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"We are going to climb mountains" - that's what director Peter Berg told Petra Holtorf-Stratton before they began work on his movie, Lone Survivor. "And we did," she told us, "literally and figuratively." Petra tells us about making this powerful film based on the true story of a Navy SEAL's ordeal in Afghanistan, and also about her remarkable transition from VFX artist to movie producer.

The movie has opened to a huge response: over $38 million at the US box office, and a rare A+ Cinemascore rating from audiences who've seen it. It was shot on a strikingly low budget for this kind of Hollywood feature ($50 million pre-rebate), and Petra walks us through some innovative ways that the production was able to keep as much of that budget on screen as possible.

Much of that came from her background in post, and knowing the efficiencies that can be introduced by having "post" artists engaged as early as possible in the process. Sound design was one the unusual places that Petra focused.

As Petra, pictured here, tells us, "Dror Mohar, one of our sound editors, had to climb up that 12,000 foot mountain, the same way we did during filming to get to that location to record the ambient sounds and the stillness. It's completely different if you record it there than generating it with samples from a sound library. As a result, we flew through our mixes. When sound supervisor Wylie Stateman started in post, we were 80 percent there rather than starting at the 20 percent mark."

The entire team did whatever it took to create something truly exceptional, with Petra explaining what her billing as co-producer meant for her own responsibilities: "I dealt with all of post, from making the deals, setting up editorial, sound mix, DI, coming up with the solutions, finding the vendors and making sure they are the right fit for Pete. And I did the VFX producing as well."

As engaging as the story of making Lone Survivor itself is, you'll be fascinated to follow the journey of one of its producers from her education in business administration and computer programming, to VFX-intensive features from Independence Day to Twilight, and everything from romantic comedies to Lone Survivor, where it is imperative for VFX to NOT be seen. Read more....
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Creative COW Contributing Editor Debra Kaufman recently caught up with some of the industry leaders who've contributed to Creative COW to ask: What were the big technology trends in media and entertainment over the past year? What's going to be significant in the coming year? In Part 1 of the series, she provides broad overviews of these trends, and in part 2, she takes a deeper dive into the specific observations from each of them.


Becoming a Better Editor (but mostly a better human being)

Becoming a Better Editor (but mostly a better human being)
Creative COW's Kylee Wall isn't just an accomplished editor. She's also a veteran of every form of social media, and has learned a lot about how people conduct themselves on each of these platforms. The turn around the corner into 2014 gave her an opportunity to reflect on how best to both make yourself look better, and actually BE better, in your online persona.
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Michael Slovis ASC Breaking BadA Band Called Death
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In honor of Peter O'Toole's passing, we bring you this story of the restoration of the movie featuring his most iconic role.

Lawrence of Arabia: Sony's Beautiful 4K Restoration

Sony Pictures Entertainment finished a 3-year process culminating in a stunning 4K restoration of the 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia, completed just in time for the film's 50th anniversary. Guided by Sony Executive Vice President Grover Crisp, this massive project engaged cutting-edge technology and expertise from Sony Colorworks DI facility as well as Prasad Corporation and MTI Film, working together on a newly scanned negative. One of the most beautiful films of all time is now more gorgeous than ever.

Lawrence of Arabia: Sony's Beautiful 4K Restoration


Remembering Peter O'Toole

Having seen Lawrence of Arabia as a wide-eyed child, Debra Kaufman had no idea that one day she would interview the star with the flowing white robes and piercing blue eyes. Here, she recalls her interview with Peter O'Toole for The Hollywood Reporter and what makes him an actor whose movies will endure.
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It's not news that Japan has announced its intent to broadcast 8K by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In today's production environment, the advent of 4K is still news and 8K seems like a futuristic pipe dream. But when Creative COW Contributing Editor Debra Kaufman was in Japan in November, she learned just how serious Japan is in its intent to broadcast 8K -- and to do so sooner than originally announced.


Wilfred: A Sitcom Shot Entirely on DSLRs

Wilfred: A Sitcom Shot Entirely on DSLRs

Wilfred, the FX Networks quirky comedy about a manic-depressive man who sees his neighbor's dog as a man in a dog suit, is shot entirely with DSLR cameras, including greenscreens. Randall Einhorn, a cinematographer turned Executive Producer/Director, and Director of Photography Kurt Jones talk here about some of the innovative production set-ups they use for this unusual series.


An Odd Delight: A Corporate Editor's Leap Into Broadcast

An Odd Delight: A Corporate Editor's Leap Into Broadcast

Creative COW Contributing Editor Kylee Wall moved from Indianapolis to Atlanta as part of a move from corporate video into broadcast. Sure, some things stayed the same, but so much more was so different -- a new place to live, a new kind of workspace, new kinds of projects, AND TAPE -- that transitioning to a new NLE in Adobe Premiere Creative Cloud was the least of it. Certainly nothing compared to a fever of 104 that took her out for most of her first week. It's a remarkable tale that Kylee tells as only she can.


With Paul Mazursky, It's All Crap!

With Paul Mazursky, It's All Crap!

When Paul Mazursky decided to create a series of intimate conversations with Mel Brooks, Leonard Nimoy and his many other industry friends, Cinematographer Bill Megalos came on board to produce. In this article, Bill talks about the choices he made with regard to camera, lighting and direction to make compelling interviews with a limited budget.
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Hunger Games: Catching Fire continues to burn bright in the eyes of movie-goers, breaking holiday records, and, bringing its box-office total to $572,795,657 worldwide -- in just 10 days!

When we last touched base with editor and longtime Creative COW member and community leader, Alan Edward Bell, A.C.E., he had just finished cutting The Amazing Spider-Man. For The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we find him reunited with director Francis Lawrence, for whom he edited Water for Elephants. Bell talks about the challenges of editing Catching Fire and some of the gear choices he made to improve the pipeline's efficiency.



