Television Academy Governor Kevin Pike hosts an insightful look into the world of storyboarding and 3D pre-visualization for TV/film production, featuring guests veteran production artist Marcie Begleiter and pre-viz whiz David Dozoretz.
Storyboarding – drawing or painting images in sequence to depict a story before production begins – has been around since the days of silent films.
More recently, the 3D digital version, pre-viz (previsualization), has taken the process a step further. While both are still used primarily for features, they are making inroads in television.
Television Academy members had the opportunity to learn more about their use at a professional development seminar, held January 26 at the Television Academy Conference Centre in North Hollywood.
“From Word to Image: Storyboarding and Pre-Viz for Television” welcomed an expert in each field: Marcie Begleiter, a production artist and author of the book From Word to Image: Storyboarding and the Filmmaking Process and David Dozoretz, director of the pre-viz company Persistence of Vision.
The event was hosted by Academy special visual effects governor Kevin Pike.
Begleiter called storyboarding, “a pre-design of a design, that gives you a space to create a visual script. It’s the beginning of a conversation of how to develop a script, or how to convince a production company to do a script.”
And if you first have to convince someone to do storyboarding – artists’ fees are $500-$700 a day – keep in mind that the expenditure will save money in production.
Storyboards can be elaborate color renderings; key frames capturing a moment of high drama or emotion; or barebone thumbnail drawings, depending on budget, usage and the desire of whoever’s hiring; Begleiter works with the director to express his or her vision.
But don’t be afraid to try doing it yourself: “This is not about talent. It’s about a skill,” she said, suggesting that members read the Betty Edwards book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. “It’s not about making pretty drawings. It’s about visual communication.”
Detailing sequences can save money by pre-editing, as well as determining what shots can be done where. For a 1993 episode of ABC’s Sirens, which needed a four-night shoot on a bridge which was available only for three, Begleiter demonstrated which shots could be done on a sound stage instead. She often participates in location scouts.
Storyboarding is particularly useful, she said, for scenes involving visual effects, green screen, pyrotechnics, fights and other action, choreography, crowd scenes and special camera shots such as Steadicam, crane and aerial.
Dozoretz worked on the first pre-viz used for an entire movie sequence, a stunt in Mission: Impossible, and then was hired by George Lucas for the Star Wars prequels.
He also uses pre-viz in television commercials. Pre-viz can be used for pitching, honing design, determining if a shot is technically feasible or can be eliminated for budgetary purposes, on set to figure out how to frame a shot and “above all else,” he said, “for storytelling. We generate animation, get you the ability to know: Is this the story I want?”
Pre-viz helps many collaborators besides the director. Assistant directors can use it to understand the director’s vision and schedule and manage shoots.
Editors can spot potential problems; cinematographers can tell if shots are feasible; stunt coordinators can also determine feasibility, and see rigging; costume and set designers can view their work. It’s crucial for special effects. And, Dozoretz said, “Networks and studios can see, ‘Is this the show we want to make?’”
Dozoretz showed an example of ABC’s Pan Am, set in 1963: Four real-life actresses playing stewardesses strode through a New York airline terminal – which had been created in pre-viz.
For commercials, he said, “they’re not bound by rules. The sky’s the limit. Pre-viz is good for figuring out complex shoots.”
Pre-viz costs are comparable to storyboard artists; the process could take two days or a full month, depending on what’s required.
Begleiter noted that there is consumer-level pre-viz software available today. She and Dozoretz have both worked internationally, she in Germany and he on a Japanese project.
Despite the technology, Dozoretz reminded, “It’s about the storytelling, not the perfection of pixels. It’s about taking someone on an emotional journey.”
Pike and fellow special visual effects governor Mark Scott Spatny produced the seminar, which was a presentation of the Activities Committee, chaired by Ray Proscia. Robert O’Donnell is director of activities for the Academy; Melissa Brown is activities manager.
Video - Inside Biz Series: Storyboarding & Pre-Viz