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Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, three African-American teenage brothers formed a band in their spare bedroom and played proto-punk music. In this era of Motown and disco, record companies found Death's music -- and band name -- too intimidating, and the group disbanded.

Released by Drafthouse Films, A Band Called Death chronicles the journey of what happened almost three decades later, when a 1974 demo tape stored in an attic found an audience several generations younger.

Here we share the lengths that directors Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino went to for their indie documentary, with everything from funding, to editing multiple codecs, to a traumatic interview with Jello Biafra, and yes, a remarkable group of musicians whose story has been long overdue for telling.
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Neill Blomkamp was hailed as a visionary for his direction and co-writing of District 9, and the three years since then have had audiences eagerly awaiting Neill's next picture. Elysium has likewise been hailed as a striking exploration of contemporary political and social issues in a science fiction context. In our interview with him, he's quick to point out that he doesn't believe his movies will change anything, but that they arose organically out of his own experiences.

"Organic" is in fact one of the key words to describe Neill's approach to filmmaking: a writer-director who moved up from the world of visual FX, taking special care to understand and engage himself in every discipline's contribution to a movie's organic whole. Read the article here.



For a look at how the effects were handled, read Elysium: Insights From The VFX Supervisors

Elysium: Insights From The VFX Supervisors

Elysium: Insights From The VFX Supervisors

Vancouver-based VFX facility Image Engine was the VFX unit for Elysium as well as the lead VFX vendor. Associate Visual Effects Supervisor Andrew Chapman and overall Production Visual Effects Producer Shawn Walsh talk about how their company handled the visual effects works from pre-production through to completion.


And here is a special look at Creating the Details of Elysium's Luxury World, including a plate and final delivered only to Creative COW:

Creating the Details of Elysium's Luxury World

Creating the Details of Elysium's Luxury World

VFX facility Whiskytree accomplished approximately 80 shots in Elysium, all of them focusing on the creation of the mansions, municipal buildings, flora and fauna of the wealthy enclave on Taurus. Lead VFX house Image Engine and Whiskytree created an unusually close collaboration to get the job done.
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After attending the USC School of Cinematic Arts on the way to his MFA in Film Production in 2006, Stephan Fleet has done "countless amounts" of TV visual effects as a VFX supervisor and artist. Among his TV VFX work at Encore are series Magic City, Beauty and the Beast, Vegas, The River, and Castle. Now Encore VFX's Executive Creative Director, Fleet oversees work on the CBS/DreamWorks production of the Stephen King series Under the Dome.

The challenge, says Stephan, is to understand the language spoken by each department. "I think one overlooked aspect of the VFX supervisor is that we need to function as a 'digital language translator.' The director and cinematographer and producers in Wilmington are thinking about the work in one way, with a specific set of terms and the VFX team in Hollywood is approaching the same shots from a very different perspective." Along the way, he also has to balance creative and technical considerations into a unified vision.

Encore VFX is now handling 30 TV shows at the same time, giving Stephan a front row seat for the merging of production and post. Don't miss this unique peek into a side of TV you only thought you understood.
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Panavision's John Galt is one of the industry's straightest talkers. That hasn't always sat well with those who disagree with him, but even they will acknowledge that he's also undeniably a technical visionary and a great storyteller -- all among the reasons why this 2009 interview remains one of the most popular we've ever published.

As Panavision's Senior Vice President of Advanced Digital Imaging, John led the team that created the Genesis camera, and was responsible for the F900 "Star Wars" camera that started the digital cinematography revolution. In this wide-ranging, no-holds barred conversation, John cuts through what he calls the "intentional obfuscation" of "marketing pixels," and explores the range of high resolution and high frame rate options that was just coming into view at the time of the original interview.

These topics were among the very hottest then, and even hotter today as many of John's predictions are coming to pass.


And don't miss our look at The Future of Cinematography: Part TWO - Insights From the Rental Houses

The Future of Cinematography: Insights From the Rental Houses

The Future of Cinematography

The first challenge that rental houses have had to adapt to is the constant evolution of acquisition formats, from film to tape and now, to data. As the use of film has dramatically declined, so the makes, models and formats of digital video cameras have proliferated.

Each rental house has had to decide whether or not to hold onto its film cameras and services. And each has had to decide what video cameras to purchase and support, from the earliest days of HDTV until today's evolution to 4K. As the number of formats and, now, codecs, changes rapidly, rental houses have to be cautious about amortizing technology that may be obsolete before it's paid for. In Part 2, we look at the ways that rental houses have adapted to thrive in a new digital age.


And discover a great way to use DaVinci Resolve and Avid in Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman

Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman

Covert Affairs and Suits with Online Editor Scott Freeman

Scott Freeman figured out how to use Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve in an innovative way to dramatically speed up media matching in the online editing process for USA Network's dramas, "Suits" and "Covert Affairs." He describes how he round-trips between the Avid Symphony and the DaVinci Resolve and why he wants every other online editor to learn his trick.
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Camera rental houses have a unique perspective on the film and television industry, because they've seen it all. As far back as the 1920s, they were supplying gear to productions, and watched the industry move from studios, to independent productions and owner operators who may own cameras, but not all lenses, lights or cranes. They've also watched technology move through film to video, and into files.

