Cows Around the World
iPro, a distributor of Apple, opened a training center in Moscow this spring with outlets in St. Petersburg and Ekaterinaburg, my home city. I recently gave two FCP courses - a five-day course in a local university and a three-day course in the iPro training facility here.
The three-day FCP course is madness, although my students absorbed quite a lot, and even passed the certification exam. They were a sight to look at after 90 minutes of questioning in English! Microsoft is more generous with non-native English speakers and doubles the certification exam time for them, I am told.
I am certified to teach FCP and Motion but editors and their employers are not prepared to buy training right now. Also, custom duties and fees on hi-tech goods in Russia are so high that customers in Far Eastern cities, such as Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, sometimes prefer to go to South Korea, Japan and China and shop for Apple products there.
Meanwhile, I do sales presentations with Apple Final Cut Studio, Aperture, and using Wacom tablets. I even went abroad with Final Cut Studio and Aperture recently - to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. But my most recent destination was Khabarovsk (seen here, right), with Tomsk and Magnitogorsk before it.
On a more creative front, I am finishing a DVD project with footage from a literary festival that took place in Ekaterinaburg. Young writers and poets competed among themselves and took part in writing workshops for three days. Six miniDV cassettes were used to tape some of these activities. My task was to edit the material and output a 90-second ad, a seven-minute narrative and a 90-minute documentary.
The project is almost finished, and this week I plan to burn 80 DVDs that will eventually be mailed to every participant. The most distant of them lives near Lake Baikal, 2800 kilometers east (approximately 1400 miles) in Siberia, near the Mongolian border - but I have made it very clear to the client that mailing will not be part of my job.
And of course, our wedding season has just ended. Due to climatic conditions, it is short and intense. Every bride wants to get wed and not wet (and definitely not frozen on the way to the limo). DV shooters are in high demand, and I join their ranks with my Canon XM2.
Guess what I use as a backup and B-roll cam? A Flip! It is excellent in semi-dark conditions and beats the XM2 when I shoot dances. Brides don't like dancing before on-camera lights.
With all that, my reading focus has shifted from Final Cut Studio to Business & Marketing and Event Videography at the COW.
I have had over 18 years of experience in cinematography, coupled with nearly 12 years as a Director of Photography in Bollywood. To me, the best cinematography is the kind that takes you into another world, and makes you quickly forget that you are watching a movie. Seamless and realistic.
(That's me, at right.)
My favorite lighting style is to shoot with naturallooking, motivated light sources. I enjoy working with large soft sources and then "paint" in the shadow areas. I work very hard to make certain that whatever story is being told is enhanced and communicated with the light and images.
Most recently, I have finished the research for a documentary on child prostitution and sex tourism in Goa that I hope to produce. There are few, if any, local prostitutes in the red light districts of India's major cities. The majority have either migrated or been trafficked to those cities.
The daughters of migrant prostitute women are generally expected to enter into prostitution as soon as they reach puberty - and even before that, they are expected to work all night performing in bars. Prostitution involving boys tends to be less formal, but is still quite common.
Locations like Goa can combine large numbers of vulnerable children, and an under-resourced police force inexperienced in dealing with child sexual offenses, plus a high degree of respect for western men, to create an environment safe only for pedophiles. It is a very sensitive subject, and I am now looking for international funding for it.
I have my own production company in Mumbai, shooting HD with the Panasonic HVX202. I have a team that works with me, as well as equipment for multicam shoots (events).
Should a foreign producer choose to work in India, I offer location scouting and help with local financing along with my DP services. After producers apply for permits at the Indian Embassy in their home nation, I can help them obtain the approvals in India. If the application is for a documentary or a television show, we obtain permission from the Ministry of External Affairs. If it's a feature film, then from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. There is a permit fee of $200 for feature films, but none for documentaries. After clearance, we then apply for actual location permits, from agencies which vary depending on location.
In case of aerial photography in India, one needs to apply at least three months before the shoot, as this is the most time-consuming permit process. If the DP is a foreign national, permission will take 90 days, but if the DP is Indian it will take only 50 days. There are two ministries involved in this permission: the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Defense.
