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2014 Adventures Part 15: The Windy City is Particularly Windy in the WInter

I skipped Part 14, because if you've ready two blog articles about trips to Denver, you've read them all. Use your imagination - it was cold and snowy and productive. Redeye home.

That was November.

The week after Thanksgiving 2014 it was off to our final conference and trip of the year in Chicago (again). For this one at the Chicago Hilton, we did in fact use the in-house AV team, due to the high cost of labor requirements of the property. It worked out ok, you just need to be very specific about what you need.

So the meeting was uneventful, complete with live surgeries.

We had one presenter who was unable to travel, so she appeared via Skype.

I also coordinated the recording of the meeting on video cameras and KiPro drives for later post production.

Meals probably included Rudy's again, Rosebud and then airport dinner at Harry Caray's bar - a Midway tradition.

This was a quick one, and thankfully the last trip of 2014. All told, I was away 70 nights, including 10 weekends.

Here's to looking ahead to 2015 and whatever it may bring...

Happy Holidays.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:20:35 pm

2014 Adventures Part 13: Movin on Up

To a dee-luxe apartment in the sky-high-high. Anyone born after 1990 might not know what this means.

Anyway, the very next week I had a shoot back in Chicago. Problem was, it was the week of some big packaging conference with 100,000+ attendees. Chicago has about 108,000 rooms, so we were numbers 108,001 and 108,002.

I could have gotten a room at the Palmer House or another swanky place for upwards of $500/night.

So I turned to a website I had visited but never used, AirBnB. Kind of like Uber for apartments. Even on this site I had a tough time finding availability, but eventually secured two nights in a two bedroom two bath condo on the 23rd floor of a building overlooking the Chicago River, two blocks from the Willis Tower.

It turned out to be much better than a swanky hotel, as it had a modern fully equipped kitchen and nice amenities. Oddly, one of the available amenities were lighted mirrors on the ceilings. I didn't ask what sort of guests might need these!

Oh well, it was a safe and clean place to stay for two nights, a quick cab ride from the hospital campus.

I then went on to book apartments for vacations in 2015 - more on these later.

With this shoot done, it was back to the plant for a week of post and then back to my most frequently visited city in Part 14...

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:11:03 pm

2014 Adventures Part 12: The San Francisco Treat

Rice-a-Roni got it wrong...San Francisco IS the treat.

Getting there I took my first 777 - that's a big plane.

Here for the annual surgical congress for which we prepare the videos and provide other technical and project management support, San Fran is great in early Fall. Not too hot, not too cool.

I stay at the Hotel Nikko just off of Union Square. You go another block or two away from Union Square and it becomes a bit seedy.

I had some decent sushi and some really good Italian food all within a block or two of the hotel, and one bland seafood meal in North Beach (known generally for Italian food actually).

My other assignment was to record interviews with several surgeons about the history of laparoscopy. This took place at the Marriott, adjacent to the Moscone Center. Only about a 8 minute walk between locations. I setup in a hotel suite, conducted the interviews during a few time blocks during the week.

On this trip I didn't do too much walking around the city, mainly due to lack of free time other than for dinners. We happened to be in town when the Giants won the World Series. Why people celebrate by burning police cars I will never know. A cop we spoke to said that people use these situations as an excuse to let off steam. Whatever.

Then the last day it was back home.

I think I had a week off before the next trip, known as Part 13.

See you there.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 5:41:31 pm interviews

2014 Adventures Part 11: Political Capitol

After a nice break from seeing an airport, October brought me to the next round.

First stop Washington DC for the Diabetic Limb Salvage meeting.

These events are a great opportunity to check out the latest gear and interact with top notch local crews. For example, this doohickie is the thing to have for managing lots of live audio inputs:

Same venue, same crew, plus live surgery via satellite, dinner with my brother , a walk past the White House (post fence jumper incident) and a few other decent meals.

Next stop, Part 12.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 5:24:32 pmComments (1)

2014 Adventures Part 10...Actually 7.5...or 8 3/4...?

I missed one, but rather than going back to re-number we'll just add it here. It is in fact mid-2015 at the time of writing!
This terminal of DIA, by the way, sort of looks like 1980's EPCOT.

So mid-July I had another trip to Denver for some more OR training video work. This one also had a requirement for some special effects, though we decided not to hire the effects crew and do it ourselves, since realism was not as crucial.

I found several websites where you can buy things like bullet woulds, laceration appliances and makeup, gum arabic and the like. We also had the need for a severed finger, hand, leg and some bullet fragments.

$100 later I had everything delivered to the office, and here was my checked luggage for this trip (I wonder what TSA thought about this - my cat seems interested in that severed hand!):

When the time came I applied the bullet wounds and the vampire blood. I also created an appendix specimen, a generic looking tumor and powder residue.

This was a lot of fun, and I ended up doing the post on this same project as well.

I want to say some brew pubs were involved in this trip, though the Denver trips sort of blend together. Here's a shout out to MP&E, our Denver go to shop for camera gear and lighting.

Ok, I think I came home from Denver on a Sunday night redeye, then to the DR on a Thursday, then to LA, then to Chicago, though it could have been Denver, then Chicago, then DR then LA, or.....

