Previsualization (Previs) Animator

The role, salary, software, and skills of a previs animator

Student work by Daria Zadecka

What does a previs animator do?

A previs animator, or previs artist, creates 3D animatics—rough versions of scenes used to plan out shots, determine scale, define shot types and sequence order, and work out lighting and camera angles. Previsualization not only assists with production but also with post-production (visual effects). 

Previsualization helps filmmakers envision a film before going into production, almost like a 3D storyboard. Based on the script or 2D storyboards, a previs animator’s role is to see how the action of a shot or sequence could play out, which they translate into a 3D space, experimenting with different camera staging (angles, lenses, moves, etc.) and rough animation using low-poly assets. The work of a previs animator/artist will never be seen by film audiences or video game players yet their output is vital to the final product. In some cases sequences will be intricately previsualized, matching shot-for-shot in the finalized scene. 

Previs animator job description

A previs animator’s role is to create draft versions of key scenes and sequences to test the action and act as a basis from which to animate. These animations are rough in nature, they concentrate on main actions and blocking, and need to be produced quickly in line with the production schedule.

The previsualization of animation sequences is a tool for the director and designers to plan out the specifics of shots such as point of view, camera angles, and composition. They work closely with the director and often the visual effects supervisor to plan out the scenes at a conceptual stage. They reflect the director’s vision by bringing the storyboard to life, allowing for any important changes to be made. They act as virtual rehearsals of scenes. 

Role & responsibilities of a previs animator in the film and games industry:

  • Liaising with directors and animators regarding the look and style of the sequences to be previsualized
  • Researching the sequences and assembling references for the previs sequence
  • Translating storyboards into animated sequences
  • Deconstructing and planning out sequences
  • Depicting staging, blocking, camera motion, and character performance
  • Editing and compositing scenes
  • Testing previs assets and rigs
  • Integrating sound elements into visuals in sequence
  • Rendering final animations of previs
Skills required to become a previs animator

Unlike a more traditional 3D animator, previs animators require a broader focus and, along with animation, will also be required to assemble and work with layouts and cameras. Sometimes their role may also include modeling basic props and characters.

A common pathway to becoming a previs animator is to first study animation and get into the industry as an animator, then narrow your focus once you've built up some experience.

Film and television studios may look for the following skills in previs animators:

  • Basic video editing and compositing skills
  • Experience with rendering
  • General animation skills - modeling, rigging, shading, etc
  • Ability to work to the director’s vision
  • Understanding of animation process
  • Fundamental knowledge of film language and genre
  • Visual storytelling skills
  • Solid knowledge of cinematography principles - framing, camera angles, composition, cinematic lighting, perspective
What software and tools do previs animators use?

Previs artists work with animation and editing computer software. They may be required to use mixed media to create so they must be able to integrate various formats to produce the finished product.

Previs animators may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Java
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere
  • Final Cut
  • Nuke
  • MotionBuilder
How much does a previs animator make? 

The average wage of a previs artist is between USD $56,000 to USD $111,000. (Source: Glassdoor).



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