How Motion Control delivers limitless creative opportunities.

Motion control, or MoCo, gives you the flexibility to move the camera in three-dimensional space with complete precision and repeatability. Today, MoCo is the backbone for almost every VFX scene that’s shot, and it doesn’t add complexity. On the contrary, even the easiest shots can be streamlined with MoCo.

Read on to learn why MoCo is such an invaluable tool for unleashing creativity and enhancing productivity:

Eliminating Camera Operator Struggle

There are two reasons that seemingly simple shots are often the trickiest to execute - precision and repeatability. A shot that starts out, head-on, and ends directly overhead sounds astoundingly simple to operate, but trying to execute that without robotics can be a real drain on resources. When you factor in challenges like coordinating a boom, dolly and tilt, holding critical focus on shallow focus long-lens macro shots, is nearly impossible. Trial by error is no way to spend your on-set time, so those “in the know” rely on the precision and repeatability of robotics.

Programming is Easier than Ever

Key framing and editing are now quick and easy to do! Moves can be imported from Maya 3D animation software. They can also be “live encoded”, then tweaked, so you have robotic control over organic action. For example, the dolly grip can operate the dolly and boom, while the camera operator operates the pan tilt head, and the A.C. is pulling focus—all LIVE! Then, that take can be edited and precisely played back. You can even choose which axis of motion is being played back, robotically, and which axes are “live encoding”. This blend of control and flexibility creates infinite new opportunities for unbound creativity that would be impossible without robotic technology.

Tricky Rigging Situations Made Simple

As seen in the Game of Thrones finale, a recent trend in cinematography across all genres is shooting at higher and higher frame rates for a slowed-motion effect. Each time you double the frame rate, you’ll need to halve the timing of any rig (including the motion of the camera). So, if you’re executing a 3 second shot, but shooting at 800 frames per second, your rig timing now has to occur at the right time within a 1/10th of a second shot. The old “ready-set-go” will never accomplish this level of precision, but MoCo makes it easy.

“Selling” a “Twins” Effect

Because audiences are seeing amazing visual effects everywhere, the bar for VFX keeps getting higher and higher. Say you needed to shoot a single actor playing twins, like Mark Ruffalo in HBO’s forthcoming series, “I Know This Much is True.” Certainly, a locked-off camera simplifies the challenge, but would the effect be convincing enough for today’s sophisticated viewers? What if you wanted the scene to feel organic, as opposed to “telegraphing” the effect? The solution is clear. You’d start shooting with a moving camera! MoCo can add a sense of realism to the shot, by using a rig that enables the two characters (played by one actor) to relate to each other on screen. For example, one twin could carry a pile of books, while the other grabs a few off the stack. How is this possible, with just one actor? You’d use a motion-controlled sled to carry the stack of books while the “twins" are just going along for the ride. This way, you can ensure that the books appear in the identical position for each pass. Here’s a great example of this kind of effect.

The Takeaway

Motion Control is a versatile, user-friendly, problem solver for all manners of creative challenges. It can be as simple as a giant repeatable turntable to spin a car or turn a set, as delicate as a rig configured to spin and tumble a diamond, or as massive as a camera crane. The possibilities are endless... And that’s the magic of MoCo.

How 'Morning Kickoff' makes your team more efficient.

Nobody likes sitting through a meeting when an email would suffice. That said, holding a daily "Morning Kickoff" meeting is a key time (and money) saver on any shoot. It gives you a chance to go over the day’s work, and to align everyone with your Vision. But there’s more to it than that.

Here’s why we believe that a daily Morning Kickoff practice is essential to any production:

There’s something for everyone.
In the hospital, teams of doctors get together at the start of each shift to collaborate on patient care. Morning Kickoff serves the same purpose on your production. When experts from all disciplines come together, they coordinate tasks, determine priorities, establish daily goals, and plan for potential problems. Sometimes specialists have never even been in the same room with each other before, so giving them a chance to communicate, helps everyone hit the ground running.

