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"I got annoyed by the rules and went the opposite way." So declares Claudio Miranda, ASC, Oscar's newest winner for Best Cinematography, for his work on Life of Pi. He faced challenges galore, including extensive shooting on water, working with a main character who was yet to be created in CGI, and helping usher Oscar-winning director Ang Lee through his first 3D shoot. "Ang said that he wanted to shoot 3D for 10 years, and he wanted someone with experience in 3D for Life of Pi. He was looking for a more immersive storytelling, a new way to tell a story, and there are more tools in 3D to do that."

Both Ang and Claudio were especially clear with each other about what they didn't like about other 3D films they'd seen, but in the end, Claudio trusted what he saw from his own camera tests. "When I shot Tron, everyone gave me a list of things not to do in 3D and I intentionally did all those things to learn why. I discovered that many of these '3D rules' were false, and I broke a lot of them. I don't know where some of those ideas come from, so it's important not to take these rules for granted but test them." These include accepted truths about shutter angle, depth of field, lighting and more. Fortunately for Claudio, and the magic of the final film, Ang was very excited to take risks with their approach to 3D. The results speak for themselves.

Beyond the specifics of 3D shooting, Claudio speaks with the process that led to selecting the ARRI Alexa, the creative approach they took to filming scenes on the water, and their remarkable approach to lighting it all.

Read Claudio's story in "Claudio Miranda, ASC Makes New Rules for Shooting Life of Pi"

Our coverage of the year's best films doesn't end there! Read Tim Squyres on editing "Life of Pi," Bill Taylor, ASC on winning the Academy's John Bonner Medal of Commendation, and behind the scenes looks at Academy Award winners Argo and Anna Karenina, and nominees NO, Mondays At Racine and The Avengers, all in our series on "The Year's Best Films Round-up!"
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Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC and director Frederic Goodich, ASC got together to push the new Sony F65 to its limits. The result is Kickstart Theft, a short film based on De Sica's classic The Bicycle Thieves, which was shot in downtown Los Angeles in a range of challenging lighting and shooting conditions.

However, this was anything other than just another test shoot. Director Goodich has helmed over 1000 commercials among many projects. DP Zsigmond has lensed such classics as Close Encounters of The Third Kind, for which he won an Oscar, The Deer Hunter, Heaven's Gate and Deliverance. "After I did the DI on Black Dahlia, I fell in love with digital in post production," says Zsigmond. "I had wanted originally to stick with a chemical finish for the release, but it didn't work out that way. Since then I've been doing more digital. Before Kickstart Theft, I'd already shot with the RED and ARRI Alexa and wanted to try the Sony F65."

In thinking about a script, Goodich says he was interested in doing something with social relevance, and eventually thought of The Bicycle Thieves, which he adapted for an urban Los Angeles setting about a homeless family dependent on a motorcycle to eke out a living. "I purposely picked a familiar story so that the viewer can focus on the images and the light," he explains. "The notion was to shoot available light, with little or no little supplementary lighting, and scenes of high dynamic range wherever we could," says Goodich. "We were supposed to 'break the back' of the camera -- to demonstrate how it performed under daylight, tungsten, neon, fluorescent and mixed light conditions."

Kickstart Theft also became a study in how an Oscar-winning cinematographer adapted to guerrilla shooting conditions, how the production adapted to tight turnaround with a small crew -- and the Sony F65's ease of use with a variety of lenses, and taking advantage of advanced ACES workflows. You want a real world story about working with the F65? Here you go.

Kickstart Theft: Pushing the Sony F65 To The Limits.

And don't miss Debra Kaufman's coverage of the work done by LOOK Effects to bring "life" to the zombies in Warm Bodies.

Zombies Brought to Life For Warm Bodies
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Michael Slovis, ASC is behind the lens at the enormously popular and critically acclaimed AMC show Breaking Bad where he's shot four seasons and earned three Emmy nominations. Although his early work was in independent film in New York, Slovis has had a long, successful run in episodic TV including work on Fringe, 30-Rock, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for which he won an Emmy, among many others.

