Previs for VFX-intensive movies is not only getting more sophisticated but also more graphic as well, further blurring the line between live-action and animation. For instance, Proof has been experimenting in recent years with a cool toon-shaded look that's rendered in real-time. This began with Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet, which was animated in XSI and rendered using the mental ray toon shader.
At an Academy event Monday night titled VFX Convergence -- Pre-and Post-Visualization: Beyond Storyboarding, Proof's Ron Frankel demonstrated the toon-shaded look and explained that it was a very successful hybrid experiment to choreograph the action in a more illustrative style in keeping with Gondry's comic vibe.
It's definitely a more stylized way of conveying mood, tone, pacing, and emotion, while at the same time doing what previs does best in terms of getting proper scale, distance, lensing, and accuracy. It's obviously empowering the artists more as well.
Since then Proof has continued to refine its toon-shaded previs on the upcoming Catching Fire, as well as the Marvel superhero movies Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Proof's current workflow to achieve the same look uses Maya for the modeling and animation and a proprietary shader that renders in real-time using the GPU.
Animation Scoop's Contributing Editor Bill Desowitz blogs regularly at Immersed In Movies.