Pre-visualization (also known as pre-vis, pre vis, pre viz, pre-viz, previs, or animatics) is a technique in which low-cost digital technology aids the filmmaking process. It involves using computer graphics (usually 3D) to create rough versions of the shots in a movie sequence. Usually, this is only done for the more complex shots (visual effects or stunts), as the benefits are fewer for simple scenes such as dialogues. The end result might be edited and might have temporary music and dialogue. Some can look like simple grey shapes representing the characters or elements in a scene, while other pre-vis can be sophisticated enough to look like a modern video game.


Before desktop computers were widely available, pre-visualization was rare and crude, yet still effective. For example, Dennis Muren of Industrial Light and Magic used toy action figures and a lipstick camera to film a miniature version of the "" speeder bike chase. This allowed the film's producers to see a rough version of the sequence before the costly full-scale production started.

In 1992 Colin Green pioneered the process of Previsualization by working on "Judge Dredd".

Very few people had heard of 3D computer graphics until the release of Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" in 1993. It included revolutionary visual effects work by Industrial Light and Magic (winning them an Oscar), one of the few companies in the world at the time to use digital technology to create imagery. As a result, computer graphics lent themselves to the design process, when visual effects supervisor (and Photoshop creator) John Knoll asked artist David Dozoretz to do one of the first ever pre-visualization for an entire sequence (rather than just the odd shot here and there) in Paramount Pictures' "".

Producer Rick McCallum showed this sequence to George Lucas, who hired Dozoretz in 1995 for work on the new Star Wars prequels. This represented an early but significant change as it was the first time that pre-visualization artists reported to the film's director rather than visual effects supervisor.

Since then, pre-visualization has become an essential tool for large scale film productions, and have been essential for "Matrix" trilogy, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, ' and ', War of the Worlds, "X-Men", and others. One of the largest recent films to rely heavily on the technique is Superman Returns, which used a large crew of artists to create elaborate pre-visualizations.

In this new era of previz today, a synergy of cutting edge technology has come to fruition using effective classic previz concepts along with real-time and motion capture technology. The forefront of this technology is constantly evolving.

While visual effects companies can offer pre-visualization services, today many studios hire companies which cater solely to previsualization for large projects. Often, common software packages are used for previs, such as Autodesk Maya and Softimage XSI. Some directors prefer to do previsualization themselves using inexpensive and user-friendly programs such as FrameForge 3D Studio, Antics, Poser, DAZ Studio, Vue, and Real3d.

See also

* [ Interview with Colin Green]
* [ Superman Returns Previsualization Interview]
* Animation
* Screenplay
* Storyboard
* List of motion picture-related topics
* Script breakdown

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