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JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2008
MORE SIGNAL, LESS NOISE™ — CREATIVECOW.NET
A LOOK INSIDE SOME OF THE INDUSTRY’S MOST CREATIVE TEAMS
• Music Video Production • Arri D20 and Sci-Fi’s Tin Man • P2 Digital Workflow • RED Workflow Feedback • Authoring 5.1 in Soundtrack
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THE MAGAZINE FOR MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WORKING IN VIDEO, FILM, AUDIO, MOTION GRAPHICS, IMAGING & DESIGN
JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2008
M A G A Z I N E
CREATIVE COW MAGAZINE
A CREATIVECOW.NET PUBLICATION
C R E AT I V E CO M M U N I T I E S O F T H E W O R L D
PUBLISHERS: Ron & Kathlyn Lindeboom ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER: Tim Wilson EDITORS-IN-CHIEF: Ron & Kathlyn Lindeboom and Tim Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Thomas Burstyn, Eki Halkka, Stobe Harju, Nel Johnson, Laurie Pepper, Mark Wagoner, David Roth Weiss, Aaron Zander LAYOUT & DESIGN: Ron Lindeboom MAGAZINE ADVERTISING: Ellen Parker email@example.com WEBSITE ADVERTISING: Tim Matteson firstname.lastname@example.org CONTACT US: email@example.com (805) 239-5645 voice (805) 239-0712 fax
Creative COW Magazine is published bi-monthly by CreativeCOW.net (Creative Communities of the World) at 125 Alydar Place, Paso Robles, CA 93446. (805) 239-5645. Postage paid at Hanover, New Hampshire. U.S. subscription rates are free to qualified subscribers. Creative COW is a registered trademark of CreativeCOW.net. All rights are reserved. Magazine contents are copyright © 2008 by Creative COW Magazine. All rights are reserved. Right of reprint is granted only to non-commercial educational institutions such as high schools, colleges and universities. No other grants are given. The opinions of our writers do not always reflect those of the publisher and while we make every effort to be as accurate as possible, we cannot and do not assume responsibility for damages due to errors or omissions. LEGAL STATEMENT: All information in this magazine is offered without guarantee as to its accuracy and applicability in all circumstances. Please consult an attorney, business advisor, accountant or other professional to discuss your individual circumstances. Use of the information in this magazine is not intended to replace professional counsel. Use of this information is at your own risk and we assume no liability for its use.
In This Issue:
Tim Wilson’s Column ............................................ 8 Ron Lindeboom’s column .................................. 46
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE INDUSTRY’S MOST CREATIVE TEAMS
8 Poets of the Fall: Carnival of Rust
A platinum selling band’s new video. 200 shots in 18 hours. An English icon comes home to play for the hometown fans Preserving the legacy of Jazz Hall of Famer, Art Pepper
14 Behind the Scenes from behind Oasis
18 A Labor of Love: Art Pepper Remembered 22 Finding the Heart of ARRI’s D20 in Tin Man 28 P2 Digital Workflows Using the Panasonic
Secrets of working with the all-digital HPX500 workflow A self-confessed ‘film snob’ leverages the efficiencies of HD
30 COWs in the News
Best of the year podcast, Oscar and Golden Globe nominees A student film at Brooks Institute puts RED through its paces A look at how Soundtrack and Compressor are used in 5.1
32 RED: Early Workflow Findings
36 Authoring 5.1 in Apple Soundtrack Pro 46 Avid Says No Booth for NAB 2008
You won’t find Avid on the show floor in 2008
Creative COW Magazine
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to 10 HD signals on a single screen – something no other switcher in this price range can do. With standard features – such as DVE effects, Chroma Key, DSK, HD-SDI In/Out, and Frame Store on all inputs – it’s all the switcher you’ll need for HD/SD production. For more information, please visit us at www.panasonic.com/broadcast.
ach issue of the COW Magazine is obviously built around a single theme. So far, — the themes have included workflow, business success, portable media, the power of artistic passion, film values, commercials, and now, music. We’d like to let you in on our inspiration: the “concept” album. We can argue some other time whether the concept album began with Lee Wiley in the 1930s — we’ll let the eight songs she recorded on four 78s count as an album — or Frank Sinatra’s “Wee Small Hours.” But there’s no question which was the first truly important concept album in popular music: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles. (Though Ron will argue that in a perfect world, the Small Faces’ “Ogdens Nut Gone Flake” would be right up there.) Ron and I enjoy many other concept albums for their music, but Sgt. Pepper is the one we keep coming back to for guidance as we work on each issue, the one we measure ourselves against. The “concept” part. Not the “changing music, and arguably the world, forever” part. The idea behind a concept album is simple enough: rather than standing alone, all the songs on a concept album are linked thematically and musically to create a complete experience, telling parts of the same story in different ways, from different perspectives. Like books, concept albums present their story in chapters. Many individual pieces, linked thematically to create a much larger whole. That’s what we do in the COW Magazine. You can see it at CreativeCow.net, too. Well over a half million people providing many perspectives creates a rich experience indeed. Not that CreativeCow.net is guided by the spirit of Sgt. Pepper. Just the magazine — although in the end, the visions of both the site and the magazine are guided by the same thing: COW members. And one thing we know about COW members is that music has been an important part of their lives and their businesses for a long time — using it in production, composing it, playing it, shooting it, listening to it. The only problem is that it’s such a large part of our lives, with such a deep emotional connection, that it was hard to know where to begin talking about it. There’s simply too much to say. After much floundering, we decided to let this issue come together the way that all of them always have: we let the authors tell us what to do. That’s why the COW Magazine takes the unusual approach it does — new voices point us in new directions. Among this issue’s authors, eight had never written for us before, and six of those had never written for any magazine before. Many aren’t writers. But they are people who are doing the work they’re talking about. The “W” in “COW” stands for “world,” which you can see here: in addition to the US, this time authors also come from Finland, Japan, New Zealand and the UK. As The Beatles told us on Sgt. Pepper, “it’s getting so much better all the time.” Thanks to COW members, it really is. PS. You’ll notice a couple of articles or so in each of our magazines that don’t have anything to do with the focus of our “concept album.” But they were too good to leave out. Think of them as bonus tracks. n 6
Creative COW Magazine
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A platinum-selling band’s new video: 200 shots in 18 hours. Are you kidding? DP / technical director Eki Halkka says, “It was pretty insane.” Here’s why...
oets of the Fall were introduced to a worldwide audience when their music was included in the hit video game Max Payne 2. Creative COW members may also remember them when the group’s first video, “Lift,” was the subject of episode #7 of the Creative COW podcast back in November of 2005. Since then, they have become one of Europe’s biggest bands. Their second album, “Carnival of Rust,” debuted at number one in their native Finland, and remains in the top 40 nearly two years later. Their 58 city tour just ended in Kanpur India, after stops in Russia, Lithuania, Germany, Estonia, and throughout Scandinavia. Needless to say, creating a video for the title track of such a high-profile, platinum-selling album carried a lot of pressure. It didn’t help that the schedule allowed for only a single day of shooting, that the video’s design called for over 200 shots -- and that there was no room to compromise on production values. They obviously were able to pull it off: Carnival of Rust was voted best Finnish music video of all time by the viewers of Musiikki-TV, earning more than 7 times more votes than the runner-up. Having seen the video ourselves, we were struck by its depth and richness. “Film look” is a phrase too easily tossed around, and rightly associated primarily with software gimmicks. But we know that these guys did it the right way. And from a post at CreativeCow. net by Eki Halkka, we know that it originated on HDV.
Along with Eki — who also handled compositing and color grading in the video — we spoke with the video’s director, Stobe Harju, to find out how they achieved such a cinematic result, from such a complex visual design, in so little time. Part 1: PreParation Director Stobe Harju: The name “Carnival of Rust” obviously goes well with an amusement park, but the meaning itself is much deeper. Life is like a huge carnival where we all have fun for some time, and then suddenly it all ends. I wrote a cool treatment with some basic example images of what I had in mind. There were some similarities in David Lynch movies and the HBO series “Carnivale,” for instance. But the look of the video was very hard to explain in the beginning, so I dug up about 180 reference photos. When the band bought the idea, we made a storyboard. DP and Technical Director Eki Halkka: Stobe is originally a graphic artist, and he always gives us very good references to work from. For Carnival of Rust, he made concept art that set the mood for the whole thing. It was a straight forward (though not easy) process to translate that to moving images. He also always makes very
Eki Halkka and Stobe Harju
Eki Halkka and Stobe Harju also worked together on videos for Poets of the Fall’s “Lift” and “Locking up the Sun,” among many others. To see more from the making of “Carnival of Rust,” including storyboards and the video itself, visit http://library.creativecow.net/poetsofthefall 8
Creative COW Magazine
detailed storyboards, which help a lot. But I admit that I tease him about his work going to waste. You know, we could shoot with stick figure storyboards just as well! Stobe: An amusement park is such a complex environment hat you could add almost anything to it. We added ideas from everybody, including personal objects, like the tarot cards belonging to Marko, the band’s lead singer. So even though I had a clear vision in the beginning, the specifics came from all the people working on the project. Marko had another idea long before we even started to write anything on paper. He wanted to
have a character that would be frightening, but also sympathetic. I chose a visual quote from the Tom Hanks movie “Big,” the Zoltar, the fortune teller. I also wanted to add something that looked a bit like Marilyn Manson style make-up mixed with old peeling paint. The black tear at the end explains why the paint on his face is peeling. He’s the only character in the video who couldn’t move even if he wanted to, and every day, someone whose life he has an effect on dies — a tragic character. The song is about unpredictable fortunes, and building the details of the production design this way fit the story very well. Once we had all of the ideas in place, we carefully built them into the storyboard. When we got to the set we knew exactly what we would shoot, in what order, and what we’d do if we fell behind. We didn’t shoot any extra shots outside the storyboard. Eki: Exactly. We didn’t shoot in chronological order either, but rather tried to minimize the amount of set-up time between shots. We cut out each shot from the storyboard, and arranged them on a big cardboard sheet based on similarity.
