Posted May 13

How Technicolor Pre-Production shapes stories from start to finish

by Jane Bracher
How Technicolor Pre-Production shapes stories from start to finish by Jane Bracher

In an age of content abundance where the Internet has challenged the powers of traditional industry gatekeepers, creators now have limitless opportunities to tell their stories and reach audiences across the world. Likewise, filmmakers now have multiple avenues at their disposal to bring those visions to life.

Technicolor Pre-Production Studio (TPS) in Los Angeles, which was opened in 2019, is one such avenue that helps filmmakers carry out their ideas and their vision with a range of resources from concept art to final visual effects.

Patrick Smith, who heads up the studio’s visualization department, explained how the studio utilises a full art department, a visualization department, plus virtual production and business development departments that all facilitate telling “unique stories with stunning visual imagery” for creative clients.

“You should think of this space as the creative’s sandbox. You come in here, you start with your script, some concept art, a pile of storyboards, your pitch, a beat sheet, a dream you had last Tuesday; the point is you can come in and sit down with our world-class team of artists and just start sculpting out your ideas. Whatever you want, you can bring it in here and we can start to turn your vision into a reality,” Smith explained.

The Technicolor Pre-Production Studio is particularly beneficial for directors, as it allows them room to experiment and flesh out then sculpt their stories to get the best possible result. It’s also really helpful in putting a visual stamp on those pitch packages when shopping them around town in order to get your project green lit. The studio has helped several clients get their projects off the ground by cutting together a quick action-packed previs trailer of their vision through a process called pitchvis.

TPS offers many out-of-the-box solutions for exploring your world in real-time, leveraging many of the tools from game engine. Giving your director, DP, and production designers the freedom to explore their sets so early on in the pipeline through a virtual tech scout has proved to be extremely beneficial in quickly understanding scale, finding angles to shoot, laying out paths of action and even real-time editing of the sets. Not to mention the cost savings of defining early on what will be practical set builds against what is better left to be set extension. Shooting and lensing with a virtual camera is also wildly popular right now, allowing the director to immerse themselves in the middle of the action and give the team a more immediate vision on how they’d like to shoot their sequence.

The studio’s involvement is not limited to the very beginning, however, as they can come in at any point in the process with each department catering to the production’s demand. After the client has settled in on their creative vision through previs, TPS will then blueprint out to the inch how to practically achieve every shot on set through an in depth series of technical diagrams. This process, called techvis, ensures that all the precious and beautiful ideas you’ve spent so long carving out in pre-production can be successfully achieved under the intense stress of production. Knowing that you’re going to have to run the gauntlet of screenings as you move into post, they will also see it through to the end to ensure the director’s vision is realised – at that point they also utilise postvis, in which they “pull those green or blue screens out and we will pop our previs environments in there along with any giant monsters, mythical creatures or fantastical explosions”.

Technicolor Pre-Production is a standalone studio offering the boutique shop feel but can work seamlessly with Technicolor’s award-winning powerhouse visual effects studios MPC Film, Mr. X, and Mill Film. 

“Final visual effects is such a beautifully delicate art of breathing life into a CG performance that can move you to tears or painstakingly crafting the perfect magical explosion. These are the things that continue to impress generations of audiences across the globe. It’s this mesmerising attention to detail and craftsmanship that inspired so many of us to get into this industry,” Smith said.

“Now the true wizardry of pre-production lies in transforming your team into the director’s paint brush. To do so, you need to have a clear vision of the story they are trying to tell. Having a clear understanding of the film’s tone, plot and characters all help to facilitate designing sequences that visually underline the story’s’ themes. Therefore, it’s imperative to have your previs team at those tables very early on. Acting as a visual hub for where that creative tapestry is being woven together into the film, is where pre-production truly comes alive! This is where you can comfortably explore different approaches and quickly iterate with a team of fellow artists to design dynamic and memorable sequences without the stressful crunch and expensive change orders of post-production.”

In terms of talent, Smith said the nature of the studio’s work requires artists and producers to be nimble and versatile, which can sometimes be a learning curve for those coming from specific departments in VFX. 

“We look for people that are generalists. We get a lot of people that kind of come from the character animation world and they have to quickly learn lighting, compositing and cinematography. Camera work is absolutely paramount in our world. Everything from showing a clear understanding of how a real-world camera works on set to how to tell a visual story through designing a dramatic composition to how to block out an adrenaline-fuelled ‘oner’,” said Smith.

“You have got to be able to wear multiple hats in the visualization department. We like to look for people that are a ‘jack of all trades, master of some’. Above all else though, above animation or cinematography or technical prowess, we’re looking for creative and compelling story tellers. The visualization department is a 'story first' department!” –

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