Hollywood previsualization specialist Proof Inc. officially unveiled its new virtual reality and immersive experiences unit Prime Wednesday, announcing a new hire in the process: Prime’s new head of bizdev and sales is Christopher Bellaci, who is joining the company from RGH Entertainment, and whose animation and VFX work contributed to movies like the “Spider Man” trilogy, “Titanic” and the “Green Lantern.”
Proof is best known for its work on blockbusters like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the “Fast & Furious” franchise. The latter also got the company its first virtual reality gig back in 2014, when Lin asked Proof to do previsualization for “Help”, the first live-action short film shot for Google’s Spotlight Stories.
For the uninitiated: Previsualization gives directors a first look at a scene before the actual shoot, with animation showing off a movie’s main characters in a particular environment. Kind of like a sketch, but with motion, if you will. “It’s visualizing the film like the director wants it to look,” explained Bellaci during an interview with Variety this week.
While working on “Help”, the Proof team realized that it wouldn’t take much to offer the same for virtual reality and other immersive experiences. Previs, as it’s called in Hollywood lingo, is already based on 3D animation. Making the same work in a headset to give directors a way to look around was really just a minor tweak. “For us, moving to VR is a no brainer,” said Bellaci.
Justin Lin’s “Help”, previsualized.
But for directors, this can make a big difference. Shooting live action in 360-degree in particular requires a lot of prep and attention to detail. “You got to be aware of everything in the space,” said Bellaci.
However, Bellaci also knows that a lot of the content that’s currently being produced for VR won’t justify to go that extra step. A small studio that hooks up a few GoPros to a rig made with a 3D printer to film some experiential 360-degree video short film won’t go out of its way to hire a previs company like Prime, he readily acknowledged: “The budgets have to cross a certain threshold.”
And in the early days of virtual reality as a medium that has yet to find an audience, they often don’t cross that threshold. “Right now, the primary funding for VR experiences is VR for PR,” he said, adding that Hollywood will eventually be ready to more fully embrace VR as a creative medium beyond short trailers to promote their movies.
In the meantime, Prime also wants to offer previs services to companies looking to build art installations immersive experiences at events or even rides at theme parks. In this context, VR becomes part of the production process, rather than the final experience.
His team could for example visualize a theme park ride in 3D before it’s even built to help imagineers along the way. Theme park designers long used previs to get a first look at their ride. Now, they’ll be able to do the same thing with VR headsets on, able to explore every aspect of it, said Bellaci. “The difference now is that we can also put you on the ground.”