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And so we come to the time that $100 million is considered a moderate budget for a large-scale epic. This was the production for Hercules, but compare that to the $250 million for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, or even the $170 million budgets for Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of The Planet of The Apes. One way that MGM/Paramount's Hercules, directed by Brett Ratner and starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, manages to look as large as it does on its relatively modest budget is through careful and clever use of CG that doesn't look like CG.

Needless to say, one of the key special effects in the movie is Mr. Johnson himself. His first major features were the sword and sandals epics The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King, both of which fared very well in the US, but didn't even begin to reach the international audience that he now commands. Along the way, The Rock has also added a strong comic dimension to his onscreen action persona, and Hercules offers the opportunity for him to combine them, as well as appeal to his now global fanbase.

Make no mistake. There are plenty of CG creatures in Hercules, but some of the most compelling effects in Hercules are in the family of what's increasingly commonly called "invisible effects." At its most simple, these might include sky replacements, although as the VFX team at Method Studios discovered, those are anything but simple when there are hundreds of elements in the scene that need to be roto'd first, and scenes that need relighting as the sky changes.

On a more complex level, the CG in Hercules was used by Milk VFX to create entire environments, including the city of Athens and the collection of elaborate buildings atop the Acropolis, including the Parthenon -- but also the surrounding hills, shore, and sea.

Together, Method Studios and Milk VFX are two of the companies that helped create a full, realistic world for Hercules, from the sky, to the Acropolis, to the sea. Read more...



A still of Peter O'Toole in the film, The Ruling Class

The Five OTHER Peter O'Toole Movies That Thou Must See

Peter O'Toole (August 2, 1932 - December 14, 2013) would have celebrated his 82nd birthday this past weekend had his hard living not caught up with him in 2013, at what still seemed far too young an age. Between the time he spent on stage (primarily in plays by Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett) and breaks for his poor health, we simply didn't see him in enough movies.

His performance in Lawrence of Arabia was so overwhelming, and the movie itself so very nearly perfect, that it's easy to forget that Peter's resume is full of performances at least that strong -- even if the movies themselves were only occasionally even close to Lawrence's league. In fact, he was nominated for eight Oscars, and most people can remember two of them. (The other, My Favorite Year, was a charming trifle, but little more in common opinion. The nomination was more based on the pleasure of him playing a part based on someone not unlike his younger self, played both slyly and exuberantly.)

For that matter, some of Peter's best work was never nominated for Oscars at all. He, of course, never won, making him the actor with the most nominations to still fall short. His performances rarely did, though. Here are five movies to set the record straight: Peter O'Toole brought us more than Lawrence. There was never anyone like him, and here are some examples of why there never will be. They're also a lot of fun, so take a look.


Homeland: Behind the Scenes with Canon Glass/David Klein ASC

Showtime's Emmy-Nominated Hit Homeland: Behind the Scenes with Canon Glass and DP David Klein, ASC

David Klein, ASC, recently nominated for a 2014 Best Cinematography Emmy® Award for his work on Homeland, first AC Dominik Mainl, and B camera operator Bob Newcomb break down what's in their tool kit: an ARRI Alexa mounted with Canon Cinema Zoom Lenses, a RED Epic, a Canon Cinema EOS 1D C, and a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.


On the set of PBS's America's Test Kitchen

Cooking With Premiere Pro CC on PBS's America's Test Kitchen

As America's Test Kitchen enters its 15th season on PBS, they've made the switch to Premiere Pro Creative Cloud. Post-production Supervisor and director Herb Sevush has been with the show from the beginning, and confessed some trepidation moving away from FCP 7, but has found it to be a great fit for their data-intensive, increasingly 4K multicam production, and his work with remote editors. Here, Herb offers some insights into both the why and the how of their switch, with special attention to Premiere Pro CC's approach to multicam.


Shooting Trent & Isabella: Blackmagic Firmware & Indie Film

Shooting Trent & Isabella: Blackmagic Firmware & Indie Film

Paul Del Vecchio is a filmmaker with an independent spirit. When he had the chance to beta test Blackmagic's new firmware on the Cinema Camera while serving as director of photography on the indie film Trent & Isabella, he found that the new debayer process became a huge asset to getting the raw-like images he wanted without the price of storage and processing. Less time and money spent there means more focus on the film's visual style which ranges from spaghetti western to film noir.
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Paul Del Vecchio is a filmmaker with an independent spirit. When he had the chance to beta test Blackmagic's new firmware on the Cinema Camera while serving as director of photography on the indie film Trent & Isabella, he told Creative COW's Kylee Wall that the new debayer process became a huge asset to getting the raw-like images he wanted without the price of storage and processing. Less time and money spent there means more focus on the film's visual style which ranges from spaghetti western to film noir.