Remind me to check my frequent flyer mileage balances!

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 5:20:08 pm effects makeup, improv

2014 Adventures Part 9: Windy City Blues

With only 2 days in the office to get ready, it was off to Chicago for another big medical conference. I don't recall exactly what day of the week it was, though I do remember feeling a little sleepy during dinner the first night.

Let's start at about 4am at BDL, which can be quite busy at this hour.

Then, 7:30am at MDW can only be described as a sea of people.

I usually take the Orange line train from MDW to downtown.

While dragging a suitcase around the inner loop is a bit taxing, the city was quite pleasant this fine August morning.

This event was at the historic Palmer House Hilton. We had one of our preferred AV vendors on the case, and for this one we decided to do a large wide screen blend to add a little extra visual interest to the meeting. Each day started with live surgery via satellite, followed by full days of lectures and discussion. Pretty routine at this point.

Meals during this trip included a popular place with our staff, Rudy's Bar and Grill. Decent burgers but lots of fried food and everything seems to be focused on the pretzel roll - must be a local thing.

I ate with the AV crew the first night after setup.

Another night it so happened that for only the second time in 20 years my dad and I were in the same city at the same time. We at at the famous Miller's Pub, known for their baby back ribs. They were great and it was of course awesome hanging out with my Pop.

The final night we had a group dinner at Rosebud, then it was home.

I didn't have a chance to work on the previously mentioned video edit, so the next few weeks were spent on full tilt post-production on numerous recent projects. Most importantly was the fact that I did not have another trip planned until October.

Seeing as this was August, it wasn't actually very windy in Chicago.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 5:10:03 pm event AV

2014 Adventures - Part 6: Workation

It's now April 2014 for those keeping score at home! 2014 all told will have me going to 9 conferences. Good thing I went to the Jos. A. Bank buy one get two free sale!

Time for some time off, with the occasional e-mail or phone call to wrap up preparations for the conference at the tail end of the vacation in South Florida. We happen to manage a conference in Miami Beach, so my wife and I scheduled a vacation to precede this event, with visits to my parents in Delray Beach and my aunt and uncle in Naples.

It happened to be school vacation for a lot of people, so while I normally get a mid-sized car, National was handing out whatever was available. We ended up with a Trailblazer for the week which was actually pretty nice.

First stop was my folks in Delray Beach for 4 days of relaxation, a few meals out, a few meals in, swimming and too much sun.

In Naples we discovered some great Greek food of all things, and some lovely beaches.

Next it was a drive down the historic Tamiami trail to Miami Beach. We arrived just as the AV crew was getting going. This crew has worked this conference for a few years running, so it went smoothly, and was 3 fun filled days of vascular surgery, sushi and swimming - what I would call a workation.

I love the Art Deco and Art Moderne of Miami Beach. It is amazing to see old dilapidated buildings being refurbished, or torn down to be replaced with new buildings in the same style.

And great food of course

And then it was back home again, this time for a good two months. Two months spent kicking off a huge new project, and planning for the next phase.

Keep reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 10:46:18 pm travel, AV

2014 Adventures - Part 5: A Tale of Two Cities

Salt Lake City really does feel like two separate places. On the one hand you have a convention center, hotels and restaurants like any other city, not to mention some really unique architecture, spectacular scenery in most directions and a bunch of history.

Then in the center of town you have the Mormon complex, featuring the famous cathedral, visitor's centers, Tabernacle, outdoor mall and the massive conference center. We happened to be there on Conference Weekend (google it - I did) so we got some flavor of a religious pilgrimage the likes of which you really do not see in America.

After the conference ended (not that conference, we were there for a medical one!) I had the chance to walk around the city, saw some interesting sites and finished off at the state capitol building with some great views of the surrounding area.

Oddly there is also this spectacular Gothic cathedral in the outskirts of the downtown area.

This trip also afforded me the chance to reunite with one of my oldest friends (he and I are the same age, I have known him since the Reagan administration, though we had not see each other since 1990!) who lives in Ogden with his lovely family. Joe picked me up after work and took me up to meet his family, took me on a tour of Ogden, the closest town to where the golden spike with struck to join the two branches of the first transcontinental railroad. Ogden has some fascinating architecture as well.

We ate at the Two Bit Street Cafe - a Prohibition-era cafe now owned by a mentalist who bent a spoon with me holding it in my hand, and I can't figure out how he did it.

He was also the former personal assistant of Andy Gibb, so he has some Bee Gees memorabilia in the restaurant and is happy to tell some tales.

Night time view of the Great Salt Lake looked better in person than this grainy cell phone photo:

Another interesting visit to a new city.

Ok, gotta grab a night flight back home so I can wash some clothes.

Stay tuned for Part 6: Workation

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 10:44:12 pm travel

2014 Adventures - Part 4: The Walk of Fame

A few weeks to go until our annual diabetes conference in LA. The course director asked about having a live Twitter feed ticker under the main content. This was a technical challenge, solved in part here on the COW:

As the thread describes, we used a website called Crowd Convergence, which allows social media feeds in a variety of formats and shapes. But since we were not in a broadcast studio, we had to jury rig a solution using 3 video switchers to be able to independently add or remove the ticker, switch I-Mag cameras within a PIP window and switch slide content in another PIP window.

