I love SciFi. Film got to me somewhere between a degree in design (1991) and a dawning career as commercial illustrator in Germany. That “more professional“ career was disrupted by a call to Los Angeles and total immersion into Hollywood’s then surfacing need for “concept design.“ Even today, I still try to find out what production design needs to be. It changes for every story you’re helping to tell, every team you work with and every production. What keeps it rewarding is to forget the process and become part of the audience.
The way I present design ideas changes throughout the production process. It is a reaction to what we're at in the production phase, the audience of the presentation and the purpose of the the pitch. By the time and resources available as well as (sorry) the importance of the occasion. You need to present and emphasize different aspects of a movie's (or any project's) visual - ideas and - anchors, depending on these parameters. Let me elaborate by production phase:
1. Before You‘re hired (,BYH not BCE)
I don't do “free“ before hire design presentations. It‘s work, to be taken serious. If there‘s a script or source novel, I‘ll read it. Do some visual research and possibly - if I have the time - a design breakdown. The interview with the director, producers or whoever is in the “opposing“ chair is about connecting. On a human level, on ideas, frameworks and procedures. All up for discussions at this point.
It is very unprofessional (against ADG rules and ethics) to expect a free presentation as opposed to a meeting. It diminishes the value of your work. You may leave behind a tease, but not the blueprint for how you see a project. As a designer we need parameters, we build our project framework collaboratively over time. If you want to do it by/for yourself, buy a canvas and exhibit at an art gallery instead (I'd love to, again sometime).
One of the parameters is inspiration, so we research and dig deep, a big one the director we work for. The interview is about feeling out His/Her vision and see if we can supplement or excite it. Not about free design sketches, pretty concept art and research. That's (at this point) for yourself to find your take on the project, make educated guesses on what could be. Doing and leaving presentation art for free is a “go ahead, copy my ideas and hire the cheaper guy“ - incentive.
2. Visual development (no, or hardly a script, = maybe an outline or source novel)
You‘re hired, now what? The reign of the Keyframe starts. During this time the presentation of visual ideas is continuous, may be formalized to anything - bi-weekly presentations cut to fit the meeting style, digital slide shows or collaged boards. InDesign Documents. Pow-WOW Pics. The audience is usually the director, writer(s) and creative producers. I like to prepare templates that work to pull images together and give a unified look to whatever we're presenting. At this point I'm usually doing sketches that are the basis to kick-off a dialogue with concept artists. If I can, I‘ll sneak in a few pieces of my own. Sometimes its easier to try things myself than art direct someone else. Storyboarding and previs may be used to pitch more complex ideas... Pitches made during this time are cycled into script ideas that later may come back to be visually reinterpreted.
3. Pre-production (some kind of script, more about budget) ...
And during Pre production tested with a priority on feasibility and execution. As now its about figuring out how to get it done. Visual research and pretty pictures are substituted and analyzed with previz, storyboards, block in set design, 3d concepts and location images. Frankenstein sets... Presentations now are usually more by set than the development-sequence.
4. Production (a ever evolving script, all about making the day)
Nobody has any time now. More than ever, its about bringing your images or other media to the point. To require the shorter attention span (because every one is focused on the shoot, today), and it probably has to be more portable, to be shown on set or location.
5. Post production and marketing (A closer to being compiled script, making it “gel“)
Happy times. Now you can work over actual footage, present comps over idealistic stills. Se what actually happened and trace paths long forgotten to see how to enhance the final product.
Did this make sense? Help? Hopefully. Still- its theoretical. Practically a lot of these production and design phases overlap as sequences and sets come and go, or schedules change. Much happens simultaneously.
Reading the question, I thought people simplify the issue too much, and it doesn't reflect job realities. So I hope this will be an incentive for young designers to think why and to whom they are presenting and how best to get a dialogue starting. In my eyes a dialogue is more important than a design statement. As much as I hate design by committee, you can make a statement and people say thanks - never to see you again. A dialogue is an invitation. It presents the opportunity to evolve an idea into something to surpass anything the involved parties initially may have hoped to achieve.
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