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Family Fun

Every few years I have been asked to make a video to help celebrate a family occasion. Weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs, Birthdays and Anniversaries. Often these videos consist mostly of photos set to music and perhaps some interviews with family members. This year, for my dad's 65th birthday, we decided to kick things up a few notches. Due to my busy work schedule, this was, of course, a last minute project. The weekend before last my brother, wife and I got together with a bright green sheet of fabric and some fun ideas. 80 hours of editing later, mostly late at night, I produced a very unique tribute video to my dad, which we showed a few days ago at a surprise party my mom had secretly been planning for 90 of their closest friends.

The DJ said, "I've seen a lot of videos but this was about the best thing I have ever seen." We didn't do it for praise, we did it for Dad. But I am happy the audience enjoyed what they saw. We showed the 20 minute version at the party, but also made a 40 minute version for home viewing.

Here are a few still frames from the production. Video clips later.

The Before - lots of ad-libbing while trying to visualize the final result. I did have a storyboard and some of the backgrounds made.







The After - a little rough around the edges of the keys. The smaller the foreground elements the better. Still ok for a family video - lots of fun to watch - and as far from photos set to music as possible!













If you have the opportunity to use some of your professional skills to pay tribute to a friend of relative, I encourage you to make the time and do it.

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 26, 2011 at 8:31:54 pmComments (1) compositing, family

One Heck of a Commute

Flying to and from Chicago in one day looks good on paper.

4am
Wake up. Clean up. Iron clothes. Feed cats. Since I was awake and my wife set an alarm for backup I made her an iced coffee.

5am
Hit the road. Stop for gas before airport

6am
Valet parking, shuttle, print boarding pass. Lonnnngggg security line.



6:50am
Board plane. Eat muffin and granola bar.
Boot laptop and work on excel file for new video collection and prepare mockup of iPad app interface.

8:20
Land Midway. No luggage to claim. Easy to get taxi into town. Oops morning rush hour.

9:10am
Corner Bakery. Bagel. OJ.

9:40am
Arrive at meeting location. Adjust tie.



10am
Meeting 1.

11am
Meeting 2. Brainstorming session. Action plan. Lunch.

2:11pm
Taxi to airport. Easy security. Buy food.

3:35pm
Board. Aisle seat. Taxi. Takeoff. Zzzzzzzzz.....

3:42pm (really 4:42pm)
Felt like I slept longer than 4 minutes. Snack. Coffee. Laptop. Conversation with seat mate. Former Obama staffer.

7:20pm
Land Hartford.



7:30pm
Valet shuttle. Pay. $0.25 cup of cafe mocha. Car. Highway. Call friend to chat. Time passes.

8:45pm
Home. Mailbox. Remove any clothes that touched airplane or taxi. Pajamas. Sofa. DVR. Southland. V. Zzzzzzzz.



10:12pm
Slept a bit longer that time.

End of day. End of blog. Stay tuned. Busy times ahead.

Thanks for rea...zzzzzzzzzzzzz......

Oops.

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 16, 2011 at 7:16:00 pmComments (1) travel

2011: Is this the year of the flying car and the moon base?

We have now passed the Arthur C Clarke movie era and it feels much like the late 20th Century aside from smart phones and high definition video. The most used device in my house remains the microwave oven. My aunt had an Amana "radar range" back in the 70's and it was quite a sensation at the time.

Ok, the most used device in my house is either the HD DVR or the new Droid X.

We talk a lot on this website about new technology, and how to use this new technology to do things we previously did with less new technology or for those of us of a certain age, really old technology.

But what remains important is the deliverable. Whether it is distributed on the web, the cloud, mobile devices, optical disc, intranet, book or frozen entree, the key is meeting the customer's expectations. If knowing a certain piece of software or new camera gets you there, all the better.

So in the year ahead, I am going to attempt to talk about ways to meet those expectations, deliver the final product the client wants, and not get too hung up on what tool to use to get the job done. Your job as a media professional is to use whatever tool is right for the job, and give your customer a good product.

Lucky for us, we have other areas of the COW to learn about all the tools and techniques needed to help get the job done.

Richard Harrington's Photoshop tutorials http://leaders.creativecow.net/leaders/harrington_richard/ and Paolo Ciccone's Blender Survival Guide http://leaders.creativecow.net/leaders/ciccone_paolo/ are two of my favorite resources on this site. I must use Photoshop 3 hours a day on a slow day, and Blender is one of my learning objectives for the year ahead.

Mobile device apps and websites are also on our horizon for specific clients and projects, not to mention some specialty projects using every image capture method in our arsenal. Later in the year I will put on my producing/writing/directing hat for some in depth training videos. And the surgical atlas/video concept will continue to evolve as well.