It’s Critical for Collaboration.
In an interdependent workplace like a production set, Morning Kickoff is a major opportunity that empowers everyone to fine-tune workflows, update plans based on current conditions and maximize the efficient use of time and resources—all of which will impact your bottom line. Taking 15 minutes at the start—or even 45 on the first day of a complex shoot—will save you hours at the backend by allowing departments to work and problem-solve, simultaneously, instead of sequentially.

Power to the People.
Our experience has been that people want to impress and do their best. Morning Kickoff is the ideal venue for sparking up everyone’s creative and strategic thinking for the day. Empowered with information, every department can chime in with suggestions and contributions—while they are still actionable! When they hear the updated plan, your Grips might suggest getting a scissor lift instead of ladders which might save a couple of hours of crew time. Then the Gaffer says, “If we do that, then we can also send back some equipment.” Morning Kickoff gives everyone the chance to optimize and coordinate, together, for everyone’s benefit.

The Takeaway.
Don’t skip Morning Kickoff! It’s a valuable forum where ideas are exchanged quickly to boost collaboration, accountability and efficiency across every department. It can be a game changer.

Crew on scooters, how cool is that?

My project manager Chloe and I have been zipping around Hoboken on e-scooters since they launched, and they’re the bomb ???? (It only takes 1 minute and 30 seconds to get from Cobalt’s soundstage to our “HOBO HOUSE” location by Lime scooter!) Since the city launched its first e-scooter program, 300 vehicles are available — powered by Lime Scooters and OjO Electric by PG3M.

This is how we roll, and here are 7 reasons why you should too:

There’s something for everyone.
Here at “Hollywood on the Hudson,” there are two brands to choose from. My personal favorite is the Lime Scooter which offers a razor scooter-like experience where you stand up. If you prefer a more Vespa-like, seated ride, take an OjO Electric Scooter.

They’re on-demand.
In the era of Lyft and Uber, nobody likes to wait long for a ride. Hoboken’s e-scooters are on-demand, so you can just grab and go. The Lime scooters are dockless, so you can leave them anywhere, which is awesome.

They simplify commuting.
The Lackawanna Terminal is where the Hoboken Ferry, NJ Transit and PATH train terminals adjoin. There, you’ll find an assortment of e-scooters that are perfect for zipping over to our soundstage and Hobo House locations.

They’re fast, but not too fast.
Maxing out at 20 miles per hour, Hoboken’s e-scooters are fast enough to save lots of time, but not fast enough to be a menace. We use them daily, and they’ve been a great way to pack more productivity—and pleasure—into the workday! Just don’t hit a pothole lol.

They’re clean and green.
Riding an e-scooter is an eco-friendly alternative to taking a car. Steve Jobs even predicted that e-scooters would make a bigger impact than personal computers, and that modern cities would be redesigned around them. Right again, Steve!

They’re cheap and chic.
There’s a reason Sophia Loren was photographed on a Vespa so many times—scooters are classic, accessible glam! Hop on an e-scooter and have your iconic “Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday” moment (minus the shaky steering, of course).

They’re fun.
Picture this: You take the ferry in from NYC, hop on an e-scooter and roll into work at Cobalt... You spend the day doing excellent work in a comfortable space where you’re proud to host important clients. When your PA’s run out for a last minute ‘whatever,’ they hop on an e-scooter and get back in 10 minutes flat—with a big smile on their face! Sound like fun???

The Takeaway
Hoboken’s small town vibe is greatly enhanced by access to e-scooters. They’re everything we love—fast, flexible, green and fun! Swing by and see for yourself, we’d love to see ya ????

How a turnkey soundstage saves you time and money.

How do you want to spend your time—being creative? or managing minutia..? With an 'empty warehouse' soundstage, you can spend your precious time sourcing lights, lenses and folding chairs. A better alternative is working with a turnkey soundstage.

Here’s why leveraging your soundstage’s onsite offering helps you stay under budget, and spend more time on what matters most:

Save time and money TWICE.

