, and we wanted something to allow them to see context throughout a project. This also provided them with a platform to step in if they feel like they can make improvements or simply spot mistakes.

We recognized that there was no simple way to efficiently share progress for live entertainment projects internally with your team as well as clients. Typically, you’d use a media server to render out a screencast and send your client a 300MB-plus video. It doesn’t help that media servers can also be very siloed applications that only run locally and need specialized training. To combat this, we created Previz, an online previsualization tool.

Previz first existed as a working prototype that we used on a world tour for a Mexican pop artist. It was a simple, three-screen setup that allowed our content production team to see how content moved from one screen to another. Slowly, we began turning this prototype into a functioning web application and invited a few trusted clients and production companies to use it. To date, it’s been used for projects for Land Rover, Turner Network, and the BBC.

2. What is the mission of Previz, and who has helped you achieve it?

We are in the era where great software can become part of our daily workflow, and we sometimes wonder how we ever managed without it. Slack is a great example of this; it changed the way organizations communicate internally. It’s this sort of disruptive behavior, where the product actually makes a real difference that we find true inspiration for creating new software.

For us, it’s simple. Our mission is to help others create better experiences. Previz has been designed to help you think visually in a 3D space. It’s flexible enough that it can slot into your existing workflow seamlessly, saving you production costs and helping you achieve a better end result.

Both Manny Treeson of NYX Design and Laura Frank of Luminous FX have been hugely influential and supportive. They are powerhouses in their respective fields, and their input on the early stages and direction of Previz was invaluable.

3. What sets Previz apart from other previsualization software on the market?

Its collaborative features as well as its convenience: Previz works directly in your browser and enables you to fully collaborate with all stakeholders of a project. It allows you to plan and preview your content in a realtime, 3D environment. This makes it easy to share the latest with your client to obtain precise feedback and faster approval. It easily integrates within existing workflows, using a range of plugins we’ve developed.

4. What are the plans for the future of Previz?

We are really interested in the VR space. There’s nothing like the experience where you feel like you are really there in the space. We’ve found it hugely beneficial to understand scale as well as particular viewpoints related to a show. It’s also a huge wow factor for clients. We hope to ship VR in Previz by the end of 2017.

5. What can we expect to learn from the LDI panel you're participating in?

Similar to the impact that Shoflo has had on centralizing teams from different aspects of a production, Previz is targeted towards the visual aspect of a project and aims to unite all personnel to create better experiences. We’ll outline how it’s being integrated within content production teams as well as the benefits it has for cutting production costs.

From a technical perspective, we hope that Previz can be used in a way that the initial work on a timeline can start to inform the visual blueprint for the media server programming.

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