Ask the Creative Director

Welcome to the Creative Director’s blog page, where you can participate in a lively discussion with any of the Avekta staff, not just me. Just post your question or comment and we’ll do the best to respond quickly and helpfully.


"Job well done!" or "You're fired!"  Donald Trump addresses Avekta's cameras on behalf of his hotels.

“Job well done!” or “You’re fired!” Donald Trump addresses Avekta’s cameras for Trump hotels.

What if you got the chance to interview Bill Gates or Donald Trump.  Would you be prepared for all contingencies, ask the right questions and make the CEO look his or her best?  Or would you hear, “You’re FIRED!”  Avekta Creative Director, George Avgerakis takes you into the C-Level with Part 2 of his perceptive distillation of over 30 years experience shooting America’s leaders.  To read the second part of George’s recently published article in NewTek’s online magazine and blogs, CLICK HERE.

Are you faced with the responsibility of interviewing a C-level executive for a video or media production?  Avekta’ Creative Director, George Avgerakis, has extensive experience filming Fortune 100 CEOs, including the CEO of Fortune’s owner Time Warner and Forbes’ CEO, Steve Forbes.  Read this interesting article George wrote for NewTek’s online magazine and blogs.

CLICK HERE to read Part 1, published March 2, 2015.

President Barack Obama giving the commencement address at West Point.   Avekta Productions Photo.

President Barack Obama giving the commencement address at West Point. Avekta Productions Photo.

Forbes' CEO, Steve Forbes in a global satellite news conference produced by Avekta Productions.

Forbes’ CEO, Steve Forbes in a global satellite news conference produced by Avekta Productions.

Back in the late ’80s our firm was honored to be invited to create a series of surgical videos at the Texas Heart Institute with renowned surgeons Denton Cooley, MD, O.H. “Bud” Frazier and others.

Today, we are in the process of restoring, editing and uploading these videos to YouTube, where both lay and professional audiences enjoy seeing such historic procedures as heart transplants, mitral valve replacements, cardiac oncology, etc.

If you wish to see these videos, they are available on the Avekta YouTube Channel.  Enjoy.

One of our “fans,” a surgeon in Eastern Europe, wrote with a lot of unusual questions that caused me to recollect many interesting moments that I shared with him.  I thought they might be of interest to you, our website visitor.  So here is a mildly edited version of that late-night exchange.

Dear George.
I’m sorry that I’m taking you time. As I wrote you once I am very interested in a heart transplant and the construction of an artificial heart I just have one question about your memories when you worked in Houston. Did  Dr. Frazier only do heart transplants and by-pass operation in 80’s when you worked there?

Chris – I will answer your questions within the body of your text – see below.

At that time both Dr. Cooley and Dr. Frazier were doing heart transplants.  There would be about one transplant a week – although we did not have much luck and had to wait over three weeks to film ours.  During that time both doctors did other CT operations.

Is Dr. Frazier doing all heart operations during a day? Is he doing operations thoracic aortic aneurysms?

Yes, but I did not film any.

How was his daily schedule when he doing heart transplant all night?

There was usually a maximum four hour advance notice on transplants since at that time, 4 hours was the limit of how long the allograph would remain viable.  Assuming a donor was harvested at say 2200 hrs, it is possible the operation would run all night and there is always several crews available on call 24/7/365.  During our filming, we wore beepers and were on the same call list as the doctors and nurses.

Did Dr. Frazier operate together with Dr. Cooley or separately?

I do not recall them working together, but it was certainly possible.  The work arrangements at THI were very flexible.  The ORs are constructed like honeycombs – eight to a cluster, with an octagonal nursing station in the center of the cluster.  In this way, the support staff could enter any of 8 ORs with minimal sterile procedures and maximum speed.  Usually “fellows” would do the opening and closing and the surgeons would enter the OR only to perform the most critical work. Once done, the surgeon would back away from the table, shoot his gloves into the trash, raise his hands, back out of the room, call for a regown if necessary, reglove and move into the next procedure.  The nursing staff would try to keep the surgeons as continuously working as possible and Cooley, for one, did not rest unless it was absolutely unavoidable.  His lunch consisted of a yoghurt and water, taken in his surgical office, which was just off the honeycomb of ORs.  In the office, he had a bank of video monitors, each with a different OR under observance.
What was it like in the Texas Heart Institute. I am very interested because in the 80’s they performed 5,000 operations a year.

