Barry Howell Talks Battleship Previs
DS: How was your previs integrated into the visual effects production?
BH: I would like to think that what we produced was as helpful as possible for the visual effects houses. The purpose of previs from the perspective of the visual effects company is to provide a template for overall composition and overall timing. The previs helps them see what type of action the director is going for, and what type of effects the director expecting to see in those scenes.
We try to make our previs look as good as possible complete with lighting and effects. By doing this, it allows vfx vendors to more accurately estimate what that sequence would cost. For example, when the shredders rip apart Hopper's destroyer, the previs provided an indication of which shots were going to need to be completely CG and which shots would need to integrate with physical sets and what type of destruction was needed to show that these things are ripping through the ship.
The more detail we can get into the previs, the more it informs the visual effects companies of the filmmakers' intent.
DS: Do you have a library of assets you can reuse or are you creating everything from scratch on each project?
BH: We have a considerable database of generic assets created over the past years. Naturally each project has specific models that you wouldn’t be able to reuse, but we are sometimes able to adapt and build on our models. On Battleship, we used a mixture of existing and new assets. We received the alien ships from the art department and downrezzed these so they could be used in our scenes. We always tried to keep the key elements of the models while making sure they were 'light' enough for us to be able to work with quickly in our scenes.
DS: What type of tools did you use on this project?
BH: Our company uses tools including Maya and After Effects for building previs scenes. We sometimes use Zbrush or Mudbox when building certain assets, such as creatures. We also have a slew of proprietary tools that help streamline our modeling and shot production processes.
DS: What was the most challenging part of this project?
BH: As with any movie, it's about finding and conveying the director’s vision. Different directors have different styles and it's our job to get in their heads and understand the way they see this world they are creating. I just finished working on a project with director Sam Raimi and his style of filmmaking is completely different from Pete’s but both are effective in their own ways.
Dan Sarto is publisher and editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.