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Ready for Action


Yep, another travel-related blog, complete with signature bad cell phone pics and a few DSLR images for good measure. Hey, everyone has to have a signature!

What can I say - I spend a day, a week or more preparing (on and off) for a big trip. Sometimes a big trip is a weekend, a few weekdays or likely just an overnight.

This entry will give the highlights on the past two trips, and attempt to give some tips and tricks for a successful shooting / travel experience.

Planning Ahead - Locations

The first trip was actually to a familiar location - a hospital where we had worked in 2008. So we knew where we were going, but it is still a mystery until you are actually inside if it will work out as planned. This is why we have a pre-production meeting the day we arrive. We sit in an office and go shot by shot through our extensive shot lists, making sure the equipment is available and there are people who know how to do what we need them to do.

Another important location is the hotel. In Denver we tend to stay near the airport, right off the highway. A little planning as to travel routes can pay off - on this most recent trip the Denver Marathon happened to be passing right by the hospital on day 2 of our shoot.


At the conclusion of the 2-day shoot, we had a few hours to kill before the red-eye home, so we went to another cool location, the Red Rocks amphitheater - very cool place.




Planning ahead - Equipment

Given the every-increasing fees for checked luggage and overweight items, we have started weighing our gear before leaving. We just borrow the scale from the shipping desk.


Lately we have had a shoot almost every week. As of this writing, we have four shoots in one week. Thus it is important to test the function of everything before every trip. Wear and tear is inevitable. And we keep everything packed and ready to go. The kit at the moment includes an Anvil case containing HD field monitor, 50' HDMI cable, wireless mic, wired lav mic, blank HDV tapes,small makeup kit, AC extension cord, XLR cables and a couple of pieces of grip gear for our various surgery tripod systems.

Next is the Arri kit - a 150w, 300w, 650w and a Lowel Omni for good measure. Last most important item is the mini-rock-n-roller cart. These things are relatively indestructible compact and sturdy. I never leave home without it!



Seeing these items come down the belt is always a good feeling. We always fly out early enough in the day that if the airlines manage to lose something(they will try), they have time to manage to find it. Last flight of the day is a bad idea unless everything is a carry-on.

First thing to do in a new location is to test the wireless mic. Sometimes, especially in older hospital buildings, the steel construction causes too much interference for the signal to transmit clearly. Assuming you have a clear signal, extra batteries should always be nearby.

Procedure Planning

As with any shooting situation, you should have some idea as to the content you will be shooting. In the case of surgery, the best thing to do is talk to the surgeon about positioning and key steps. Experience with the subject matter also helps, so you can anticipate what comes next - as in cooking, sports or DIY shows.

The second trip, this past week, took me back to Pittsburgh, home of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

They have a cool display at the airport terminal. I watched Mr. Rogers every day from about age 2 to 6 and a number of times as a young adult. The man was very wise and a good influence. And I think Picture Picture was an early influence on my career choice.




Actually, this trip I was out in Monroeville shooting some joint replacements. Fascinating to watch, as there are dozens of specialty jigs and tools used including saws, drills, hammers, pulse lavage and what looks like a large caulk gun.

Not so far removed from shooting a home improvement show, however instead of replacing the crown moldings or HVAC system, the patella and femoral head are replaced.

During some down-time after arrival on Sunday, I visited the Monroeville Mall - legendary shooting location of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead." By today's standards, the mall is rather tired, but once upon a time this was a mecca of indoor shopping - and zombies! Nearby I went to an electronics store to try out the new tablet computer from Apple - perhaps you have heard about it (not much press coverage). Always good to check out one's own website to make sure it works.


And I pulled up my favorite YouTube video for good measure. Miss you Grandma!



With activities done for the day, I dropped my colleagues off at the terminal, fueled up the rental van, "enjoyed" a gas station hot dog, returned the vehicle, checked the cases and waited for my own flight home.




Stopover in Dulles - very busy for 10:30pm on a Monday.


Upon landing in Hartford, got my checked items, loaded the wagon queen family truckster and made the familiar drive home.


Sometimes something simple is the best image of all:


Next morning, up at at 'em early for some morning meetings a short drive down the road in, of all places, Connecticut!

So in summary - plan ahead, know what you are doing before you have to do it, check your gear, allow time to actually get your gear at the other end, say please and thank you to everyone you meet at the airport especially if they are having a bad day. Basically, follow the advice of the man in the zippered cardigan.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Mike Cohen



Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 8, 2010 at 7:50:40 pm travel, pre-production, neighbors



I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!




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