: Mike Cohen's Blog
Thus begins a multi-part recap of the past 18 months of my professional life, which has been, needless to say, quite a ride.
Quick rewind to January of last year. Assignment: Michigan. Temperature: Frigid.
I had been to Grand Rapids once before, in April. January travel to this region should be banned by the FAA!
I arrived at about 1pm at the Gerald Ford International Airport. This is a small but very modern airport. The roadway outside the terminal, leading to the attached rental car garage, is covered by a huge canopy. This particular day it was sunny but chilly, though not as cold as my next trip.
My business there was to assist with some live surgery cases.
The Grand Rapids airport is a few miles out in the sticks, and my actual destination was Wyoming, MI. I stayed at a Hyatt Place, my favorite budget hotel. After getting an orientation at the hospital, signing in with the vendor credentialing system, and getting some takeout food from the nearby grocery store, it was time to watch the Golden Globe awards. I initiated this live blog and had a great time hanging out with my virtual friends for approximately 14 hours.
The next day was uneventful, and I then flew home thinking that Michigan in January was no biggie.
BTW the best part about the Detroit airport is this underground tunnel.
It is like a 1980's EPCOT attraction with electronic music and colored lights. A nice respite from the hustle and bustle of a very large airport. On a long layover I will simply walk back and forth to pass the time.
2 Weeks later I was back in Michigan and this time Winter was in full swing. It was so cold the plows seemed to be on hiatus. Of course this was the time my luggage did not make the connection in Detroit, so I had no clothes, toiletries, tripod or camera. Luckily these items were all delivered at 3am to the hotel, but not after driving to the airport to see if they arrived on the flight immediately following mine (they did not). Once I was back at the hotel the ice wind had started. Ice wind is something that seems to only exist in the Midwestern US. It is not falling ice, and it is not cold wind - it seems to be wind composed of a fine mist of ice.
The next morning I got to my rental car to find there was no snow brush, and a lot of snow. I did what anyone would do in this situation - I went back into the hotel and borrowed a snow brush.
Actually that is what I SHOULD have done. What I actually did was put my hand in a plastic grocery bag and clear the snow off my car.
Luckily the hospital where I was working was across the street, so it was not too treacherous getting there. The next night it was so cold I dared not venture too far for dinner. I went to a nearby plaza and got not very good Chinese food, but it was hot and I ate once again in my hotel room.
This particular hospital has a self-contained mobile video cart, consisting of a boom mounted PTZ camera, a PTZ in a fixed position, and inputs from medical imaging devices. There is a klunky iPad based control surface which takes some getting used to.
After a final day of nasty cold, it was back to home base for a few weeks. The nasty weather followed me because we soon had a blizzard the likes of which had not been seen since this time the previous year in CT!
Well, that's life in the Northern part of the US. Makes us enjoy the Summers more. And vacations to the Southern parts.
Back through the magic tunnel and home to my own version of Winter.
Back in the saddle it was time for final preparations for one of our big conferences of the year in Washington. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading.
|Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 28, 2014 at 9:25:25 pm|
I was going to do this alone, but things go better with friends.
|Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 16, 2013 at 9:17:03 pm|
There is a Film History and Appreciation forum right here on this very Creative COW website.
Most of the discussion is either about current movies (the appreciation part) or classics (90% Star Wars and a few other topics when we get bored with looking at pancakes shaped like the Millenium Falcon - although that never gets old!).
The best moments are where one of the regulars writes a movie review of a current movie, and it is more entertaining than most movies.
Take a recent review of The Host - a teen-oriented sci-fi movie based upon the book by Stephanie "Twilight made me a billionaire" Meyer.
Here's the best part of the review:
"Upon looking it up, the book that this is based on is 619 pages!! Apparently Stephanie Meyer doesn't have an editor."
Or a similar one about Oblivion, the Tom Cruise sci-fi movie based upon Tom Cruise's own experiences fighting aliens:
"Is it sad that when I watch Tom Cruise movies nowadays, I spend the entire time thinking about how big of a weirdo he probably is in real life?"