I have been able to do all of this for many productions from all over the world. Some of my most recent projects include: working as a fixer for a travel documentary and cookery series, "Rhodes Across India" for UKTV Food; DP and Line Producer on a documentary about Kalaripayattu (a martial art originating in the Indian state of Keral) by Dutch filmmaker Herma De Walle; and second unit camera for an episode of the documentary series "Shipbreakers" for National Geographic.
I am truly blessed to find that I can make a living doing what I love to do.
The Hague, Netherlands
Even though I have a Dutch name, I am of Rwandan origin, and grew up in Kenya and Namibia. Since I was young I have always been looking for new ways to communicate. I have basically done everything one can do with his hands: creating drawings, paintings and animation.
I also have a passion for music. I am currently signed by two record labels, River Praise Records and Bigbadboy Records. I create my own beats and also write lyrics both for myself and for other artists. (I sometimes rap in Dutch, but prefer to use English.) I've done a lot with hip-hop: performances including at the Xnoizz Flevo Festival in August, video clips and television interviews.
My other interests include video production and editing, of course. I use the Panasonic HVX200 to shoot both DV and HD, and work in a combination of AE, Premiere, FCP, Photoshop and Cinema 4D.
I recently finished a video for myself as a rapper, Mission JW. It's not a clip with just "yo, yo, yo" and "bling, bling, bling." The mixes are deep, and a serious message that is also treated with humor. The central theme is the prejudices against immigrants, even those who were born and grew up here.
At present I am working on a video for the artist "Levi." It is going to be an abstract clip, combining 2D and 3D with special effects to create a fantasy world.
After that, I will work on a commercial for SME TV, the first afro-oriented broadcasting network in the Netherlands. The commercial will be flashy, yet still displaying African roots. I will create the video and the music that goes along with it as well.
I will also be traveling to Poland, where I will shoot video clips with the R&B/hip-hop group "Sweetsani." The group consists of two singers and one rapper (me). We're planning to release our album next year in Europe.
I'm working on many other things: writing and producing, designing a clothing line, and drawing and painting as much as I can.
I want to be challenged. For that reason, I constantly push back my boundary lines. Because in the end, there is no boundary line to art.
When I finished doing compositing for "Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium" at BarXeven last winter, I did VFX and graphics for an independent documentary about oil, and then went to Argentina with my wife. She's from there, and we were able to take some extra time on this trip before I started in May with Mr. X. They're a major Canadian effects house, with around 70 or 80 people in Toronto, and 10 or 15 here in Montreal.
My first job with Mr. X was on "Death Race," starring Jason Statham, which came out late this summer. There are a whole bunch of green screen shots with him racing in the car, looking intense, looking over his shoulder at other racers and so on. It switches from one shot to the other, between the green screen shots and some live shots taken around some abandoned buildings in Montreal.
This was also my first compositing job using Nuke. It's a node-based compositor originally developed for in-house use by Digital Domain, and won a Technical Achievement Academy Award in 2001. It's developed now by The Foundry. Mr. X and Weta Digital are among the high profile houses using it.
I'm using it on a movie called "Whiteout" at the moment. It's a murder mystery set in Antarctica starring Kate Beckinsale that will be released in April 2009. We're adding snow and doing some 3D work.
One of the big deals with Nuke is that you can hand-create EXRs with ease. EXR is a format designed by Industrial Light and Magic and used on all the films they work on. It's a super-high resolution format, with a dynamic range of over 30 stops. It also stores all kinds of information in a single file - a shadow pass, specular pass, ambient occlusions, and so on. You can mix and match them, and tweak them to get the shading just right to integrate with the real world.
EXRs are also efficient. Instead of having a huge tree with two or three hundred nodes, I can have just one node with all the separate passes still accessible in it. Because all of this information is collapsed into one file, you have to keep a bit more of it in your head.
You also have to be bit of a mathematician, think about the numbers a lot. For example, there are 1024 possible channels in an EXR - RGBA are just the first four. And each of them is displayed as a black and white image. So you have to get used to thinking about making adjustments to your scene by adjusting those black and white images to affect, say, how much color correction you're applying to a scene, or how transparent layers are relative to each other.
Which is the essence of compositing in a lot of ways. Transparency, right? Visualizing transparency as a black and white issue.
So what are YOU working on? The world wants to know! When you have a minute, drop us a line: magazine at creative cow dot net.
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