Creative COW Magazine
This was our bible, the only way we could do 200 shots in a single day — although in the final edit, there are “only” maybe a hundred or so separate set-ups. Part 2: the shoot Eki: We used the Sony HVR-Z1 HDV camera, with a P+S Technik Mini35 adapter and a set of five prime lenses, from wide angle to telephoto. Stobe: We deliberately overused the short depth of field to create a miniature feel for the amusement park.
wheels. The floor was covered with uneven concrete and dirt which were part of the set, so we had some sheets of plywood for an even surface to do camera moves on. There were no markings, but we practiced each camera move pretty carefully. There’s no way to get a truly steady, repeatable move without a motion control rig, so we didn’t worry about that too much. If it looked good, it was good. Stobe: When doing a very technical production it’s most important to come up with simple ideas for how to do the most complicated things. There was one shot that was part of a scene with a roller coaster. I briefed Eki and the guys on how it should look, with the most complex explanation I could ever come up with. It was so complicated that I asked how was it going to be done. Eki just nodded and told me that was the least of our worries. Eki: Well, imagine the girl sitting on a chair, with a gas mask and a giant lollipop. There’s two or three colored lights blinking around her. That’s it.
Eki: We shot interlaced at 25 fps, with the camera set to as little contrast as possible, and very little sharpening. I would actually have preferred no sharpening, but that doesn’t work because the Z1 is already pretty soft. We didn’t use the camera’s built in Cineframe mode because we get better quality by deinterlacing in After Effects. But that’s not what provides the film look. Doing film-like stuff with video has a lot of variables, all of which have to be taken into account. The most important variables involve what you put in front of the camera - how the shot is lit, composed and so on. Stobe: The impression we created for the finished video was the scale of an actual amusement park, of course – huge -- but the studio was quite small: 27 x 40 feet (12 x 8 meters) or something like that. We had a green screen on 3 sides, and a movable set that we could turn into any direction we wanted. We then placed the elements we shot into a software 3D environment and animated the camera tracks. Eki: We just built that one set-up, with a programmable desk to control lighting. We had maybe half a dozen floods coming from the left wall, giving a rather soft warm key light to the whole setup. There was a row of rim lights with blue gel around the stage. The bulk of the lighting work for each shot was just balancing those three light groups. We just moved the actors and the props so that they looked good on the setup we already had. It was much faster this way. We had a really small technical crew, basically just Teemu Konttinen on the lights and me on camera. Of course there were a lot of others making sure we had something to shoot, but as far as camera crew goes, that was it. We didn’t have tracks, just a studio tripod with 10
Stobe: Just two flashing lights pointing towards a barstool, the actress sitting on it waving back and forth. I sat with my face pressed against the monitor, trying to look like I was paying attention rather than laughing as hard as I could! Eki: It looked pretty ridiculous, and still the shot ended up being one of my personal favorites in the video. Part 3: the truth about fake camera moves Stobe: It all boils down to efficiency. We usually chose
continued on page 40
Creative COW Magazine
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© 2007 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Features and speciﬁcations are subject to change without notice. Sony, XDCAM and XDCAM EX are trademarks of Sony.
or Oasis, it was a big night. Scratch that. It was a huge night. Oasis, the self-proclaimed kings of Britpop, were to receive a lifetime achievement award at the 2007 Brit awards. The event was being broadcast live to the nation, and my company had provided the film that played on a huge screen behind the band as they performed the show’s grand finale. Perhaps it’s only fitting that a band like Oasis — so famously Mancunian — should choose to work with a Manchester-based agency. There’s definitely a NorthSouth divide within the UK creative community, so it was with a sense of Northern pride we had brought the job home. There was no way we were going to let the band down. Debuts & firsts Prior to starting Studio Skylab, I was in London for five years. The latter part was spent heading up the interactive division of Metropolis Studios, a recording complex
of the band’s debut album, Definitely maybe, and I was responsible for the design of the disc. It was a first for DVD design in that the concept was to make the disc a visual version of the original audio release. The menu itself lasted the whole length of the album with each individual track representing a point of navigation from where you could access live tracks, promos and rare footage. That was my original concept and the band approved. The DVD was released in September 2004 and quickly went triple platinum. To my great delight, it received a BAFTA (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nomination for interactive design and won the NME award for best DVD, voted by the readers of that highly influential British music magazine. Oasis liked our creative treatment so much that they asked us to use the same graphical style for a Channel 4 documentary, “There We Were, Now Here We Are...: The Making Of Oasis.”
in West London. During that time I looked after many music industry projects, including DVDs for Led Zeppelin, Moloko and Live Aid. Oasis had recorded at the studio many times and had become comfortable with the complex. When they were looking for a team to work on an upcoming interactive DVD project, we were the natural first choice for their director Dick Carruthers. The DVD was to mark the 10th anniversary release
50 miLLion recorDs Later In 2007 the people behind the prestigious Brit Awards decided to give Oasis a lifetime achievement award. The band naturally turned to Dick Carruthers to produce their segment of the show, a live set of five tracks. Thanks in large part to our success with the Oasis DVD project, Dick in turn came to me. He commissioned Skylab to provide stage visuals for the show’s finale for their massive hit “Rock ‘n’ Roll
Manchester, England UK www.studioskylab.com Working with partner Nigel Collier, Nel Johnson and Studio Skylab have earned awards from Cream, NME, the British Video Association and BAFTA, for clients including Sony, BBC, Nokia, Microsoft, Universal and many more. Nel says, “The ethos behind Skylab is one of experimentation, discovery and enjoying what we do.” You’ll find him in the COW’s After Effects and Trapcode forums, among others.
Creative COW Magazine
Photo by David Fisher / Rex USA Liam Gallagher of Oasis at the Brit Awards 2007
Creative COW Magazine
Star.” It was a challenge I was more than happy to accept and was one of the highest profile jobs we had taken since my business partner Nigel Collier and I opened Studio Skylab in 2004. The brief from Dick was quite simple: he wanted something bold and eye-catching, but nothing that had a narrative or was deeply interpretive of the lyrical content. I thought the punchiest way to go would be to illustrate the words “rock,” “roll,” and “star.” Oasis had indicated they were at that time very interested in pop art. This was ideal, as one of my favorite artists is Robert Indiana, an American pop artist. His style utilizes lots of flat primary colors, stars, squares, circles, bold, brash stencil letters and numbers. I thought it perfectly suited the song. The band approved the concept and with just five days to go until the event itself, the pressure was on. We locked ourselves away, cranked up the music and went nuts. visuaL founDations I started off with a content-gathering exercise. The idea was to collect textures and imagery that would help carry the concept in the appropriate style. We went out and shot abstracts of gig posters, focusing on torn edges and the multiple overlaid graph-
Granted, we had the rehearsal audio but this could only ever be a guide. The problem for us was, if the band played too fast or too slow, none of the visual elements would work. So we created chorus pieces, bridge pieces, and verse pieces, each with a 3 seconds tail. These would be all be triggered individually at the right cue points by the lighting director during the performance that night. Knowing we had chorus and verse pieces to create, we set about tailoring each composition to suit each part of the track. Chorus pieces focused on the rock-roll-star theme, while verses pulled key lyrical phrases from the song. Each was set as a graphic and placed within the 3D space of each comp. These sequences were complemented by more Robert Indiana-inspired graphics, many created using “3D Stroke” for animated hand-drawn stars and “Echospace” for a lovely deep 3D repetition of star shapes. We further treated these to many trippy effects and filters and plug-ins such as Pete Warden’s “Kaleidoscope,” one of his many free AE plug-ins, and definitely the best kaleidoscope effect out there. There was a huge composition to make for the end, where the band goes into guitar solo overdrive with lots of feedback and vocal effects. Creating a tail out which
ics formed by the succession of posters left stuck to the wall underneath. These formed a visual collage that would act as a backdrop for the scenes we were about to create. We imported them into After Effects, then turned them into 3D objects. We dropped them back in z-depth, away from the camera, to form a distant backdrop. Others we positioned at intervals between the camera and the far backdrop. To these we applied various modes of transparency so the whole effect was an interplay of light and texture from the camera view to the far distance. PLaYinG off the musicaL cues Random movement was applied to the camera’s point of interest using Trapcode SoundKeys, which was patched to an audio file from an earlier rehearsal session. This gave us a lovely parallax effect when all the layers were moving within the comps, in time to the music. That was the basis of various scenes that made up the visuals for the song. But the animation wouldn’t run in one long composition from start to end because no one knew quite what speed the band would play. 16
lasts almost as long as the song itself was one of the more difficult parts of the project. For the end, we made a composition featuring all the best bits from the piece so far and, to create an eyepopping finale, we applied the Sapphire “Random Edit” plug-in, which basically chopped and changed 2 or 3 frame edits, increasing in speed and ferocity as the tail out progressed. We applied a further kaleidoscopic effect in Final Cut Pro with the SlitScan plug-in, which, to be honest, is one of those effects you’d never normally have a use for. As a last finishing touch, we topped and tailed the start and end pieces with real television interference footage. This would serve as the intro and final backdrop as the band exited the stage. be there noW By now we were fast approaching deadline and I was feeling even more pressure to complete the job, as my wife was due to give birth to our first son any day. The final part of the job involved laying off all the parts to a FireWire drive, over 40GB of footage, and sending it by courier down to London.