And for good measure, recently I threw my narration hat into the ring. 100,000 words later, whew!

Happy New Year to my fellow COWs and to any new members, welcome to the barnyard.

As always, though lately not as frequently...thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 4, 2011 at 3:18:27 pm

Waiting for the Main Event

Ok. It's Thanksgiving. Helped my mom prepare dinner for 14 people, and found a way to shoot some stills and video along the way.

The main event is not dinner however. It is next week's big medical meeting we are putting on.

I just responded to an email from Sao Paulo, and was exchanging messages with Kuwait last night. We have people from 30 countries attending this meeting, and about 30 US states are represented as well.

I finalized the audiovisual gear - 9x12 screens with DLP projectors, audio, video switcher and lots o cables. We are doing a live switch to tape and plan to record direct to disk using OnLocation. As long as we are bringing our cameras and decks we might as well take an editing system along for the ride too. In theory this will save 24 hours of digitizing later.

Yesterday we added a satellite truck to the mix. I will leave it to that crew to figure out how to run cables from Times Square to the 4th floor ballroom!

So this is the main event. T minus 7 days and counting.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

PS - This post was written on my phone - don't worry, I already helped set the table!


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Nov 25, 2010 at 11:35:36 amComments (3) Live events

Down Time

I may give the impression that I work 24/7. Occasionally. But I do have some hobbies.

One hobby that I need to spend more time on is creative writing. When people ask me what I am working on, I always say "I have a lot of first acts."

As far as screenplays go, this is the case. I write about 30 pages and realize there isn't really a whole story, or at least not one I am aware of. Sometimes I will discard a draft and start over, knowing the basic premise and the characters, but knowing that the story has been maturing in the recesses of my brain.

Last year during the CT Film Festival, I took a seminar with CT's premier screenplay teacher Peter Fox of Tripeg Studios. He talked about a more systematic approach to screenwriting, and this really helped.

I flip flop between starting screenplays and novels. Looking back at some early attempts, I see that my writing has matured along with the rest of me. Likewise, I find myself trashing old drafts of novels and starting over with the same story but a better sense of what looks good on the page. In some cases, I have written the same introductory scenes as both a screenplay and prose to see which reads better.

For inspiration, I listen to podcasts from Creative Screenwriting Magazine. These are fascinating conversations with some of the hottest screenwriters in Hollywood. Amusing anecdotes, breaking in stories and process are all helpful ways to figure out this craft.

Well, it's 12:15 am - I've been writing for 3 hours and I have a busy day tomorrow at work.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen





Posted by: Mike Cohen on Nov 11, 2010 at 9:16:06 pm writing, screenplays

Live from New York....

Coming up in a few weeks we have a pretty large medical conference. Cine-Med's specialties in medical video production have been well-documented. But I should also mention our medical conference services - CME accreditation, meeting registration and associated audiovisual management. We work with some top hospitals and physicians annually on some unique programs. We also are approached by organizations looking for help growing their meetings once they pass the point of being able to manage them on their own.

Part of my responsibilities includes planning the multimedia coverage for the main session. 3 days of lectures, panel discussions and debate, all shot and switched live to tape with music, roll-ins and I-Mag to two 9x12 rear projection screens.

There is nothing more exciting than doing a live switch - something we don't get to do too often in the non-broadcast world.

So in the coming weeks we need to edit the intro video for each day, create slides for each speaker's intro, figure out the exact layout of cameras and sound reinforcement and finalize the rental order. Also hoping we can get into the ballroom for setup during the day, otherwise we are looking at an overnight setup. We did an overnight setup once before in NY - there was a wedding that did not get turned over until midnight. I think we finished setup just in time to shower, shave and change clothes before the 7am start time.

So in planning a live event like this, the key is to plan in detail, be ready for anything and did I mention have a plan? I've got a plan.

Stay tuned...more on this later.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Nov 9, 2010 at 7:54:01 pmComments (1) meetings, audiovisual

Conventions - The Rest of the Story

This is a follow up to:
http://blogs.creativecow.net/blog/3554/sales-marketing-networking-and-audio...

What goes into a convention visit:


The first day is travel and setup - usually from sunup to sundown on a Sunday.



Feet on the ground, get bags, get cab, get moving...

The Display Booth

We have had numerous display booths / exhibits over the years. This year we decided to try a new configuration, with an emphasis on product display and maximizing space. Five of us working 8 hours a day in a 10'x20' space requires coordination and planning.

First we sat down and discussed our needs. Then I did a sketch on notebook paper.

