The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Bissell, however, says he doesn’t need a virtual camera. “I don’t design that way,” he says. He does his own previs work by using Google SketchUp and then exporting that work to Maya. “When I break down a scene, there are certain images each scene is going to have. I don’t approach cinematic design as if it’s architecture; I design the angles and then build the space. I’m not really interested in walk-throughs unless that’s part of a scene’s dynamics. If it is, I’ll do it in Maya.”

Nevertheless, a handheld interface does give filmmakers the means to express their own creative personalities. Visual-effects supervisor John Scheele recalls visiting the set of a James Cameron project with Oliver Stone, who was allowed to experiment with the virtual camera. “Oliver grabbed the camera and started pushing in, like something from Natural Born Killers,” Scheele recalls. “Directors and cinematographers immediately come at it with a style all their own.” He adds that he looks forward to the next step, when filmmakers will not only emulate their signature moves, but also use the technology with more depth. “How can these tools get into the hands of the people who should be using them?” he muses.

Answering those questions, and many others, is the purpose of Previs 2020, a Previsualization Committee workgroup that is trying to envision what the process can become. “Thinking forward is completely liberating,” says McDowell, a Previs 2020 member. “Where could [the technology] go? If it can do this, why can’t it do that?”

What role will previsualization play in the digital-filmmaking pipeline? Can it become a focal point for digital technology, the backbone of an overarching structure that erases the lines between prep, production and post? Can it be used to set up an immersive, non-linear production space? The Previsualization Committee has begun asking the questions, and the answers will ultimately come from the filmmaking community as a whole, from those using the technology on projects that have yet to be envisioned.


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