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Mike Cohen's Blog

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Happy 2015

Wow, I am way behind on updating this blog. It has been a little busy since, oh, this time last year.

Here's a recent shot of me hard at work:

And a 4k frame grab from the same shoot.

Not shooting with a RED or anything, but just focusing on getting the best quality out of any situation.

More to come.

Mike Cohen

PS - Some bonus materials to tide you over:

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 27, 2015 at 9:41:39 pm
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Live Event Production: Part 1 - Planning

Over the past couple of years I have taken on the role of Technical Director for the several large medical conferences that our company manages. AV, catering, CME, registration, on-site support and hotel logistics are all services that go into managing a medical conference. In addition we have an exhibit hall and sometimes off-site events.

Thus I have gone from this:

to this:

When thinking about a live event, you have any of dozens of possible meanings:

A Concert
Product Launch
Marketing Event
Q+A (ie, Clinton Foundation / Davos type thing)
Keynote talks (ie, TED talks)
Corporate events
Training / Seminars
Medical Conferences
Probably dozens more variations

Over the years I've been peripherally involved in some but not all of these variations with the most time spent on medical conferences.

Our events generally include a main ballroom setup with 2-3 projectors, audio, switching, I-Mag cameras and a micture of Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi and panel discussion.

That all sounds pretty simple, and it can be. However every AV company seems to operate, and charge, differently.

So this is where the planning starts. Once a venue is locked down (hotels and conference or convention centers generally need to be booked a year or more in advance) it is time to collect AV proposals.

I have pretty stringent requirements, and share with prospective vendors my list of quality factors as well as some specific equipment we require. While there are many ways to do the same thing, our preferred setup is such that any video switcher, for example, will not suffice.

I make a mockup diagram in Photoshop, provide photos of previous events and describe precisely the nuances of the event vs others handled by the same vendor.

As we get closer, the AV vendor then creates a diagram to scale, preferably from CAD files provided by the venue. Sometimes a site survey is made by the vendor, or me, or both.

This is a pretty simple description. There are often many conference-specific details that go beyond typical AV setup, and I'll get into some of those in a future post.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:34:18 pmComments (2) live event, staging
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Golden Globes 2014 - Spoilerific Live Blog with the Creative COW TV & Film Appreciation Gang

I was going to do this alone, but things go better with friends.

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 12, 2014 at 8:15:21 pm golden globes
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Photo Travelogue Oct 2013 Part 1

10 days in Washington during the government shutdown of 2013, followed by warmer climates. More later:

Business as usual here:

Avert your eyes:

Washington is a mix of old and new:

The MLK library design by Mies van der Rohe

After a long day a nice meal is a nice reward:


Live HD surgery via satellite:

One day to rest......though mostly spent packing:

On to Miami:

Dinner in Mary Brickell village

I saw a Bentley, a Maserati and an Aston Martin on the same block.

Print my customs forms, repack gear, time for bed.

Thanks for viewing.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 16, 2013 at 9:17:03 pm
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Hello World

When you are making your first programming project, it is sometimes called a "Hello World" project. I'm not a programmer, unless you count the BASIC class I took in high school!

Likewise, when you start a new blog or whatever you do a generic "Hello, this is what I'm all about" post. So here goes:

Hi. My name is Mike. I'm a long time Creative COW user, and formerly frequent blogger. But over the past year I've posted only a handful of posts, and have been pretty busy offline. So for those of you who have never said "hey, who is this Mike Cohen character and what do his early blog posts look like?" here's a summary to bring you up to speed:

Born in Massachusetts some time in the Nixon Administration. My dad was the manager of a camera store called The Photo Shop. They did photo developing and sold cameras. When I was little kid I liked to play with the tripods and other gadgets that were within reach of a 4 year old. My Aunt and Uncle could often be found in the back office of this family business. They would take me to lunch at Friendly's (egg salad and chocolate milk). This particular Aunt also was known in town as the "cake lady" as she made cakes and pastries for many events, and of course she made a custom birthday cake for each of her nieces and nephews. Her husband worked in the school system as an administrator well into his 80's and they named one of the middle schools after him while he was still alive. Very influential relatives.

Anyway since my dad always had access to the latest camera gear, our early family photos were spectacular and prolific. My brother and I and the extended family were frequent stars of color home movies. Here is my favorite (I'm the adorable kid in the overalls in the opening shot):

Well, in the mid-Carter years we moved to Des Moines. My dad got a job as the electronics buyer for a retail chain. This was quite the transition - highways, cable tv, ATM machines, barcode scanners - we had arrived in the future. My grade school years were uneventful - school projects, field trips to the state capitol, museums, the wonderful Des Moines Botanical Garden, Hebrew School and making friends. We spent Summers back in Massachusetts.

My pre-teen years were a series of annual moves as we worked our way back to Massachusetts where we finally stayed put through high school. I discovered a love of video from a pretty early age. In 1983 my uncle had an early video camera wired to a boom box sized portable VHS recorder. This was present at many family gatherings. In 8th grade he helped me make a very brief video about the history of American Money, and in 9th grade we did a 60 minutes style video about Ancient Rome. Very low fidelity 8mm by this time.

In High School my interests were visual arts, mostly illustration, drama club and yearbook. By 11th grade I was the yearbook editor and quickly became known as the kid who always had a camera available day or night. Although we had a professional photographer for big events, I took shots at dances and around campus. Somehow I managed to not get stuffed into a locker. The Saved by the Bell character Screech was loosely based upon me at age 15.

