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COW Blogs : Cinematography
2-Day Blackmagic Cinema Camera Workshop, March 29, 30, Atlanta
By: walter biscardi on Mar 9, 2013 at 4:55:16 am

UPDATE! ALL attendees will receive a $200 Gift Certificate from Flanders Scientific good for anything in the online store. This is in addition to the opportunity to win additional prizes from Blackmagic Design and Flanders Scientific. 2-Day Blackmagic Cinema Camera Workshop Registration Now Open. March 29 & 30 at Biscardi Creative Media in Atlanta, GA presented by DP Marco Solorio. ONLY 24 seats available for each day. The first day is geared for shooters of all backgrounds. We’ll have three live shooting setups to show how the camera works in different environments. The second day is geared toward anyone in...


The New Merry Pranksters, Epilogue # 1: Getting Home
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 30, 2010 at 11:11:02 am

It’s 4 AM Monday morning. Bob can’t sleep. Time to blog. Episode #15 was finished on the bad road to Arusha on Thursday. We dropped by African Environments to say goodbye to the staff and tell the engineer, welders, etc. how well their backyard engineering had worked for us. We shoot the obligatory ceremonial shot of the five us in front of the two Land Rovers, our loyal steeds. On the way to the airport we shop at Bata Shoes, and grab a quick shower and clothes change at the Impala Hotel. We arrive at Kilimanjaro airport 3.5 hours ahead...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 15: Tarangire Park
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:44:06 am

Despite our success at the Ngorongoro Crater, the strict rules prohibiting going off road cramped our style. Tarangire Park had been mentioned as the 3rd most important attraction but when we heard a German couple rave about the animal density there, we asked our guides advice. Now, the guides aren’t supposed to change schedules or rock the boat but when we asked what they would do in our position, the call was made to spend our last filming day in Tarangire Park. What a good decision it would prove to be! Tarangire has a large river running through it which...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 14: Yousef the Charmer, More about Maasai and a Spectacular Kill
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:43:37 am

Yousef is an extremely social animal. He has over 2,300 Facebook friends. He loves portraiture and has charm to burn. We pull into a gas station where a half dozen or so men lounge against a wall. Richard cautions Bob not to take pictures of them or at least to ask their permission first. But Yousef is already in there holding the 70-200mm vertically and blazing away. Richard frowns and the men look menacing. But the young Saudi/American charmer walks right into their midst and not only shows them their portraits but offers to send them copies by E-mail. Bob...


The New Merry Pranksters, Lucky Episode 13: The Crater
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 24, 2010 at 7:06:14 am

Ngorongoro Crater is an incredibly popular tourist attraction. A volcano blew the top off a massive mountain. When the hole eventually filled in, it created a large level plain visually different from the Serengeti because of the rising mountainous wall behind almost every shot. Because our cameras are mounted around chest height this makes a difference. There are also forests and swamps with more verdant green than almost any place in the Serengeti. We rose this morning at 5 AM to have our customary African Environments full breakfast. We would try to complete the tortuous crater wall descent before sunrise....


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 11: Five Canons and Waiting for a Kill
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:23:27 am

In the mid day sun, the animals may be too static for good movies but ideal for portraiture. The third rotation for each prankster, besides the Sony/Fujinon camera and the Weisscam/Panavision camera are the Canon/Canon cameras. Five of them! Actually Dan’s A640 and Bob’s G11 are personal cameras. The G11 is our favorite documentary style movie camera because the finder flips out and bends every which way giving us the ability to boom up or down, see around corners, go through car windows etc. The basic kit for the prankster shooting stills is a 5D Mk 2 wearing a 24-105mm,...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 10: Health, Hygiene and a Bunch of Other Stuff
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 20, 2010 at 10:45:40 pm

The travel nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles routinely included two different styles of diarrhea medicine in travel kits to Tanzania. The first is for symptoms. You try that first. The second is for the cause. You use that if the first one doesn’t work. We used both. You wake up in the morning and put on every layer you have. The sun pops up and you take almost all of it off. You sit writing at the computer in the evening. You feel a little chilly and you turn around to look for a jacket. But you don’t...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 9: Tactics of Wildlife Cinematography
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 20, 2010 at 8:57:15 pm

