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Does anybody know if 3D graphics have an use in planning cinematography for films? I can see this technology being of such usefulness in regards to where would be the best location to place the camera, what angle to use, how much light to enter the room, what objects to place on the scene, etc.

I'm an outsider to this world, but as an amateur screenwriter it seems interesting to me in that apparently it doesn't happen. I wonder why film directors don't work more obsessively with images (drawings, 3D models, etc) and instead wait until production has started and figure it out on location (which seems tremendously constrained by circumstances of time, datelines, and so on).
Well, there is previz. It's mainly used for setting up action shots and planning effects in pre production and there are even huge companies working only(?) with previz. Third Floor is an example of that.
Then there's a cinematographer called Matt Workman who made something called Cine Designer (http://www.cinematographydb.com/cinedesigner/), which is probably more along the lines of what you're looking for. It's for Cinema 4D.
So it is actually happening. A lot of directors and cinematographers use storyboards though, and that might be enough.
I also think you might be underestimating the amount of work cinematographers and directors do on set. People scout locations beforehand, measure light, do test runs with stand ins etc. Also keep in mind they have budgets that won't cover obsessing for weeks over every single shot all the time.
It's also hard to set up a scene in a 3D package and expect it to turn out exactly the same way in real life. You need to take into account subtle differences in materials, reflections, that the crew and the camera takes up space, that the ambient light might differ in real life etc etc. For accurate results you need CG artists with experience and skill, and that costs money. The best thing is always to spend time on set.
It depends on the director. Some barely use previs, some use it a lot. I remember seeing some of the previs for the recent planet of the apes stuff that had crazy things like fully rendered materials, hair simulations - it didn't look photoreal but it was pretty close to being its own movie at that point.
You can find previz videos on YouTube. Here's one for Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls


I've read that Spielberg is a huge fan of this. He plans everything before filming, and when they're on set, it's basically just sitting under umbrellas while the younger staff do the real work. I recall Shia Labeouf saying something about Spielberg being a well-oiled machine or a similar analogy, and that he's hardly around during shoots. He hires people he can trust to not stray away from all the pre-production work, and just approves/disapproves the daily footage that's shot.
Thanks very much guys! This is exactly what I wanted to know. I think it makes sense that (probably) only big budget productions use 3D software as they have more leeway for autistic precision, while drawings are not much of a compromise for arthouse projects (not that I knew many indie directors used them anyhow!).
Yes, 3D is heavily used for storyboarding and animatics.


Some smaller movies use it too.


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