Doctor Who 50th Anniversary-Milk's VFX for Day of the Doctor

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary -- Milk's VFX for The Day of the Doctor

When The Mill in London decided to close its TV and Film Department, the staff decided to open up VFX house Milk. They brought with them a first, very challenging job, which was begun at The Mill: creating stereo 3D effects for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. Here's how the newly launched company took charge to create some memorable VFX.



Thor: The Dark World Crowned by Blur's End Titles, Prologue

Thor: The Dark World Crowned by Blur's End Titles, Prologue

Marvel Studios tapped VFX/animation/design company Blur Studio to create a prologue and stereo 3D end titles for its recently released Thor: The Dark World. This is the story of how Blur Studio was able to create both the CG-heavy prologue and graphic novel-inspired 3D end titles in a tight 12-week schedule, from creative idea to completion.



The Sony FDR-AX1 & Your 4K Future

The Sony FDR-AX1 & Your 4K Future

Even though it's not yet a broadcast format, 4K production has been happening every day for years -- delivered as HD. It offers the same advantages that early HD production offered for SD delivery, including beautiful downscaling and a measure of future-proofing. Looking for a flexible, affordable way to jumpstart your 4K future? Join longtime Creative COW leader Douglas Spotted Eagle for a look at Sony's FDR-AX1 camcorder.
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When we last touched base with editor and longtime Creative COW member and community leader, Alan Edward Bell, ACE, he had just finished cutting The Amazing Spider-Man. For The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we find him reunited with director Francis Lawrence, for whom he edited Water for Elephants. Bell talks about the challenges of editing Catching Fire and some of the gear choices he made to improve the pipeline's efficiency.


Behind the Lens: Kramer Morgenthau, ASC on Sleepy Hollow

Behind the Lens: Kramer Morgenthau, ASC on Sleepy Hollow

Kramer Morgenthau, ASC has shot over 60 films films, including Thor: The Dark World. He also been nominated for 5 Primetime Emmys for his television work, and won an ASC Award for his work on HBO's Game of Thrones. He also shot the pilot for the Fox hit Sleepy Hollow, which gave us an opportunity to talk to him about his work, his influences and his philosophy of lighting and camera moves.
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The digital revolution was supposed to save us all from endless streams of paper but instead has spawned an even deeper addiction to the printed page. Here's how one filmmaker decided to take the road-less-cluttered and literally enter the ring of paperless production for Lionsgate and World Wrestling Entertainment.


Ender's Game: The Set-to-Screen Color Pipeline

Ender's Game: The Set-to-Screen Color Pipeline

Ender's Game: The Set-to-Screen Color Pipeline

With 1500 VFX plates, 900 final VFX shots and 350,000 R3D source VFX frames spread across more than a year's work and a hundred different people, Light Iron colorist and co-founder Ian Vertovec and CEO Michael Cioni needed to create an efficient data management and color pipeline for Ender's Game. In this case study, Light Iron takes you step by step through the collaboration and innovation that fueled this demanding project.


Stargate Studios: Delivering Content for TV's Top Shows with Adobe Creative Cloud

Stargate Studios Sets the Bar for Visual Effects

Stargate Studios Sets the Bar for Visual Effects for shows like The Walking Dead, House of Lies

Delivering content for some of television's top shows, including House of Lies, Grey's Anatomy, and, of course The Walking Dead, Stargate Studios continues to break the mold of how feature films, television series, electronic games, and commercials are generated. In this article, read how Adobe Creative Cloud and automation create a competitive edge for the iconic production studio, Stargate Studios.
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Before coming to Creative COW, before his lives in product marketing and product management at Avid and Boris FX, Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson ran a video production company. In one especially memorable adventure, he found himself quite literally up to his armpits in alligators. He had no idea that this was going to happen when the day began. At the time, he was focused on a brand new fear: getting sliced in half by burning underwear.


Here are some other location production stories you may have missed!

Iraqi Filmmaking Workshop

Iraqi Filmmaking Workshop

Iraqi Filmmaking Workshop

In May 2013, award-winning cinematographer Bill Megalos traveled to Iraq to train young Iraqi filmmakers on behalf of a program organized by the Humpty Dumpty Institute. In this first trip, Bill blogs about guiding these filmmakers as they make short dramatic films this year. The focus in May was on their scripts, on story and character development, on working with actors, as well as giving them an overall background in production.


World War Z: Location Production for the Zombie Apocalypse

World War Z: Location Production for the Zombie Apocalypse

World War Z: Location Production for the Zombie Apocalypse

The team that developed virtual cinematography for Avatar went even further for World War Z, creating a much more advanced system for everything from video assist to capturing lens metadata, able to stand up to eight weeks of 14 hour days, in remote locations and extreme conditions around the world.


Jacob Rosenberg Directs Waiting for Lightning

Jacob Rosenberg Directs Waiting for Lightning

Jacob Rosenberg Directs Waiting for Lightning

Waiting for Lightning is the tragic and triumphant story of legendary skateboarder Danny Way, following him from his chaotic childhood to his early talent with a skateboard through to his many professional successes. With a combination of archival footage, interviews and skateboard action, Waiting for Lightning also takes us on Danny's journey to China to jump the Great Wall on a skateboard. Jacob Rosenberg takes us along for the ride.


A Tale of Two Field Monitors: Panasonic & Flanders Scientific

A Tale of Two Field Monitors: Panasonic & Flanders Scientific

A Tale of Two Field Monitors: Panasonic & Flanders Scientific

The world is full of production monitors these days, but two new models stand out thanks to their big screens that can run for hours on battery power. That alone means cameramen and producers can finally take a big monitor into the field, without giving up much mobility.
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