The Serengeti Wildlife Preserve is roughly 15,000 sq. kilometers, or approx. 8,000 square miles. If that doesn’t impress you, perhaps you died. Each day hundreds of driver/guides give and take info about where the animals are. Just like ants communicate with other ants going in the opposite direction, drivers chatter away, usually in Swahili but sometimes Maasai, about what they’ve seen. They also use short wave radio, texting or anything else that helps communicate. This is because, overnight, a large area teeming with animals can become barren. Each morning, three pranksters posing as cinematographers set off around 7 AM, when...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 8: The Microscopes and Telescopes of Time
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 18, 2010 at 3:23:11 pm

High speed and time lapse are to time what macro and astronomical photography are to space. We’ve shot time lapse sunsets at our camp to show the transition from day through gorgeous sunset to shutter-open-for-25-seconds night, and then have the laptops come on as we began our daily download. The sun sets like a rock at the equator, and it goes from unbearably hot to ‘where’s another layer to put on’ cold. In between, the Tse-tse flies have a field day. That sharp prick you feel is an injection of something lovely into your system. But today’s episode is about...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 7: Why our ‘A’ Camera can touch your heart
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 17, 2010 at 1:30:15 pm

Now that the Weisscam was sorted out and we had learned how to use it, we started a 3-position rotation, with each Prankster moving daily to a different camera. Our ‘A’ camera was the workhorse of the show. The Fujinon 25:1 and Image Stabilizer could get miraculously tight and steady shots of animals a long, long distance away. Even animals accustomed to close proximity of Land Rovers still get shy, especially if the L/Rovers have large long lenses protruding from them. Yesterday, Dennis spied two elephants playing together in the river. Perhaps the elephants were aware of the camera, because...


The New Merry Pranksters, Episode 6: A scary day - from electronics and a lion
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 16, 2010 at 1:54:42 pm

Carrying this much electronics into a place with one crude old solder gun with the tip bent up 45° and about to break off is not for the faint of heart. A few days ago we realized we could power the image stabilizer, 25:1 lens controls and Transvideo monitor directly from the Sony PMW camera, but the only power outlet left for the AJA Ki-Pro recorder was only a half amp connecter designed for radio mikes. So Dan, our resident gear geek, snipped off the end of an AJA power supply and soldered it on to the connecter powering the...


TNMP, Episode 5: Our first day in the park, and our first thoughts about core values, and what this film might be about
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 15, 2010 at 10:52:41 am

[Ed. note: We just heard from Yousef that, in addition to the motion picture footage, they have over 1000 photographs already! He tell us that they're amazing, and we have no doubt that they will be worth the wait. In the meantime, please enjoy the latest installment of their pictures in words.] We awoke Saturday still without our missing 2nd tripod and head. We built our primary camera, the Sony/Fujinon/Sachtler/TranVideo/AJA ‘A’ camera. We documented this with our Canon G11 in movie mode, a far more agile instrument than a 1D or 5D. The swiveling screen allowed us to make magnificent...


The New Merry Pranksters, Chapter 4: The Cruel Road . . . The Serengeti . . . Camp!
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 14, 2010 at 10:29:17 am

Bob Poole warned us. The ride was going to be rough. Two L/Rovers with the rear seats removed for camera maneuvering space. Seven hours of roads even the locals called bad. Richard and Dennis with the pedal to the metal - slipping and sliding - teeth rattling washboard roads - climbing the side of the road to let another speeding Kamikaze L/Rover squeeze by on the narrow road - our Maasai drivers throwing their L/Rovers with the accuracy of a spear - and when a big bus or truck comes at us - Holy shit! Dan rode shotgun with Dennis,...