I recall that Cooley did 8-12 procedures a day.  Late one afternoon, he was kind enough to allow me to shoot some specific scenes of him scrubbing up and going through doors etc.  Each shot took a few rehearsals and “takes,” so when I was done, I thanked him and, assuming he was at the end of his day, I wished him a good evening’s rest.  He replied, “I only rest when I’m sick.  And I’m never sick.”  I assume he went on operating into the night, but I needed rest, so I left and went to my hotel!

You were working at the time with Cooley and Frazier. What was it like working with Dr. Frazier, who is the head of the heart transplant program.

I recall Dr. Frazier had a great sense of humor and like to listen to different kinds of music (not always classical – the favorite of surgeons) when working.  Often he would start to talk to me while operating and it was usually a serious comment that suckered me into participating in a joke.  For instance, once he said, “George – you know, we aren’t using rats in the experimental lab any more.”  I was shocked that he would address me in the middle of a procedure, so while recovering from that I was not aware that he was playing me, so I said, “You don’t say.” And he went on to explain that instead of rats, they were using lawyers.  “You see, we found out there are more lawyers than rats.  And the staff are not as emotionally attached to lawyers as to rats. Finally, there are some things that even rats won’t do.”  I had a hard time holding the camera steady, because that was in the ’80s when lawyer jokes – especially doctor-lawyer jokes, were really new.

Is he worked harder and longer than other doctors. Is Dr. Cooley and Frazier were the best surgeons in the Texas Heart Institute?

I would have no way to determine an answer to either of these questions.  I am just a filmmaker.  I will tell you that the fellows – young surgeons who were learning while working – were in awe of all the senior surgeons.  On one occasion the fellows invited me to a beer party where I was asked to bring my slo-motion playback machine.  They wanted to bet on where, in the arc of Cooley’s arm, he clipped the suture into the forceps.  Most of the bets were on the 12 o’clock position, assuming Cooley was using his hearing to make sure the forcep had clicked.  His hands, however, were too quick  – meaning that whenever he did click the suture, it was faster than 1/30th of the frame rate of the video.  My guess was somewhere on the late downthrust.  We never found out.

You worked with Dr. Frazier when doing your movie. Please describe what it looked like. Is Dr. Frazier during the day had to do all the other heart surgery (aneurysms, valve)as other doctors(Cooley, Livesay, Ott).

I don’t remember anything specifically that would distinguish the procedures of either of these men and to me, one OR looked like any other.  I would assume all of them have been significantly remodeled since my days there.  I will note that Dr. Livesay, with whom I spent some time – he was one of the youngest surgeons on the staff – was experimenting with using lasers to clear arterial congestion and having some great success with it.  You may wish to check his publications of that time.

Is Dr. Frazier was the best student of Dr. Cooley?  

I have no idea.  He certainly has come into his own prominence and his recent garage experimentation with artificial hearts (Did you see the Flatline video!!?) looks very promising.

What are people’s opinions about Dr. Frazier in Houston? 

All of the fellows and nurses were always very respective – to the extent of professional worship – of the senior staff.  There is really nothing, except perhaps the Special Forces level of military service, that compares with the atmosphere at THI.  I remember having a discussion with some fellows about why they studied there and one fellow was saying – “This is the best heart surgery center in the world.  They specialize in redos – the highest risk cases.  These cases, done in most other institutions, you run into a problem – let’s say the heart has healed up against the sternum and when you saw through the sternum you nick into the heart.  In most hospitals, that’s a sure killer.  The patient exsanguinates in minutes, you’re walking through a pool of blood, you’ve got a dead patient.  Here at THI, every person in the room has seen that scenario a hundred times.  They know exactly what has to be done almost before it happens.  Every person does exactly the right thing and the patient lives.  Everybody’s happy.  That’s why I study here.”  I remember this conversation very well, having almost recorded it in my mind, because I have been kicking myself for many years not having had my camera with me that night!