Creative COW Magazine
The driver went down the night before the live show, where Dick was completing final preparation for the performance. Time was tight but we made it (just!). We one final hurdle to clear. Before transmission, the film was subjected to a strict technical preview to ensure it could be safely broadcast. Thankfully it passed. So now that we had successfully delivered the project all that was left was to sit back, Jack Daniels in hand and enjoy the show. The anticipation on the night was immense. As the band took to the stage, there was the excitement of seeing our own work on a huge event like the Brits, coupled with concern at what might have happened to the film after it left our hands. Then the familiar strains of the tune began and I can honestly say it was a career highlight for me. To see a band I’ve known, loved and respected for over a decade, performing to such a huge audience in front of work my own company had created was a real kick. DeLiverinG The project was actually a standard-def piece. I remember this surprising us because one would assume that
video displayed so large would require HD at least. We initially rendered lots of test pieces and encoded some H.264 previews for the client. Finally we rendered all our pieces uncompressed. We learned a lot on this project which we’ve applied to other projects since. The mistake a lot of budding stage visual designers will make is that they will try and create a pop promo for a particular track, narrative and all, and that’s really not what’s required. The key thing is K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Sweetie. Obviously it’s easier to deliver a job if you’ve kept it simple, and ultimately the task is to support the performers, not to try and outdo them. I call it “animated wallpaper,” but in terms of screen visuals, simple equals bold, equals eye catching. As a company we’re still growing, but our success with this film proves my own personal belief that if you’re passionate about what you do and if you’ve got the motivation, you really can achieve anything. n
Creative COW Magazine
A Labor of ove
Preserving and expanding the legacy of Jazz Hall of Famer, Art Pepper
hen, at age sixty, I started playing around with iMovie, what beset me and pressed me and pushed me and still keeps me going is love. My late husband, Art Pepper, was one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Yes, I said it. Many critics would agree — and so would listeners — who elected him to the Down Beat magazine Jazz Hall of Fame. With him, I wrote his autobiography, “Straight Life,” published in 1979 and still in print. Not long after Art died, I began to hear from filmmakers, producers, studios, who wanted to make a movie of that book. I spent ten years getting acquainted with the culture and practices of “Hollywood,” and came to the
conclusion that I loved Art too much to sell him out to the people I’d been talking to. I decided to forget the whole thing. Then I began to wonder whether the movie I wanted might best be made by me. aDDinG uP the stories Todd Haynes, when asked why he thought Bob Dylan had been willing to let him make the movie, “I’m Not There,” using Dylan’s songs, answered, “He read the outline and probably saw that it wasn’t reductive and that it had humor…” That’s all I’d been looking for: a movie that didn’t
Los Angeles, California USA — www.artpepper.net
Laurie Pepper runs her own record label, Widow’s Taste. “I’m introducing truly unreleased and unheard Art Pepper to people who love him and want to hear him. I’m introducing Art to people who thought they knew what jazz was (incomprehensible bebop), so they can correct that awful impression and fill their lives with soulful beauty.” You can find her in the Cow forums for Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Trapcode, and Zaxwerks.
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reduce Art’s huge and endlessly fascinating personality to a shiny spangle of high concept. I didn’t want a movie that would be lugubrious, like “Bird.” Or simplistic like “Ray,” or “Walk the Line.” I enjoyed those movies, but they just wouldn’t do for me, for Art. To do his story that way would feel like a betrayal. Hollywood people had told me that to them Art was a wild hipster like Jack Kerouac. Or they talked about the tragedy of his life. Or how “gritty” his story was. But Art was a romantic. There was nothing “gritty” about him: he never left the house unshaven; his fingernails were invariably cleaner than mine. He was a fantasist. He’d been diagnosed early as a paranoid schizophrenic. He was an addict. He was a stand up guy. He lived his life in nightmares and love songs — and slapstick comedies: he was very self-aware and could laugh at his fate even as he whined about it. As a musician, Art was a storyteller. Every song he played was a chapter of the narrative he spun in every performance he gave until he died. He knew how everybody felt. They felt like he did. When Art played his delight, it was our delight. His grief and frustration, ours. His stories all made sense, because what they added up to, every time, was beauty. His life and his music were one, and they were a gift he gave us, making sense of our lives as he made sense of his own. What WeirD stuff Well, Hollywood people wouldn’t sign a contract promising to use Art’s music in his movie. What if a particular song was too expensive? Or poorly recorded? What if the Widow (me) decided to withhold some music in return for some unreasonable demand on them? Like maybe a different star! A different director! A changed script! They couldn’t afford to give any power away. They asked me to trust them. I asked them why they wouldn’t trust me. The truth is, neither of us could be trusted. Who knows what weird stuff they might have pulled? And then who knows what my subsequent rage and horror might have driven me to do? Have you read any stories about movies made from books? “Picture?” “The Devil’s Candy?” “Monster?” They all end the same way. Fiasco, shame, heartbreak. Sheila Graham said about her book, “Beloved Infidel,” describing her affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald, “If you want to sell your soul to the devil, sell your book to the movies.”
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Scenes from Art Pepper
Laurie’s highly stylized production evokes imagery reflective of the beat period that was central to the early heyday of modern jazz.
the PoWer of enthusiasm I wasn’t completely unprepared for filmmaking. I’d certainly seen a lot of movies. I did learn about movies, though, from one of the most perceptive critics ever. Pauline Kael and her husband ran two theaters in Berkeley when I was going to college there. In their quarterly flier, she wrote a critical analysis of every film they showed, from “Bicycle Thieves” to “Potemkin.” Her little essays and the movies she chose gave us Cal students after-school classes in film appreciation. Kael talked about things like camera angles, lighting, music, color, editing, sub-texts and subtleties I never would have noticed. I later became a photographer and photo journalist. Then I married Art and started writing. After Art died, I worked for The Eagle Eye Film Co. publishing a little magazine for film and video editors, “Editing.” I got to interview great editors. Dede Allen cut “The Hustler,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and one of my all time favorites, “Dog Day Afternoon.” My hero Walter Murch edited “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now,” and he did the sound on “The Conversation,” another favorite and a classic. Later, when my boyfriend, who’s a carpenter, went to the Island of Kauai to build homes as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, I trailed along with my little video camera, to document that project for them. Then when I decided to make my own movie of “Straight Life,” I took a ten week filmmaking class at UCLA. Then, my formal education finished, I put out a casting call. I had only the vaguest outline of a format and no final script at all. I wrote as I went along, shooting with the same one-chip Panasonic I’d used in Hawaii. I bought Final Cut Pro. I bought a bigger, faster Mac, and then another, another camera, and a lot of drives. Yes, I’m in debt. I also borrowed cameras. And cameramen. Actors and lighting people helped me. Two gorgeous locations, a restored 1950’s recording studio, and a retirement hotel that looks like an old hotel, were both offered, gratis. People will help you if they like the project. Well, Art Pepper intrigues people. And then, also, Emerson said it, the I Ching says it: the power of enthusiasm over people is incalculable. That’s how I was able to borrow a ‘53 Cadillac for a scene — from a stranger driving down the street. I blocked his path with my car, ran up to him in the rain and asked him, “Do you like jazz?” He did. everY frame While all this was going on, I saw the movie that confirmed me in what I was doing and pushed me further: “Amelie.” I loved how witty it was, how rich and perfect each frame of that movie was. I saw Amelie 13 times in theaters — as many times as I saw “A Hard Day’s Night” when it came out. I began, then, to think in terms of every frame. I 20 20
began to think in terms of Joseph Cornell boxes. He arranged odd, old objects and illustrations into “scenes” that were surreal and nostalgic. I wanted to mimic their mystery. I was, of course, using Art’s music. By the time I’d decided to use his voice (captured on a tape recorder during the endless interviews I did back in the ‘70’s for the book), I’d also decided I wanted to try to see through his eyes, his heart, as well. He truly saw pain and power and magic, terror and loveliness brimming out of everyone and every object. A script has emerged as I’ve worked, and I now know every scene in this movie and how the movie will end. enouGh to saY What You have to saY Walter Murch said that too much confidence can get in the way of creativity. He talked about the salutary state of “I don’t knowness.” He said, when you’re asking, “’Can I do this or not?’ little things that feel a kinship with you will appear. And out of those things something will grow that is really organically a part of what you’re doing, rather than something that you’re imposing on it from outside.” I realize that most people don’t have the luxury of spending six months on a ten-minute sequence, as I’ve done recently. I always give myself permission to play around and try all kinds of time-consuming, silly things, going off on tangents. Problems are caused and compounded by my lack of experience, lack of skill. And laziness: “Oh, it’ll be all right…” But it never is all right. Minor glitches just seem to get bigger and more obvious every time you see them. So you have to go back. A pro would be done by now. But I wouldn’t know how to describe to that pro what I wanted. I only recognize it when I see it. I’ve spent a lot of money on software hoping it would make me a better filmmaker. Some of that software is invaluable. Some of it is beside the point, and some is just too hard. But Art used to say apropos of music that you only need enough technique to say what you have to say. So far, it’s working out. When I conceived it, I hoped that the amateurishness of the work would not detract. I hoped it would be charming, bearing witness, as it does, to the love and determination with which I’m making this movie. I’ll never qualify as more than a beginner in digital media, but the reason I’m talking about my journey here, is because I was asked to — and felt honored to be asked. And I want to express my gratitude to all my teachers, because I figure some of them might be reading this. They’re the people writing the tutorials and asking and answering questions every day on the forums. The COW is a wonderful community, and I’m so proud to be stumbling around in it. n
January / February 2008 — Creative COW Magazine Creative COW Magazine
Finding the Heart of the Arri D-20 in Sci-Fi’s “Tin Man”
hose of us at the COW obviously weren’t the only ones watching Sci Fi’s 6-hour miniseries “Tin Man” last December. This modern retelling of The Wizard of Oz brought the highest ratings in Sci Fi history, nearly 6.5 million people on the first night alone. “Tin Man” was also nominated as the Best Made for Television Film by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Movie by the Visual Effects Society.