The New Merry Pranksters, Chapter 3: A miracle! No, a Disaster...No, truly a miracle....No, a....
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:43:02 pm

Our missing bags contained one of our tripods, the main lens for the EX-350, the alternate lens for the Weisscam, both our monitors, the charger for the Weisscam battery,one of our Ki-Pros and miscellaneous gack. We arrive at the Impala Hotel in Arusha which makes a great first impression with its beautiful wood carvings, myriad restaurants and indigenous decor. But things arenʼt quite so rosy within Bobʼs room. When he tried to take a shower, the so-called Hot knob produced but a trickle of cold water. So did the Cold knob. Eventually the water turned scorchingly hot, then icy cold...


The New Merry Pranksters, Chapter 2: A long troublesome trip to Tanzania, with a surprise heroine
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:31:54 pm

Marcos, Clairmont’s loyal driver, had our 10 large cases of gear at the airport at 6:13 AM on August 10, so we had plenty of time to register them at US customs before our 11:15 AM flight. Customs asked us to schlep all our cases to their office. Once we had, they told us to check them in at Detroit, because we changed planes there. When we mentioned that we only had 40 minutes to make our connection, the customs agent suggested we ask the airline to solve our problem. We shlepped the package to the airport where a manager...


The New Merry Pranksters, Chapter 1: The gear and preparations
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:24:50 pm

It took 6 long days for the three of us to check out, trouble shoot and pack our gear, even with all of Clairmont Camera's years of expertise and Denny Clairmont himself nursing us through a challenging Saturday. This was much, much harder than any of us anticipated and without Clairmont's kindness and patience, particularly Irving, Shane, Tom, Brandon, Zack and Steve, we'd still be trying to figure things out. Our primary camera was the brand new Sony PMW-350, a CMOS camera bringing all the extraordinary sensitivity and image quality of the EX-3's Exmor sensors into a fully professional 2/3"...


Introducing The New Merry Pranksters
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 13, 2010 at 12:09:28 pm

Dear friends, Most of you already know about the adventure that Yousef Linjawi, Dan Kneece, SOC and I are about to embark upon. We are calling ourselves the 'New Merry Pranksters' partially because of the nature of our adventurous spirit and partially to honor the moment when I turned down Ken Kesey's 1964 invitation to join the original 'Merry Pranksters' because I was newly married to Theo. In my youth, a safari to Africa was simply the most thrilling and dangerous adventure imaginable. In my 70 years on this planet, I have seen the will of man endanger, contaminate and...


The New Merry Pranksters: Preface
By: The New Merry Pranksters on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:43:12 am

A Creative COW Introduction to The New Merry Pranksters We here at Creative COW would like to introduce what will be a remarkable series of dispatches from Africa, describing a trip with expert cinematographers using the absolute latest cameras, lenses, IO, storage and more, while shooting in extreme conditions. More about their trip and their gear in a moment. First, here is a bit of introduction on how these reports have come our way. In January 2010, to celebrate the beginning of our tenth year as the online peer-to-peer resource for media professionals, Creative COW, LLC formed a non-profit organization,...


Is 3-D Here to Stay?
By: Dan Parsons on Feb 17, 2010 at 11:42:46 pm

For me the question is not so much a matter of whether 3-D is here to stay; it's more a question of how long will it take to fully mature? I believe the true maturation of 3-D will be evident when, as a storytelling device, it becomes used and 'forgotten' or 'thrown away' much in the same way color is used in contemporary visual storytelling. When it first became technically possible to make a motion picture in color, a door to a new means of artistic expression was opened for visual storytellers. Whether by the mass acceptance of the technology...


Film and Digital as Unique Instruments of Artistic Expression
By: Dan Parsons on Oct 22, 2009 at 6:50:44 am

I have often wondered what motion picture audiences would think of film-acquired images if digital imaging had come first. Would the grain structure, the motion blur, the organic judder, and the characteristic soft shoulder inherent in the celluloid medium be lauded, or would these characteristics be labeled simply as artifacts? Would, for instance, the limited dynamic range and sharpness of the digital format be viewed as necessary characteristics to be duplicated or mimicked in film, or would they have been seen, from the beginning, as an artifact to be eliminated by means of research and development. Would film have even...


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