We are looking forward to seeing more bypass surgery with Dr. Cooley on Avekta’s YouTube site!

Hey, if I wasn’t here b*******ing with you by email, I might be in the back room editing that stuff.  You inspire me in any case.  Thanks for stimulating my memories.  It feels good.  Good night!

If anyone who worked at THI in the ’80s has anything to add to this, please write us.  We’ll share your thoughts and recollections as best we can.


Matchbox Twenty performing "She's So Mean" in 360-degree 4K HD

I just finished a short review of the JVC GY-HMQ10 4K camcorder for HD Video Pro Magazine’s Nov-Dec issue 2012.  This camera is the first hand-held camcorder to record real-time 4K video at 60p onto affordable SD memory cards. At a retail price of $4,995, it’s hard to beat.

That lesson was quickly applied by the people behind the rock group Matchbox Twenty, who combined the 4K quality image with the GoPano Plus device ( to create a music video with 360-degree, interactive functionality.  Similar to the “virtual reality” photographs that are popular in real estate and hotel advertising.  Viewers of Matchbox Twenty’s music video “She’s So Mean” can click and drag on the view screen to turn the “camera” around 360 degrees in any direction.

The JVC GY-MHQ10 4K camcorder with the GoPano device attached to the lens.

Cleverly, the group arranged itself around the camera, facing toward the lens of the HMQ10, which is actually pointing directly upward and into an almost spherical mirror.  The GoPano device can be mounted on any camera, still or video, but using the 4K JVC camera produced extraordinary quality that has not been seen before in this interactive medium.

Members of Matchbook Twenty arranged in a circle around the JVC 4K camera and GoPano device.

I certainly hope other videographers employ their imaginations to see what other new ways this combination of high quality 4K video and interactive methodology can be applied.  I, for one, will be thinking real hard.  Enjoy viewing!

The Qio multiple video card reader module from Sonnet Technologies retails at $999.

New from Sonnet Technologies is the Qio (pronounced “KEE-oh” not like the Pidgin English  “CHEE-oh”).  Qio is a device that reads and writes all the current memory chips that are used in video cameras and online editing systems.

After you hook up one or more Qios to your computer – using the supplied peripheral interface card and cables – you can relegate your camera to the field and stop using it to download your dailies and archive your final edits. Qio is platform agnostic, and works equally well with MAC or PC platforms.

You can also throw away all your USB card readers  because Qio provides immediate compatibility with Sony® SxS, Panasonic® P2, CompactFlash, SDHC and SDXC cards (using an included adapter).  The PCI Express bus interface provides a wider bandwidth of 200MB/sec. throughput, eliminating most of the delay imposed by USB transfers.

Some newer computers, like the HPZ-800 offer an integrated memory card reading panel as an option, but Qio is much more than this for its $999 price tag.

For instance, if you’d like to take advantave of the faster SATA drive format, Qio’s integrated, fast SATA host controller (based on Tempo SATA E4P) with four eSATA ports supports and powers two Fusion F2 SATA storage systems, or supports SATA drive enclosures with up to 16 drives total.  For large volume acquisition and storage, you can loop-connect multiple Qios.

The cables are long enough to allow your Qio cabinet to sit conveniently on top of your computer or desk and the aluminum case measures just 5.9″ x 6.2″ x 1.22″.  Theft of the unit is deterred by standard Kensington style security slots.

Qio supports a full range of media cards such as (from left to right) Sony SxS, Panasonic P2, CompactFlash, and SDHC cards.

We installed a Qio on an older dual Pentium-4 machine which, until now, had been using a cheap USB card reader device which of could not read the P2 cards.  With all our camera media, the data showed up much faster than with the USB (and, presumably with FireWire), and laybacks to the chips for storing final edits and selected takes.  The results have driven us to decide to install it on the faster machines which are already equipped with card readers, to see if the increase in speed will carry over to them as well.  More news on that when I have it!

