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Nice Day for a Drive

Today I took a site visit to the tv studio where we will be shooting a series of web-delivered shows this year. Sadly there was nothing in my home state of Connecticut available and NYC-based studios are simply too costly. So along comes the PBS station in upstate NY - a beautiful new HD studio and the price is right!

There is not a lot of discussion on the COW about live studio production, unless I missed it. Activities like this take me back to my college days doing live tv news. While our shows will be live to disk and not live to air one still needs to be organized and ready to go. This place records the ISO and program signals to AJA kiPro units as ProRes 422. Although we edit in CS5.5 in Windows, the files should import and edit without incident. I took a few sample files just to make sure. One should always avoid finding themselves with a terabyte of files that do not import!!

From our offices up to Albany is about a 2.2 hour drive. On a crisp sunny January day it was a pleasant ride past cow pastures, babbling brooks, lakes, ponds, New England villages and toll booths...lots of toll booths on the final stretch. The toll at one of them was nothing, but you still have to collect a ticket!

Driving along CT and MA Rt. 8 always makes me nostalgic for the Summers spent in the Berkshires with my beloved grandparents and extended family in Pittsfield, MA.

Here are a few highlights of the mostly driving filled day.

Leaving Woodbury along Rt. 6.

You know you are in New England when you see a covered bridge, this one over the Colebrook River. I actually had never noticed this despite many drives along this route!

Fake HDR - take two layers, adjust each for contrast and then combine with a layer mask, flatten and further adjust.

Yeah, I'm cool!

My destination.

Setup for Meet the Press style discussion.

The primary setup.

This is where they fire the Death Star's main gun.

Heading home - think I stop for a caramel soy macchiato (I will not sleep for 3 days but at least I'll get home in one piece).

Passing through the region of my ancestry.

Yep, getting sleepy. If I turn off the heat the cold should keep me awake. Oh wait, I just consumed high octane java.

Ok, this point and shoot camera is showing its limitations.

Well, that's it. Tomorrow back in the office for a variety of production management activities including some scripting for the upcoming studio shoots. The visit gave me a host of creative ideas which I was able to discuss with the crew and the talent.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 9, 2012 at 4:52:32 pm pre-production, studio

Greatest Hits Volume XII

Beginnings of new years bring reflections of years past. Here are a few memories that come to mind:

First time shooting with the Canon 7d. No fancy shoulder rigs, just hand-held for stills and the occasional video to see what you can do with it. On a tripod, the video is actually quite awesome. A couple of months later I shot numerous setups using the 7d as the B camera and wished I had one for the A camera! Today we use it mainly for stills needed for textbooks, cover art, DVD packaging and of course to supplement video. Have a particular project in mind for the year ahead, though a full frame camera such as the AF100 may be better.

Next major shoot I was asked to get some beauty shots for journal covers and editorial support - this is one of the best ones. Looks good in color too, but my scrapbook is BW!

Same shoot, we needed a bunch of instrument shots. The shallow DOF lets you get some interesting compositions not possible on your garden variety handycam. At one point I put the 7d on a tripod gaffer taped to a wheelchair and did some interesting dolly shots of instruments laid out on a table.

This was an actual surgery shoot. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a large Plasma monitor or LCD mounted on the wall of the OR. Makes life easier for us and the surgeons.

I have been to approximately 25 medical conventions - normally held in convention centers with no windows and often underground for days on end. In 2010 one of our meetings was at the Gaylord National resort outside Washington DC. It was nice to see some nature and natural sunlight. Adjacent to this structure is a contrived Disney-town with hotels and some pretty good restaurants. Not a bad place to be stuck for 4 days.

December 2010 we were managing a meeting at a hotel in Times Square. During some downtime we got to walk around Rockefeller Center which was all decked out for the holidays - lots of people but a nice break from PowerPoint!

Same meeting we did a live to Adobe OnLocation switched video of the meeting with simultaneous video reinforcement, and 15 surgeries beamed in from all over the place. This was cool. Setting up and troubleshooting AV until 4am - not so much, but it all came together!

