VFX Firsts: What was the first previs made for a film?

Previs has a rich history, find out more in the podcast.

In recent times, it feels like previs has gone through a very dramatic change, mainly related to the use of real-time game engines to help generate ‘visualization’ of scenes, as well as the increasing use of virtual production methods for capturing previs and using it directly on set.

In this week’s VFX Firsts podcast, we try and go back to the beginnings of previs. I’m joined by Margaux Durand-Rival, a previs supervisor and partner at Les Androïds Associés, to discuss previs’ early days, in particular, where it was first used for feature films.

Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or directly in the player below. Then there are spoiler show notes further down the page you can also read through.

This week’s hosts: Margaux Durand-Rival and Ian Failes.

Show notes

Early previs

In the podcast we discuss the early previs/techvis developed for the flying scenes in The Boy Who Could Fly by production designer Jim Bissell and Omnibus. Watch a clip of the flying scenes in The Boy Who Could Fly. Jim Bissell just happened to be interviewed by the VES recently, and shared some amazing clips of the previs (and techvis) created for the film by him and Omnibus. He also did a podcast with Decorating Pages.

Note: there are other examples of times when wireframe or early CG imagery was used to help visualize scenes or shooting setups or help design vehicles.

– See this Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Q&A moderated by Gene Kozicki with Robert Abel & Co art director Richard Winn Taylor II and Director’s Edition VFX Supervisor Darren Dochterman about wireframe previs developed for motion control miniature work.

A look at what I think is Colin Cantwell’s work using wireframe models for planning out spaceship views in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981)

Background here and here on the spiral car jump stunt for The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and the earlier wireframe visualization done for the stunt (which had been devised a few years before the film was made).

Some extra fun links on previs

The incredible videomatics used by ILM on Return of the Jedi.

Interview at befores & afters with David Dozoretz about the early days of previs at ILM and Lucasfilm.

Wikipedia entry on Previsualization is very useful.

AWN’s history of previs has several fun extra facts about the early days.

Become a befores & afters Patreon supporter.