Here are some other examples followed by memorable quotes from the review:
Jurassic Park 3D IMAX, or as the cool kids call it: JP3DIMAX
"-A little kid (probably too young for the movie) left the theater sobbing after the T-Rex scene and didn't come back. You still got it, Jurassic Park... Terrifying toddlers of a whole new generation."
GI Joe 2: Nobody Saw the First One
"-I saw this movie in IMAX 3D (because it was the most convenient screening in relation to when I got to the theater), and I thought the IMAX was ok, I guess. But the 3D was pretty crappy. I forgot I was even watching a 3D movie for most of it."
OZ The Great and Powerful
"Meanwhile the flying monkeys and baboons look about how we all would expect CGI monkeys and baboons to look like in a movie from 2013. Probably about 75% of the things in this movie could be described as "cute."
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Stir Fry Comparison
"The high frame rate 3D was the baby corn. I like the baby corn, but at the same time, I always find a few baby corns on the bottom of the plate when I’m done."
You can search for recent movies and find more - believe me they are a hoot.
Now while on this forum you'll also find threads about great movie endings, desert island movie lists, critiques of actors, directors, awards shows, movie music - just about everything except perhaps lighting design or film vs digital, although we hit most subjects eventually.
Yesterday I took the train from New Haven down to Baltimore for a convention. With cell phone in one pocket and camera in the other, I am ready at a moment's notice.
I'll update this as the days pass.
Although this looks like a typical touristy photo, I am staying in a touristy area!
The main road along the inner harbor has these pedestrian bridges to keep people off the road.
Classic 1980's concrete construction
|Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:06:31 pm|
I suppose if I were reviewing cameras or software or tutorials or writing books and posting excerpts my numbers could be even higher. But I generally don't do those things - I talk about my job, travel, hobbies and life. And between you and me, writing 200 articles/entries/whatever you want to call them, is a lot.
I joined Creative COW on the day it opened for business. At the time I was a Media 100 user and the Media 100 tech support was pretty unsupportive. Within a few months, the COW had become an invaluable resource for tech support, often providing answers faster than our paid support contract.
Over the years as we and the rest of the world have gone completely digital (when we first got into NLE we were still shooting BetaSP and gradually evolved to DVCPRO, mini-DV, DVCAM, HDV and finally tapeless formats aplenty), the COW has remained the definitive place to get answers. Inevitably if you Google a problem, the COW is one of the top results.
On a few occasions I have searched for a particular problem only to be directed to an earlier post by myself asking and sometimes solving my own problem a year or more ago.
Through my interactions and eventual moderation duties on a few forums I have met numerous others who I would consider my friends, although I have not met nor spoken by voice with most of them. But here in 2013 I think you can in fact be friends without having ever met.
I have met and even hired a few fellow COWS. And when I need a reliable camera crew anywhere in the world, the COW is the first place I look.
In 2008 I was invited to write an article about surgical video for the recently conceived Creative COW Magazine. Working with Tim Wilson, the article was printed and was a big thrill. A while later an electronic expanded version was posted online and the comments were quite touching.
More recently I have followed up the article with a few detailed blog entries to keep the story going.
Almost as thrilling has been seeing a few blog entries turned into online-only magazine articles, including my review of The Hobbit, a discussion of interview setups and most recently "What Star Wars Means to Me" which was a lifetime in the making.
So while this prose seems to be all about Creative COW, it is also all about me and my journey from student to intern to production assistant to junior editor to senior editor to project manager to team leader and director, and the evolution and acquisition of skills and experience along the way. I have had a great way to share some of these themes right here on this blog and to perhaps impart some wisdom or at least help to peers and to those just entering the business via the forums.
With much appreciation to Ron, Kathlyn, Tim, Abraham, Debra and all the elves working behind the scenes to keep the COW mooing, I say with a cheer and a smile...thanks for reading.
And now to figure out what else I can write about...