In her latest Creative COW blog entry, Kylee also told us something we didn't know: four years before YouTube, Kevin Spacey started his own video hosting community as a showcase for filmmakers to post their work and give each other feedback. It was a transformative experience, as she tells us "How Kevin Spacey Helped Me Get Started In Editing."



AIRDOG: A HOT KICKSTARTER FOR A COOL IDEA

AirDog: a Hot Kickstarter for a Cool Idea

An auto-follow, gyro-stabilized GoPro drone that goes where you go, including skydiving and surfing, that you can operate hands-free -- sounds cool, right? It's called AirDog, and whether or not the product is for you, you can learn a lot from their very hot Kickstarter campaign: they reached their $200,000 goal in 4 days, on their way to over $1.3 million pledged.


Cooking With Premiere Pro CC on PBS's America's Test Kitchen

Cooking With Premiere Pro CC on PBS's America's Test Kitchen

As America's Test Kitchen enters its 15th season on PBS, they've made the switch to Premiere Pro Creative Cloud. Post-production Supervisor and director Herb Sevush has been with the show from the beginning, and confessed some trepidation moving away from FCP 7, but has found it to be a great fit for their data-intensive, increasingly 4K multicam production, and his work with remote editors. Here, Herb offers some insights into both the why and the how of their switch, with special attention to Premiere Pro CC's approach to multicam.


Cows in a pasture with text overlay describing article

Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success

Film projects are the most unsuccessfully funded of any Kickstarter category -- but producer and crowdfunding consultant Diana Ward Roark has worked on a number of campaigns for independent films that have exceeded their goals. She has the real-world advice you'll need to succeed, including where you can find backers, and how to engage them.
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As America's Test Kitchen enters its 15th season on PBS, they've made the switch to Premiere Pro Creative Cloud. Post-production Supervisor and director Herb Sevush has been with the show from the beginning, and confessed some trepidation moving away from FCP 7, but has found it to be a great fit for their data-intensive, increasingly 4K multicam production, and his work with remote editors.

Here, Herb offers some insights into both the why and the how of their switch, with special attention to Premiere Pro CC's approach to multicam.



Photo of a cow in foreground, with a herd of cattle in the distance

Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success

Film projects are the most unsuccessfully funded of any Kickstarter category -- but producer and crowdfunding consultant Diana Ward Roark has worked on a number of campaigns for independent films that have exceeded their goals. She has the real-world advice you'll need to succeed, including where you can find backers, and how to engage them.
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Even though Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was one of the most enthusiastically received films of 2012 here at Creative COW, we didn't hear as much fuss made over his follow-up, The Grand Budapest Hotel. This is despite terrific reviews (92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and it being by far his highest grossing picture. Not that that's a good measure of a movie's greatness, of course, but especially outside the US, the uptick is startling: from $22 million for Moonrise, to $107 million for The Grand Budapest Hotel!

Still, if it's possible for a movie that grossed $166 million worldwide to be called "overlooked," we think this one qualifies. The good news is that it's now available for home viewing, so now's your chance to catch up with it.

It's got every quality that has made Wes Anderson one of the most distinctive directors working today, especially visually. The Grand Budapest Hotel is absolutely gorgeous, and incredibly detailed, even by his usual standards. One of the people who helped him implement his vision was Gabriel Sanchez at LOOK Effects. This was Gabriel's third feature with Wes, following The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Express. We spoke to Gabriel about his work on The Grand Budapest Hotel -- especially his work with matte paintings and miniatures -- the perfect introduction to a movie we hope you'll see for yourself. Read more....