In one of the most compelling entries yet in our Behind The Lens series, edited by Debra Kaufman, Michael talks about the pleasures of shooting film, his stock choices (which he feels have never been better), why he sticks with prime lenses, and some of the dramatic approaches to visual storytelling that Breaking Bad creator and Executive Director Vince Gilligan has developed for the show.

"There is a feeling of intentionality when you shoot film, at least for TV, that this is what the director wants you to see," says Michael. "In video or digital, you can turn your camera operators loose to shoot the scene and evaluate it later. For Breaking Bad, it's all about that methodical, intentional feel, and that texture is very important. This is something I feel strongly about, that the trust that you give us on the set and especially to Vince will not be betrayed."

Michael also speaks about shooting 11,000 feet of film a day, the post grading and finishing process, the amazing storytelling being done on TV these days -- and how his long journey on Breaking Bad began with him telling them he wasn't interested in taking the job.

Read the entire article here: Behind the Lens: Breaking Bad
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When it was first released 20 years ago, After Effects was tucked into a corner of the market, for specialists with a narrow range of tasks. Since then, it has become an indispensable part of the bag of tricks for millions of media professionals. Creative COW is the latest phase of the web's longest-running After Effects community, founded in April 1995 by two After Effects users, Ronald & Kathlyn Lindeboom, who were looking for answers to their own questions. Through online tutorials, DVD training, and forums with 2 million monthly visitors, we've had a front row seat to a true revolution.

And not just for the industry: for individual careers, and even lives. Starting today, you can see the first in a long series of 20th Anniversary good wishes and testimonials from members of the Creative COW community using After Effects for motion graphics, compositing, visual effects, as part of their editing and finishing, and much more. We'll be adding more every day, as well as highlighting some of the most popular feature stories we've published of real-world After Effects production.

We want to hear your story too! Swing by our Letters To The COW Team forum, and tell us your history with After Effects. The more stories, the merrier.

In the meantime, please join us in wishing a Happy 20th Anniversary to Adobe After Effects, with best wishes for scores more!

Read the articles from COW members here:
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Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo's novel of crime and redemption in 19th Century France, has been a huge hit in theatres. Though it's gained acclaim for director Tom Hooper's technique of one-take shots of actors singing the songs, visual effects have provided many key elements. In a remarkable break from standard practice, there were no green screen shots!

"They shot nothing on green screen because of the way the director was filming in one shot with people singing the songs," says The Mill's 2D Supervisor Greg Spencer. "It was all handheld with several cameras moving around, so our job involved a lot of rotoscoping and tracking involved and a lot of removing of cameramen moving the shots. That was all done with lots of 3D camera tracking in Nuke, and patching up buildings or whatever we could."

The Mill erased cameramen captured in shots some 30 times...but didn't take out all of them. "Once we turned a cameraman into an extra," he says. "We removed the camera off the shoulder and put a hat on him to make him look like he was in the world of the movie."

Working on over 100 other shots, The Mill faced a number of other challenges that were not so easily met, starting with the movie's trailer, which required compositing a difficult mix of handheld and locked off footage in a single scene. Don't miss this inside look at a unique process for one of the season's most acclaimed pictures.

Read the entire story here
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"As technology gets better, communications skills seem to get worse." So says Creative COW leader and Contributing Editor Walter Biscardi, one of the industry's most respected business owners. "The same talented people who can create amazing things on screen have absolutely no idea how to represent themselves via a resume or online demo.

"This is the world of Twitter, Blogs, Facebook, Instagram, etc..... where everything is said in 140 characters or less, with a heavily treated photo and no attenshun givun 2 correct grammar yo! Seems people have forgotten how to represent themselves professionally for that all important "first impression." Or maybe they were just never shown at all. You never, ever get a second chance at a first impression. For most of you, an email with a resume attached is that first impression.