PS - I am posting this in the Business and Marketing forum as this was the first forum I really got involved with on a daily basis, and like the Cantina in Mos Eisley, it is where the best pilots can be found.
|Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 29, 2013 at 9:35:18 pm|
With all this talk about another Star Wars Trilogy, spin off movies, live action tv and George Lucas retiring a terribly wealthy man, I've kept myself busy with rumors, speculation and criticisms as well as hopes for good movies.
But why exactly does Star Wars mean to me and why spend so much time thinking about movies?
In 1977 most of the world went to see Star Wars. This was before it was named Episode IV.
I did not. My brother went. I stayed home. I was a strange child.
However over the next 3 years I read the picture book, saw the Holiday Special, the cast appearances on Donny and Marie, the Muppet Show, got many of the toys, an R2-D2 punching bag, t-shirts, lunchboxes and bed sheets.
Finally in 1980, AFTER seeing Empire, I finally saw Star Wars. This was before home video, so movies would be brought back to the theater years after their original release.
As much as I thought I loved Empire, I am pretty sure I invented the acronym OMG after seeing the original.
Some time thereafter SW started its run on HBO. I believe I watched it every time it was on during waking hours. The trench run never got old.
Friendships from 1st through 6th grade revolved around Star Wars. I stopped receiving action figures after my 10th birthday, but no worries, my friends' parents never got the memo. While I was lucky enough to have the primary vehicles and major characters, other kids in the neighborhood had the AT-AT and the Star Destroyer.
In these days you could run around the neighborhood with plastic laser guns and lightsabers and nobody called the police. Heck on Halloween I would wear my dad's Army uniform complete with dummy hand grenade, gas mask and die cast non-firing .38 revolver. Dress like that today and you get arrested. In 1982 you got a gold star!
But back to Luke and Leia.
In 7th grade Bar-Mitzvah class we had a guest speaker who used clips from Empire to show that Luke's Jedi training was similar to our Bar-Mitzvah training. Luke was becoming a man and learning the ancient tradition of the Jedi, while we were preparing to enter adulthood and learn to read from the ancient Torah scrolls. It was perhaps a stretch, but for the first time in 4 years, Hebrew school was meaningful to me.
By the way, I nailed my Haftorah (Korach in case anyone is wondering). I also rocked that white linen suit, don't you think?
Once high school arrived, although I would watch the original trilogy on occasion, such as when we got the coveted surround amplifier, or when I needed cheering up, life became about girls and sports and getting into college. My high school friends were not so interested in SW movies and that was ok.
There were two Ewok movies in the late 80's and the Star Tours ride at MGM Studios, so Star Wars never completely went away. Although most of the toys were in boxes in the basement, my Boba Fett figure stayed close by through high school and college - perhaps a reminder to never forget where I came from.
College was a different story. It was for some reason easier to find friends with similar interests and SW came back into my life.
Once the VHS letterbox set came out, it was like seeing the films for the first time. One evening we wired up the school's SVHS camera to our dorm's hifi system and watched Empire loud enough to make the neighbors complain.
Once out of college a few years, the Special Editions came out, and while not so special in use of CG, it was Star Wars back on the big screen. Watching movies as an adult that you thought you enjoyed as a child can be a new experience.
When I got married, in addition to the usual decorations on my car after the reception, my brother placed Luke and Leia action figures hanging from the rearview mirror.
Next came 1999 and the Phantom Menace. At the time it was friggin awesome because it was Star Wars on the big screen. Same for Clones and Sith. Only years later does hindsight tell you that there were some not so great parts of these movies. But Clones was actually quite enjoyable and Phantom and Sith were ok with perhaps 30 minutes removed from each. I know what Lucas was doing - pushing the limits of CGI and initiating the era of digital cinema. Heck I shoot XDCAM so I guess I have Lucas to thank. When I first started my job we were doing animation with Alias Wavefront - we certainly have George to thank for that!