CSNY 1974: The Long-Awaited Chronicle of One of Rock's Greatest Tours


CSNY 1974: The Long-Awaited Chronicle of One of Rock's Greatest Tours

Meet CSNY 74, wherein Messrs. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young make a definitive 3-hour, 3-set, 40 song, case, supported by 8 video clips and 188 pages of written and photographic evidence, for being one of the world's very biggest and best rock and roll bands, working at the very top of their game. Creative COW's Tim Wilson explores the beautifully rendered, exceptionally satisfying experience of this historically epic tour.
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Season 2 of the pioneering Netflix series House of Cards brought a number of changes, including new Lead Colorist Laura Jans-Fazio. She spoke to us about her approach to this visually distinctive show, her remote collaboration with Executive Producer David Fincher, and her use of the Baselight grading system for fast turnarounds with the show's 5K footage.

Read more here...



Walter Biscardi Jr. photographed and designed this network branding image for Contemporary Living Network.

Contemporary Living Network: Fresh Ideas, Fresh Content

Longtime Creative COW Contributor, Walter Biscardi, Jr. recently announced the upcoming launch of Contemporary Living Network, a digital network focusing on positive lifestyle edutainment. For him, it's a natural progression from production to creating a new home for all original content. We asked Walter to tell us about CLN and his crowd funding campaign for "Ice Cream Nation," one of the first series to be featured on the new network.

Here's what he had to say...


When Walter told us about his idea for the Contemporary Living Network, we wanted to hear more. We also wanted to hear more about why he decided to go the crowdfunding route, and how he's making his pitch. So what about you? Do you have a story about a new project or venture that you're trying to raise money for? Drop us a line, at . Maybe we can help tell your story, too.
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The Monday June 30 premiere of Season 2 of Under the Dome, the record-breaking hit series on CBS, promises another summer of post-apocalyptic tension, suspense, mystery, and contemplation of Big Issues, wrapped in character studies of a small town in crisis -- very simply, trapped under a clear dome of unknown origin, cut off from every kind of contact with the world outside. Under the Dome is executive produced by Steven Spielberg and based on a novel by Stephen King, who wrote this week's episode. The Emmy-winning director of many episodes of Lost, Jack Bender, is at the helm again. (A number of other folks connected to Lost have been involved in Under the Dome from the beginning.)

A series as conceptually intricate as Under the Dome places a lot of faith in its visual effects team to lend plausibility and engagement, particularly with the titular dome. This week offers us the perfect opportunity to check in with Stephan Fleet, the VFX Supervisor for Encore Hollywood of Season One of Under the Dome. Currently at work on the CBS series Extant (premiering later this summer), he talked to us about the effects on Under the Dome, but he also spoke about the challenge of making cinematic-scale VFX on a weekly basis even possible.

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."

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 one of summer's biggest hits.
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Saturday Night Live's film unit produces a pre-taped segment for every live show, with nearly all of production and post happening within a 48 hour period. Director of Photography Alex Buono and editor Adam Epstein rely heavily on communication, improvisational filmmaking skills and the flexibility of their toolset to hit their deadlines and bring film spots to air each Saturday night. Read more...



The Toaster and Tim's Vermeer

The Toaster and Tim's Vermeer

Tim's Vermeer was one of the most acclaimed documentaries of late 2013 and early 2014, but unless you saw it at one of the many film festivals it was selected for, it wasn't exactly easy to find in theaters. Now available on disc and streaming outlets including Netflix and Amazon Prime, here's your chance to see a provocative, highly entertaining film that you're going to be talking about for a long time.

The inventor of the NewTek Video Toaster, Tim Jenison, was certain that he figured out the secret behind the uncanny realism of one of the world's greatest painters, and certain he could use the same methods to duplicate his work. Really? Yes, really. The tale was so remarkable that when Tim told his friend Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, Penn's response was, "We need to make a movie about this." And so they did, not knowing whether or not Tim was going to pull it off.

Join us for a wide-ranging conversation with Tim Jenison on the unexpected intersection of art, technology, obsession and the Video Toaster in the wonderfully provocative documentary called Tim's Vermeer.



Take Creativity Wherever You Go: Adobe Creative Cloud Updates

Take Creativity Wherever You Go: Adobe Creative Cloud Updates

Blending desktop apps and mobile devices for a "creativity on the go", Adobe announced the availability of 14 newly updated Creative Cloud desktop apps, four new mobile apps, and new Adobe-branded hardware tools for iPad. Creative COW contributing editor Kylee Wall takes a look at what's new.
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Sometimes it might seem that colorists are all about stylized treatments and extreme color correction, but Aidan Stanford's work on season five of Modern Family is all about maintaining realism and hiding all the tricks in the background. Making the jump from film color timing into digital hasn't been easy, but Aidan has found a way to utilize his film skills in the digital world, turning around episodes in a day using his favorite tools in DaVinci Resolve.