2008 - the last shoot with the AJ-D700 DVCPRO25 camera. It served us well for 10 years. We do miss the nice lens on the small form factor camcorders.

A more typical view nowadays.

A more recent i-mag situation in a training lab.

With the end product.

2012 and beyond should provide many more and varied experiences to share and to learn from.

Note, I have excluded photos of my dinners, which I often include. Just look for food keywords and you'll get what you are looking for.

Oh heck, here's a particularly tasty one:

Ok, ok, that's likely the most disgusting thing I've ever posted on here, though on a midnight drive home from LaGuardia an egg salad sandwich and a half-hot-chocolate-half-coffee beverage hits the spot.

Here's a better one - I think this was at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. Yeah, life is tough.

Hope you enjoyed the look back. I did.

Thanks for reading/viewing/not throwing up (you should see the pictures I left out!)

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 7, 2012 at 11:25:22 amComments (1)

Happy New Year

2012 is off to an exciting start. Days ahead will be spent planning for new productions, including both ENG style as well as live-switched studio productions as we ramp up work on some documentary and broadcast-style projects. Just today I had a conference call with an LA-based shooter and the doctor who will be conducting some interviews out on the other coast. This call followed a chat with the host of a broadcast-news-style show we are devising (more on that in a few months) - I'll be visiting the PBS affiliate soon whose studio we will be hiring.

In addition to media production, what everyone is familiar with, Cine-Med also specializes in meeting and event management. In 2011 I attended 2 large conventions and two Cine-Med-produced meetings in an audiovisual role (computer jockey, stills photography, video reinforcement). 2012 will see more of the latter for some of our meetings, and we have some even bigger events in the works for which my role has yet to be determined. My role in much of the above is as producer, director, writer or manager.

Thinking back to my schooling, I sort of did a little of everything: a weekly newscast (TD for three semesters, on-camera reporting, copy writing, production management, training); internships in cable advertising, news and corporate video; AV tech jobs around campus (granted there was no such thing as PowerPoint but same concept), ushering at theaters on campus and paid work at Boston-area stadiums (had to work NKOTB to be allowed to work McCartney - reasonable trade).

Later, on-the-job experience further refined and added to the skill-sets for these various roles. All of these experiences eventually resulted in the Production Management role that I now occupy. My goals are now to have members of my team filling the above mentioned roles while I juggle all the balls, bowling pins, chainsaws and pineapples.

I have not yet gotten around to editing my 2011 highlight reel - mostly POV shots walking through airports and pictures of my dinner - look for that soon (or not - sometimes that stuff is not so interesting in rewind).

Stay tuned for the new theme of my blog: Production Management.

Once again, Happy New Year, and as always (though not as frequently), thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 3, 2012 at 4:57:09 pm production management


Yesterday in CT we had a freak October Nor'easter.

It all started around 11am when the flurries started. Our condo is on a hill on the edge of a hilly city, and we tend to get more snow than surrounding areas. Luckily our power is underground and we survived Hurricane Irene and this event with power intact.

I'll just let the photos tell the tale...

Not so bad - probably just hype...

An hour later

Ok, now it seems to be getting heavy

Time passes - heading outside around midnight during a lull in the snowfall...

Ok, kind of chilly out in just my pajamas - better wait until morning...


Morning - looks like a lovely crisp sunny Fall day. I happen to have the 7d home...

Ok, enough picture-taking, got to shovel the driveway, not that I'm going anywhere today.

If you are in snow country, stay safe.

2011 has been quite a year in New England - blizzard in January and seemingly endless Winter, a hurricane, an earthquake and an October blizzard. Please make it stop.