Aotearoa, New Zealand
With HD, Thomas says he “has the ability to finesse color, exposure and contrast in the color correction suite. I used to look down my nose at video but RAW 4:4:4 is more creative, efficient.”
Tin Man’s Director of Photography was COW member Thomas Burstyn, whose wife Barbara Sumner Burstyn wrote about their documentary shoot in India for the COW Magazine’s “Passion” issue (May-June 2007). We asked the Emmy-nominated cinematographer (“The 4400”) to tell us about his 65-day shoot, followed by his 7 weeks in post. Given the richness of the visuals, we assumed it was shot on with film. “No, not film,” he told us. “It was
While compiling nearly 70 credits at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com), Thomas Burstyn has been nominated for awards including the Emmy, American Society of Cinematographers, and two Genie Awards. Recently, he won a third Genie and an award from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers. We are proud that both Thomas and his wife, documentary filmmaker Barbara Sumner Burstyn, are members of Creative COW. 22 22
January / February 2008 — Creative COW Magazine Creative COW Magazine
Tom and team prepare for a day’s shooting in the woods of British Columbia, Canada. originated on HD 4:4:4, with everything coming from the mammoth and amazing Arriflex D-20 camera. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve shot a foot of film in 5 years. And I used to hate video! I looked down my nose at it. It was a news medium at best. It was vulgar. Now I can’t remember what a piece of film smells like.” When we asked to hear more about the production, including shooting with the D-20, he didn’t hesitate. “I’d love to talk to you about my Tin Man experience,” he said. “It was amazing!” Here’s what he had to say. fiLm anD 4:4:4 As a motion picture cinematographer, the only adjustments open to you are color balance — warm, cold, magenta, green — and exposure — light, dark. Contrast is set during principle photography with lighting. Highlight and shadow relationships are done with lighting and exposure. Working in HD, I’ve become more efficient by shooting with the knowledge that I have the power to finesse color, exposure and contrast in the color correction suite. My methodology on “Tin Man” was to acquire information in camera, 4:4:4 RAW in LOG mode. That gave us as large a palette as possible, saved for working in the calm atmosphere of an air conditioned color correction suite, and not in a dripping forest. At first I thought that’s cheating, but then I realized it’s not. This is how the HD world should be set up to take full advantage of its amazing potential. It’s a real change of pace and a workflow adjustment for me, but it seems more creative, efficient. It’s the only way we could have done something this complex and rich with our schedule and budget.
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When the time came to put it all together, we had a lot of visitors in the daVinci suite, producers and cameramen who wanted a peek at what we were doing. They hadn’t seen the camera working at that depth, with this kind of fastidious attention to detail in post. You get the feeling you’re at the cutting edge of the technology, in a world where the rules are yet to be set. You get to figure it out as you go along. choices When you shoot film, your look evolves through a marriage of camera, lenses, film stock, and development processes. In the HD world the camera you choose goes a long way towards setting that look. It’s the equivalent of choosing the film stock. I like to become intimate with a film stock, and learn about its quirks and qualities as I shoot in different situations. So with every new camera, I explore its signature. A test with a stand-in and a color chart and a key, fill, backlight doesn’t tell me anything. The first real test is the first real shoot. We tested the Arri 65 days, and then spent almost 7 weeks in the color suite. Now I feel like I know the camera. There are a few signatures in the Arri D-20 that are very interesting. It has a wide gamma, a great subtly of color rendition and the fineness of the image due to its large sensor approaches 35mm quality. It’s a beautiful camera. But for me, the most compelling aspect of the D-20 sensor is the way it renders shadow areas. There’s a lot of detail and contrast, but the deeper the shadow, the more the color sensitivity falls off, resulting in a bronze-y, desaturated darkness. As an example, let’s say you have a character 23
strongly side-lit with no fill. On the lit side, the color is as expected. However on the shadow side, skin tone gives way to a silvery gray tone. I’m pretty sure the Arri technicians see this as a flaw in the system, but for me it’s a unique signature that makes for compelling look. I haven’t been able to test the Thomson Viper to the same extent. That is, while I have much more production experience with the Viper, I haven’t had the big budget color correction experience as I did with the Arri, so any judgment would be unfair. I will say that both cameras have a very good tonal range, both have good color gamut, but I feel the Arri beats out the Viper, in my opinion. The other huge difference in the Viper vs. Arri debate is the sensor size. Viper feels like 16mm, has all the pluses and minuses of that format: lightweight, small envelope, easy setup. The D-20 has the same heft as a 35mm camera, is as bulky and heavy as a 35mm camera, but has the enormous advantage of the 35mm perspective — and yet, we made an average of 55 setups a day with the D-20, so you can’t say the Arri is slow. 55 set-uPs a DaY You know that saying? What do you want: fast, good or cheap? Pick any two. We chose fast and good. The way you make 55 setups a day is by not changing the lights between shots. Pre-visualization and pre-lighting are the cameraman’s most important time and motion tools. Example: Our intrepid quartet arrive at an ice palace, and they come into this blue room. DG, the Dorothy character played by Zooey Deschanel, is wondering why she remembers this place. She touches a mirror, and as her memories begin to flood back, we see her past take shape in the mirror’s reflection. DG and her friends are lit by the memory as they
peer into her past. We then go into the mirror and play out several of her childhood scenes. We had two days to do all those scenes on the both sides of the mirror, including both lighting setups. I keyed the scene with four maxi brutes, gelled with Lee Cold Blue #711 through a huge window whenever the window wasn’t in frame. When we shot against the window, most of those lights were turned off. Since the set was very tall, an appropriately gelled 18K Chimera replaced the window light. We had to line up the angles on each side of the mirror to look right when matted together. As much as we possibly could, we figured out both setups before we began, then used a dimmer desk to make all the changes. A small Chimera and/or KinoFlo came and went as required. But bottom line, all the big lighting changes were built into the original lighting pre-rig. in-camera Looks We also tried to do a number of effects in camera. “Tin Man’s” director Nick Willing is a cameraman’s director. He has a great visual style, and an understanding of visual processes. He also came with a suitcase full of his weird glass collection, and he’d just hold this piece or that in front of the lens and wiggle it around. High tech meets rubber band tech. For me one of the most beautiful examples of the marriage between camera and post was a number of scenes shot in the same place — a dense rain forest with hanging fronds, leading to a cave. We were only there for one day, and had to shoot dream, memory and present day sequences in that time. There was dappled sun in the morning for about 4 hours before it softened, then disappeared behind a mountain. The dappled sunlight made the forest look more forbidding, so that was used
Tom Burstyn sets up a shot with Tin Man’s Azkadellia played by Kathleen Robertson.
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for the wicked witch’s approach. The soft light was for DG and her friends in the present. The rest of the day we used the remaining light to shoot memories and dreams, which were then severely altered in post. LiGhtinG The big challenge working with the Arri D-20 was its low ISO. This may be a moot point as the camera we used is now 2 generations old ,and the sensitivity has been upped significantly. The first thing to point out is that evaluating lighting is different in HD than it is on film. Video curves are unlike film curves. Since I use the zone system to finesse my lighting, I discovered that taking light readings in the conventional way misleading. When I made my initial tests for the Viper I found that if I wanted to use my light meter I had to break down my readings as follows: Highlights placed at 125250 ISO, midtones at 320-400, and shadows came in at 500-640 ISO. In the end I put my light meters away and devoted myself to the waveform monitor. On “Tin Man,” Clairmont Camera supplied us with a 4:4:4 card for the Leader waveform monitor which gave us accurate luminance readings.