(yes, that is a Darth Maul cookie jar. I have a box of C3-POs cereal in the back of my pantry too if you'd like to see that!)
In 2010, on my birthday, my wife and I attended Star Wars in concert, featuring live narration by Anthony Daniels and a huge screen, lasers and a crowd so pumped up you would think it was a Zeppelin reunion.
I am sure that a part of me became interested in filmmaking and media production thanks to my love of Star Wars and the other scifi films of the late 70's and 80's.
The circle is now complete. When I left childhood I was just a learner. Now I am the master.
So that is what Star Wars means to me.
May the Force Be With you.
Yeah, I said it.
I just posted this in the Film History and Appreciation forum, but think this is a good blog entry as well.
The title of this post, Stereoscopic Cinema, is meant to suggest that films like Avatar, The Hobbit and perhaps other well executed stereo films are in fact a new format.
I don't like the general use of "3D" - because 3D can mean so many things.
Muppetvision 3D and Terminator 3D are great theme park attractions which use elements outside of the screen to involve the audience in the experience. Old favorites like Captain EO and the 1950's 3D movies have stuff coming out of the screen but are not really using stereo to ehlp tell the story.
Then we have the batch of 3D films, mostly conversions, that have come out since Avatar. Though I do not see most of them in 3D, the buzz is that many of the conversions are done poorly just to try making some extra coin at the box office. How sad.
I just returned home from the 3D HFR version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Everything from this point forward assumes that either you have seen the film or have no intention of seeing the film, or perhaps you just don't care.
Ready? Let's begin...
First let's get the technical jargon out of the way. All the hype about 48fps is a load of bollocks. I thought the picture looked super sharp and realistic. Not 24fps cinematic, but I quickly came to the conclusion that both 3D and 48fps, separately or combined, are in fact new methods of filmmaking, not to be compared with existing methods. Ok 3D is not new, but done well and in the 21st century method is the new bit.
Whether shot on film, RED or cornflower blue, 3D is its own medium. Some directors use it well, others do it poorly. Previously mentioned conversions have had mixed results. Apparently you can get a 2D film converted in India for pennies on the dollar.
In the case of the Hobbit Part 1 - I think we need to stop calling it 3D. 3D is what you get when stuff pops out of the screen like at EPCOT. Jackson, Cameron and a few other masters of their craft are creating Stereoscopic Cinema. The closest thing I can come up with is the old Viewmaster stereoscopic viewer. As a young lad I enjoyed looking at those 12 frame stories in stunning stereo. In fact the unit we used belonged to my dad back in the 1950's, and most of the discs were from that era too, with the exception of a few we bought at the Magic Kingdom in 1977.
Yes, the Hobbit is a Stereoscopic Cinematic work of art. Not every scene needed to be in stereo, but it worked for me. After about 10 minutes I got accustomed to the new style of images and my brain adjusted. Once we left Bag End I stopped thinking about whether or not 48fps made a difference - it was then that I realized this is not traditional film so stop trying to draw a comparison. It is something new. Yes some of the scenes looked like video. Well guess what, digital cinema is video. Red is a digital video camera at film resolution, but still video. I'm no engineer, but I'm pretty sure only film cameras can shoot film.
We have talked about Showscan and other World's Fair / Disney oriented filmmaking techniques over the decades, including some great interviews with Douglas Trumbull here on the COW. Aside from IMAX, this is really the first time that a filmmaker has implemented entertainment-oriented techniques in a work of popular entertainment.
Ok that didn't make sense.
Venue entertainment vs movie theater entertainment. That better? Thought so.
Therefore, assuming that the viewer and the reader of a review knows that the Hobbit takes place inside a stereoscopic hyper-world, we can get over the technological hurdle and talk about the story. After all this is NOT a motion simulator ride at Universal Studios - it is a movie that just happens to be created and projected in a new format.
To draw a comparison - when you have read a book on a Kindle, you don't spend more than perhaps 2 seconds if any time at all describing the reading technology - you talk about the story and the characters.