Think I'll go have some hot chocolate,

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 30, 2011 at 8:29:59 amComments (1) winder, DSLR

One of my Favorite Cities

Every 3 years our Fall medical convention is in San Francisco. The cool things about this city are the abundance of good dining selections, the great combination of old and new architecture, the unique but easy to navigate street layout, the relative safeness of the central city areas for walking back to your hotel at night, the abundance of Walgreens stores every few blocks for bottled water, snacks and cheap fridge magnets, the ability to walk from hotels to the convention center (as opposed to say Chicago where you need to get on a bus and drive mostly underground in Batmobile territory to get to McCormick Place) and the relative small size of the convention center, especially between registration and the exhibit halls.

So Sunday I awoke at 3am for a 5:20 boarding time. Quick hop to Detroit's mile long former Northwest terminal (the one with the monorail) on a E175. Quick layover - enough time to grab a sandwich - and onto a 737-800 for the 4.5 hour crawl to the coast.

Upon arrival, got my bags quickly and a cab to the hotel. Drop the garment bag and tripod tube in my room at the Hotel Nikko, and then walk to convention center. Get my vendor badge and then hit the Speaker Ready room to check on missing videos. A few minutes there to get acquainted, then off to the booth, or what would eventually become the booth. Here's the final result.

In San Fran you have to hire a laborer which was actually helpful since the booth is a bit clunky to assemble solo.

I then dashed off to a committee meeting to discuss plans for 2012's meeting. Meanwhile the rest of my team arrived and finished the setup. We then agreed to meetup later for dinner.

But halfway back to the hotel I got called back to deal with some video issues, which we got sorted out.

Dinner was at a place in the Italian section of town (North Beach - no actual beach nearby but it used to be a beach before the city was expanded with land fill) which was just ok.

Slept like a log until 4am (7 Eastern) when my body clock said "Mike, time to wake up, you're going to be late for work." So I slept a bit longer, got up, took a walk to get some bottled water for the room and a few toiletries, then got dressed and headed to another hotel to help my colleague Jake get setup for a round of interviews. We booked him into a suite for this purpose. I had the tripod and backdrop, he had everything else, and we rented a set of Diva Lights which are beautiful little instruments. We moved the furniture around and got set in about an hour.

I then headed to convention center to start working the booth, while Jake waited for the first interview subject and interviewer to arrive.

At our booth we sell our videos and books and do a lot of networking both with existing contacts and new ones. We try to plant the seeds for future business with people who seek us out as well as with industry elsewhere on the show floor. It is also a time to meet face to face people who you have only corresponded with via email. It is especially interesting to see people I know electronically from places like Kuwait, Dubai, Venezuela, Hong Kong and even Connecticut!

Once the show broke at 4:30 we headed back to our hotels and met up an hour later to do some exploring. We walked up Stockton Street (very steep hill for a couple of blocks but a nice view once you get there),

then down into Chinatown. Chinatown has two areas - the touristy part with the American style Chinese restaurants, and the part where the locals actually live and work, which you walk through on your way to Columbus Street and Broadway - our destination of North Beach for more Italian food. We found a better place tonight, followed by pastries and capuccinos before a walk back to the hotels through the financial district. On the way back we stopped into the famous City Lights Bookstore and Vesuvio Bar, both of which were instrumental in the Beat movement of the 1950s.

While I would never eat there we stopped into the Stinking Rose restaurant where every dish features Garlic. They have a unique decor and it is fun to take a peek.

Next past the Sentinel Building (now known as the home of American Zoetrope) and the contrasting Transamerica Tower, and finally back down the Union Square and the Nikko.

Tomorrow more of the same with a board meeting in the afternoon.

It is always a lot of prep work leading up to these meetings, then we hit the ground running back at the office later in the week.

Well off to bed as it is 2am where I come from and will soon be for a few days before heading back this way next week.


Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 24, 2011 at 11:12:49 pmComments (1) travel, food

Fun with a Cell Phone Camera

We employ a medical illustrator. He telecommutes. So sharing ideas for images is either via email, phone or Skype screen sharing. Sometimes what is needed can only be depicted visually. In the case of a particular anatomical drawing, I've discovered a phone app called "camscanner." You could use the normal camera mode too for that matter, but a PDF is good for sending as an attachment because it autoscales. If you send someone a native photo by email, it is difficult to see in the average email client without opening. So if someone is going to open a file attachment, you might as well send them something easy to manipulate.

