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The Power of Previsualization in Advertising

Who wouldn’t like to see into the future? To be able to take a peek at next week, next month or the year ahead is a superhero power we all want in the advertising game. We’d be able to see if those quarterly figures are on the rise just as predicted and take a look at what’s trending over the holidays to get a head start with the sales team. Or, buy a sports almanac and bet on every winner from now until the 22nd Century. 

It might not be possible to time-travel like Marty McFly (yet) but you can see how your next blockbuster ad will look with the power of pre-visualization. This is how you will future proof your creative vision in the earliest stages of pre-production. A pre-viz (industry short for pre-visualization) is essentially a visual blueprint of how a final piece of motion content will look and feel at the end point. They’ve been used in one form or another in the film industry for years but have recently become a secret weapon in advertising.

There might be many reasons for wanting a pre-viz at the beginning of a project. If you plan on doing an ambitious concept with complicated camera movements, lighting and set builds, then you’ll want to have a way of securing that vision as early as possible. It can also be a great way to stress test different ideas and see if they’re really up to scratch. Either way, it’s an invaluable tool, propelling the collaboration between clients and creatives to new heights

Seeing is believing – Types of Pre-visualization

The script is often the first stage in any film project. It’s an important step in the creative process and a great way to get across the ideas, structure and story of any piece of motion content. There will come a point where a script just isn’t enough. It doesn’t tell us how that adrenaline pumping chase scene through the streets of London will actually work. This is the point where you’ll need to see how the exciting ideas written on the page will appear in real life.

“There’s a huge amount of information with storyboards. You know where the actor is sitting or standing, where the camera will be [and] the events happening in that storyboard…”

George Miller – Director

The idea of the previz is not a new one. It’s been used in filmmaking for years as a way to plan out tricky sequences and sometimes the entire movie through the art of storyboarding. One strong proponent of the storyboard is the eccentric Australian filmmaker, George Miller. In the most recent instalment of his post-apocalyptic road revenge series (Mad Max: Fury Road) he utilised the storyboard to devastating effect, with almost the entire film being sketched out alongside the script. What it allowed Miller to do, was to fully build the entire world of Fury Road and visualise the incredible stunts, vehicles and characters without spending a penny.

The ability to set out a visual plan for your vision will help you save time and money. It can also be used to give outside interests an understanding of how your vision can be achieved. The 2012 box office hit, Looper was initially sold off the back of a clever ‘clip-o-matic’ mocked up by the project director, Rian Johnson. This short but compelling monologue from the main character of the film, is pieced together with other visual cues and clips of movies to flesh out the idea, the world and ultimately the project as a whole. It’s a method otherwise known as the ‘animatic’, which is used to great effect in the world of advertising.

There are many ways you can put together a solid animatic for your project depending on your needs. If you’re only interested in setting up the general feel and atmosphere you want for the piece, then a simple sequence of stock footage clips like the Looper example might be perfect. When you’re looking for a more detailed ‘blow by blow’ account of how your commercial will look, feel and (most importantly) work then you’ll need to employ more advanced methods.

What you see is what you get

The scale of your commercial project will often determine how your animatic needs to be constructed. It’s not only an essential part of the creative process but also an incredible tool when pitching ideas and forward planning for the actual shoot. The effort and expense of producing high end TV commercial content means it makes sense to get an in-depth view not only of the idea itself but also of how it can be achieved.

The results can be truly astounding when a previz is fully realised. A prime example can be seen in the award winning Nike commercial named “The Getaway”. The ad itself shows a shadowy figure running through the streets of New York, with the wail of sirens, helicopters and police comms surrounding their every leap and jump, when finally it’s revealed the “bank robber” is a woman listening to a soundtrack on her iPod. It’s a fast-paced, fun and smart ad that won a host of awards. And it was all there, right from the start in the previz.

If you compare the 60 second animated previz with the full commercial you’ll see that it’s almost a shot by shot recreation. All the elements that make it work as a finished piece are already there, which in the end ensured that the hard work was all done way before the first frame had even been captured. It’s an ethos that we’ve taken up a level with one of our own recent commercials.

The next logical step

Tasked with creating an advertisement that would span the decades of NOW Music’s vast pop collection for their new app, we came up with an ambitious pitch that hit all the right notes. By recreating the whole ad in a fully realised 3D environment we were able to show the client just how the ad was going to work as well as how it met the requirements of the brief. It was a win win for both sides. We were then able to use the animatic as a template during the day of the shoot, recreating the complex camera movements and transitions with a visual guide. 

With an ‘on shoot’ editor, it was possible to piece together the edit live in the studio for the client as soon as it was captured. This unique way of working allowed them to be a part of every stage of the creative process, from inception to completion. It was also a great way to keep the project stakeholders informed the whole way, speeding up the feedback process and giving them a rough edit to show before the shoot was even wrapped. As a streamlined way of working, it’s unparalleled and the final NOW Music ad really shows the results.

The level of creative planning we give to any project is tailored to the clients needs. We not only offer detailed scripting and storyboarding to realise ideas and concepts but are always on the lookout for groundbreaking ways to improve our creative process. From the use of photography during location recce’s or slick 3D visuals to imagine your vision, we believe the power of pre-visualization is the next logical step in motion content.

If you have a commercial vision you’d like to explore, feel free to get in touch.