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There's distinctive, and there's distinctive.

Here's the test: can you look at a single, random frame from a movie, and tell beyond any doubt who directed it? Wes Anderson may pass that test more easily than anyone working today. From his 1996 feature debut, Bottle Rocket, to 2012's Moonrise Kingdom, whether in black and white or color, animated or live action, nobody else's movies look like his.

In his third time working with Wes Anderson, LOOK Effects VFX Supervisor Gabriel Sanchez helped implement the director's singular vision on The Grand Budepest Hotel. Here's a LOOK at the story behind the story.

Seamless 360 degree filmmaking

360 Degrees of Historical Immersion

How do you tell a story visually without a frame? Mike Sullivan had to build a 360° museum film from 4K footage from the Sony F-55, 9 2K cameras in a dedicated rig, 100 actors, and horses, explosives and a crew of 45 -- and it turns out that figuring out how to tell a story in 360° was only the first of many post challenges that Mike had to face.

Creative COW Webinar:

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Signiant Media Shuttle: Move large files 200 times faster

Learn how to move massive files up to 200 times faster in a free Creative COW Webinar, sponsored by Signiant. Tuesday, March 25, 9 AM Pacific, Noon Eastern, 4 PM UTC. Register today.
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We've published many unusual stories here at Creative COW over the years, and the story of Tim's Vermeer may be the unlikeliest yet.

Tim's Vermeer is a highly acclaimed documentary following the quest of an inventor/entrepreneur named Tim Jenison to paint a Vermeer. Tim became certain that he understood the secrets of how Johannes Vermeer was able to create paintings of unprecedented realism in the 17th century, and he had a plan to prove it. He was going to build a full-scale replica of the room and everything in it that Vermeer painted in The Music Lesson, make his own paintbrushes and paints with materials that Vermeer would have used, and even grind his own lenses using 17th-century methods to achieve realism the same way that he believed Vermeer did -- and then actually paint the painting, even though he'd never painted before!

It sounds insanely audacious, until you know that Tim Jenison is also the inventor of the NewTek Video Toaster, which was also insanely audacious. It didn't just kick off the broadcast-quality desktop video revolution when it debuted in 1990. For a few years there, it was very nearly the entirety of the revolution. Using this exceptionally enjoyable Penn & Teller documentary (producer and director, respectively) as a starting point, Creative COW's Tim Wilson speaks with NewTek's Tim Jenison about the unexpected intersections between art, technology and obsession, both for the Toaster and Tim's Vermeer. You're going to be amazed by this one.

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All of us here at Creative COW extend our congratulations to all of the nominees and winners at the 86th Annual Academy Awards! We want to offer our particular felicitations to the team behind Gravity, and their seven Oscars. While we won't take any credit to elevating their campaign, the fact is that they and the team at Prime Focus World worked with us on a unique peek into the remarkable technology that added the third dimension to this remarkable work of art.

This work was especially notable for its innovation, but also because it played such a crucial role in how people actually saw Gravity: 80% of its audience saw Gravity as it was meant to be seen, in 3D. Even non-fans of 3D were largely impressed, and we think even the most extreme of these will be moved by the story of the artisans who made this magic happen. Certainly if you saw Gravity, or are simply wondering about the attraction (pun intended), you won't want to miss "Creating The 3D in Gravity."

Panasonic's NAB 2014 Lineup: VariCam, 4K P2

Panasonic shared their NAB plans with us this week, and if these announcements are any indication, they're in for another busy show. New products include VariCam configurations with 35mm sensors, high-speed and 4K recording, and multiple new form factors. They also announced new P2 media and broadcast switchers. Check out Ryan Salazar's report.

Finally, two additional Oscar notes.

The Last Film Lab

On February 18, filmmaker Christopher Nolan accepted the Academy Award of Merit on behalf of "all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry." Creative COW Contributing Editor Debra Kaufman recently completed a look at the world of film labs, asking the fundamental question: with release prints on film ending by the end of 2014, what's the future business model for film labs? For most of them so far, it has involved getting out of film, and in many cases, going out of business altogether. Read more in her report, "The Last Film Lab?," and, for a look at why film labs as a whole deserved Oscar's attention, "The History of the Film Lab."

A year after after legendary VFX house Rhythm & Hues won an Oscar for their work on Life of Pi, only a month after they had declared bankruptcy, many of the fundamental issues surrounding the future of VFX production in the US remain disturbingly unsettled. Her report "VFX Crossroads: Causes & Effects of An Industry Crisis" remains essential reading.