This app uses the phone's camera like a scanner, automatically enhances the image with something like the photoshop auto levels command, crops it and saves as a PDF for instant emailing. I often use this for my own reference to scan images and send to my own email, but it works great for grabbing a reference image out of a book. Much more efficient than walking down to the copy machine, hitting scan, then going back to my computer to retrieve the scanned image from the server.

On a few occasions I've needed an image drawn based upon a hand position. Drawing your own hand freehand can be a challenge. Using the phone, I took a picture of my hand in the appropriate position.

Email to myself. Retrieve from email client in about 15 seconds. Import into Photoshop.

Next, I cut out the background and rotate.

Find a reference image from the web, save, open, copy, paste, cut out from background. The white background makes this easy, and stretch into position.

Next, draw in the suture approximately where it should go.

Save as a PSD. Email out. The whole thing took 5 minutes. Writing this blog about it took longer.

And magically, the next day or sooner, I get my final image. It appears to be an exact match, but unlike the photo, it is at 300 dpi print resolution - and he even added my missing fingertips!

Needless to say, when the image needed is of a spleen or gallbladder, the phone cam is not so handy. Although I am always on the lookout for an X-Ray app!

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on May 11, 2011 at 2:57:37 pmComments (1) photoshop, previsualization

A Brief Foray Out of the Office

Lately things have been busy.

I mean "drive to work, skip NPR, forget how you got there, sit down in the morning, look out the window and it's 6pm busy." Well, busy is good. I actually just looked at Google News to see if anything important happened this week. Nope, same old boring world. Back to my Creative Screenwriting podcast episodes on the iPod.

This past week I got to go on a little hike to shoot some video and stills for the town. It was a nice little respite and a good test of equipment that is normally used in the confines of medical facilities!

Careful not to drop anything in the local raging rapids, I spent a few hours with nature - a place I enjoy being every Spring and Summer, though usually without a proper HD camera.

Ahhh...fresh air.

A Brief Foray Out of the Office

Ok, back to obstetrics and gynecology....

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 23, 2011 at 6:52:52 pmComments (1) nature, 7d

Live Report from NAB 2011

Sorry to say, I am not at NAB 2011 - but several fellow COWs and Twitterites are and following their updates is the next best thing to being there.

Thanks to companies exhibiting all being media companies, as well as re-sellers and individuals, YouTube and Vimeo are flooded with videos from the show floor. It is almost like being there only without the long lines for a cup of coffee.

Although I don't use Final Cut, I was interested enough in the results of Apple's supermeet to follow tweets from the event. I am growing to really enjoy Twitter, after a couple of years of not quite seeing its value.

Here are the feeds I am following - some from COWs some not:

And you can check out some video coverage here as well:

I'm sure we'll get lots of good updates from our friends once they get home and tally up their slot machine winnings.

As for me, while surreptitiously attending NAB from my desk chair, I am working my way through 130 pages of interview transcripts for one video project, and researching venous diseases for another.

I did attend NAB in 2007 - it happened to be the same week as one of the medical conventions we attend. Here's hoping for a return visit in the not so distant future.

Enjoy the dry heat.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 13, 2011 at 1:52:48 pm NAB

These are the droids you're looking for

Had I known as a 9 year old whose prized possessions were an Astromech robot and his shiny gold counterpart action figures that one day I would have something called a Droid as a constant companion as an adult I would have short circuited!

My first cell phone was a Motorola flip phone. It seemed pretty compact compared to the bag phone I kept in my trunk for emergencies. Over the years I have upgraded to progressively smaller and more featured units. The Blackberry seemed like the ultimate communications tool. Then came the iPhone and the Droid. Content with Verizon, I went with the Droid X late last year. Aside from losing some handy Blackberry functionality, overall it was a good move.