Using a turnkey soundstage protects your production against wasted time and money, upfront, by sparing you some of the sourcing. Then, you save AGAIN, onset, by being 'preventative'... At a turnkey stage, you are aligning yourself with vendors who have already thought through & prepared for last-minute emergencies that can occur. Even better, in a spur of the moment rigging pinch, it helps if a studio has rigging components available. Having these last minute capabilities, keeps you from needing to put your production on pause. What happens if someone has a creative idea in the middle of lighting design?? It really helps if you can just 'grab something' from the in-house inventory.

Start from scratch? Really?

More tools and amenities, onsite, also means a lot less to worry about. If you’re shooting food, don’t construct a kitchen. Find a soundstage that has one! If you’re making a film, shoot where there’s more of what you need, long-term. How about ample production space, office supplies and generous internet bandwidth, to start? If you’re building a practical set, don’t rent another entire space to do it. Find a place with a woodshop. If you’re building your set, virtually, find a place that has VSet ready to go. And if you’re working with celebrity models or actors, see what amenities are offered for talent. Comfortable chairs, robes, and slippers really DO make a difference.

Use more, pay less.

We saved the easiest for last! The simplest way to save on below-the-line expenses is by working with a turnkey studio, and taking advantage of economies of scale. In addition to comparing what tools and amenities are offered, in-house, ask what kind of package deals each soundstage has to offer. You can save exponentially on time and money by negotiating a volume discount.

The Takeaway

It's simple. Your soundstage’s onsite resources shouldn’t be an afterthought. When you factor in the time and labor of sourcing, transport and last-minute surprises, it almost always makes sense to work with a one-stop shop that offers more of what you need.

How prioritizing previsualization saves you time and money.

Almost every producer has gotten feedback like, “We built this beautiful set, but I don’t see any of it!” It happens, and it’s usually because of unclear communication in the planning stages :/

Prioritizing Previz PAYS, and it can even be painless! Here’s why we advise spending lavish attention on the previsualization process—photography, storyboards, animatics, and the like:

Why is Previz so important?

Previz provides structure. Previz gives collaborators a necessary framework where everyone can see what’s planned and respond accordingly. Proper Previz doesn’t preclude “happy accidents”, but it does, however, ensure that resources be used strategically. This way, creativity can flow through every phase of production—not just onset, when pressure is high, and time is limited.

Previz is approachable.

Don’t be intimidated! Previsualization can be easy-to-learn, affordable, and as low- or high-tech as you like! You can do a photomatic or animatic of the concept. Choose the application that matches your needs keeping in mind the time you can devote to mastering it. More complex concepts with many moving parts require more robust functionality, so start by identifying the variables in the shoot that need to be worked out.

Get the right help.

Leverage people, tools and training to make the Previz process as productive and painless as possible. Start by picking the Previz method that gives you the best value. You’ve probably heard of SketchUp, and you can find training, trainers and forums on their website to help you get started. There are other programs, too. Each has its own set of features and commensurate learning curve. Take a look at Previz, Moviestorm, FrameForge and Storyboarder, and see which meets your needs. Then, you can either take a DIY approach, or if you don’t have the right tools and experience, find someone who does.

The Takeaway

To make the most of resources, time and budget, Previz is your best friend. Elevate every project you work on by getting familiar with your Previz options; by getting firsthand experience using them; or by cultivating relationships with people who can help. (And be sure to check out our video, up top, which goes into more detail about SketchUp!)

How venues and vendors can make or break your production.

You cultivate relationships with talented, reliable people who add value to your team—but have you thought about the role that venues and vendors play? Relationships that are peripheral to your production also influence productivity, creativity and the overall culture onset.

Ask yourself 3 Quick Questions to see if a potential venue or vendor is worth working with:

Do they really understand your project?

Unless you’ve walked a mile in a producer’s shoes, it’s hard to appreciate the everyday challenges of running a production. For example, if you’re talking to a soundstage manager who doesn’t have a clue about budget line items (or the importance of giving VIP clients more than folding chairs in front of a folding table...)—it’s wise to see if you can do better.