This email received last week from Tom Guiney of Conviction Films, who came across an article I’d written for Student Filmmakers magazine.

(NOTE: “B-Roll” footage refers to scenes that a filmmaker shoots to use after editing a “talking head” interview.  Often, cuts are made in the interview which would appear jarring – the head appears to jump between cuts after the unnecessary words are cut out.  These jump cuts are covered by “cutaways” to different footage, while the interviewee continues to speak.)

Dear George:

I read this article that you wrote and wanted to say, good work!

What led me to your article is that recently I was wrestling with the lack of good b-roll from one of my shoots. My fault, of course, since I was shooting. Fact is, it was a really challenging situation. Talking head/torso in a small beige office. Its an online promo for a financial planner, just him talking about what he does and how he can help you, the potential client. Absolutely nothing good to look at in his office. Well, almost nothing. Wondering what I could have done differently. Exterior of building was blah, very little signage or branding. And there was way too much A-roll in the script to leave much time for anything else.

Thoughts on that sort of thing? What might you have done?

Tom Guiney

Dear Tom:

After every talking head shoot (well, really, whenever I remember), I tell the subject that I’m going do something a little weird but fun.  I focus in on the subject’s hands and then I tell the subject to imitate me as I describe what I’m doing.  First I put three or four fingers out on one hand and then I slowly count off each finger with my other hand’s index finger. That takes care of any cutaway you need for when a guy says, “First I tell the client…, Second, I arrange for… etc.”  then do some other “hand things” like tenting my fingers, pointing toward the camera, making a sweeping gesture and, of course, anything else you can thing of as a result of having just done the interview.  For instance, if you remember the subject saying something like, “I’m very firm on this.” You should remember to have him make a fist and pounding into his other hand.  As you can see, each of these cutaways can be used (though not too frequently!) to cover a jump cut.

I hope this is helpful.



Right now, we are testing a range of Hewlett-Packard computers for use in video production, website design and animation.  These computers are the Elitebook 8560w mobile workstation, the all-in-one, HP Z-1 workstation, and the HP Z800 tower.  The software that is being tested on this heavy iron includes Adobe CS6 (disk and Creative Cloud versions), Sony Vegas 11 and NewTek’s Lightwave 11.  If you have any issues or comments regarding these specific products, we would be very interested in hearing from you.

Some brevities on our results so far:

Elitebook 8560 is a bit large and heavy for a “laptop,” but this is really a mobile workstation.  I use it for 85% of my desk work, from writing emails to designing graphics.  It runs Sony Vegas 11 just fine and can be taken to a client’s office to fine tune a video edit with no loss of confidence.  When “clamshelled” closed, its titanium shell is strong enough to stand on, but do not let the unit fall on a hard floor when the screen is open, because then, all bets are off.  Brilliant and accurate color screen. Two dual core processors provide 8 virtual CPUs.  Finger-print sensor for quick security.  Off center finger-mouse pad is a bit annoying at first.

Z-1 just came in so we’re just starting to load it.  It’s a bit difficult to reach the rear connectors, which are blocked by the support stand, but you only have to deal with this to plug in the network cable socket.  All other jacks and controls are duplicated more conveniently elsewhere.  The coolest thing about this computer is that you can lay it on its back and flip up the screen to reveal all the internal components, which are easily snapped out and replaced.  There’s even a gas piston that assists in lifting the screen – which makes it look like the read deck of a Ferrari.  Very, very quiet.  Make sure it’s off when you go home!

Z800 is a frighteningly powerful machine.  We have it with dual “hexacore” processors giving us 24 virtual CPUs!  This allows us to monitor how fast the programs we run really are.  So far, we haven’t found one program which makes all 24 processors clock in at more than 25% – and yet some of these programs run slower than expected.  What’s with that?  Why should a program bog down when you’ve got all that processing plus an NVIDIA Quadro 4000 handling graphics?  We’re digging into that.