Yeah, apps are cool. Games are fun for long waits or airplanes, but the best apps are ones that actually help me with my daily activities. One thing that was next to impossible on a Blackberry was viewing PDF, Word or image files. In my job of media produciton manager, this is a daily occurrence. If a designer sends me a PDF I can zoom in, check it out, send revisions and forward to a client, all without booting up a laptop. That is, as we say in Connecticut, a beautiful thing.

I know, this is old news - smartphones have been around for a few years.

Did I mention this phone shoots 720p video and 8 megapixel photos? Gone are the grainy phone pictures I so excitedly added to my blogs for years. I almost never use my point and shoot digital camera - or at least I don't worry if I don't have it with me. When aliens land in my cornfield I'll be ready!

Stay tuned for a high resolution photo blog from my next trip. These should tide you over...

I will say the built-in MP3 player is handy, if only for setting alarms that will actually get me up in the morning!

And most importantly, I can now make blog entries and participate in the COW easily from the road!

From a non-work point of view, my wife and I share our Google calendar and shopping lists. Organization at home is also a beautiful thing. And did I mention how good the pictures of my cats look!

The Droid advertising is cool, futuristic and convincing. The non-gmail, non-exchange POP mail could use some improvements, but there are workarounds. Overall, I'm a happy convert.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 18, 2011 at 8:10:39 pm smartphone

Juggling Bowling Balls

Once in a while, there are a few sizable projects going all at once. There are a few key dates each year when things need to be finished - conventions at which we can sell our wares.

Last year I described the finishing touches on the Pancreas Atlas of Surgery book. With the book finished for the milestone of a Fall meeting, we set to work on the multimedia component - 36 chapters of video, audio, text and illustrations. Anticipating a lot of pickups and knowing the time required, we decided that I would also be the narrator. Recording 100,000+ words was a full-time activity for several weeks. Record for an hour, edit for an hour, rinse, gargle, repeat. Having a serious flu in December did not help, although my voice does sound velvety and delicious.

When we renovated the office we dismantled our audio booth and used the space to make the offices a little bigger. So using the Zoom H4N recorder, I can record in any quiet space, often my living room which is carpeted with lots of soft materials. However in the office, we have a small office we use for checking DVDs, charging batteries and storing media. I rigged up a small audio recording station with some foamcore and acoustic tiles and spot for a laptop or printed script.

In addition to the narration recording, I also wrapped up some outstanding video edits, recorded some missing video narration and handed this off to our Flash programmer. Don't tell Apple, but Flash is alive and well!

Another ball in the air is a corporate project. I can't go into details, but it involves about 12 hours of panel discussions recorded during a conference, combined with edited surgical cases and some narrative to tie it all together. Rather than bringing my whole crew out to the meeting, I hired fellow COW Steve Wargo and his crew to get the shoot done efficiently. I flew home with a single USB hard drive of XDCAM files and got to editing immediately. Tape is not completely dead, but it's on its way.

We're also in the throes of revising a client's website, including adding interview clips from staff and patients and building a web-based support group/forum.

A new project is a doc style effort - interviews, narrative, b-roll and some acting. We've done a few shoots so far with more scheduled.

We completed a promo of some new nursing videos, being shown next week at, you guessed it, a meeting. With those products done we can start the next batch, and have already planned a shoot for pickups.

And the final bowling ball is simply planning for future projects that have not kicked-off yet. Logistics, contracts and phone tag are what's needed.

This week we had a client in the office for some voice over and strategizing - and they were nice enough to bring lunch! Tomorrow a quick VO/editing session (physicians tend to have free time on the weekend) and then another client next week for the same (we have shot 5 surgical cases which should be edited by the time he walks in the door).

Somehow, it all gets done. I think we have room for some more bowling balls.

For now, thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 18, 2011 at 7:55:41 pm project management, juggling

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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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