People often mix up the terms ‘pre-production’ and ‘pre-viz’ thinking they mean the same thing. The words themselves are related in the sense they both refer to preparatory stages prior to production, however, their use in the proper context is a question of semantics.
This is why it is sometimes difficult for directors, department heads and cast and crew to remain on the same page. And for a film or TVC project to be successful, it is important key contacts across various departments use fixed terminology, both on and off set.
With that in mind, we’re going to discuss what each term specifically refers to in the pre-production pipeline and how they should be used to promote accurate and consistent dialogue.
The Problem with the Prefix
As filmmakers, we understand that ‘production’ is universally used when talking about the physical or digital act of recording a series of images onto film. It is therefore interesting that ‘visualisation’ is rarely if ever confused with or used in place of production.
The same cannot be said of pre-production and pre-visualisation. Being more colloquial, the two terms are typically used by certain individuals in certain roles and departments.
The language around film has evolved in a way that allows these two words to mean the same thing, but not be used interchangeably. Consequently, the mere attachment of a three-letter prefix catches many people off-guard.
I believe the waters get muddied because pre-production and pre-visualisation are lumped into the same category—that being ‘before production’— and the distinction is therefore not readily apparent.
This makes the start and end point of these two phases decidedly less clear to those who do not possess much knowledge of the filmmaking process as a whole. In truth, pre-production and pre-visualisation actually overlap.
Components of Pre-Production
Pre-production is an overarching phase of the filmmaking process. It begins during the development of the screenplay and ends as production begins. You’ll often hear directors use this term over pre-visualisation as it has more of a general purpose meaning.
• Casting your talent
• Locking the script
• Scouting locations
• Finalising the budget
• Hiring crew members
• Sourcing equipment vendors
• Renting out gear
• Holding table readings.
For a more comprehensive list, read ‘What to Include on Your Pre-Production Checklist’.
Components of Pre-Visualisation
Pre-visualisation is a sub-phase of pre-production that exists under more confined parameters. It begins during the development of a shooting script and ends before filming. The majority of the time, art directors and artists use the term internally.
• Developing a shooting script
• Engaging a storyboard artist
• Engaging a concept artist
• Commissioning animatics.
For more on the topic of visualisation in general, browse our Visualisation blog archive.
Regardless of the budget or scale of the project you are involved in undertaking, communication is key. It may seem obvious, but colloquial terms that are not universal in their use or meaning can create confusion, often leading to missed deadlines—and sometimes worse.
But now that you know why and how pre-production and pre-visualisation are different—and the nuances that exist between them—you should be better equipped to articulate your ideas.
It will certainly help you get your message across and come in handy when working and conversing with others on a film or TVC project.
Good luck and happy filming!