Illustration of a truck using 3D previs software.
July 28, 2021

3D Previsualization Software for Innovative Studios

Digital Asset Management
Version Control

Filmmakers have been using previsualization software to storyboard for years. It allows artists to take five lines of a script and bring the story to life.

With the rise of virtual production, previsualization has taken on a new meaning. 3D previs software — like powerful game engines — are empowering teams to do more than map out their creative journey.

Teams can use Unreal Engine, Unity, and more to start designing final assets from day one. This can help create more buy in amongst stakeholders and allow the imagery to evolve across projects.

What Is Previsualization?

Previsualization — also known as previs, pre-rending, or wireframing — involves traditional and virtual art departments (VADs) visualizing complex scenes before filming. Producers, directors, and other stakeholders can understand how the end film will look and provide feedback before going into production.

What’s the Difference Between Previs, Techvis, and Postvis?

There are a lot of steps to visualize in the filmmaking process. Previs happens early, probably eight weeks before anyone steps on set. For virtual production projects it can be much earlier, closer to 20 weeks. During previs, teams can experiment with new and innovative technologies.

Once assets are approved, they sometimes need more technical information. Techvis is a version of previs that involves adding in 3D effects and CGI. It can also incorporate details on camera work, lighting, coloring, layout, and more.

Postvis happens during the post-production and editing process. Final images are rendered and combined.

Why Do Filmmakers Use Previsualization Software?

Using previsualization software, teams can storyboard digitally, allowing them to produce and make changes faster. This saves time. It also helps ensure that when people start working on set that the vision matches with what is being captured on film. During previs (and now even into production) creatives can position, edit, and modify objects and backgrounds in just a few minutes.

For filmmakers, this is a total game changer. In the past, production would wrap, and the final film would head off to editors and VFX houses. For many, the final cut would be a mystery! But enhancements in 3D previs software now allow everyone to see a blocked-out preview of the final film before production even starts.

So, what kind of previsualization software are teams using?

Storyboard Software Examples

There are a lot of previsualization software out there. Let’s review some 2D and 3D previs options. Looking for stuff on just game engines? Jump ahead.

Storyboard Pro

Emmy-award winning Storyboard Pro has been used by hit shows like The Simpsons. Its intuitive interface is like Photoshop, which allows new users get up and running quickly. Creatives can sketch using built-in drawing tools and add in animations and sounds.

Storyboard Artist Studio

While a little pricier than Storyboard Pro, Storyboard Artist Studio 7 packs in features that allow you to create quickly. It includes backgrounds, objects, characters, effects, and animations that you can use to storyboard. You can even add in photos of locations.

MovieStorm      

MovieStorm is a 3D previs software tool that provides some animation for storyboarding. There are tools to build sets and characters. Although this lacks the quality of a game engine, it can help you figure out where actors and props go on set.

FrameForge Previz Studio

If you want details in cinematography, FrameForge Previz Studio can help. You can program shot angles to create more dynamic storyboards.

These software tools do a lot to plan out your vision. But once you go to production, the work is not always relevant.

What if you could create visuals in previs, use them, and then iterate on it and make it even better? You can with the right previsualization software…  

3D Previs Software » Drive New Innovations

If you want to build big, game engines are the ticket. You can change lighting, physics, and more all to create dynamic stories throughout previs and beyond. Plus, these game engines are free to use (some asterisks do apply).

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine is the industry-standard 3D previsualization software. Productions like The Mandalorian and Ford v Ferrari use it to create stunning visuals from previs to post-production.

Real-time rendering with Unreal gives immediate feedback to global teams as scenes are updated. Once you start using Unreal Engine, you can iterate on the same asset, eliminating time spent storyboarding. Now your storyboards are the foundation for the final graphics, which gets teams ahead when it comes to creating interactive marketing content.

Trusted by industry leaders, Unreal Engine has the MetaHuman Creator, which creates high-quality digital human in minutes. Combined with an extensive library of objects, textures, and sounds, teams have everything they need to build a new world. And with UE5 on the horizon, it is only going to get better.

Unity

Although known for its strong share in the mobile game market, Unity has already been used in films. Teams can combine virtual and augmented realities with computer graphics and footage captured on set. Unity is very user friendly, and its flexible and rapid environment allows it to adapt to any project.

Using game engines as a previsualization software requires additional tools. Learn how ETC managed everything.
 

Free Previs Software + VFX Training

Get an introduction to what you need to make virtual production a reality with free previs tools and expert-led VFX training.

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How Did ETC Create Final Assets in Previs?

When Entertainment Technology Center started working on their short film Ripple Effect, they wanted to break down traditional silos in filmmaking. They brought together ICVR, Halon Entertainment, and other studios to dive into various previs use cases.

Although many previs processes start with a PowerPoint or simple email, ICVR had been working with Unreal Engine for years. They held onto past digital assets, allowing them to constantly improve their work. Having a huge library ready to go meant they could simply pick a character or a background and prototype a scene.

While Unreal Engine does come built-in characters and graphics, ICVR’s library helped them do more on a tighter timeline. Quick access to assets, helped speed up their previs pipeline. And stakeholders could see their vision from the start.

Digital Assets + Previsualization Software

So as teams are innovating and iterating assets, they need a place to story everything. Real-time rendering creates massive files so a simple hard drive won’t work. ETC was also working with contributors around the globe, so they needed to be able to send assets, fast.

It’s why ETC chose Perforce Helix Core as the backbone for their data management solution. Helix Core is the version control solution trusted by 19 of the top 20 game dev companies. Why? It has tight integrations with game engines, like Unreal, and artist and designer tools. The performance capabilities of Helix Core enhanced collaboration allowing everyone to get the files and feedback they needed.

“Perforce Helix Core has been a foundational tool. It helps create a single source for all our film's digital assets. We can version our critical IP and digital files within an infrastructure that supports and integrates with leading tools like Unreal Engine, 5th Kind, ftrack, and more.”.”— Erik Weaver, Director, Adaptive Production & Special Projects at ETC

Create and Iterate More with Perforce

 As you embark on this new frontier of filmmaking, you need the right previsualization software to support your dreams. If you need to manage:

  • Remote siloed contributors.
  • Lots of large files.
  • Range of digital assets.
  • Numerous iterations.
  • Security for valuable IP.

Then you need the right version control — Helix Core.

Unlike other version control systems, Helix Core can manage all the large digital assets associated with previs. It gives your team a single source of truth as you go through production and then work on other projects.

Binary files, audio files, video files, code, and more can all be stored and securely versioned inside a Helix Core depot. Your teams get lightning-fast performance thanks to Perforce Federated Architecture). Then when you’re ready to render, everything can be pulled into your game engine. Because Helix Core integrates with more than just Unreal and Unity. Try it with all the most popular game engines, including Lumberyard integration and CryEngine integration.

Helix Core can be deployed in the cloud and offers integrations with the tools digital creators are already using — 3ds Max, Maya, and more.

Free Previsualization Software For Your Team

See for yourself why so many virtual production studios choose Helix Core for 3D previs. Get started for free (up to 5 users and 20 workspaces).

FREE PREVIS SOFTWARE