An Exploration of Prometheus Previs
DS: Can you describe the dynamic of how that previs work was then used? What was the primary objective of the previs work you were doing? Was it to flesh out story, flesh out visual design, figure out live action set requirements?
CR: Good question. Initially, because Ridley hadn’t seen stuff [previs] come back yet, we really were focusing on the mood and on telling his story before we spent much time really pinching budgets and pinching frames and saying this shot could be done a little simpler if we do such and such, which is often a goal. Once creatively you’re where you want to be, you can really go back in with the visual effects group and anybody else that wants to help shrink it so that it is accomplishable. But we ignored that to start out. We ignored practical aspects just so Ridley could see what it [previs] could do.
We focused heavily on mood. In doing that I cut together a lot of scratch-track music, which he was really happy with, to help accomplish that mood. Of course it’s not music that’s going to be used in the final film, but it really helped him get excited about the process. Gradually, once he was comfortable with it [the previs], on the next sequence we started spending a little more time focusing on the practical aspects. Meaning, what the sets actually are, what we can and can’t do based on the set design. As a supervisor I always try to keep in mind, if I previs something that nobody can accomplish, either financially, physically or both, then I’m not really that useful to them, and they probably won’t want to use me again.
DS: It’s nice to actually be helpful.
CR: So that is something I’m always trying to keep in mind. I’m trying to keep things practical and real and accomplishable even if that’s not the focus, and then come back in with the VFX supervisor. On the second sequence we did come back and we showed Ridley a pass, and then said let’s see where we can trim this back with the visual effects producer and supervisor. We would look at it and say, “See this area, we could lower these cameras and not have to worry about this part of the set. You don’t have to build that part of the set.” We started doing that in the latter half of the second sequence.
At that point, a lot of the sets had been designed and we were able to work straight off of art department designs and live within those confines even as we explored creatively. So by the third and fourth sequence, we were doing both at the same time and we didn’t have to reign back in that much because Ridley was very comfortable with it. He could see what we were accomplishing both creatively and that technically, it was doable.
DS: Right. When you say, you were focusing on setting the mood, what does that really mean? How do you set a mood with previs?
CR: Yeah, usually in previs, it’s slap-dash as fast as you can as long as you get your point across because there is so much to do. What we did differently was that we spent a little bit more time on the sets, building them with a little bit higher resolution. We had the art department to help us. We were able to use their sets and then do much nicer lighting. There was a lot of making sure our models were a little nicer and the lighting was much more dramatic instead of just plain lighting, so you could tell what’s going on all the time. That was probably the biggest part.