Followed by a Photoshop composition:


Some light carpentry to fill in some of the missing pieces, and voila:


Next time we will get the LCD monitor mounted to the center column, add a laptop shelf and add some shelving under the display counters. To reuse one of my favorite 80's catch phrases, "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Advertising

Brochures

One of the goals of displaying at a convention is to give attendees who visit your booth something to take with them. We made brochures for books, videos, services and other meetings/courses. When we make a brochure, whether it is a single folded sheet, a multi-fold or a saddle stitch, we include an address / postage panel that can turn it into a self-mailer. New postal rules require an envelope if something is saddle stitched but not a magazine or catalog, so we are doing a lot of multi-folds.

Posters


The columns of the display have a surface that sticks to Velcro. We make 20x30" posters for new products or events we are promoting, and stick these to the wall.

Video Loop


This is the first year we have used a large LCD monitor as part of the booth. I created a 4 minute loop of new products, services and events, edited asn HD Premiere sequence, exported as Blu-Ray h.264 and authored in Adobe Encore. Compiling the Encore Blu-Ray project to an ISO allowed me to burn a Blu-Ray project to a DVD-R. Our Sony Blu-Ray player interprets the DVD-R as a Blu-Ray disc and it looked beautiful, and attracted some additional attention.

We only get 1-2 seconds to attract the attention of someone walking by.

Shuttle Bus Promo




Most conventions taking place at convention centers utilize a system of shuttle buses, to transport attendees from hotels to meeting and back, around the clock from dawn to dusk. At some meetings there is a video loop that plays on the bus. For one new product we created a 30 sec spot, which ran about once per 15 minute trip of the bus.

Conventions - The Rest of the Story - Support Video




Shipping

The booth necessarily breaks down into crates and pallets, shipped via common carrier freight. At the end of the event, breaking things down takes a lot less time than setting up.



Then we wait for the empties to be delivered, pack up, shrink wrap, and head to the airport.



Once the days wrap up, usually around 5 or 6pm, it is back to the hotel. Once I got my bearings in DC, which is a series of grids and wheels with spokes (thank goodness for google maps on a smart phone), I found it pretty easy walking between locations. Most nights it is straight to dinner (skipping lunch, while not recommended, seems to happen). Having been to many major cities around the country for conventions, I have learned a few important things:

1. If you are really hungry, eat near the hotel.
2. If you are eating late, keep alcohol and dessert to a minimum.
3. If the hotel has a restaurant, check it out. It can save cab fare and/or exploring a strange city at night, and you need to save your strength.
4. Likewise, if the hotel serves breakfast, check out the prices. $14.99 for a burger at night seems like a better value than $14.99 for a bowl of fruit with yogurt or $4.50 for an english muffin. "Highway Robbery" my grandpa used to say. In these cases, finding a nearby coffee chain is in order. Also, for whatever reason, hotels with sit down breakfast service seem to take a really long time to serve you.

Walking Around

When I come home from such a meeting, people always ask "Wow, Chicago. Did you go to any museums?" or "Wow, Washington, did you go to the Air and Space Museum?" or "Wow, LA, did you see any movie stars?"

The response is usually, "No, I was WORKING." It is common to see nothing but the hotel and the convention center.

But once in a while we have time to walk around and see some sites.




This time in Washington we went down to the White House area, walked around, saw the Obama vegetable garden and the motorcade returning to home base. They parked out back waiting for the Prez to go to his next function. No sign of Bo, the first dog, so we returned to the general vicinity of the hotel for dinner.

Other "Walking around" highlights from past convention cities have included:

San Francisco - seeing the Blue Angels perform over San Francisco Bay
Denver - Visiting the Colorado State house
Chicago - going up in the Sears Tower (or whatever it is called - it was still the world's tallest building at the time)
Dallas - Visiting the 6th Floor Museum and walking on the infamous Grassy Knoll
Philadelphia - The Liberty Bell

In summary, it is back to work on day to day projects, and planning for future meetings, shoots and long term goals.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 16, 2010 at 2:01:13 pmComments (2) marketing, sales

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Don't worry, I don't play golf, tennis or baseball, so there is no sports metaphor in this title.

As described over the past few entries, we have spent the past few weeks in final preparations for our big medical convention of the year. With that finished, it is time to get back to the essentials (in no particular order - or if I had to say, in reverse order!):

Shooting
Editing
Project Management
New Business Development

You see, my job is multi-faceted - like many of the folks visiting the COW.