"There are two VERY important things to remember in the creative field. 1: You have to be talented at what you do or show a very strong drive to better the talent you currently have. 2: You MUST fit in with the creative culture of the company you're joining. In my opinion, #2 is more important. We get a sense of how you're going to fit from that initial contact. Most of what I'm about to say seems to be common sense, but apparently it isn't."

You definitely don't want to miss this potentially career-changing advice from an industry luminary!

Read Walter's article here:

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John Davidson was one of the many broadcast professionals deeply disappointed by the initial release of Apple Final Cut Pro X. He was quoted in USA Today about it, and when he had the opportunity to meet Apple Board of Directors member former Vice President Al Gore, John didn't hesitate to make his disappointment with FCPX known.

(Was John responsible for Apple announcing an FCPX roadmap soon thereafter? Perhaps....)

After a rapid series of FCPX updates and a network client expressing interest in FCPX, John and his team at Magic Feather, Inc., jumped into action. "We had to unlearn much of the last 10 years of concepts regarding post," John tells us, "but we learned how to share projects across machines - and how to do it in a way that doesn't destroy the fabric of the universe.

"And here we are: six networks happily supplied with production materials. We've done shoots, promoted movies and shows, and worked with footage that in 7 would have made my head explode. We've done more spots than I thought was possible for us - and we don't have to pull all-nighters to do it anymore. "

He also adds, "You don't believe me."

And so, John provides the visual evidence: he and Magic Feather are using FCPX for broadcast work, they are working on shared storage, they are working with a variety of Mac configurations. Better yet, he walks you step-by-step through everything from project set-up to delivery.

Even if you've already passed on FCPX for your own purposes, you're going to get a kick out of John's story, and we think you'll be surprised at how well he pulls it all off.

Read FCPX: On Air!

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In his earlier life as a TV producer, Creative COW's Tim Wilson had a memorable encounter with the 41st President of the United States not long after he left office, while shooting a PR piece for the local news. It's a humorous tale of meeting deadlines, meeting expectations, and meeting a man only months after being the leader of the free world.

Read Tim's recollections on George H.W. Bush Yelled At Me For Making Him Look Bad On TV

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Debra Kaufman's Review of The Hobbit in 48 fps 3D

Debra Kaufman's Review of The Hobbit in 48 fps 3D

Debra Kaufman started her high school's Tolkien Club when she was a big fan of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Though she hasn't celebrated Frodo's birthday in many years, she did get out to see The Hobbit in 48 fps. Here are her thoughts on The Hobbit in 48 fps and HFR Cinema in general.

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The technology wizards of the film/TV industry have been talking about High Frame Rate cinema for a long time; indeed, Douglas Trumbull's Showscan at 60 fps presaged the current interest over thirty years ago. But it took director Peter Jackson to take the plunge, declaring he would shoot The Hobbit in 48 fps to get momentum going. In about a year's time, manufacturers made the gear, theater exhibitors updated their movie theaters, and the studios prepared for one of the most audacious technology debuts that cinema has seen.

So what have been the necessary steps to actually show the movie in 48 fps? Creative COW's Debra Kaufman spoke with Wendy Aylsworth, Senior Vice President of Technology for Warner Bros. Technical Operations, who spearheaded the effort, as well as IMAX Chairman/President of Filmed Entertainment Greg Foster, and Barco's Director, Product Management, Entertainment Division Andrew Gaweda and Patrick Lee, Barco's Vice President, Digital Cinema Entertainment Division. They describe the specific technological issues and extensive required to set the stage for presenting the most advanced possible version of The Hobbit to audiences.

After all the talk about making The Hobbit in 48 fps 3D and what it looks like, here's the best article you'll read on the steps taken to actually *show* it in 48, why they bothered, and why it matters to you.

Read The Hobbit & The Dawn of High Frame Rate Cinema
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