Do they really care about your project?

You care deeply about the quality and success of your production, and it IS possible to find supportive, sincere helpers. We keep a running list of committed gaffers, grips, technicians, artists and others—but it’s not just about who’s local and competent. We prioritize by working with people we can count on to be reliable, resourceful and just plain cool to work with.

Are they “culture killers?”

Good attitudes and bad ones have one thing in common: they’re both contagious. When something unforeseen happens during production—and it always does—positive people pitch in and make it right. Others follow suit. You can’t control everything, but the simplest way you can elevate your production across the board is by protecting the vibe onset.

The Takeaway

Create an environment where excellence and cooperation can thrive. The mood matters! (Mood spells doom backwards when we don't get it right.) Toss out any bad apples before they spoil your production, and cultivate relationships with service providers and suppliers who care.

7 Ways to Bring Your Film / TV Project in Under Budget

If you’re a producer, then you know how challenging it is to create excellent work without going over budget. Before you compromise on a creative concept in order to control costs, it pays to investigate some out-of-the-box strategies for elevating your project without breaking the bank.

Read on to learn our Top 7 Cost-Containment Strategies for bringing your production project in under budget.

1. Prioritize Previz

“Happy accidents” have their place in every production, but paying extraordinary attention to planning will always save you money in the end. The previsualization process includes photography, storyboards, animatics and shot lists. The more complex the execution, the more powerful the solution you’ll need. Fortunately, there are user-friendly tools and methodologies for making the Previz process as painless as possible—and some of them even have short learning curves. When your plan has a lot of moving parts, you might want to use a strip board—a low-tech, and rock-solid method that’s stood the test of time. If the project requires camera complexity, consider getting good at a program like SketchUp or working with someone who is.

2. Hold Out for Helpful People

Our Industry is the same as any other—some people are in it to serve you, some are in it to gouge you. In production, everyone is under pressure, and if a venue or vendor makes an already-stressful process feel unnecessarily adversarial, go with your gut. If your initial conversations feel more hostile than helpful, it’s not going to get better when you’re locked into a contract. Work with cooperative, sincere people who value long-term relationships, and when problems arise, they won’t let you down.

3. Use Stations on Stage to Save Crew Time

Crew hours are expensive. To maximize efficiency and come in under budget, don’t work sequentially—work simultaneously. We advise setting up multiple stations so lighting/rigging crews, grips, electricians, set carpenters, prop people and your art department can stay busy (instead of taking turns). If you’re locked into one set-up, you can’t chip away at your close-ups, which might require rigging or high speed lighting. Instead, consider building a few smaller ”setlets”, each considering the unique needs of the shots. This way, your crew can be working while you’re shooting the “main set”. You may have to invest extra in props, product or lighting, but by setting up stations, you can significantly save in crew costs.

4. Don’t Skip the Morning Kickoff

We can see why meetings get a bad rap. Everyone hates sitting through a meeting when an email would suffice. That said, holding a daily morning kickoff meeting is a key time (and money saver) on any shoot. On the surface, it gives you a chance to go over the day’s work, and to align everyone with your Vision. But there’s more to it than that. Morning Kickoff helps every department to understand their impact on each other’s work. In an interdependent workplace like a production set, this is a major opportunity that empowers everyone to fine-tune workflows, update plans based on current conditions, and maximize the efficient use of time and resources—all of which will impact your bottom line.

5. Consider Owning Production Tools

Here’s an easy trick for cutting production costs. First, review a year’s body of work, and look at your equipment rental costs. Then, if you keep renting the same things over and over, see if it makes sense to buy them. Some production tools require heavy maintenance, and some technologies evolve so quickly that investing in them doesn’t pay off. But, if you’re seeing cheap, durable tools you can buy and keep, you can save significant money on rental cost—plus the time and cost of equipment sourcing, tracking and transport.

