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Cutting Production Costs With Cheaper Previs?

At the Siggraph computer graphics conference in Vancouver earlier this month, Method Studios president Marc Weigert declared an ambitious goal: Make previsualization inexpensive enough to use for an entire feature film — more specifically, for the cost of no more than two shooting days.

That would permit complete films to be viewed as a rough animation — as animated features are today — before the actual shooting begins. Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” was previs’d just this way, but the process is now too costly.

“Almost every movie these days has expensive re-shoots, expensive re-doing of visual effects,” Weigert says. “By just doing (previs for the whole feature), you’ll save one or two shooting days. Even if you don’t actually save the shooting days, you’ll save the equivalent in post-production.”

Weigert proposes showing the previs to test audiences to find story problems.

To make his case, he points to an expensive issue that cropped up during test screenings of “2012”: A line early in the film mentioned spaceships being built to save a few people from an impending disaster. The ships turn out to be arks, not spaceships.

Test auds were confused when they didn’t blast off into space, so it became necessary to make a series of changes, and then schedule a day of photography to add a line of explanation.

“All that together could have been close to a million (dollars),” Weigert says. “If we had previs’d the entire movie, we would have gotten these comments (much earlier).”

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