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2015 Chronicles: Under the Dome

April began with a convention in Nashville, though not really. The conference was actually at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, known by most as the Biodome. If you have never been to a Gaylord, it is an interesting experience. Certainly an amazing structure. I know that they mean well, but these places are simply too big to be practical. But c'est la vie - you go where the business is.

This river reminds me of the Chocolate River from Willy Wonka's factory - I expected to see Augustus Gloop float by at any moment.

Here we had our exhibit booth and I also was conducting interviews for various projects. I did not get a hotel suite, so I moved furniture around and setup a basic interview space in my basic hotel room, which luckily was only a few min walk from the convention center.

The first night we ate at an Irish bar at the hotel, which had a nice duo playing traditional Irish songs.

Other evenings were spent downtown Nashville, where there is a great supply of entertainment and dining.

The first night we went to a generic bar which had a decent country band playing covers. My companions were enjoying all the hits by Garth Brooks and the like - I was not too familiar with any of the music, but it was well performed. Food was basic burgers and beer.

Next night we went to Pucketts, known for ribs, and saw internet sensation Tyler Barham (never heard of him either) but the ladies were swooning. Again, very talented.

Afterwards we walked back to the main drag and went to ACME Feed and Seed, a former feed and grain store now serving food and drinks with a great house band.

Final night was the big event put on by the conference, featuring a talent show by surgeons, and a party band churning out the latest and classic hits, not much country, a decent buffet. This was at the Wildhorse Saloon, a well known party and concert venue, also owned by the Gaylord group.

Next stop, 2015 Workation.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:30:47 pm
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2015 Chronicles: Grand Central Surgery

The very next week after LA, I had a two day conference in NY at the Grand Hyatt, attached to Grand Central Terminal. I love this area of Midtown NY with the juxtaposition of old and new architecture, some of the most iconic NY landmarks and easy access by train.

Well, I didn't take the train. My wife came along so between our luggage and some gear I had to take, driving was the only option. Getting to NY is easy, but getting through NY is a challenge given the overly aggressive drivers, especially taxis who honk incessantly.

I was relieved once I dropped my car at Valet parking ($80/day) at the hotel.

It took forever to check in - it was also model UN week so the hotel had 500 students from around the world.

My wife got a room and I went over to the meeting room to work on setup. This event, the Global Hernia Symposium, included live surgery. We did some testing with the video bridge and figured out the workflow with the AV guy.

Most live surgery as previously mentioned, is point to point via satellite - one source, one destination.
This case however was multi-points of source to one destination, and over IP, not satellite. This takes a lot more planning, like months to get everything aligned. We use Intercall and Stratosphere, two NY based video conferencing vendors, to handle the bridging and video conference technology. My job is to get all of the participants aligned, and it is not uncommon for me to send emails with 15 recipients.

Fast forward 12 hours and it is the main event - we had 5 hours of live surgery from NY, Brazil and Colombia one two projectors and 2 80" LCD monitors, with real time Q+A from the panelists and audience. This was then followed by more traditional lectures and discussion until we ended on Saturday afternoon.

My job also included event photographer at the event, and on the dinner cruise.

There was not too much time for fine dining, but I found a couple of good sushi restaurants for takeout. Then on the way out of town on Sunday, my wife and I went to our favorite place to get all sorts of food, Zabars. I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

With a car full of appetizing, we could not wait, and stopped along the Saw Mill for a bagel, cream cheese (shmear) and lox picnic.

Ok that's it, it is now April!

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:14:59 pm event AV, live surgery
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2015 Chronicles: Winter Wonderland

Somewhere in the Feb-Mar timeframe I had a surgical video shoot in Joliet, IL. Actually on the outskirts, but close enough. I flew into Midway on the 6am direct Southwest flight, rented a car and had a meeting with one client for a few hours, and then proceeded down to the hospital for setup.

I worked with a technician to figure out the recording function for internal laparoscopic video. Once upon a time it was straightforward to record an analog signal to DVCAM. However in the HD setting, every medical video device has its own flavor of HD, not to mention different versions of DVI and the chances of recording a signal to a KiPro, PIX240 or similar box are greatly diminished, even with a scan converter.

With this sorted, I setup my tripods and lighting, and headed to the hotel, then to a group dinner. By this point I had been awake for 18 hours and was spent.

Got back to the hotel about 10pm, slept for 6 hours, then got up, got to the hospital by 7am for a full day of production, including 4 operations and 2 interviews. This is great fun and great to get back to the fundamentals on which Cine-Med was founded.