Shooting

Tomorrow I am off to the Big Apple - early train, rare surgery in the AM and some video review/editing/collaboration on another project later in the day. I enjoy going to New York for work - by car a bit less than by train - and even more so for fun. I could walk around NY for days on end taking photos of buildings. It's like a variety of architectural styles have been mixed together in a giant food processor and piled up on an island.

Never missing an opportunity to use my photo collection in this blog, here are some shots from a recent trip:

























Ok, that was a lot of pictures - and a lot of walking.

Later this month it is off to Denver for the 4th time this year to add to our bestselling lineup of nursing videos.

Editing

Video editing is a daily activity, and can include a variety of tasks - actual editing of picture or sound (rough cuts, final finishing), media encoding for different client needs (web, iTouch, iPad, DVD), DVD authoring (yeah, it's not video editing, but it is on the same computer and part of the workflow to finish a project), and basic housekeeping, file management, even brainstorming.

On projects that I also manage, I may delegate editing to myself or a colleague.

Project Management

Basically, I manage the progress, communication, budget and work assignments for all multimedia projects including videos, interactive, websites, the occasional book or brochure and new project planning. Want to know more? Read the previous 122 blog entries!

I have acquired a few new projects from last week's convention. And I am in the throes of helping to organize a surgical conference coming up in December. Audiovisual and video conferencing vendors need to be locked down, and 14 hospitals around the world will be streaming live surgery to us all on one day.

New Business Development


My other hat is in new business. At meetings and trade shows I try to make some new contacts, follow up with existing clients, and meet with doctors who we may want to work with in the future. I have a few video products in early stages of planning, and am always on the lookout for new opportunities. Sharing these ideas with co-workers is a great way to exchange information and take advantage of contacts that others in our org have developed. At our regular sales meetings this exchange of information is essential. After all, teamwork makes a company thrive.

Odds and Ends


Some job tasks fall into a catch-all category. Reviewing catalogs or helping to quality check some book proofs, devising a new setup for our exhibit booth and/or minor carpentry, photo retouching, stills photography during a video shoot - these are all duties that do not define a job description but are essential duties nonetheless.

It's good to be done with the marathon. It's now time for a power walk to the next finish line.

Thanks for reading

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 11, 2010 at 5:50:11 pmComments (1)

Trade Shows Revisited

Most talk of trade shows on the COW is related to NAB, CineExpo, IBC and the like - trade shows for our trade - media production tools and techniques. Attending these shows helps media professionals do their jobs better and offer their clients excellent services.

I am in a unique position at Cine-Med, in that I occasionally attend such an industry trade show. However I regularly attend trade shows in the industry in which Cine-Med does business - healthcare.

You see, we do work for clients in the medical industry. There is not better place to network with current and potential clients that at a trade show like the ones we attend. Think of it this way - if you shoot videos about race cars you may go to NAB to pick out a new camera, but you also should go to racing shows to find prospects for your services. Same concept with us.

We also have a number of product lines - DVD's, CD-ROM's and our ever-growing series of textbooks - all designed for sales to individual medical practitioners as well as to hospitals, medical libraries and residency programs. Again, representatives from these groups are in great supply at medical trade shows.

At the meeting we are attending next week in Washington DC we have a number of functions:

1. Traditional trade show booth.

This year we have reconfigured slightly to include an LCD monitor playing a promo loop, video store style DVD racks and our selection of books, including the debut of nearly half a dozen new titles.

2. Networking


As mentioned previously, our booth location serves as a meeting point for both pre-arranged and on the fly meetings with current customers, industry partners, new contacts and the regular stream of people checking out the exhibits.

3. Lead generation

Every name badge has a bar code that can be scanned. We can instantly print out a thermal paper slip with contact details, and we also get a thumb drive at the end of the meeting with the contacts. Of course you only get the lead if you have engaged someone in a conversation and they either purchase something, sign up for a catalog or ask to be added to your mailing list. We cannot just go around playing Lazer Tag with peoples' name badges!

4. Audiovisual support

While the meeting has its own A/V support vendor, we manage the surgical video library. Over the past few months we have received and formatted nearly 200 10-12 minute procedure videos which will be shown over 4 days of the meeting. We work closely with the audiovisual vendor to stay organized, format all videos appropriately and digitally transfer the appropriate files to each meeting room over the convention center network.

5. Preparing for future meetings

One good trade show deserves another. Most large meetings are planned years in advance. I can tell you the city and dates of at least two shows per year for the next 4 years. Makes it easy to arrange vacations and surprise parties!

Thus, we promote our own future courses and meetings, and make contacts with those we will interact with during the planning process.