I just returned from seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
As if Peter Jackson knew he might eventually make this film series, he teased our inner Tolkein with the opening scenes of both Fellowship of the Ring as well as Return of the King with the Smeagol flashback.
Ian Holm and Elijah Wood appear in the Hobbit to tie everything together nicely. If you always wanted to see the rest of Bilbo's home, this is your chance. They re-built the set and seemingly have built every room. And a technical note, they build two versions of many sets to accomplish the illusion of different sized characters.
Like Fellowship, the film starts with several minutes of flashback exposition to orient the viewer to who these odd looking little men are and what they are after.
The arrival of Thorin's company was very true to the book, and they even included some singing. I will say I hope there is more singing in Parts 2 and 3 because the Hobbit the book is chock full of Dwarfsong.
What a treat to see Ian McKellan reprise his great role of Gandalf and this is no cameo - he is at his wizarding best. If anything, in Fellowship he is past his prime (until of course he is reborn as Gandalf the White).
I think Martin Freeman did a great job playing the younger Bilbo and there is actually a resemblance to Frodo. Overall the Dwarves are well performed, and certain characters grow on you especially Balin and Bofur. Thorin seems a cold bastard for much of the film, reminiscent of Aragorn, until as expected a certain hobbit warms his heart. Much like in Fellowship, by the end the group has become a family - Thorin and Bilbo are like brothers.
The sets are of course fantastic, and seeing the entrance to and reveal of Rivendell was spectacular. All of the Rivendell scenes were magical, and as in Fellowship, it is the Elves who send our company on the correct path. (did anyone wonder if Gandalf and Galadriel may have had something going on in the past? They are both quite old after all). Seeing Saurumon pre-Sauron was cool and anytime Christopher Lee can do some acting is good for all of us. They filmed his scenes in London because at 90 years old Lee probably did not want to spend 2 months in New Zealand.
The action was entertaining and relevant with bits of physical comedy from the dwarves give some levity to the dark undertones that are brewing. We only hear about the Necromancer and see bits of the dragon - Part 2 should be filled with more terror, though it remains to be seen how gruesome the violence will become. We did have beheadings and killing of all sorts of creatures.
The scene with the trolls was fun and establishes Bilbo as resourceful and was the first time in his life he had to worry about anything beyond his next meal. It also establishes that the company work together and they do in fact care about their newest companion.
The music cues, most of them from the LOTR trilogy come in at the appropriate moments and come back during action and dialogue scenes again to tie things together for those us of who have seen the previous films, and for those who are just beginning their Middle Earth experience now.
I won't hit every plot point or set piece.
The scene with Gollum was well acted and very reminiscent of the book. They did not make Gollum look too much more lifelike than in the previous films. It was probably tempting to do so given advances in animation, but they could have wound up with digital Yoda (looked great but looked so much different than the puppet that all you could think about was how different he looked than the puppet).
The climax of the film was appropriate, although it seemed to have a few possible points where it could have ended.
As others have said, it could have been, perhaps, 20 minutes shorter - certainly not a movie for young kids if only due to the duration, despite toys, lunchboxes and collector glassware targeted at kids (or their parents who were perhaps 15 in 2000).
Was this movie awesome, incredible, life altering, industry changing, the next Avatar? Nope.
Enjoyable film, classic story, endearing characters, well acted and well written with appropriate use of technology - these qualities are so lacking from many 100 million dollar plus films.
The usual complaints about noisy popcorn munching and crinkly plastic candy wrappers distracting me from the movie.
Before the movie a slide came on the screen saying "If you see any suspicious characters please alert the theater staff." How sad that we live in a world where we need these messages.
Too many previews.
3D commercials mostly not in 3D despite telling us to put on our 3D glasses.
Superman trailer looks promising.
Epic looks like Ferngully meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids - looks like great animation.
After Earth - yawn.
Tom Cruise movie Oblivion might be good - has a Phillip K Dick feel to it if not overloaded with needless effects - but I'm a fan of this type of movie. Not sure how his character reminisces about baseball games 60 years ago unless there is some cryosleep plot point we don't know about yet.