6. Find a Turnkey Studio

In a similar vein to owning your own tools, you can also save a lot by sourcing a soundstage that can provide a chunk of your production needs. Sourcing and transporting every last table, chair and cooler a la carte is more than tedious—it’s labor intensive, time consuming and expensive, too. Economies of scale can save you a lot, when you work with a studio that can package a substantial amount of their onsite resources into your deal. And, we’ve never seen a single production that hasn’t needed some random thing at the last minute. A turnkey soundstage is likely to have what we call “emergency expendables” like tape or plexiglass—things that can hold up your production when you’re working in an empty warehouse environment.

7. Shoot on the Outskirts

If you are smart enough to consider shooting in Romania (off-shore), why not 20 minutes out of any city? It’s a smart move to consider other nearby options where overhead costs are lower. Consider the total cost savings when you take into account parking, catering and everything else that’s cheaper on the outskirts.

Cobalt Expands!!!


We’ve expanded to serve you better.
You asked, we delivered! We’re pleased to announce the launch of “THE HOBOKEN HOUSE”, our new annex at “Hollywood on the Hudson!” Cobalt’s newest property is a mere three blocks from our soundstage, making it the perfect place to park your productions! Set up shop (or shoot if you wish) in this private oasis while leveraging our nearby soundstage—a controlled environment for using our Virtual Set, Motion Control, and other onsite production tools—the absolute best of both worlds!

Make yourself at home.
“Hobo House” (as we like to call it) is a chic, sun-drenched 2000 square foot Carriage House with 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms—perfect for makeup, wardrobe, etc. Make our secure breezeway your own private shipping & receiving area; set up a food tent or talent holding in our private patio/garden; and shoot in our modern, Euro-style chef’s kitchen. The possibilities are endless.

Location is everything.
A brilliant location in its own right, Hoboken House is also conveniently close to a wealth of offsite location options! When you “set up your entity” here in New Jersey, you can shoot on location anywhere and still take advantage of the New Jersey Film and TV Tax Credit. Located 15 minutes from Midtown and a short drive to the Jersey Shore and the Catskills, you’re sure to find the right setting for every storyline nearby.

At Cobalt, we strive to do more.
In a world of warehouse-type spaces, we add in a layer of hospitality for the ultimate client experience—comfortable, convenient, and conducive to the creative endeavor. Episodics like Alex Gibney’s Showtime docu-series “Enemies” have made their “homes” at Cobalt, and with the launch of our Hoboken House property, we’re now better equipped to host longer-term productions. Kick back, relax… Yes, make yourselves truly at home… Cobalt’s NEW facility is here. Hoboken House welcomes you.

Schedule a tour today and check out our ever-expanding roster of capabilities, amenities, and facilities.

Unleash your imagination...

And save time, money and the planet by doing it!

Virtual Set is trending and it’s no surprise.
Virtual Set is an invaluable production tool offering camera tracking, keying and live compositing of computer-generated environments with live action green screen contents for a fraction of the time, cost, and environmental impact of “practical” sets. We put together this quick guide to help inspire and educate everyone who might be interested in exploring this useful and simple-to-use technology. So without further ado...

Here’s a five-part breakdown of what happens when you take advantage of Cobalt's Virtual Backlot on a project:

Phase 1: Unleash your imagination.
Practical set building usually limits creativity because your budget and real-life parameters dictate what can and can’t be done. On the contrary, with Virtual Sets you can shoot a scene in any environment you can imagine. Recently, a client came to us with a challenge… They needed to shoot an actor in a massive, spotlessly-clean warehouse, and as we all know, “pristine warehouse” is an oxymoron! Very few productions have the budget to build such an impractical set. With Cobalt’s Virtual Backlot, the challenge was easily met. This impractical, nonexistent space could be created virtually—for less money than feeding your crew bagels on location. Even better, instead of lighting an entire 300-foot deep, 100-foot tall warehouse, they only had to light the live action talent—a major time saver. With Virtual Sets, you’re finally free to create without limits. If you can dream it, you can have it.

