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VFX Titans Remember Ray Harryhausen

"When we grieve Ray Harryhausen's passing, we are at least in part grieving perhaps the last living link to the earliest days of movie visual effects," says Creative COW's Debra Kaufman. She spoke to many of today's VFX giants who were inspired by Ray, including Phil Tippett, Richard Edlund, Jeffrey A. Okun and ILM Animation Director Hal Hickel, who says, "Ray Harryhausen's impact on an entire generation (several actually) of filmmakers cannot be overstated, each of them trying again and again to reproduce the wonder they first felt as a child watching Jason fight those skeletons."

Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo

Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo

Stop using the high price of HD waveform/vectorscopes as an excuse for not checking your video. Join Bob Zelin for a closer look at a real-world installation of Blackmagic's new SmartScope Duo, a practical, flexible, and yes, affordable approach to broadcast-quality monitoring.

And don't miss the story on a great mentoring program with Biscardi Creative Media and CDAT teacher Mike Reilly.

Creating Animation for PBS - in High School

Creating Animation for PBS - in High School

Lanier High School students work with 3D Studio Max creating a real world project thanks to a collaboration between Biscardi Creative Media Principal Walter Biscardi, Jr. and CDAT teacher Mike Reilly. Instead of just working on a class assignment, these students are creating something that will be part of a PBS documentary due to air in Fall 2013.
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A jam-packed newsletter this week, so let's dive in!

Iron Man 3, Marvel & The Future of the Superhero

Victoria Alonso, Marvel Studios Executive Vice President of Visual Effects and Post Production, began her career in the early days of the digital visual effects industry. Creative COW's Debra Kaufman had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Victoria about the Iron Man movies, post production's evolution, remote dailies and coloring on set, 4K & HFR, and keeping the modern superhero movie fresh.

FCPX For Broadcast News

Michael Garber has spent hundreds of hours learning the ins and outs of editing broadcast news features with Final Cut Pro X. He describes a workflow that takes advantage of the best that FCPX's new approaches have to offer, while being honest about its limitations. Every editor already working with FCPX, or still just considering it, will benefit from Michael's experience.

Review: GenArts Releases Sapphire 7

Frequent COW Contributing Editor Kevin P. McAuliffe reviews the latest version of GenArts Sapphire plug-in effects filters for both Adobe After Effects and Avid AVX versions, with ratings for current and new Sapphire users. Kevin also observes Sapphire's ability to plug into other NLEs and finishing systems, and takes a closer look at its licensing options, including purchasing, monthly rental and site licenses. You'll definitely want to see the latest and greatest of what this must-have software package has to offer.

And if you're looking to raise your game with Avid Media Composer and Avid Symphony, Kevin McAuliffe is your man, with more Avid tutorials than you'll find anywhere else on the web. Here's the index page to get started.

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With the second biggest opening weekend in US history, and $300 million worldwide box office in its first eight days, it's clear that Iron Man 3 is off to a roaring start with audience. Readers of Creative COW know that some of the best stories actually come from the artists behind the scenes. Offered here are tales and insights from Alessandro Cioffi, VFX Supervisor for Trixter. Seventy artists from Trixter worked an entire year to create a formidable 208 VFX shots for Marvel's Iron Man 3. Each new episode in the Iron Man saga details a slick new technology created by the ingenious Tony Stark, and the new installment does not disappoint! Combining the hard surface geometry of the Iron Man suit auto-assembly with the flexibility of the human body was one of the challenges that Trixter brought from previs to believable screen reality.

Trixter's very first task was to create Iron Man 3's opening sequence. Trixter VFX Supervisor Alessandro Cioffi adds the punchline: "This very sequence was selected by Marvel to be shown at Comic-Con, and we had eight weeks to do it. In addition to the short turn-around, another problem was that all we had in our hands was the main suit design -- that was it. At the start, we didn't even have a model for the suit. Oh, and principal photography hadn't started yet either." In the end, they had 30 shots to turn around in this narrow window.

Trixter worked on two key sequences in particular. One of them is among Iron Man's most distinctive ingredients: Tony Stark's Iron Man suit's assembly. This third movie in the series made things considerably more difficult because, unlike previously, actor Robert Downey, Jr. was in motion the entire time. "We had to perfectly match-move his body to make it look real," says Alessandro. "We shot passes in the studio to see what happens if someone is moving that frantically. A human body is very flexible, whereas the suit is rigid, a hard surface geometry. We had to think how to combine these two things." Alessandro refers to the second major sequence that Trixter worked on as "The Glove and Boot Fight," but we'll let him fill you in on the details on this, and the rest of Trixter's work on Iron Man 3.

We'll also draw your attention to Creative COW Contributing Editor and industry leader Walter Biscardi's first look at Adobe Premiere Pro NEXT Top Ten!
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As we enter the last round of our coverage of NAB Show 2013, you'll want to begin by checking out Debra Kaufman's coverage of the key companies exhibiting at this year's show.