We relied on accurate waveforms to tell us we had what we needed, and not monitors — because none of the monitors we tested could read the highlights and shadows the camera was capable of capturing. So back to the low sensitivity of the D-20. Again the numbers may sound misleading. If I took my value from a 18% gray card reading, I would think that the camera (in LOG F mode) was 125 ISO. True for the midtones, but it had much more sensitivity in the shadows, and the highlights roll off pleasingly before clipping. Still, the camera was not what you would call high speed. After the first week we sent all our inkies, peppers and tweenies back to the rental house. Our smallest lighting fixture was a baby. I used more fill than I usually do. There was one scene played with 5 characters in a small room. The dressing room by the Mystic Man (the Wizard character, played by Richard Dreyfuss) was dark and moody. Nick, the director asked if we could hold focus on more than one character at a time so I decided to light the set to a 5.6 stop. We ended up using 2 10Ks, 2 5Ks, and a KinoFlo Wall ‘o Lights to make the stop. To the eye, the scene looked bright and flat, but the end result was pleasing. A whole new world is emerging from taking available light and tarting it up.
— continued on page 42
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P2 Digital Workflows with the Panasonic HPX500
Don’t be afraid of digital workflows, says Mark. And don’t be afraid to spend money on the right camera.
igital workflows have been central to my work for a long time now, starting with the still photography side of my business. I have a film file with a mix of 8x10, 4x5, 120mm, and 35mm film, numbering in the area of at least 250,000 pieces. This is in addition to four hundred DVDs of archived images. Our still photography projects started going digital 6 years ago, shooting to cards and directly to the computer, both on location and in the studio. For the past 3 years, we haven’t shot any film at all. My first video job came in 1987, when I was asked to produce and co-direct a point of sale video for Hanes Hosiery: shooting 1-inch tape with an Ikegami camera. Video now accounts for 75% my business, focused on product and corporate video, and video for nonprofit fundraising, with the occasional small commercial thrown in. In the last couple of months we’ve shot a large project for a bank (this was a 15-day shoot), a 4-day shoot for a golf community and some Hospital TV spot work. From the beginning, I’ve never liked dealing with tapes. Of all the media we use to store our intellectual property, they’re the hardest to deal with. The film and the DVDs are reasonably well organized. Most of the best still images are now searchable trough Aperture, while tapes sit in boxes or stacked in drawers. My other issue is the capture process. I just don’t
enjoy it as part of the work flow. Whether I’m editing at a post house or doing an edit at our studio, digitizing has never been my favorite part of the job. So when I really caught on to P2 cards, I jumped at the idea of no tapes. We have a leg up on our comfort moving to P2 because of our experience with still work. I’m not saying that we’re the best workflow engineers. But we’ve moved, organized and delivered tens of thousands of digital images, so we have a little less trepidation. the cameras We had a Panasonic AG-HVX200, and needed a second camera for some of our shoots. I considered a second HVX, but when I thought about it, though, I went for the AG-HPX500 instead. I bought it in October 2007, and it’s obviously now our main camera. Even though it cost roughly 4 times more than the HVX (around $5200, to the roughly $21,000 for our HPX kit), I liked it for the 2/3 inch chips and the features of the larger camera, including uncompressed HD-SDI out, extensive variable frame rate support, and interchangeable lenses. (We have the Fujinon XA17x7.68BRM, and plan to test a Canon lens and some wide angle lenses soon). We’ve rented a Varicam for some of our jobs in the past, and I feel that we can now shoot jobs like that with the HPX. Although the capture and file-handling are identical, and the menus are very similar, there are aspects of
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working with the HPX500 that are different than the HVX200, all part of working with a much more sophisticated, more fully-featured camera. Not to say that it’s hard to learn. We had a jib operator use the HPX500 recently, and he found his way around it in about 5 minutes. One big difference to note: the HPX500 has FOUR P2 slots, instead of the 2 with the HVX. Using four 16GB cards (which are included in many HPX packages) gives us over an hour of 1080i or p. That means nearly 3 hours of 720p/24 before we have to change a card – more than enough to overcome the objection of short recording times for P2 media. If you’ve used very high end digital still cameras — by this I mean medium format backs that are for the most part shot direct to computer -- you might have seen something similar to this, but otherwise, the focus assist on the HPX500 is like none you’ve seen before. Rather than give you a magnified window like the HVX200, the HPX500 gives you a graph (a histogram) of the parts of the image that are in focus. It’s faster, easier, and far more accurate than making your best guess looking at a viewfinder. When the image is sharp, it shows you a graph of the edge contrast, a very nice way to work that you’ll quickly get comfortable with. Not surprisingly, the image from the HPX is cleaner-looking. You can really see this in the bottom end. We just did a 2 camera set up for a business announcement the HVX was locked off and the HPX was on a jib. The background was a dark cherry colored paneling; the HVX image had noise in the dark areas of the wood that just wasn’t there on the HPX. The HPX is also 1.5 to 2 stops faster than the smaller camera, giving it much more sensitivity in low light. Yet on the high end, the HPX500 also holds the highlight edges better than the HVX: less blooming, less of that overdriven look, and more detail in the brightest highlights.
That said, we took our time A/B-ing the 2 cameras both on set and in post to match the colors better than the defaults alone provided, and found that the footage from the two cameras cut in nicely. the WorkfLoW Whatever system you come up with, follow it as closely as you can. Have a specific place on your person or in your bag for shot and ready to shoot cards. Never hold a full card and a ready to shoot card at the same time. Think through the process for getting the footage downloaded, and follow that too. After a long shoot, with a 5:30 AM call in front of you, is not the time to stop and re-think each step. Our shooting process begins with the cards themselves. After we set up and do any needed test or technical rehearsals, we format the cards we’ll need. While this is happening our production coordinator is setting up a computer with a card reader, we use a Mac G4 laptop with a built in reader. When a card is full, an assistant pulls the card and takes it to our production coordinator. She then
North Carolina USA Mark’s client list includes Wachovia Bank, United Airlines, Wrangler Jeans Wear, and Sara Lee. He’s also written nearly a dozen books about North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, daughter and golden retriever. “I’ve been fortunate to work for 30 years doing what I love,” Mark says. You can find Mark in the Cow’s HVX/ HPX P2 forum.
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downloads the card or cards to 2 different drives. We don’t make one drive a copy of the other, but do two downloads. The cards then come back to the camera as needed. We use a project folder with a location and date folder, and a folder for each camera and a folder for each card. One card one folder. For the ride home we try to send the two drives back in different cars. One then stays at the studio and one goes home with me. Now we have at least two copies of the footage, in two different places. The drive that comes back to the studio gets backed up to our server. These files stay in place while the job is active. It’s also the place the we connect for the log and transfer process in FCP. If we’re passing the footage on for someone else to edit, the second drive is for them. We use a small 80 or 160 GB drive, and bill it as part of the job. I hand drives to clients all the time now, and after they get into the flow, they’re very happy with this. Everybody winds up with the footage they need,
already on a drive in a fraction of the time it would have taken to digitize. And we end up with a copy of the footage for us to use in our sample reel, or as stock. no turninG back We commit the money to buy equipment and train staff to constantly reinvent Mark Wagoner Productions, and our role as a producer of visual content. That’s one of the reasons we’re not afraid of new technologies or workflows. I was speaking at a photo school recently, and I was asked how I had survived over the years. My answer was along the lines that I like being the first to eat at a new restaurant. Again, we’re an independent production company, shooting almost exclusively not-for-broadcast work. The HPX500 has added richness to our work, with features that also make the work easier. And now that we’ve developed a P2 workflow that works for us and our clients, we’re not going back to tape. n
“Across the Universe,” nominated for a bevy of awards including the Golden Globes and the Academy Award, includes work done by Pete O’Connell (right, who is part of Montreal’s Bar X Seven barxseven.com team). Pete‘s compositing tutorials online at CreativeCOW.net have been among our most popular and he has also been one of our magazine’s contributing editors, having written for our Film Values issue. By the time you read this, “Across the Universe” may have won, and will also be available in DVD and Blu-ray DVD, and for Sony PSP. Pete also did compositing work for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium starring Dustin Hoffman. As we write this, the two films have grossed over $85 million worldwide. With all of that behind him, Pete is wrapping up his DVD for the Creative COW Master Series, on compositing in After Effects. Congratulations, Pete! And congratulations to everyone on the team at Bar X Seven!
Oscar® is a registered trademark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. All rights are reserved. Golden Globe® is a registered trademark of the People’s Choice Awards.