Phase 2: Design your environment.
Now that Virtual Set technology is ubiquitous in Hollywood and popular worldwide, there’s no shortage of great 3D artists who can create or customize environments for any concept you can dream. Unbound by traditional budgetary or logistical concerns, we will point you towards a range of trusted CGI providers who can create beautiful and efficient 3D solutions for you.

Phase 3: Combine your “practical” set elements into your CG.
Say you plan to shoot in a virtual log cabin where people are sitting around a table. While the whole “world” of your production can be CG, you’ll want the table and chairs to be “practical” set pieces, so your cast is sitting on real chairs—at a real table. It’s always a good idea, whenever possible, to have your talent connect with live props. Also, grounding your actors to a practical floor saves time with matte cleanups and shadow restoration. Now, you’re ready to roll!

Phase 4: Shoot in your Virtual Set.
Like a practical set, you and your cast can walk through your 3D world and see your composite IN REAL TIME. With real-time compositing, actors, directors, and DPs experience the seamless merge of both worlds. This is such an extraordinary time-saver! It’s also one of many ways that Virtual Sets can make your life easier and more productive. Instead of struggling to try to fit your story into a budget challenged 2-wall set, why not have an entire villa/ castle/ Mars/ or the Moon??… to tell your story?

Phase 5: Post-Production Work
When you use our Virtual Backlot, we supply three deliverables in addition to camera footage: 1. camera move metadata 2. a rough composite to edit offline 3. a matte to combine with your source footage. The move metadata is used to marry your source footage with the CG environment, and the matte we supply facilitates the composite. With the rough composite, you can edit offline, and then, proceed to color correction for matching your hi-res CG renders to your green screen elements. Lastly, take your footage online for final compositing and finishing! That’s a total of two extra digital steps to substantially save you on the time, money, and environmental impact of traditional set building!

Set yourself free!! 
Let’s talk about elevating your next project with Cobalt's Virtual Backlot.

From Tax Credits to Virtual Set…

We can save your production serious money!

Your Plug & Play Production Solution
Since 1995, we’ve been perfecting Cobalt Stages. This is how we've become greater NYC’s all-inclusive production paradise. It doesn't happen overnight! With 23 years to work out all the kinks, we’re extremely well-equipped to serve the diverse needs of the production community. Because a key part of our mission is to save you money, our comprehensive package comes with a generous inventory of extras—just take a look at our 8 page list. While most soundstages come with a bare stage and nothing else, we go waaaaay beyond lighting, grip and distro. From our woodworking shop to our well-appointed client suite, we include more so your budget goes farther!

The NJ Film and TV Tax Credit
Save up to $10 million a year per production! New Jersey’s newly-reinstated tax incentives include 30 percent of qualifying ABOVE AND BELOW the line production expenses for productions who park themselves here. While this is a massive deal in its own right, experts say New Jersey’s incentives can save you even more than New York’s (which pertains to only below the line expenses). The program includes credits of $75 million per fiscal year for TV and film projects. So, now is a great time to lock it in. To learn more about the incentives, check out these FAQs or read the legislation in its entirety here.

Virtual Sets: Cost Savings & Creative Freedom
Virtual sets are a brilliant solution for cost-conscious productions.

Example 1:
Say you’re doing a vignette project, and you need to hit 5 locations in one day (outrageous…). Making 4 company moves in a day means spending more than half your time traveling instead of shooting. OR… Stay in one spot at Cobalt and bring the locations to you. AND you’re not chasing the sun.

Example 2:
Remember the Netflix show "Sense8” ???
As an attempt to salvage a very expensive episodic, we were approached by the producers… They completely saw the wisdom of using Cobalt’s Virtual Set capabilities to solve a location & travel budget that was way out of hand. Their idea was to shoot the show at Cobalt using our Virtual Set technology instead of continuing to fly the cast and crew around the world. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled before we could help.

Our Virtual Backlot means no travel costs, no location fees, no set construction costs or waste—just unrestricted camera movement, amazing production value and complete creative freedom.

To learn more about Virtual Sets and our Virtual Backlot, read our blog posts here and here.