Along they way, they've had to make careful decisions about which gear is going to stick around long enough to pay for itself. And because those decisions make the difference between life and death for their businesses, rental houses have had to keep close watch on the entire breadth of the industry, with an eye to its future.

Creative COW's Debra Kaufman offers the most comprehensive look yet into the world of cinematography gear rental, and the insights these business operators offer for what's happening in the industry today, and where it might go from here.

The State of Cinematography: Part ONE - Insights From the Rental Houses

The State of Cinematography: Insights From the Rental Houses

The State of Cinematography

Today, the trends that rental houses experience -- from technology to business practices -- are a lens for understanding what's going on in the bigger ecosystem of the film/TV industry. In Part 1, we look at the challenges facing rental houses in today's production environment.


The Future of Cinematography: Part TWO - Insights From the Rental Houses

The Future of Cinematography: Insights From the Rental Houses

The Future of Cinematography

The first challenge that rental houses have had to adapt to is the constant evolution of acquisition formats, from film to tape and now, to data. As the use of film has dramatically declined, so the makes, models and formats of digital video cameras have proliferated.

Each rental house has had to decide whether or not to hold onto its film cameras and services. And each has had to decide what video cameras to purchase and support, from the earliest days of HDTV until today's evolution to 4K. As the number of formats and, now, codecs, changes rapidly, rental houses have to be cautious about amortizing technology that may be obsolete before it's paid for. In Part 2, we look at the ways that rental houses have adapted to thrive in a new digital age.


And don't miss our look at Warner Bros. Pictures Pacific Rim and the animation created by Industrial Light + Magic

Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light + Magic

Pacific Rim Animated by Industrial Light + Magic

When director Guillermo Del Toro conceived the battle between the Kaiju monsters and human-controlled Jaeger robots, he knew the best possible VFX facility to bring this vision to reality would be Industrial Light + Magic, the company that pioneered CG creature-creation. In an unusually close collaboration between director and VFX facility, Pacific Rim gets up-close-and-personal with organic and metallic creatures that are both believable and thrilling.


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"I'm the online editor for Suits since the pilot and Covert since Season 2," says Scott Freeman. "What makes it a fascinating position is that it's 100 percent file-based, which provided me with a fun dilemma to solve. I first heard about Blackmagic Design through their 10-bit codec, which offered uncompressed SD at a smaller file size and became a huge fan. I'm also a die-hard Avid fan. I love Avid and its metadata has always been a great treat for me.

"When Blackmagic Design released Resolve, I realized how I could use it to solve my dilemma. Some people might think it's strange for an online editor to use Resolve, but it does much more than color correction so I decided to use it to pull my shots. I had been looking for this solution for a long time. What took me five days now takes me 11 minutes. I dove into using Resolve v.7 in March 2011 on Suits and Covert Affairs and haven't looked back."

Take a look at how Scott Freeman rountrips between Blackmagic's DaVinci Resolve and Avid.


Take a look Behind the Lens of The Lone Ranger with Bojan Bazelli

Behind the Lens: The Lone Ranger's Bojan Bazelli

Behind the Lens: The Lone Ranger's Bojan Bazelli

Bojan Bazelli, ASC, working with Director Gore Verbinski, designed and executed a unique look for The Lone Ranger. With a nod to the much-filmed Western genre, they made a uniquely contemporary film with a much more desaturated color palette and a grittier look to the classic locations.


And for a deeper look into the workflow for The Lone Ranger, read A Contemporary Style for a Classic Genre

Behind the Lens: The Lone Ranger's Bojan Bazelli

The Lone Ranger: A Contemporary Style for a Classic Genre

When cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, ASC decided to shoot The Lone Ranger with 35mm film, he also realized that some of the scenes might best be served with a digital camera. Choosing the ARRI Alexa Studio for the film's anamorphic look and Codex recorders, Bazelli was able to create a filmic look in digital that seamlessly integrated with the 35mm footage.
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World War Z depicts a world overrun by ravenous, fast-moving zombies. Shooting this cataclysmic environment was no walk in the park; the production went to numerous challenging locations including Malta (in the middle of a sweltering summer), the West coast of England and Ireland where all the ocean sequences were filmed, an abandoned water treatment facility on the East coast of England, a city building in Glasgow, Scotland that doubled for Philadelphia City Hall, and Budapest.

When World War Z producers knew they would be taking the production to a variety of tough locations, Unit Production Manager Colin Wilson knew who to call for help with video assist, camera and VFX support: Video Hawks Founder/President Tom Loewy, Principal Dan Moore and Technoprops Founder/President Glenn Derry. The trio had worked together on a variety of tough assignments, including making virtual cinematography a reality for director James Cameron during the shooting of Avatar.