Next came the fun part. While the weather was unseasonably warm for mid-February when I got there, the drive back to the airport to catch a 9pm flight was in the middle of a surprise snow storm. Slippery roads and bumper to bumper traffic on the Stevenson Expressway made me not a happy camper (my rental car was not very snow oriented). I made it to the airport with time to spare, got on my flight and made it back home by maybe 2am.

This was before the LA trip by a few weeks and I had time to do the editing prior to the next trip.

I'm getting caught up so it should get easier to get dates in the correct order - bear with me here.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 7:03:28 pm
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2015 Chronicles: LA Story

If you read my post about Los Angeles last year you can refer back to that - same basic deal. This time we used the in-house AV group, and they did mostly fine. Setup was done by about 8pm, leaving time for some sushi before bed.

The whole week, each night, Hollywood Blvd was shut down for filming a TV pilot called The Lucifer Chronicles, or some such thing. It was interesting to watch and char with some of the crew between takes.

I met up with my buddy Lando for a late night Falafel dinner on Sunset Blvd, and ate mostly sushi the rest of the time.

A new responsibility at this meeting was managing the distribution and collection of lead retrieval scanners, and I was once again stills photographer.

$50 cab ride to the airport, redeye home, rinse and repeat! The USAir terminal at LAX is a dump. Philly is improving, especially the newer regional jet terminal.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:52:58 pm event AV
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2015 Chronicles: Surgeons of the Caribbean 2: The Magic Cave

If you read the 2014 entry on the Dominican trips, you will know that I document medical procedures performed by a group of US surgeons who travel to the DR. I had spent December and January preparing for this trip, including making sure everyone on the trip had booked travel and that we all had hotel rooms. Sounds simple enough but a 4 day trip with 7 people has a lot of details to keep track of. Not to mention meeting our driver at the airport and being totally unable to communicate. I should have paid attention in high school Spanish class. Sorry Mr Morales.

We all flew into Santo Domingo on a Thursday and met up at the hotel bar upon arrival. While Santo Domingo is a large densely populated city with a lot of poverty, we stayed in a pretty safe and swanky part of town in a relatively new Marriott.

The next two days, after driving past Land Rover and Bentley dealerships, we transitioned into the...less wealthy part of town to the hospital, surrounded by barbed wire. We were told not to wander. Inside, the hospital was quite modern for its location, with a state of the art cardiac cath lab.

For this trip we brought 5 Canon HD cameras, one Sony 4K camera, the trusty 7d and tried to limit our gear to two checked and one carry-on suitcase, and a backpack. We still had to do the customs CPB form going in and out of the US, but it was a lot easier with less gear. Not to mention customs at the Santo Domingo airport is a pleasure, as this airport is not as tourist oriented.

We are accompanied on these trips by a surgeon from the DR, who now practices in Florida. He helps with the ground transport and other logistics, and arranges dinners. On this trip we ate at an outdoor restaurant adjacent to the Christopher Columbus Palace...

And at Maison de la Cava, a restaurant built in a cave once used by pirates...

And then it was back to home base once again for post production...

Editing 6 tracks of video is somewhat of a challenge, so I synch everything up, setup the main camera as track 1, the fluoroscope as track 2 (always visible in 80% of shots), then did a PIP for the 4 other angles. You can't do a multi-cam for this since more than one track is in play in must cuts. This setup plays quite sluggishly, so I render the sequence as the next step. A 3 hour sequence of PIP effects can take 12 or more hours to render, so I took my computer home for the weekend and let it rip.
Next step was then to make basic cuts using lift/extract to cut time. Then final clean up pass to decide which shots to keep and hide the shots not being used. Then render out to MP4 for review by the surgeons, who then do the traditional method of sending time code selects for the next pass.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:36:44 pm
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2015 Chronicles: The Big Apple

I kicked off 2015 with a 2 day trip to NYC to conduct some interviews. I expected a spacious hotel suite, I got a Residence Inn just off Times Square. While some Residence Inns have a lot of space, this one, not so much. I was by myself so I carefully moved furniture around, including moving the tv wall unit into the bedroom and placing the coffee table on the bed, to free up enough space for a three camera interview shoot and lighting. Worked out ok but it was a tight squeeze.

It happened to be my cousin's birthday, so I met up with him for dinner, but after my first trip to B and H Photo and Video. If you are every in NY, do yourself a favor and check this place out. Seeing the website and catalog come to life was pretty exciting. Just leave your wallet at the hotel!

Quick drive back home to get ready for the next episode...

Happy New Year.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 11, 2015 at 6:26:51 pm interviews
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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
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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
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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
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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)
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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 fluffy housecats.

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