Previs elements in cinematography

Objective: Use a previs element to guide the development of a Unity cutscene.

In cinema complex movies don’t just leap full formed onto the screen. A movie is a visualization of a story through the work of many people. Like a movie, a cutscene often begins with a script, “Darren sneaks up on a sleeping security guard and grabs the security guard without awakening them.” Like a movie a computer game needs actors, scenery, and cameras. To coordinate the activities of everyone, a previsualization or previs of the cutscene is often made, as exemplified below.

Fade in, Darren is sneaking up to security guard. Camera creeps along Darren’s left shoulder.
Camera pans down to see Darren grabbing the card.
Camera pans up to see Darren’s eyes and acknowledgement of success while security guard remains asleep.

The artist uses the previs to guide creation of the actors and animation. Another artist works on the environmental objects, and the game developer assembles the pieces to bring to previs to the screen. This assembly occurs using Unity timeline. The Cinemachine track controls which camera is used, over the shoulder (OTS) or middle (mid) shots. Animator tracks are used to control character action as well fading and panning cameras. Finally, an activation track turns on and off objects within the scene.

Unity timeline for the cutscene showing some of the animation track for the Actors.

When all these pieces come together the finished cutscene is a work of art. A previs is a tool to organize work around a common vision.

Finished Sleeping Guard cutscene

Software engineer