I’ve been meaning to create a blog post on Brian Pohl’s suggestions for me when I asked him how one becomes a Previs Artist at the Previs lecture series event I attended in October.
If you’re just getting started in the subject as a student, as I am, he mainly tried to direct me towards the classes that are available at Gnomon School of Visual Effects; including the class he teaches for Previs and Animatics.
Of course, there are some prerequisite classes to go through before reaching his class. The prerequisite classes will help prepare you with your goals of becoming better storytellers and communicators within the process of Previs. These are the semester classes Brian recommended; please click the links for extended information:
Basics of 3D computer graphics using Autodesk Maya
This course will focus on the basics of 3D computer graphics using Autodesk Maya. Students will be introduced to the Maya interface and philosophy, as well as 3D modeling, texturing, lighting and rendering. Lectures will cover the application of these tools in the film, television and game industries. The first eight weeks will be devoted to instruction and homework, with one-on-one help from the instructor. The remainder of the term will be devoted to personal projects, beginning in week five. Students will complete the course with a series of stills.
Creating high-quality digital effects
The Animation and Visual Effects courses expose students to the methodologies by which high-quality effects are digitally achieved. Via discussions and lectures, students will learn tools in context with how they are actually used in a production environment. This first course in the series focuses on the core tool set for producing motion keyframing, procedural modeling, dynamics and sound synchronization.
Students will be guided to focus their skills on complexity, problem solving, design and motion. The first eight weeks are devoted to instruction and homework, as students proceed with the initial set-up phases of their own personal projects. One-on-one help and project guidance by the instructor will occur weekly.
Creating non-organic products for scenes: objects and architecture
Students will learn the fundamentals of creating game assets in polygons and NURBS including constructing elements for architecture or props for a set. This course will concentrate on the creation of non-organic and typically human-created products used in scenes. These objects range from guns, buildings, furniture, railings, and more. Lectures will consist of the various production techniques of asset creation through the exploration of polygonal modeling and the preparation of constructed models for texturing. Students will learn the basic toolset in Autodesk Maya and discuss the technical and aesthetic issues that modelers face while modeling environments, props and human-created items.
Communicating complex ideas via visual media
The foundation of every art form is communicating form and motion through 2D representations. Even computer graphics, which is as close as artists can get to real 3D, relies on foundations of visual communication. In this course students will learn to recognize and effectively utilize forms to communicate their ideas, even very complicated or abstract ones. The course begins with fast, monochromatic sketches of primitives and other basic objects to develop design communication skills. Time will be spent on value, shade, shadow, perspective and composition. Students will choose their own final projects. Enrollees are expected to cover the cost of supplies, which are estimated to be between $80 to $115.
Introduction to the use of storyboards
This course will introduce the film grammar necessary for a career in film or special effects. Storyboard drawings, which map out camera angles, continuity and lighting, create a guide for effects artists. Through an analysis of scripts, character and set design, students will translate these elements into finished storyboards. As an exercise, storyboards from major motion pictures will be compared shot-for-shot to images from the films. Enrollees are expected to cover the cost of supplies, which are estimated to be between $10 to $30.
and then finally Brian’s class of Previs & Animatics:
Understanding digital previsualization planning
From script to screen, this class will examine the digital previsualization planning and technical processes of modern filmmaking. Traditionally, storyboards have been the primary method of conceptual discovery for the director. Today, previs supplements that process with the advantage of computer animation. Using computer animation and modeling techniques, directors can now watch complicated sequences before they’re ever shot on film, allowing directors to experiment with different staging and art direction options such as lighting, camera placement and movement, stage direction and editing without having to incur the costs of actual production.
Aside from these, I think classes in Matchmoving and Hard Surface Modeling 2 would be helpful in strengthening your understanding in layout, virtual cameras and lenses, as well as improving your modeling.
I know Matchmoving isn’t directly related, but I notice that it’s a skill being used in areas of Previs for blue/green screen tracking and tuning. Plus, with these more advanced classes, you can only make yourself more useful in your preparation for this field.
A Previs artist, from my point of view, requires a dedication towards becoming a skilled generalist in Maya and VFX, while also understanding film language, virtual cameras and terminology to interpret the Director’s vision. Knowing how to translate film techniques into a virtual scene will be the key to your success. In addition, like anything else in the industry, your value lies in the speed and quality of your output.