Read about how the team created an 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 in World War Z: Advanced Location Production for the Zombie Apocalypse.


Also, read about using Blackmagic Design's Teranex 2D for Documentary Upconversion

Using a Little Blackmagic to Revisit a Documentary

Using a Little Blackmagic to Revisit a Documentary

Pixie Dust flows from Blackmagic Design's Teranex 2D Processor to integrate and upconvert newly discovered vintage SD footage, photographic stills and new interviews into a re-edited and remastered 2001 documentary memorializing the 1963 NCAA "Game of Change" between Mississippi State University and Loyola. Over 60% of the new DVD/Blu-ray includes new footage or pictures, and the challenge was to make the old SD footage look as good as possible in an HD project.
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Method Studios Vancouver created 185 shots on White House Down, including CG helicopters, digital doubles, fully digital and extended partial environments with the White House and Capitol Dome, lots of trees; effects included missile trails, explosions, fire, smoke, building destruction, trees blowing and being shredded, ground impact destruction, water interaction. Oh, and they also did some bluescreen comps.

The film's total number of shots was 900 shots; other houses that worked on the film included Uncharted Territory, Prime Focus World, Hybride Technologies, LUXX Studios, Image Engine, Scanline VFX, with additional VFX by Crazy Horse Effects, Trixter, Crafty Apes, Factory VFX, Fuse FX.

In this article, Method VFX supervisor Ollie Rankin, who worked with Method VFX Producer Christopher Anderson, talks to Creative COW about how Method's crew of 80 artists handled some of the movie's most challenging VFX.


CatDV Enhances Production of JPL/NASA Space Exploration Programs.

CatDV Enhances Production of JPL/NASA Space Exploration Programs

CatDV Enhances Production of JPL/NASA Space Exploration Programs

When Explorer 1, built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), launched into orbit in 1958 successfully marking the United States' first entry into space, America's excitement for space exploration was ignited. For over 50 years, JPL has continued to explore the solar system, other stars and galaxies with robotic spacecraft, amassing huge data files along the way.

JPL's television production facility is tasked with archiving and preserving the historical content of over 50 years of media files from the early days of rocketry and interstellar space exploration. JPL clearly needed a powerful asset management system, and found a powerful tool in CatDV. Image: A Splendor Seldom Seen, courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute, image ID: PIA14934
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This week, we go behind the lens with Director and Cinematographer Tom Burstyn CSC, FRSA, who is a multi-award winning, Emmy-nominated DP with over 30 years experience. He trained at the National Film Board of Canada as a documentary maker, before turning to the feature film industry. Tom is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and has dual New Zealand/Canadian citizenship. He directed the the Oscar shortlisted documentary This Way of Life as well as the award-winning One Man, One Cow, One Planet, both of which we covered in Creative COW Magazine.

Thomas Burstyn lensed Season One of SyFy's Defiance, currently airing on SyFy in the US and other international outlets, and is in the midst of shooting Season Two. The show is set in a near-future where a variety of extraterrestial races have found their way to a ravaged earth.

He took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Creative COW about his experiences. The Defiance logo touts "New Earth. New Rules". We've discovered by speaking with Tom that he's defining some new shooting rules of his own - and with blessings from SyFy! Find out more in Behind The Lens: Tom Burstyn Shoots Defiance.


Douglas Trumbull continues to pioneer in the worlds of VFX and Cinematography shooting 120 fps at 4K in 3D.

Douglas Trumbull Pushes New Limits With High Frame Rate Cinema

Douglas Trumbull Pushes New Limits With High Frame Rate Cinema

Douglas Trumbull wanted to make UFOTOG, a 10-minute short, to showcase his vision of immersive movie-going: 120 fps at 4K in 3D, on a curved screen. To shoot and present a movie in a never-before-seen format, he turned to JMR Electronics to design and build a server and storage system that could collect, manage, playback and edit the huge amounts of image data generated by 120 fps, 4K and 3D. In this story, we learn how Trumbull created an innovative pipeline and worked with JMR Electronics to come up with a tailored solution to his very demanding production needs.


Wayne Brinton, visual effects supervisor at Modus FX takes readers behind the scenes of the company's VFX magic in creating 227 visual effects shots for Now You See Me.

Now You See Me: Modus FX Helps Create the Magic

Now You See Me: Modus FX Helps Create the Magic

Modus FX created 227 visual effects shots in Now You See Me, a movie starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher about four young magicians who appear to rob banks during their performances, distributing the spoils to their audiences, while the FBI and Interpol pursue them. Launched in 2007 by co-founders Marc Bourbonnais and Yanick Wilisky, Modus FX is located in a 12,000 square foot facility just outside Montreal.

Modus was charged with many of the film's CG-heavy sequences, including the 5Pointz segment, which was almost entirely CG. In this article Modus FX visual effects supervisor Wayne Brinton takes Creative COW readers behind the scenes of the company's VFX magic.
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