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The film Stalingrad is an epic look at the battle that turned the tide of World War II, and already the highest-grossing film in Russian history. It is also the first Russian film to be shot and produced for IMAX 3D, which posed some new challenges for the filmmakers, specially in post. Stalingrad opens Feb. 28 for an exclusive engagement in IMAX 3D theaters, and here's your chance to take a closer look at its making.

Stalingrad: An Intimate Epic

Stalingrad: An Intimate Epic
Set in one of the bloodiest battles in human history, the film Stalingrad also offers an intimate look at five Russian soldiers in World War II, trying to preserve their own humanity while protecting the life an 18-year old girl -- while also trying to hold off a dramatically larger Nazi force. This bold 3D story is already the highest-grossing film in Russian history, and Creative COW's Tim Wilson says you'll be impressed.

NAB Show Conferences: Can We Talk?

NAB Show Conferences: Can We Talk?
NAB Show is billed as "the largest and most relevant educational program for media and entertainment professionals anywhere." With so much information, you'll want to do your research and find what's the best conference for you. In this condensed guide, Ryan Salazar names a few of the conferences he finds the most "interesting and intriguing" and provides links for your further perusal.
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We love talking about tools and technologies, but there's a lot more to filmmaking than cameras and computers. Writer/director/producer Rick Castañeda has made over 30 short films, and just wrapped his first feature. Here, he offers hard-won insights into the practical details of making an independent film.

The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube

The Great Migration: From Mac Pro Tower to Mac Pro Tube
Helmut Kobler loved all the card slots and drive bays in his old-school 2009 Mac Pro. But after ordering a new Mac Pro, he had to rebuild his old tower's functionality - RAID and LTO support, broadcast monitoring, and plenty of spare drive space - with new Thunderbolt peripherals. Here's how he did it.

NOT Your Father's AM

This is NOT Your Father's AM
At this time, over 2,200 radio stations are broadcasting a hybrid HD Radio signal, with more on the way, and with NAB approaching, Ryan Salazar is considering the future and applications of digital radio. Radio is going to become sexy again, and this is NOT your father's AM broadcast...

BlackVue SC500 from Pittasoft

A Look at the BlackVue SC500 POV Camera from Pittasoft
POV cameras are popping out of the ether these days, and a small company in Korea, previously specializing in dashboard cameras, has entered the POV fray with their small box BlackVue camera, which closely resembles the frame of the GoPro.

Why would one look at the BlackVue (or any other competitive camera)? Price, form factor, simplicity/ease of use/setup all fall into a consideration. The BlackVue is ridiculously simple with few buttons, no menus to scroll through, and the simple modes assure perfect recordings every time. Douglas Spotted Eagle takes a look...
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Randy Thom, Director of Sound Design at Skywalker Sound, is one of the people working at the top of the game: a 14-time Academy Award nominee who won Oscars for his work on The Right Stuff and The Incredibles. In fact, Randy has contributed to over 100 films as a sound designer and re-recording mixer, including Apocalypse Now, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Forrest Gump, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Thin Blue Line, and Ratatouille.

This week he adds to his many other nominations and awards, the prestigious Career Achievement Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, presented to him by George Lucas. We recently got to speak to Randy about the sweep of his career, from an essay he wrote for Walter Murch leading to his first job, to a career that is still very much underway. As he told us, "In a lot of ways I'm more excited about being a sound designer and mixer than ever before, partly because I think I'm beginning to get good at it!" Read more....

The Invisible Art

The Invisible Art: Tips for Virtual Matte Painting

Virtual matte painting and set extension doesn't just live in grand shots of big budget movies anymore. "The Invisible Art" is now affordable through software you likely already own -- but still requires careful preparation during live action shooting if it's to be believable. Here are tips from an Emmy Award-winning local spot that you can apply to your own work, whichever tools you're using.

How Are You? No, really. How Are You?

How Are You? No, really. How Are You?

As the relatively few comments to this article indicate, it's hard to talk about depression, but make no mistake: this is currently one of our most-read articles. Even if it doesn't reflect your own experience, you'll find valuable insights that may well reflect the lives of the people around you.
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Sure, some of the biggest movies are still being shot on film, but in a world where film cameras haven't been in production for years, where only one company still makes motion picture film, and by the end of the year, there may be no more film prints for theatrical distribution, it's no wonder that the number of businesses who can sustain themselves by processing film has plummeted. In this latest dispatch from the film BUSINESS, Creative COW Contributing Editor Debra Kaufman finds industry leaders asking themselves, will 2014 be the year we see the last film lab?