“Across the Universe” nominated for both Golden Globe® and Oscar® awards
Filmmaker Jonathan Miller, host of the COW’s podcasting forum and creator of “The Rest of Everest” podcast, has received the iTunes Store’s distinction as one of the Best Podcasts of 2007. This is the second year in a row that he has been given this honor. The show documents an expedition to the peak of Mount Everest. Of The Rest of Everest, Jonathan says, “the raw, simply produced formula seems to work and people really enjoy it. I was just trying to be ‘cheap’ so I could get something out every week. It’s difficult for me to watch, being such a perfectionist with my paid projects.” All of us at Creative COW headquarters appreciated this picture which he sent of him holding Creative COW Magazine during the ascent of Mount Everest. Jonathan is a great help in the podcasting forum, where he is known for his helpful answers and his gracious manner. 30 30
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THE REST OF EVEREST podcast named Best of 2007
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Learning By Doing: Lessons in RED Camera Post Aaron Zander Ventura, California Here in the early days of RED camera post workflows, Aaron Zander and friends aren’t just students. They’re teachers whose advice can guide you.
RED: Early Workflow Findings
Brooks Institute students put RED ONE through the paces of a student production. Here are their findings.
e are some of the youngest people in the world to be using RED. I’m not sure, but we might also be the first student-run major production to be using the RED camera. The project we’re working on is through our school, Brooks Institute, and ties into a major car company launching a new model at the New York Auto Show in May. We were lent one of the cars and asked to do something interesting with it. We’re doing a 5-6 minute short that isn’t narrative-based. It’s not a straight sales piece. Though it features the car, and has some subtext about the car, it isn’t an ad by any means. The final presentation needs to work at any size, up to a 100 ft. screen with some ungodly pixel ratio, so we needed to work with a high-quality medium. Film was an option, but adding the kind of heavy VFX post we planned would have been far out of the budget of any grants we could have gotten, or any favors we could have swung to do DI post or even a D5 master. So the RED was a logical choice.
As far as I know, we’re also the first to use the RED for extensive miniature work. It’s mostly landscapes that we’ll be compositing the car into, but we really wanted to test both the RED and our own limits. We also wanted the production to put our own stamp on something in the world of RED. WorkinG With raW There are plenty of places around the COW to get the details on what gets captured, and how, while you’re shooting with RED, but the big advantage from the start is the RAW format. The first thing to understand is that RAW captures everything the camera’s sensor does, which leaves you all kinds of options for output and post trickery. Say I shot at ISO 320, but I want to add a lot more light in post. All I have to do is open up the .R3D file (RED’s version of RAW) and say “Hey my ISO is 800 now” and bam! — my ISO is changed. RAW allows us to take a second look at what we’ve shot, and basically do a one light before we start the
Brooks Institute, Ventura, California USA Aaron hasn’t graduated yet and is building edit suites for several post houses in the LA area. His photography has also been published in several magazines and books. Even though he was in the middle of posting this project, he turned this article around in a day. Aaron has written several tutorials for the COW, and is found regularly in forums for Avid, AE, FCP, Cinematography and RED among others. 32
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work: bump the exposure a bit, adjust the contrast, etc. We know full well that this will all be retimed, so we’re just trying to get a clean image and enough data to start compositing. keYinG I’ve worked with 4K Cineon files that keyed so cleanly I was sure I’d never key something as perfectly as that again — but the ease of keying this RED 2K and 4K footage is amazing. I’ve used Primatte in Nuke, the Diamond and Discreet keyers in Combustion, but Keylight inside After Effects kills them all, especially in our shots with concrete dust flowing in front of the screen. All the keyers detect the green screen and remove the background, but they leave an alpha filled with dust. Keylight is the only one that, on the initial pull, leaves the dust’s brown color but zero artifacts. I’d say it’s because AE is my bread and butter and I know it inside and out. This wouldn’t be so if it weren’t for the COW, as I learned the program through Aharon Rabinowitz’s COW tutorials and podcasts. Now I tutor and help teach the AE class here at Brooks Institute. But the incredible speed of Keylight has nothing to do with skill or experience. It’s simply the fastest key I’ve ever pulled, with great keys in about 30 seconds! Keys that preserved all the dust and other detail from the set.
When you first work with RED footage, the color looks a bit odd though. When we downloaded the footage from the CF card, it didn’t look like it did on set, or with our monitors. The colors often seems a bit lackluster. I was initially worried that the greens weren’t popping enough to key. I was very wrong though, as the footage keyed smoothly and evenly. finishinG In contrast to the RED 2K files coming out of RED, the transcoded QuickTimes keyed very poorly — even when the movies were output to 2K. They required a lot of finessing to get a reasonable key, and often I found myself looking at stair-stepped edges. RED QuickTimes are very compressed in comparison to the RED 2K 10-bit TIFFs. Since the individual 2K files are lossless and very good quality — and are universally understood by compositing applications — we chose to stay with them through the post process: motion tracking, pulling keys, adding CGI elements from LightWave and Maya, all output as 2K files. Oddly, the only problems we had with them were in Final Cut Pro, which has trouble handling image sequences. This is one of my biggest issues with FCP, that it has no easy to handle these image sequences. This is a huge flaw, in my opinion. In theory, I can understand FCP not wanting to process thousands of images on the timeline, but no
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other application I’ve ever used has an issue with it. Once we had our picture locked, we mixed inhouse with our ProTools HD system. From there, final grading before distribution, and then its debut at the New York Auto Show. concLusions about the camera I’ve shot with DVX, HVX, HPX, FW900, Bolex, Arri and others before I came to RED and I think the RED is a very good cross between standard HD and film. Much of it works the same way that other high-end HD cameras do, and it feels like a film camera, with footage that has many intrinsic values associated with shooting film. But if you can’t shoot the same thing with a DVX200 and have it feel and look good, then stepping up to 4K won’t do anything other than make your flaws look that much worse. Then again, experimenting can help boost your skills, and seeing your flaws in 4K is certainly a good way to learn. Should the aspiring shooter use the RED camera? Well, if you can, grab it. Likewise, if you’re a film shooter and you want to take a step onto the wild and crazy HD frontier, this is great way to start. Either way, it won’t make you a better DP. the vieW from haakon, the Project’s cinematoGraPher A solid RED setup should run around $30,000 for the system itself and a good carbon fiber tripod with fluid head. I rent out a complete package with all kinds of extras like a wireless follow focus, mattebox and filters, HD monitoring and more, and I spent less than $50,000 for everything, including camera #69. It’s more than the “base” $17,500 price but much less than what some would have you believe. Except for once using a Zeiss 85mm t/1.3 lens, all my shooting so far is with the RED 18-50 mm zoom. I’ve been blown away by its performance, and am greatly looking forward to the 50-150mm offering. As for light levels, I shot everything in the f/3 - f/4 range with the camera rated at ASA320; I like minimizing that DOF as much as I can. While operating, I use the RED LCD pretty exclusively. It has an onboard waveform monitor which 34
helps to monitor exposure and it’s the best tool I’ve found for judging accurate focus. The LCD does exhibit some excessive banding and noise — characteristics which some have bashed it for — but these anomalies don’t manifest themselves in the footage, so it’s a moot point to me. We send a feed to video village through the HDSDI port to a 17” broadcast HD monitor as well, more for the director and producers to monitor footage. In an absolute pinch, you could easily operate the camera effectively with just three people; an operator, a puller, and a footage management assistant handling downloads. One of the most important and overlooked jobs on a set by young or inexperienced crews is a focus puller. You’re dealing with true Super35mm depth of field with RED. You can’t put an 85mm lens on it, shoot wide open, and expect to nail focus yourself while you also compose a shot. Due to a limited budget, we have a crew of about 20 for this project. I would prefer another dedicated individual in my camera department and two or three more grips. But we roll with what we’ve got. There are a few things I’d love to see in future upgrades/versions of RED. The one they really need to address is simultaneous hot video outputs for monitors used by the director and the camera operator. It’s a real pain to constantly switch back and forth manually so that both can see the frame. I haven’t fully examined the differences in latitude rendition and highlight roll-off between RED and film, but by eye I would say they’re extremely similar. I would still love to see higher frame rates at the native resolution of the camera and even better highlight roll-off handling. I’ll be finishing my full “RED vs. film” tests soon. So far, after seeing them projected next to each other, film looks to me like RED footage with grain. The RED stuff is easily as sharp, retains that beautiful shallow depth-of-field, and is much cleaner. I love film. It has an entirely unique aesthetic that can’t be replicated by digital technologies. But RED is proving that they don’t have to. The image quality, combined with the workflow and financial advantages of RED make it a slam dunk for all kinds of people: from those who have been shooting big budget features for decades, to young independents who may never have shot a frame of film at all. Some will say that this is a bad thing, that a camera like this being used by so many people is just going to produce a lot of 4K crap. But there has always been crap — in every format! What’s important is that the tools keep getting better and the choices keep getting broader. Ultimately, this benefits everyone. We are definitely on the cusp of a new era. n
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Authoring 5.1 Surround DVDs with Compressor and Soundtrack Pro 2
You may not sell a million copies of your DVD...but at least it will sound like a million bucks
ou’ve spent vast amounts of time and money meticulously editing, mixing and color grading your labor of love in Final Cut Pro. Delivering and marketing a high quality professional DVD with professionally mixed Dolby 5.1 surround sound isn’t simply very cool, it’s imperative: any distributors worth their salt will demand that producers deliver a market-ready DVD with 5.1 surround sound. This brief tutorial will show you how to author your DVD in Dolby 5.1 surround with the tools in Final Cut Studio, using files exported from Pro Tools or some other DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) provided by your favorite professional audio mixer after completing your surround mix. Why not do this yourself? Setting up a studio for proper 5.1 surround mixing isn’t nearly as easy putting together a room equipped for stereo mixing. It can be a cabling and acoustical nightmare, even for those who are quite tech-savvy.