Sledding with friends and GoPro cameras

GoPro Workflows for Editing Pros

GoPro footage is making its way into nearly every broadcast project that editor Shane Ross has been working on. It's even showing up in feature film production, so no matter what you're cutting, you're going to work with GoPro soon, if you're not already. Drawing on his real-world experience figuring this out on broadcast deadlines, Shane offers practical advice for editors using Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, and Apple FCPX.
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Jonathan Bird's Blue World is an underwater adventure series co-produced by the titular Emmy Award-winning cinematographer and naturalist, and the Oceanic Research Group. The 30-minute episodes cover a variety of subjects in and around the water, including marine research and underwater exploration. Needless to say, it also features stunning underwater imagery.

This truly epic conversation with Jonathan covered his trajectory across over 20 years in the industry, through NLEs (from Avid, Media 100, FCP, and now Premiere), camera formats (Hi-8 to 4K), computing platforms (adding HP workstations to his previously all-Mac shop), and business models -- starting with creating the TV show he'd always wanted to work on.



Digital Domain & The Many Layers of Maleficent

Digital Domain & The Many Layers of Maleficent

In Part 2 of our look at Walt Disney's Maleficent, we check in on Digital Domain, who drew upon their decades of Academy Award-winning expertise to set a new standard for realistic CG humans -- including, in some scenes, Maleficent herself. VFX Supervisor Kelly Port took us inside the 2-year process of bringing them to the screen. Read more...


Broadcast Editor Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt

Broadcast Television Editor Shane Ross Rebuilds His Bay with Thunderbolt

Broadcast editor and longtime Creative COW leader Shane Ross was onlining a series for MSNBC on Avid Symphony, and noticed a funny thing: his MacBook Pro was outpacing his Mac Pro tower. Follow his adventures as he uses a variety of new products to rebuild the heart of his suite around Thunderbolt and his MacBook Pro.
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Walt Disney Pictures' Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie, Oscar winner for Girl, Interrupted, and among the smallest handful of actors we can refer to as true movie stars. It retells the story of one of Disney's most iconic villains, the evil witch from Disney's 1959 Sleeping Beauty. Its intent is by no means to lighten Maleficent up, as much as to illuminate her. As Angelina told Entertainment Weekly, "It's about the struggle that people have with their own humanity and what is that that destroys that and kind of makes us die inside."

Not exactly kid stuff, but the first reaction of audiences has been strong: an extremely rare Cinemascore rating of "A" from the people who've seen it, on top of an opening weekend north of $170 million worldwide.

Maleficent is directed by first-timer Robert Stromberg, who had a long career in visual effects before moving to Art Direction, where his first two outings (Avatar and Alice in Wonderland) both earned him Academy Awards. Maleficent screenwriter Linda Woolverton also wrote Alice in Wonderland (the first woman to be the sole writer on a billion-dollar picture), Beauty and The Beast (the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar), and collaborated on the screenplay for one of Disney's talking animal trifles. The Lion King. You may have heard of it.

In addition to Robert and Linda, another member of the team responsible for the success of Alice in Wonderland, now working again with them on Maleficent, is Visual Effects Supervisor Carey Villegas, whose work on Alice in Wonderland in fact netted him an Oscar nomination. Along with work on vfx-heavy franchises including Superman and Spiderman, Carey's diverse credits include What Dreams May Come, Fight Club, and Cast Away. We spoke to Carey about his work on Maleficent, coordinating the efforts from Digital Domain and the Motion Picture Company, the challenges of making realistic visual effects, and keeping Maleficent the movie grounded while making the character Maleficent fly.



Douglas Spotted Eagle shown skydiving with a 11-camera head-mounted POV testing helmet

The Ultimate POV Shootout

Douglas Spotted Eagle has a broad experience base with POV cameras designed for action shots. Rather than choosing one catch-all, must-buy cam, he will provide information about which action-camera is best suited for specific criteria which can be then used to help you make informed purchasing decisions.
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