We're also pleased to bring you the final wrap-up from Mr. NAB, Creative COW's own Ryan Salazar. He was everywhere at the show, with tweets, blogs, and regular broadcasts carried on NAB Show Live! Rather than his typical coverage as a freelance journalist, we asked Ryan to give us his impressions as a working media professional, about some of the products and technologies that he was evaluating for his "day" job. He's the Director of Engineering & Post Production Technology at studioZ Productions in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where his staff of 37 audio, video and new media pros bangs out more than 1,800 television and 800 radio spots monthly.

Don't miss the latest installment of storyboard artist Gare Cline's look at previsualization, What Is Previs?

For the past decade, cinematographer/director Bill Megalos has concentrated on social documentaries, focusing on poverty reduction and the developing world. He filmed in 50 countries so far, and we are pleased to bring you his article series, Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted - Travels to Ethiopia. Working with first-time documentary feature director Nick Spark, Bill followed Jessica Cox, a 29-year old woman without arms who is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is licensed to fly planes solo (among her many accomplishments). Bill and Nick's story to tell Jessica's story is absolute must-reading for every fan of filmmaking.
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Calling Bob Zelin one of the industry's most respected voices of engineering and systems experience is an understatement. (We might also have to add "most feared.") For over 20 years, he has been at the leading edge of building next-generation post houses and broadcast facilities using the latest, greatest, and most affordable new technology. He's also been around long enough to have seen through an awful lot of hype, so when Bob drops the "R" word, it's because he really believes it's revolutionary himself. His coverage of the 2013 NAB Show is once again don't-miss reading.

You also need to check out Debra Kaufman's detailed conversations with nearly two dozen companies on their product offerings and their perspectives on where this business is going. Featured companies in this installment include Panasonic, AJA, Anton Bauer, ARRI, Autodesk, Blackmagic Design, Canon and more. You can find the whole series here.
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What's that you say? A quiet NAB? Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't wall to wall news. Reports are still being gathered, but for now, here is but the first round of reports from the biggest news week in the world of product announcements for media professionals.

Debra Kaufman will be anchoring our vendor-by-vendor coverage from the industry's heavy hitters and up-and-comers. In the meantime, here's her overview of the show as a whole.

You may also have heard that Adobe Anywhere was one of the show's biggest stories...and it was. Debra spoke to Adobe Director of Video Product Management Bill Roberts, a conversation you won't want to miss.

Wally Cam. The name alone conjures wonder and delight, but you have no idea. Here is Walter Biscardi's informal, enlightening and delightful video coverage of the show, including interviews with Blackmagic founder and CEO Grant Petty, Adobe's Kevin Monahan, Autodesk's Marc-Andre Ferguson, Small Tree's Steve Modica, and a visit to the best donuts in town. Wally Cam. Walter also offers a terrific show wrap-up here.

Ryan Salazar and Dennis Kutchera provided coverage and insight into the worlds of Broadcast (Ryan) and Post Production (Dennis), Ralph Hajik offered ongoing commentary in Creative COW's NAB Show forum, and Kylee Wall added her insights into the strange, strange world that is NAB, both as an attendee and working a booth.

There's lots more to come, including the epic reporting of Bob Zelin, Debra's overviews of 4K and Software as a Service, and dozens of interviews with industry leaders.

Hey, and when you need a break from the show news, don't forget to check out this behind-the-scenes look at Jurassic Park 3D: A New Dimension For A Modern Classic.
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If you liked Jurassic Park the first time around, you're going to love it in 3D. If there was ever a movie that cried out for a third dimension, it was this one: T-Rex towering over the teetering SUV? Raptors skittering in the kitchen? Jurassic Park's already edge-of-your-seat scenes get even scarier in stereoscopic 3D.

"When the kids are trapped in the SUV and it's attacked by the T-Rex, you feel like you're in the vehicle with them and that proximity of danger from the massive multi-toothed dinosaurs," says Aaron Perry, Vice President/Chief Creative Officer of Stereo D. "That proximity ratchets up the intensity of the film tremendously. At the same time, there are amazing intimate moments Steven designed into the film that are augmented in a special unique way. Only stereo could be the final layer on that cake, to bring it fully to life."

Conversions from 2D to 3D have gotten a bad rap due to a small handful of movies that were not done skillfully. Stereo D - which also did the conversion work for Titanic - handled Jurassic Park. Aaron Perry and Stereo D President William Sherak spoke to Creative COW's Debra Kaufman about their work on Spielberg's dinosaur blockbuster and on James Cameron's Titanic 3D, and why 2D-to-3D conversions are booming.
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No matter what superlatives you lavish on HBO's Game of Thrones, they probably fall short of the mark. Game of Thrones is HBO's marquee series, and is easily among the smallest handful of most highly-regarded shows among Creative COW's community of media production professionals. Cinematographer Anette Haellmigk shot two episodes of the brand new Season 3 of Game of Thrones, which premiered Sunday. (Her episodes will air on April 21 and 28.) With a resume that includes Spider-Man 2, Das Boot, Robocop, Starship Troopers, Total Recall, The West Wing and many more, she was the 2012 winner of Kodak's Vision Award from Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards. Annette speaks to Creative COW about her pioneering career path as a cinematographer, and, especially, her work on Game of Thrones. Take a look here.