Plus, while Apple touts the addition of surround sound capability in version 2 of Soundtrack Pro, STP isn’t Pro Tools, and it may never be in that class. (See sidebar.) from You to the Guru Before heading off to do the mix with your local Pro Tools guru, you need to do a few things. First, picture and sound must be “locked.” That means no more editing, period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This rule is carved in stone. Next, ask your mixer what video codec you should export for them to sync to during the mix. All of them will want timecode; most will request a low-res QuickTime video file, because they want to devote most of their system overhead to your audio rather than your video. So, you’ll need to export your video twice, once at low-res for the mix, and once at your current settings, for encoding the MPEG-2 file for your DVD.
David Weiss Productions, Inc., Los Angeles, California USA
David Roth Weiss
David joined the Cow in its first week in 2001. Over seven thousand posts later, he continues to be a valuable part of the COW, today serving as one of the hosts of the Final Cut, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums. You’ll also find him posting in forums for AJA Kona, HDV and DVD Authoring, among others.
As far as audio is concerned, you should provide your mixer with an OMF file, either with all tracks, or with split tracks: separate music, effects, and dialog files, preferably with 2-pops (beep-beeps) two seconds from the head and tail of each to indicate sync. The most important thing to remember is, both audio and video must be exactly the same length. Make sure the in and outs remain the same for the export of every audio and video element. Your friendly professional mixer will EQ (equalize) where necessary during the mix, and perfect the relative levels of the various tracks and individual audio elements. Then, the surround mix itself begins, with the mixer directing various sounds and mixes of sounds to each of the five speakers plus the subwoofer. The mixer can also pan any sound in 3D space as required to best create a sense of movement as dictated by actions, things or people, either on or off screen. from the Guru back to You After the mix is completed, the mixer will export six separate audio files sometimes called “print masters,” usually handed over on a DVD. Final Cut Studio prefers AIFF files, so be sure to request AIFF exports. The six files are typically labeled in a standardized way that indicates the channel or speaker assignment of that particular file. Look at the list of AIFF files in a directory from a mix on a project I edited, “Rush to War.” (RTW, in following.)
the absoLute simPLest WaY to make a DvD usinG DvDsP
Sometimes, what you need is a quick DVD for client approval or another use that doesn’t require the finesse or full resolution that a trip to Compressor will deliver. In these situations, DVDSP can do a quick burn for you that will be useful in many circumstances, even though there will often be wavey artifacts and other visual roadbumps seen. The instructions are pretty simple and here are the steps... Open DVDSP. Select the “graphical” tab and you will see two little monitors, one blue, one green. Select the left blue one, right click on it and hit delete.
The first file with “.C” indicates this one is the center channel. “.L” is front left speaker. “.R” is the front right. “.Lf” is the low frequency or sub-woofer channel. “.Ls” is the left surround or left rear channel, and “.Rs” is the right surround or right rear channel. Next, you’ll see exactly how those file/channel designations will come into play when we use Apple Compressor to simultaneously encode our video to MPEG-2 and our audio files to a single Dolby 5.1 surround file. IMAGE AT RIGHT: Open Compressor and drag and drop the video file of your completed project (either a reference file or self-contained file at current settings) onto the droplet with the arrow in the Batch Window. That’s all it takes to load your video. Click on the Add Surround Sound button at the upper left of the Compressor toolbar. That opens a small drop-down page containing
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Now, select the green one, right click on it and select the top option “first play”. Drag your .m2v file from the browser and drop it on top of the green monitor. Then drag and drop the .ac3 file. For a DVD from an HD source, look to the right side and select the “general tab” in the track editor. See the Display Mode, and select “16:9 pan-scan.” Now, hit the little black and yellow burn icon at the top of the page and put a DVD in the burner when prompted. DVDSP will encode and burn your new DVD.
six droplets, which correspond to each of the six surround audio channels and thus to the six audio files created by your mix facility. Drag and drop the appropriate file on the appropriate droplet to assign it to its proper channel. Couldn’t be easier now that you know how do it, right? DraG. DroP. encoDe. First, click on the file tab on the far left side of Compressor that says “Settings.” There, you’ll see two folders. Click on the small black triangle to the left of the one marked “Apple.” Next, click on the triangle to the left of the DVD folder. Ten folders will drop down, each representing a different DVD preset. Select one that says “Best Quality,” with the running time close to, and exceeding, the length of your project. Click on the triangle by that folder. Drag and drop the MPEG-2 icon on top of the video that you earlier dropped in the droplet. That will load the video presets. Now, drag the Dolby Digital Professional 2.0 icon onto the “Surround” droplet.
Last, click on the “Destinations” tab next to the “Settings” tab you opened earlier, and click on the triangle to open the “Apple” folder. From there, drag and drop the fourth drive icon that says “Cluster Storage,” first onto the video droplet, and next, onto the Surround droplet. That will send your encoded files to the same location as the files from which you’re encoding. If you want to send them to some other directory or drive, go for it. I’m sure you can figure out how to do that now that you know how Compressor works. Bingo!!! You’re all set now and ready to encode. Hit the “submit” button and go take lunch. When you return, you’ll have an .m2v file and an .ac3 file waiting for you—these are the only two files you’ll need to author a DVD of your project in DVD Studio Pro, complete with Dolby 5.1 surround. That’s it! Now go and test it on a terrific home theater system with a great surround setup. If you don’t have one yourself or know a friend with a good one, go to a high-end electronics store and tell them you want to demo their top of the line system. Good luck! I hope your DVD sells millions. n
Pro tooLs. the reason WhY. Apple’s Soundtrack Pro is a very nice multi-track software mixer. It has a good selection of filters, a hot library loaded with useful sound effects, and some pretty decent royalty-free music cues. But Pro Tools is ubiquitous, and it is the de facto industry standard for a reason: it’s a powerful, dedicated digital audio workstation (DAW), tied to time-tested dedicated hardware. How time-tested? Digidesign released the first Mac-based DAW in 1989! In fact, Digidesign’s first audio software was in 1985. It ran on the Mac 512 only – that’s 512 KILO-bytes of RAM – and needed 2 floppy drives; 10 MEGA-byte external hard drive recommended, but not required. They’ve been doing pro audio on Mac for a long, long time. Pro Tools provides professional audio mixers with an unprecedented level of real-time command and con-
trol of the three-dimensional surround audio image. Its powerful real-time sub-sample editing and audio processing features that put it in a whole different league from any of the current crop of software apps, including STP. Apple probably intends to give Avid’s Pro Tools a run for its money eventually, either by investing heavily in improvements to Soundtrack Pro, or by acquiring another high-end audio company with a more sophisticated software-based product. Remember, there wasn’t a soul on the planet who expected Apple to add Color, a $25,000 application, to Final Cut Studio 2 for free. So don’t be surprised if there’s a bold move coming soon on the audio front as well. But until that happens, Pro Tools remains the standard for surround mixing.
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Poets of the Fall: Carnival of Rust — continued from page 10 the simplest way to get the shot we needed. A lot of times this meant shooting with a fixed camera, and doing the camera move in post production. Eki: We build camera moves in post in a few different ways. The choice between these is made on a shot by shot basis, based on the storyboard, using the simplest possible technique to give us the image we need. Varying the technique also helps keeping up the illusion of “real.” There may be shots that aren’t 100% correct, but if the type of the error varies from shot to shot, it’s harder to pin down exactly what the error is. Here are the main techniques we used: • “Real” pan/tilt: Shot from a tripod, with an on-location camera move. The CGI backdrop is tracked in 2D to match the live camera. • “Real” track: Shot from a dolly, and tracked in 3D. The camera is animated in 3D software, matching the original camera move. In both of these cases, tracking markers on the green screen are quite useful. But sometimes, actually more often than one would think, the trackers can’t resolve the shot and it has to be match moved by hand. • “Fake” pan/tilt: Shot with a locked-off tripod. The foreground and background are moved in 2D, locked together to make the illusion of a camera move. • “Fake” track, in 2D: Shot with a locked off tripod. The foreground and background are moved and/or scaled in 2D, with slightly different speeds. This technique was first used in cartoons I think. It creates an impression of motion parallax and looks like a camera track move. It works best on closeups. • “Fake” track, in 2½D: All the elements (including 3D) are done with a fixed camera and brought to AE as 3D layers. They are moved and scaled so that they line up correctly, and the camera move is done with AE’s camera. (I mention AE, but this can be done in any compositing application.) Even though all elements are just 2D cutouts, pretty convincing camera moves can be done this way. One just has to be quite conservative with the camera -- the illusion is broken easily. • “Fake” track, in 3D: The footage is keyed, and mapped to a single polygon in a 3D application. Think of it as a moving paper doll. The camera can be moved quite freely, and the footage can cast shadows and show in reflections etc. This works very well, as long as camera doesn’t move to an angle which shows that the foot40 age is actually flat. I prefer using these fake techniques. Shooting and comping locked setups is fast, and one has a lot of freedom in post. It’s enough to have just a few “real” dolly moves in the video, to give the audience the feeling that the camera is really moving around the set. Once this is established, one can cheat a lot. Part 4: PuttinG it aLL toGether Stobe: Much of our shooting was to create a green screen plate of each character for us to work with in post. Eki: All keying was done in After Effects, mostly using Keylight. Our backdrop was far from perfect, so it was a challenge. In many shots, I rendered separate keys for hair, flames, floor, etc. These were combined using masks. The compositions ended up being rather heavy — often a single, one-second long shot took over an hour to render.