The conference is held in the Ray Dolby Ballroom - the same venue where the post-Oscars Governor's Ball is held. It is kind of cool knowing that the room itself has hosted innumerable filmmakers and actors over the years. Oddly, the space is managed by Wolfgang Puck. Since he caters the Governor's Ball, he decided to build a kitchen and ballroom within walking distance of the Oscar's - or something to that effect.

The ballroom is on the top of Hollywood and Highland, a massive outdoor mall and entertainment complex, next to the Dolby Theater and Chinese Theater. Also adjacent to the Loew's Hollywood Hotel where part of the conference is also held.

And all of this is on Hollywood Blvd, a popular yet seedy part of LA. Most big cities have a Times Square like area, and in LA it is this stretch of Hollywood Blvd at night where you have an odd mix of tourists, costumed characters, homeless teenagers, people cooking sausages and peppers on small gas-fired wagons, lots of traffic and bright lights. Yep, Times Square.

We finished the AV setup about 9pm, and I continued the late night sushi tradition at an awesome place in the complex. Apparently there was a famous actor at the next table, because another patron asked to have a photo taken with him. I quickly turned around to look and it was either Aaron Paul or Dustin Diamond - I have no idea. Why a famous person would go to an outdoor mall for dinner I don't know, although based upon the number of Bentley, Maserati and Porsche cars in front of the Loews, I guess it is a popular spot.

Next 3 days of the event went off without a hitch.

Well there was one potential hitch. One of the presenters, who was to receive an award, was stuck in Europe due to an illness. I was tasked with helping him appear via Skype. Using Skype to talk to a business associate or your parents, computer to computer, or iPad to Android, works ok. But putting this interaction up on a 16 foot screen for an audience of 700, with a total of 15 minutes to test before the main event, is a little dicey.

Luckily we had Rick Disco Duck Dees moderating the session , so we were in good hands! Everything went fine thanks to the use of a mobile hotspot (the wifi provided in the ballroom was dismal, as is often the case in meeting facilities). After the talk, some of the faculty actually posed for photos with the remote presenter on a laptop.

Dinners on this trip included the previously mentioned sushi dinners, a group dinner at Tinhorn Flats (a generally awful Tex-Mex place across from the hotel), and a unique dinner with my old pal from college at Hollywood's historic Musso and Frank's Grill. Google it - interesting place.

My friend, let's call him Lando (he lost that ship to me fair and square) has a variety of entertainment gigs in LA, from play by play during MMA fights, to local tv commercials and gets invited to parties in the Hollywood hills.

Then ol' Lando took me on a walk down Hollywood, past the Scientology building, and down La Breas to Mashti Malone, a unique Persian Ice Cream place. I had coconut, mango and another flavor that escapes me.

With this assignment done, it was off to LAX for a red-eye through some city, and back to Hartford.


This left me less than two weeks to get ready for Part 5....

Stay tuned.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 10:29:31 pm event AV, travel

2014 Adventures - Part 3: It's Only a Flesh Wound (Not Safe For Lunch)

Travel to and from Denver has become pretty routine, as long as Southwest continues its daily 9am direct from Hartford, and USAir keeps its 1:30am redeye to Charlotte.

This trip was to shoot two new educational videos for operating room personnel. One on wound management presented a unique challenge: how to depict wounds on simulated patients. Normally we would smear some vampire blood on a person if we were not seeing anything in detail. However in this case we needed higher fidelity to demonstrate specific wound management techniques. While we have plenty of stock photos of actual wounds, that doesn't help with the need for live action demonstration.

A quick internet search identified a special effect makeup company whose principals have worked on lots of horror films, including a job with Greg Nicotero, but not any medical realism.

First task was to find some reference photos from the web and my own archives, and pair these up with some sketches of what we needed. The artists then had two days to fabricate some appliances, and they graciously let us use some guts and a severed leg that they had recently used on this movie:

The results were amazing. I'll post an image because it's only pretend:

Sorry if that was too much for anyone!

There were other more graphic scenes besides this one. The volunteer actors had a blast.

Dinners in Denver usually consist of brew pubs and occasionally Texas de Brazil, though that is a lot of meat in one sitting. On this particular trip I seemed to have the flu (despite a flu shot) and I was sneezing almost constantly. The weather was very Michigan-like, so I got take out to eat in the hotel 2 out of 4 nights. We hit a brewhouse one night and Red Lobster one night (this was the "it's snowing and it is next to the hotel" scenario). Normally Red Lobster would be off limits because it is generally considered to be awful. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting - I ordered the least exotic thing on the menu.

Shoot complete, drive around Denver for 6 hours until the redeye to Charlotte. It is tradition to have breakfast at 6:30am at Phillip's bar in Terminal 5 - a long walk from Terminal 2 where the flight from Denver lands. Then a regional jet to Hartford and warmer weather.

Coming up in Part 4, the beginning of the first of two travel marathons for 2014.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 9:58:41 pm effects makeup

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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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