DI: I, Frankenstein with Siggy Ferstl

DI: I, Frankenstein with Siggy Ferstl

I, Frankenstein is based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, who wrote the screenplay alongside director Stuart Beattie. Kevin had previously written the story for Underworld, and like that one with its vampires and lycans, here, gargoyles and demons are at war, with humanity hanging in the balance. 200 years later, Frankenstein's creature is alive, and not at all pleased to discover that he may hold the key to determining whether good or evil triumphs. He is nevertheless drawn into battle, where mayhem ensues.

While I, Frankenstein may not have resonated with US audiences as much as its makers would have liked, it is faring well overseas, and in any case, looks fantastic. Colorist and DI guru Siggy Ferstl had the opportunity to reteam with Underworld VFX supervisor and Executive Producer James McQuaide to create a look based on combining film noir and supernatural elements into today's scientific, skeptical world.

Siggy also had to combine the work of multiple VFX houses, animators and compositing with live-action filmmaking. In his conversation with Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson, Siggy offers unique insights into a daunting process calling on a wide range of creativity.

How Are You Doing? Let's Talk: Mental Illness & Creativity in the Video Industry

Creative COW Contributing Editor Kylee Wall had already written this article before we learned of the tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on Sunday. We don't have to deal with the pressures of fame, but in fact, here in our corner of the world, we are subject to to the same problems that creative people have wrestled with for ages.

As Kylee writes, "Your creative work is a direct reflection of yourself. The highs are really high, the lows are really low, and the drastic changes in work-related mood may mask deeper problems. And especially at this time of the year, when it's dark and dreary (at least in my hemisphere), it's something worth talking about.

"Just like it's okay to post a question in a COW forum or tweet soliciting opinions, it's okay to ask for help in managing your mental wellness, and it's okay to encourage a culture where we can all be a little more open about these things." Read more....
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The Lady From Shanghai may be the most notorious Orson Welles film you've never seen. Shot in 1947, the movie is a deliberately disorienting, complex noir murder mystery whose style was far ahead of its time. The climactic scene, in a hall of mirrors, is an iconic cinematic image.

The making of the movie has a history almost as twisted as its plot. It completely confused Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn, so he ordered re-shoots and a heavy re-edit. It cut an hour from the original film, but upon opening, the movie was deemed a disaster and it quickly disappeared from the mainstream. It remains, however, a compelling curio from the early filmography of one of cinema's masters.

Although the decaying print was partially restored photochemically in the 1990s, only recently did Sony executive VP of restoration Grover Crisp undertake a 4K digital restoration from the original camera negative. The work was some of the most extensive undertaken, and the result -- which included work by MTI Film and Sony Colorworks -- is stunning. It is available starting today on Blu-ray, through

You won't want to miss that disc, and you won't want to miss this story! Read more....

Tribe of The Wild: New Gear in the Real World, In Action

"Tribe of The Wild:" New Gear in the Real World, In Action

After collaborating on the 1985 pilot for the highly successful "Power Rangers" franchise, DP and Digital Cinema Society President/Co-Founder James Mathers recently worked on a new pilot with the same producers. This offered him the perfect opportunity to put several new products through their paces on his RED Epic-based 4K production: including greenscreen virtual sets and on-set VFX previz tools, a wide variety of lighting options, the Aja Ki Pro Quad, and much more.
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January 28, 2014 brings some of the world's greatest musicians together to honor their own -- presenters and performers like Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Billy Gibbons, Randy Bachman, Duane Eddy, Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Will Lee, Barbara Mandrell, and many others -- as the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum at the Historic Nashville Municipal Auditorium welcomes the 2014 Musicians Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

There are tickets available and you can join the fun and Kathlyn and I would love to have you there. You can join us as we attend the Musicians Hall of Fame 2014 Induction Ceremony.

One lucky winner will receive a pair of tickets to attend the night's festivities. To guarantee that you will be there, tickets are still available and we invite you to join us for this great evening of music and fun.

Write me at RON@CREATIVECOW.NET and tell me why you'd like to attend. I will pick the one which I think is the most fun and compelling story. So tell me why you want to be there and bonus points for those who really love music and musicians.

To learn more about the event, visit the Musicians Hall of Fame online at

IMPORTANT NOTE: The event takes place on January 28th and I will pick the winner on January 23rd, so write me right away.

Musicians are quick to praise the efforts of their peers and the "after hours jams" when great musicians are all in town is the stuff of legend. Bring together many of music's best to Nashville for a celebration to honor some of the greatest studio and performing musicians of all-time and the night is sure to be one to remember always and whether you find your way to the right after hours venue or not -- this is going to be a great night of music, you can bet on that. Don't miss it.

We'd love to see you there,

Ronald & Kathlyn Lindeboom

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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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