Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Get To Know A Pre-viz Whiz

A pre-wha--t? O_O

Red Dot Diva assures that she isn't creating a new word here.

Pre-viz or short for Previsualization, which includes storyboarding that could be drawn by hand or digital technology, allows a director to have an idea how sequences will look like on film before production is carried out.

And it takes someone with solid artistic and imaginative visualization skills to be able to do the job fantastically well.

One such top artists in this field is Robbie Consing. Red Dot Diva says a pop-culture fan should get familiar with this name, as one would then be able to connect his previsualizations to a lot of popular blockbuster movies!

Robbie has provided his previz whiz on movies like "Armageddon", "Pearl Harbour", "Minority Report", "X2" and "Terminator 3"! One can check out the list of his illustrious work from his IMDb profile!

Red Dot Diva is very glad to have gotten connected with this genuinely nice and articulate guy and naturally, she couldn't help but ask him for an interview.

The interview will be posted in two parts. This is the first instalment where Robbie acquaints us more about his field of work.


1. How did you first get involved with storyboarding/ concept art in films? Were you doing something else before that first foray into film-making?

I grew up with three obsessions: film, comic books, and drawing. Having come from an extended family of talented artists (though none professional), I drew constantly, just nonstop. Although I pored over my “Art of Star Wars”, “Art of Empire Strikes Back”, etc. books, I knew what storyboards were but never even fantasized about it as a career. Directing was an even more of a fantasy.

RULE #1: Asian family = not conducive to artistic ambitions

Through an aunt who was a production coordinator, I did score a two-week freebie gig as a set assistant at the age of 16. This experience led me to my mentor, production designer David Brisbin ("Drugstore Cowboy", "Twilight: New Moon") who encouraged me to pursue storyboarding.

Before that, I was a horrible high school student (moonlighting as a movie usher)…

2. What were the tough lessons you still remember from those first few early gigs?

I‘ve gotta say… to go from a failing high school student who made crap money at a crap job to a fantasy situation, all before I turned 21 was so incredible that I can’t really consider any of it tough. It was such a crazy time in my life, with lots of sleepless nights, deadlines, travelling, etc. But it was so much fun.

One tough lesson: I wish I pushed my writing and directing skills harder outside my immediate field . I’d love to be directing and writing full timenow, as most of my friends are.

3. In your opinion, what kind of key skills are required to be a good concept artist?

In storyboarding, the most crucial skill is storytelling. More specifically, to convey interesting, dynamic and technically accurate illustrations of a director’s vision. Knowing how to draw is obviously important, but you’d be surprised how even the best artists have a hard time composing their art in a cinematic context. Clarity in communication is paramount as well.

4. Where do most of all your ideas and inspirations come from?

Films I love, past and present. Something new like "District 9" or "Avatar" or "Inception" can really catapult your sh*t forward. I’m also just re-buying all my favorite director’s work, on Blu-Ray as well, from Kubrick to Spielberg to Wong Kar Wei.

Reliving your greatest inspirations is a hell of an experience, a visceral reminder of how it’s done. But I watch movies and read relentlessly. It’s the only way to stay inspired and relevant.

That being said, I’m getting a PS3 tomorrow. All my most successful writer and director friends are obsessed with this new generation of consoles, and I think it’s time I was re-introduced to it as well.

5. Do you do a lot of research for some of your conceptual ideas? e.g. those for "Pearl Harbour". What do these research activities consist of?

Movie art departments have full time researchers, who are also in charge of collating all design and visual reference. They compiled endless volumes of archival footage, images and data. Google is a tremendous asset as well.

Production also set up interviews with survivors, pilots and soldiers, as well as many visits to the actual site. Authenticity always informs creativity.

Cinematic inspirations are crucial as well. For speed and kinetic movement, we studied the Pod race from "Phantom Menace", "Top Gun"’s dogfights, and "Saving Private Ryan"’s iconic battle sequences, among many others.

6. What artistic media do you prefer to work with and are there any that you don't like to use?

I’m still a paper and pencil guy, with some marker. I use Photoshop to punch up imagery, then for organization, clean up and distribution.

I don’t have a bias against Wacom tablets or the like. I’m just not proficient enough to use them quickly or more efficiently than my old-fashioned methods.

7. With technology progressing at an exponential rate in recent times, do you find it challenging keeping up with the changes? Has it changed your work in any major way?

The dawn of pre-vis (a computer animation of a scene, usually done during pre-production ) was quite a daunting change. It‘s revolutionary and exciting to watch, but storyboard artists definitely still have their place in a film’s inception. If anything, it made the best of us step up our game. Like Photoshop, it’s advent and effect was Darwinian on our ranks.


Robbie will tell us more inspirations and other upcoming projects in the next part of the interview. Red Dot Diva hopes to post it next week so keep coming back here!

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