You'll also want to check out this amazing inside look at the lush visual effects in Oz the Great And Powerful, a smash that has recently passed $400 million worldwide. Sony Imageworks provided over 1,100 digital visual effects shots to Oz, and has given us an exclusive inside look at the making of a truly epic spectacle.

VFX fans will also want to check out part 2 of Debra Kaufman's truly epic coverage of the current crisis for VFX artists, Can The VFX Business Be Saved?

Finally, we have every reason to believe that, once again, Creative COW members will be providing your best insights into NAB -- not just the events and the booths, but what they'll actually mean for your future. To get started, here's industry, and NAB, veteran Walter Biscardi's advice for getting the most out of the show without going crazy, How To Attend NAB.

Sony Imageworks Takes Us On The Yellow Brick Road to OZ

Sony Imageworks Takes Us On The Yellow Brick Road to OZ

VFX Crossroads Pt. 2: Can The VFX Business Be Saved?

VFX Crossroads Pt. 2: Can The VFX Business Be Saved?

Tips for Attending NAB 2013 From A Convention Veteran

Tips for Attending NAB 2013 From A Convention Veteran
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Once upon a time - 30 years ago - VFX artists were unionized.

If they still were, perhaps the conversation would have been different. But many VFX artists today don't even know that history, and in their anguished discussions today - such as the recent VFX Town Hall - the focus is on reinventing the past, with unionization, as well as creating a trade association to sit down with the studios to hammer out a new way to do business. Can anything be done to change this picture? Is it all too little too late?

In VFX Crossroads, Part 1: Causes & Effects Of An Industry Crisis, Creative COW's Debra Kaufman took a close look at how the seeds of the VFX industry's dysfunctional business model were planted in its earliest days. Although outsourcing and tax incentives/subsidies are the culprits most often cited in today's news, she showed that the financial picture for VFX houses is far more complex than that.

VFX technologist Jonathan Erland sees a tripod composed of an honorary association encouraging excellence, a trade association among VFX houses, and a union. "While we do have the VES component and the field is demonstrably 'excellent,' absent the stabilizing influence of the union and trade association legs of the tripod, the VFX industry is unstable and collapsing," he observes. "To the extent that globalization and inter-state economic warfare compromise or destroy the balance provided by existing tripods, the whole industry may well follow suit. To throw in another metaphor, VFX may turn out to be the 'canary in the coal mine'."

As Debra ties together the insights from dozens of industry veterans, she notes that there are no easy answers, including unionization as an end in itself. Instead, she presents deep insights into how, like the superheros they create, the VFX industry might come to its own rescue.

Read the full story in VFX Crossroads, Pt. 2: Can The VFX Business Be Saved?
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The exquisite irony of Rhythm & Hues declaring bankruptcy just before its work on Life of Pi won the venerable visual effects company an Oscar for Best Visual Effects defines a visual effects industry that finds itself at a crossroads. The blowback to Rhythm & Hues' bankruptcy -- the 500-strong march on the evening of the Academy Awards, R&H VFX Supervisor Bill Westenhofer's attempt to call attention to the fact on national broadcast, and the blank green screen icon on many Facebook pages -- is a reflection of frustration and anger among VFX artists.

Many of these frustrated artists are focused on outsourcing and subsidies as the culprits in wreaking havoc in the industry. While it's true that this has been a significant challenge to the VFX industry, its problems go much deeper and further back in time. The three original digital pioneers -- Digital Productions, Omnibus, and Robert Abel Associates -went out of business within short order, leaving only the acronym DOA. Of the four big VFX companies in the late 1970s -- Boss Films, ILM, Dream Quest Images and Apogee -- only one remains, and it's become a possession of a studio.

Financial dysfunction in the VFX industry is rooted in its very beginnings, and the only way to truly understand what's going on in the VFX industry today is to go back to those pioneering years -- when the industry was morphing from analog to digital -- and find the crucial junctures that led the industry down a path to financial instability and ruin.

Creative COW's Debra Kaufman has been covering the VFX for 25 years, and produced an all-day course on digital visual effects at UCLA Extension for five years, featuring presentations by top VFX supervisors. Nobody else can tell this story the way she has, speaking with the VFX pioneers responsible for some of the most indelible cinematic images in film's history. You're going to be talking about this provocative article for a long, long time.

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