Previz for Commercials

Taught by Matthew Workman

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
July 2015 
6 hours 6 minutes 
In this course we will be previsualizing a live­action Nike skateboarding commercial, as a solo previs artist in Maya. We’ll be creating shots based on a sample agency storyboard and a sample director’s treatment. We’ll be creating a custom 3D character using Autodesk Character Generator and rigging him with a skateboard for animation. We’ll be customizing his texture and learning how to light using Viewport 2.0.

We will examine how a previs artist fits into a modern live action commercial production pipeline and how to accurately represent a real world camera in Maya. We’ll do some basic 3D character animation and examine how a real world camera is moved using a tripod, dolly, and technocrane.

By the end of the course we will have a finished animatic that we’ll edit in Adobe Premiere as well as a storyboard of that we’ll create in Adobe Indesign. We conclude by learning looking at previs related jobs at The Third Floor and Halon Entertainment.

Matt Workman is a Technical DP / Cinematographer based in New York City. He specializes in previs, motion control, and virtual production. Matt is able to work seamlessly with the agency, production company, and visual effects company by using 3D previs as a common visual language. Matt is the founder and editor of Cinematography Database (, a company and blog that focuses on modern cinematography.
Previz for Commercials
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

Previs Workflow Overview. In the first lesson we are going to look at the entire workflow of a solo previs artist. We will set up Maya in real world scale and animate a simple scene. We’ll export a playblasts and screenshots, that we’ll bring into InDesign to create storyboards and into Premiere to create an animatic. It’s important to see the entire workflow as we will be doing it for every shot. We also explain where a previs artists fit in the Commercial Production Pipeline.

Class 2

Creating a Custom Rigged Character Quickly. In the second lesson we learn how to use the Autodesk Character Generator, a free web app, to create a custom character. We then use the HIK system in Maya to automatically rig our character to accept motion capture data and/or hand animation. We will also add a hat, skateboard, and customize the texture of the model. At the end of the lesson you’ll have a fully rigged and textured character to animate.

Class 3

The Creative and Real World Lenses. In the third lesson we break down the Agency Storyboards and the Director’s Treatment. We then hop into Maya and previs Shot 01, an ECU of the skater. We also discuss real world lenses and focal lengths, specifically the Arri Master Primes and Angeniuex Optimo 12x 24­290mm.

Class 4

Viewport 2.0 Lighting and Basic Techvis (Shot 01 and 02). In the fourth lesson we explore the different lighting options inside Maya Viewport 2.0 (Open GL) with standard Maya shaders. We then add lighting to Shot 01 and continue to previs and light Shot 02. We look at what it might take create a shot that is 2” from the ground in techvis. We then bring our first stills into InDesign and Premiere.

Class 5

HIK Character Animation (Shot 03 and 04). In the fifth class we previs Shot 03 and Shot 04. We begin by animating the skateboarder from standing to riding on the board. This animation will be used for Shot 03, 04, 05, and 06. We also explore lighting working with the HIK character rig in more depth.

Class 6

Real World Camera Movement and Entrance Pupil (Shot 05). In lesson six we look at the difference between a real world camera and lens system and the Maya native camera. We then look at how a real world camera moves on a O’Connor 2575 fluid head tripod, a J.L. Fisher Model 10 Dolly, and Technocrane 22 with a Libra head. We then previs Shot 05 and compare a native Maya camera to a real world execution.

Class 7

Previs Shot 06 and 07. In lesson seven we previs Shot 06 and look at some different camera moves using the native Maya camera and how a real world dolly would work. Next we move into modelling our main set piece, the stairs and ledge.

Class 8

Previs Shot 08, 09, 10.

Class 9

In lesson nine we previs Shot 11, 12, and 13.

Class 10

Final Storyboard and Animatic and Previs Jobs. We will finish our final Previs Storyboards and put the final touches on our animatic. We’ll conclude the course by looking at different previs jobs at The Third Floor and Halon Entertainment.