6. Multitask

Sometimes we take advantage of the gathering of minds to get other goals accomplished. We may schedule a meeting or dinner with a group of faculty for an upcoming project. In the past we have rented tv studios or hotel meeting rooms to do multicamera focus group video shoots. I have done some light video editing with a doctor either at a coffee shop or in my hotel room. Actually, a quiet hotel room in the middle of the day makes a decent voice over booth.

As a company, we attend 2-4 large shows each year, and individuals go to another dozen smaller meetings as well. Some of the smaller meetings double as distance learning continuing education courses. Some of these courses we administer and/or provide CME or Continuing Medical Education credits. In addition to a media production and publishing company, we are also meeting and event planners and we are accredited to sponsor courses for physicians, nurses and pharmacists.

Do not discount the value of attending a trade show for the industries in which you do business. If you have a plan and realistic goals it can be good for business.

Thanks for attending.

Mike Cohen


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Sep 27, 2010 at 3:19:26 pm trade show, business

Divide and Conquer

Although I recently watched Lord of the Rings in HD, I am not talking about the Battle of Helm's Deep.

No, I mean to say, Given a large list of things to do, rather than trying to do more work than is humanly possible, simply pick and choose tasks until you can start knocking things off the list.

When I first started this blog, I used to talk a lot about workflow, project management and organization. I have not written about these subjects for a while, perhaps because I am more organized than I used to be. However, many of the principles still apply.

Make a List

This list can be daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or simply as often is necessary. Do it in Excel, MS Project, a whiteboard, a blackboard if you like chalk dust everywhere, scraps of paper, sticky notes or the back of an envelope.

If this list is something others need to see, I suggest a large markerboard in a hall or common area. I have both. The smaller board in the hall lists hot projects and shoot scheduling. The larger board in my office has a 3.5 month calendar and a column for each person including myself.

I keep a personal list as well on a running page after page legal pad (we will call this the LPad - take that Steve Jobs!).

Crossing off an item gives some gratification.

As for organizing not simply tasks or projects, one must often organize assets - media files, document version control, quality assurance and the like. An Excel file works, however this can result in a lot of file versions being emailed around. One file on a server that can be updated by anyone helps. A web-based spreadsheet that always appears in a browser tab can be even better. There are web-based services for this sort of thing like Basecamp and Dot Project - but you can get so wrapped up in managing the online service that it becomes a job unto itself (see "Balance" below).


Check it Twice


This is one reason I keep multiple lists - to make sure priorities are accounted for, to resolve conflicts and to make sure that we are not forgetting anything.

Periodically discussing the to do items with the people to whom they are assigned is another important function. And don't just say "do this, then this" - be sure to get feedback as to the realism of timelines and dependent tasks.

What is a dependent task? Why, it is a task that cannot be done until something else has been completed first. This can be a challenge.



Prioritize


As already mentioned, one must list items in order, or at least indicate somehow the order of completion that should be followed.

In our shop, we have a standing rule about prioritizing work should someone need to make a decision. In the case of a conflict, ask me. In case I cannot resolve a conflict, go to the boss. But the boss has better things to do than to do my job, so as a manager I need to maintain control over priorities, resolve conflicts, and stay organized.

Re-Prioritize

Occasionally, a hot job comes through the door, or something on hold becomes active again. Thus, reprioritization can become a..um...priority all its own. No client should be told they are not the priority, as there is always a priority given to jobs that a client is expecting to be completed in a timely manner. And as soon a we can complete a client job, the sooner we can send an invoice!

Balance

This goes right back to the last two items. Find a way to balance everything that needs doing without resorting to multitasking or excessive overtime. You do this by delegating the right job to the right person in the right order, and evaluating the progress on a regular basis.

Easier said than done - management of jobs, schedules and priorities is a dynamic process requiring daily progress reports. It can be a simple "how's XYZ going? Do you think 2 weeks is still enough time?" or as complex as "attached is an excel listing the current status of XYZPDQ - we will update this at the end of the week and reevaluate the completion schedule if anything new happens this week, etc."

Balance can also mean, balancing the project tasks with the organization of the projects. Don't let whatever system you use become another project to manager. Being a project manager means you manage the project, not that you manage the managing of the project.

You have to manage the managing of the project, but not to the detriment of the project.

Do What Must Be Done

This does not mean working 80 hour weeks. It might, but it mostly means being focused on the tasks at hand, trying to stick to time lines, and being diligent in everything you do.

Think of the Big Picture


This big picture is your bottom line - profit. This bottom line is fed by successfully completed work, which keeps your clients happy. Simple really, but getting there is half the fun.



Posted by: Mike Cohen on Sep 19, 2010 at 9:52:09 am workflow, project management

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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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