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The Digital Eye: Prevising 'Prince Caspian'

In this month's edition of "The Digital Eye," Previs Supervisor Rpin Suwannath provides an exclusive sneak peek of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Image courtesy of Deron Yamada. © 2004 DYA367.

It was January 2006. I was having lunch with director Andrew Adamson and producer Philip Steuer in Los Angeles when the bill arrived. Andrew looked at me and said, "Since you're the only one officially working on Prince Caspian, shouldn't you be picking this up?"

That was more than 18 months and three continents ago. It's now August 2007, I'm in Prague and we've got about a month left before wrap and the show moves to London for post-production.

After Walt Disney Pictures' successful opening of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (in association with Walden Media), the studio was anxious to get started on its sequel, Prince Caspian. Although he was still in negotiations with the studio, Andrew had some ideas that he wanted to start previsualization work on. There was a particular sequence he called the "Night Raid" that wasn't in the C.S. Lewis book that Andrew wanted to develop as a cut scene in conjunction with the work he and writers Chris Markus and Steve McFeely were doing on the script. After hearing their ideas, I knew this film was going to be a much bigger undertaking than the last one. This sequence alone was more complex than anything what we had done on the last film and it was happening only halfway through the story. I hired veterans from the first film, Mike Makara and Scott Meadows, to start building a digital library of sets and characters. Fortunately, the visual effects work that VFX Supervisor Dean Wright did on the first film was online, including scans of the actors and creatures, so we had much more specific models and textures for our digital stand-ins. This allowed us to "step up" the look of our previs work. On the first movie, we began previs well before casting finished so our models for the Pevensies were somewhat generic. This time, we had scans of Georgie Henley so our Lucy model looks like Lucy.

Starting previs this early gave us an opportunity to develop an improved work pipeline. On the last film, we would ultimately export QuickTimes to editorial for them to then import in their Avid system. Sometimes I would roughly cut sequences internally in our previs department using something like Adobe Premier but these sequences would always have to be reassembled in editorial because of software compatibility. On Caspian, we decided with Editors Sim Evan-Jones and Josh Campbell that I would have an Avid and cut the first pass of the previs before handing the timeline to them for further and final cutting. This system works great. To be able to seamlessly pass an edit back and forth between the departments with no interruption in workflow is fantastic and will hopefully become commonplace in the industry.

As pre-production ramped up, I brought on Kiwi Gerrard Southam, who worked on Lion (a local hire when the production moved to New Zealand) and Andreas "Chop" Hikel, an animator I worked with on Bryan Singer's