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Class Format:
Length: 8 Weeks
Lectures: Live lectures each week
Assignment: Deadlines each week
Feedback: Individually recorded
Live Q&As: Once a week



In this course, students will learn the basics of previsualization shot creation. From composing shots to animating cameras to doing quick, efficient character animation and compositing, students will learn the skills needed to enable them to help today’s top filmmakers transform their stories from rough storyboards to fully-realized previsualization that is often not far from the finished product. Previs is increasingly becoming an integral part of the production process, helping filmmakers save time and money by having a very solid idea of what the film will look like even before production begins. Shot creators are often given a lot of freedom to design shots and to be an important part of the storytelling process. 


Week 1 - Shot Composition and Storytelling

Students will learn how to best place a shot within an environment and choose a camera lens, etc. We will also review the basics of cinematography and how it is used in previs. This class will also include an intro into using existing camera and lens data to match the equipment being used in production.

Homework: compose some static shots using a provided environment, props, and characters. 

Week 2 - How to be Resourceful

In the real world of previs, you will encounter many situations in which you do not have what you need to create your shot, however, you must create it by the deadline anyway. In this class, we will go over how to quickly create props using pieces of the environment, how to extend environments quickly, but convincingly, and how to work with an existing environment to come up with a good shot composition while being considerate of the rest of the previs team and the production (what’s okay to move around or fudge, and what’s not).

Homework- edit the previous week’s shots according to “unexpected notes.”

Week 3 - Camera Movement, its Meaning in Storytelling, and How to Animate Cameras

In this class we will go over camera motion, including understanding what will be available to production when they are shooting and how to be respectful of this while animating your camera. We will go over over cranes, dollies, and other real-life camera set-ups. We will also cover “imaginary” set-ups and when you’ll want to use those. We will discuss how previs helps producers and directors plan and budget their shots in the real world, and the types of options you might be expected to give them at different budget levels, etc.

Homework: Animate just the camera on 2 or 3 types of shots. Roughly position the characters in the shots so that the camera can follow them when needed, etc. 

Week 4 - Character Blocking

Block out the character movement in a shot using good, solid, dynamic poses that tell the story as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Homework: take the cameras from the week before, and block out the character motion in these shots so that it is dynamic, interesting, and most importantly, gets the story across effectively. 

Week 5 - Character Animation

Take your blocking to full animation. In this class, tricks for animating quickly will be covered. Possible timed animation exercise in class- shot creators are commonly expected to finish 2 full shots in a 9 or 10-hour day.

Homework: Complete the full character animation on your shots. Emphasis on getting the story across and on completing animation as quickly as possible without any part of it being distractingly poorly executed. 

Week 6 - How to Use (and Fake) Effects

 This class will cover when it’s appropriate to spend time using or creating effects in Maya and when it’s faster/smarter to fake effects in comp (This can sometimes be based on supervisor preference, but whenever the supervisor doesn’t favor “Maya only,” it can save you a lot of time to do your FX in comp whenever you can). A brief intro to After Effects will be included in this class. What you need to know of After Effects to do previs is fairly basic, but it can be very important, especially if you ever intend to do postvis as well as previs.

Homework- Add effects to your shot. Use a combination of Maya effects and AE comp’d effects. Make sure your Maya scene is not overly heavy after adding effects. If it’s getting too heavy, add more effects in comp and less in Maya. 

Week 7 - How to Composite Your Shot in After Effects When Needed

This class will include a brief introduction to postvis (a type of previs that occurs after live-action production and before VFX/animation production in which previs elements are merged with live-action plates to form an accurate idea of how shots might look after VFX production is done). We will briefly cover what to do with a live-action plate when you need comp one in- what to color correct ( and what not to) and how to color correct it. How to track and stabilize when needed, how to use masks to crop plates and to paint things out of a plate, etc.

Homework- Comp a sample shot in AE (or comp the shot you’re already working on, if appropriate). 

Week 8 - Best Practices in Pipeline, Naming Conventions, and Collaborating with a Previs Team.

Most previs and postvis teams are small and very interactive. Sometimes you will get to interact with directors, producers, and executives as well, and you will be expected to handle all kinds of potentially stressful situations. This week’s class will cover how to work together quickly without driving each other crazy, how to handle potential “unusual” situations (like collaborating remotely with supervisors on location in another country), proper etiquette for interacting with production, and how to ensure that you have a constant output of high-quality work while consistently meeting very tight deadlines.


Required skills:

1. Maya generalist skills- a fairly good grasp of modeling, animation, and lighting, but especially animation.
2. Basic knowledge of After Effects (though we’ll only deal with it for the last class or two of the term)
3. Helpful, but not required: some background in film or cinematography- whether they’ve taken classes or have real-world experience.



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