Overall a great experience. I could see Star Wars Episode 7 being shot in 48fps Stereo and it being quite enjoyable. Rumor has it Matthew Vaughn is directing - he did a fine job with X-Men First Class I thought - right mix of character development and action.
Talk amongst yourselves.
As I approach 200 blog posts, while not anywhere near the number of others on the COW, for me the blog has been a way to reflect on the present, the future and the past, in no particular order.
Wondering how this all started I looked back to my very first entry back in 2007 when the sun was cooler and so was I. Ok that was corny.
If you have about 20 hours feel free to read the rest.
Looking forward to what 2013 will bring.
For now (12-12-12) - thanks for your interest.
Sounds like the title of a Woody Allen movie, and despite the resemblance, this is simply a photo blog.
Tuesday - 5pm
Despite attempts to leave early, I packed my gear (7d, tripod, laptop, hard drives, lots of printouts) and hit the road for home. Stopped for some provisions for the missus and the meowers. Got to bed by 11.
Wednesday - 4:30am
Morning activities - out of the house by 5am for a 7am train.
It was a rainy morning, but the weather was clearing. Good thing because people were flying in today from 42 countries for our conference.
The New Haven Train Station is perhaps not as grand as Grand Central, but on a smaller scale it remains a classic train depot.
Arrived in NY at about 9:07 - the express train in the morning makes a difference - leave 20 minutes later, arrive 15 minutes sooner than the earlier train.
From Grand Central to Times Square is about a 15 minute walk, though during the morning pedestrian commute it can take longer.
Arrived at the Marriott Marquis for the pre-con meeting.
Yes that is a large poster of Thorin Oakenshield and his men plus a lone hobbit named Bilbo.
Into the hotel, said hello to our conference team and then down to the ballroom which was set for the meeting but still lacking AV.
Just then I saw some guys rolling in the AV gear. I introduced myself to the technical director and we made our way to the meeting room where we were introduced to everyone from the head chef to the plumber to ensure that our expectations were met.
Note to self, don't drink the mimosa.
Should have taken my name placard - would have looked great on my office door.
11:30am to 7:30pm
Checked in as the AV setup was...er..setup. Added some gear not on the original plan and tweaked positions of monitors, projectors, screens and the like.
Also helped with some of the logistical setup, got our internet and phone lines working, confirmed installation of fiber from the street for the satellite crew's use and met our webcasting crew from France and assisted them with their setup. We also did some testing with the video conferencing bridge. It was a full day of technical preparation, even if my role was more supervisory than executionary.
With the final setup nearly complete, with the exception of the breakout rooms, I finally checked into my hotel room, and then met up with the rest of our team.
We went to see the Rockefeller Center tree, skating rink and holiday decoration - about half of our team had never been to NY before, or at least not around the holidays.
Got back to my room and crashed for a scant 6 hours of sleep.
Next 3 days have been documented to some degree in the previous blog post to this one.
Each night we hit the town for dinner and I enjoy just walking around New York day or night.
Finally with the meeting over and good reviews from lots of the attendees, it was time to pack up and head home. On a Saturday night there are trains back to New Haven about every hour. I had a quick bite with the meetings team at the hotel bar and hit the pavement back to Grand Central.
I picked up a couple of almond crescents at Grand Central and got on a 9:07 train. Always curious about the terminal, I found a fascinating photography website featuring a behind the scenes tour, to keep me occupied until sleepy time set in.
No worries about falling asleep on the train - New Haven is the final stop.
Got home, dumped my bags and hit the sack.
Sunday I headed down to Mohegan Sun see a concert with an old friend.
Next conference maybe we'll setup our screens like this:
Quadrophenia cover to cover followed by Who Are You, Pinball Wizard, Behind Blue Eyes, Bab O-Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again. Unbelievable.
Today back to work - everything listed above while technically work was great fun.
Thanks for reading.