We usually left the foreground footage more or less as it was, and corrected the CGI elements to match that as closely as possible, using color curves, hue/saturation and the other basic tools. We also matched the amount of noise/grain. The composited images were color timed for look in Sony Vegas. We mainly used primary and secondary color correction, curves, levels and saturation adjustments. Before mastering, we made one more slight adjustment to the final render in our Avid system. Working this way helps glue the elements together, by affecting the shot footage and CGI elements equally. Part 5: the harDest Part is knoWinG When to stoP Eki: The journey from Stobe’s storyboards to the final video is an iterative process. We do what we think matches the vision as well as we can interpret it, and Stobe gives suggestions for corrections to those. We bounce ideas back and forth until we either run out of time, or are happy with the result. Mostly, we run out of time. I don’t think I’ve ever done a shot I didn’t feel I could improve if I had more time. Apart from the sheer logistics, deciding what’s “good enough” is the major challenge.
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We knew right from the start that we couldn’t be nitpicking too much on the set or in post. The only way to finish on time was to do the minimum amount of work needed to make a shot believable, and then move on. I talked earlier about doing things the easiest possible way — I meant that only technically. Coming up with the easiest way to get the needed visuals is actually the hard part, and it’s work that should be done well before getting into the studio. Spending plenty of time planning is all about spending money only on things that show on the screen. Okay, there’s an exception: the catering has to be good or I won’t work! n
Helsinki Finland-based director Stobe Harju (right) has many great music videos to his credit, including “Lift” and “Carnival of Rust” for Poets of the Fall, as well as another of our favorites, “The Islander” by Nightwish — which features one of our friends, Troy Donockley, on uillean (Irish) pipes. See www.creativecow.net/poetsofthefall for these great music videos and more.
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The Sci-Fi Channel’s Tin Man and the ARRI D20 — continued from page 26 cLiPPinG & other Lessons from hDv The Arri is much less forgiving in the highlights, but very tolerant of shadows, much more than most film emulsion. Maybe it depends on how you wield your light meter or where you place your middle gray. The standard rule when you expose neg film is to expose for the shadows, develop for highlights. For video, even 4:4:4, you do the reverse, exposing for the highlights because once you’re clipped, there’s no information to recover at all So I set my exposure based on the brightest highlight that I can’t control. If I’m shooting a day scene with a window, I’ll control the window as much as I’m able, then base my exposure on having nothing in the window clipping, except maybe a bright cloud. Then I’ll light the interior of the scene to that f-stop. If I was shooting film, I wouldn’t be so concerned with the window. Somehow the highlights roll off nicely. Once I’ve lit the HD shot to my liking, I check my work with the only truly accurate gauge on set - the waveform monitor at the engineering station. The waveform is a great thing, the best light meter: you can monitor overall luminance, or separate it out to RGB channels. It allows you to understand very accurately how any part of the picture is behaving. It’s a fantastic tool. But so is zebra, even in an inexpensive DV camera. You know what‘s clipping. That’s technological, generated by the camera. But to really read a scene, you have to know from experience how your camera will react in the shadows. The fact is that even though I work at the highest end of HD production (Arri cameras, daVinci color suites, lots of time), I also shoot our personal projects with a Sony HDV. From HDV l’ve learned how to live within limits and work fast. Because even on the biggest budget HD features — and I think Tin Man falls into that category — you run into situations where you have 5 minutes left, and still need another scene. I’d say I apply more of what I learn from the little camera to the big one, because the little one is harder to use. In my HDV world I’m a one man band, the entire crew. In the Arri D-20 world I have truckloads of equipment, dozens of highly talented people to help me. It’s easier to do a fine job with all that technology and time that you don’t have when it’s just you, a bag, a tripod and one light in the middle of India. But In the world of the big camera, you can’t just pick it up and shoot. You can’t do anything faster than half an hour. You just can’t. The bureaucracy is overwhelming. Even if everything is set up, the time it takes to communicate to the engineer to roll the recorder, the discussion over whether it’s a head or tail slate — everybody’s trying to do their job the best they can, but the crew size takes the spontaneity out of it. the finisheD Project This kind of filmmaking is the ultimate collaborative experience. Without a visionary director like Nick Willing to guide you and an expert crew to support you, the best cinematographer would be lost. I also spent 7 weeks with Gary Shaw at Technicolor, a real artist. We watched the full six hours of “Tin Man” over and over again in color correction, but without sound. We never listen to sound during color grading. It’s too distracting. As I was about to get on the plane to go back to New Zealand, Gary called me back. Technicolor has this amazing 4:4:4 theater, and we sat back in big reclining chairs to watch the first hour of night three. Wow, that camera is beautiful. A big difference from 7 weeks in the daVinci suite, looking at a 24-inch screen, 6 feet away. Working on “Tin Man” really was an amazing experience, but there’s another aspect of the “Tin Man” experience that I’ve missed so far. Now that I’m back in New Zealand, I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing all six hours of it! n
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Creative COW Magazine
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e've seen it coming for years now and have been pretty vocal about the reasons for it all. Some think that we’ve lost our marbles to speak out against a venerable institution like the National Association of Broadcasters convention and expo. But it’s not just us, the facts back up why companies like Avid and Apple felt that they can move their marketing dollars elsewhere for better effect and impact. They can. What’s the message behind it all? Money. Big money. From sources very close to the situation, we have learned that Apple calculates costs of supporting their NAB presence that costs in the millions. But with the democratization of video has come commodity pricing of the tools — read: really low prices and even lower profit margins. Translation: it’s going to take an incredible amount of new sales to break even, let alone turn a profit against millions in expenses. They don’t. So, companies like Avid, who bowed out last November, and now Apple, who announced officially on February 7th that they were opting out of the Vegas party, are looking to spend their money elsewhere. These companies are not alone: Sony opted out of Comdex years back. And MSNBC.com recently announced that even the venerable Consumer Electronics Show is looking for a new home due to the way that Las Vegas hotels and businesses jack up the prices when the big shows roll into town. The story is at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22549735 In the movie Network starring 46
Peter Finch as a news anchorman, he grows weary of the state of things that one day he urges his audience to go to their windows and scream out, “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” There’s a message there. NAB keeps raising the rates, along with its partners. Our full page in last year’s Show Daily cost us $3,850. This year, they wanted around $7,200 according to the price sheet. No thanks, we’ll pass. Las Vegas businesses also can’t resist the prospect of easy money and, according to MSNBC’s article, raise room rates as much as fivetimes more than off-show dates. Between these disparate parties, they seem to be in a race to find the buyer’s “breaking point.” Well, it seems they have finally found it. Avid and Apple both alluded to the fact that according to their research, the money could be spent elsewhere with better result. These two companies have powerful marketing departments and they also draw on trusted research organizations that produce realistic reports of where the market is at today. If you are a business that shows at NAB, you can do your own math but as for ours it goes like this: according to Google Analytics tracking, we get well over 750,000 totally unique visitors in a month. That is well over seven-times the number of people that register for NAB. It’s much higher than that if you compare it to those that actually take the time to show up. At present, we are like seven NABs happening concurrently, every month, year round. So,
following last year’s show, we concluded we would not be back and told NAB so last Summer. In Apple’s case, there was a time when they needed NAB to assuage suspicions that Apple wasn’t serious about the professional broadcast market. But just as we concluded that we already have most of the NAB floor traffic and a lot more besides, Apple seems to have come to the same kind of conclusion: the number of boxes they will sell is not all that different whether they show or don’t. They’d have to sell an incredible number of units to justify that one and even more to turn a profit. It is a well known phenomenon that Apple users will line up for the Next Big Thing whether or not the company shows at NAB or doesn’t. Avid buyers are a lot like their Apple cousins, a bit more jaded and road weary perhaps, but most Avid users will buy Avid in the end. So two giants have sent NAB a message and the message is: your prices are out of line with the reality of the way business is done today. There are other more cost efficient ways to reach people. There are media-rich corporate websites, there are third-party sites like the COW, there are roadshows and a myriad of other means. NAB is not the only game in town anymore. The businesses of Las Vegas are being sent the same message. Will they listen? It doesn’t seem so. Prices are up, even though with two giants leaving, attendance is guaranteed to be down. n
Creative COW Magazine
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