When it came time to apply to colleges, my parents convinced me to pursue communications rather than technical illustration. For once in my life I listened to my parents. I applied to Ithaca, Quinnipiac, U of Hartford for Communications, and UMASS, UCONN, UMASS Dartmouth, URI as safety schools (back in the George H W Bush years UMASS and UCONN were very non-selective) and Roger Williams College in case I decided to study architecture. I visited everywhere except for Ithaca, and got in everywhere. I chose U of Hartford because it was relatively close to home, not in a big city, and they had a 2-year old modern TV studio.

The first year of college I could not get into any Communication classes except the intro lecture with like 700 people in the class. So I took a mix of history, literature and science or math classes. Sophomore year the fun began with Intro to TV Production which consisted of learning how to do everything in the studio - camera, lighting, VTR, switcher, Chyron, teleprompter, audio, floor direct, direct. Each student had to write and produce a 5-minute how-to video, with the rest of the class in the other crew positions. Most people did things like how to make a sandwich, how to tie a bowtie or how to fold a shirt. I had not yet completely left Screech behind so I made my video "how to disarm a nuclear bomb." It was good on paper. But it was fun.

During the same semester I attended an evening seminar geared towards the community (adults) given by the Hartford Ad Council. Each class for 6 weeks focused on a different type of advertising. Most of the attendees were either business owners or others from the area. One of the classmates with the assistant to the News Director at WFSB, the local CBS affiliate. She got me an interview for a news internship, which I was awarded for the following semester, a rarity for a sophomore in college.

Recently both here on the COW and in the news media in general there have been stories about how internships exploit young people. Back in the day at least in my experience, I received 3 credits for each internship. After 4 internships this essentially eliminated 1 semester of classwork so that by my final semester I only took one class and spent the rest of my time on an internship and other on-campus video activities.

Back to Spring of Sophomore year. About a month before Summer break, a grad student in the Communication program decided that for his master's thesis, he would attempt to start a weekly live newscast on campus. Up until this time the tv studio was used by students in about 4 classes per semester, and very little else. There was also a field production class which used some of the editing systems in the studio, but not all of it. The online edit controller was the official domain of maybe two people on campus.

Myself and maybe 10 others went to the initial meeting and we founded STN - the Student Television Network and the Channel 2 News broadcast was conceived. Most of us were off to internships in our home towns for the Summer, so everyone had the assignment to learn how news is done and report back in the Fall.

Summer that year I spent working my first internship at WCVB, the ABC station in the #7 market. This was a big deal for a 19-year-old. Having grown up watching Channel 5 it was exciting to be working with some of the anchors I had been watching for years such as Jim Boyd and Susan Wornick. I was assigned the Midday News three days a week. I arrived at 9am and gathered B-Roll, directed the editing of VO and VO-SOT segments based upon scripts written by the Associate Producer or Producer, delivered Chyron orders to the Chyron operator, gave cue sheets to the audio guy and then distributed rundowns and script pages to the anchors, director, producer, audio and executive producer minutes before the live show at noon. I took it upon myself to make some custom forms to help organize these pieces of content and tried to break a maximum of two copy machines per shift :)

I got to go out in the field on one weekend day only because I asked to. This was post Iraq War 1 and during one of the saber rattling episodes between the US and Iraq, so I accompanied the reporter and photog to interview this guy - then Bush 1 made a speech which I logged as it came down from the satellite feed, found some stock footage of planes taking off, and helped the reporter edit together his package for the 6pm news. Very exciting.

Fall Semester, Junior Year. I reported back to STN on campus and brought with me intimate knowledge of how to put together a newscast. Many of my compatriots had similar experiences, so we all put our information into a hat and got to work. We spent all of the Fall semester doing practice stories and practice non-live newscasts. We had a card table and a cardboard logo for a set. After much lobbying we received an initial budget to buy two SVHS cameras, one SVHS deck, some mics, an IFB system, tripods and blank tapes. Everything else (paper, ink, a vintage 1984 Macintosh and U-Matic tape-to-tape editing bays we "borrowed" from the tv studio which was for academic use only. From humble beginnings, I recently attended the 20th anniversary celebration where they showed this video:

Also this semester I did my internship at WFSB. My main duty was sitting at the assignment desk most of the day, calling state police barracks looking for stories, and fielding calls from crazy people claiming to have met Elvis. We did have someone call about what turned out to be Gulf War Syndrome, but at the time nobody had heard of this. One of the star reporters was Gayle King whose BFF Oprah would call periodically to say hello - she was always very friendly. Other cub reporters I worked with, who have gone on to network careers include David Ushery and Mika Brzinski. The best part of the job was after the noon show I got to go out in the field with whoever I was assigned to. We did the typical local news human interest stories, but this was also during the Bush v Clinton campaign so we did some political reporting. I met Rev Jesse Jackson, Barbara Bush, Dr Henry Lee (at the scene of a grisly murder) and probably some local politicians. Once back at the station I could either sit in the control room or the studio for the 5, 5:30 and 6 pm shows, or wander around. I became friendly with the chief meteorologist and the paintbox artist who both were mentor-like during the short time I knew them.

Oh, I also started taking guitar lessons at the Hartt School of Music. I wish I had continued, but there is still time.

So now it is Spring Semester and we were ready to go on the air live with our weekly newscast.
The first shows were memorable. My role was News Director and TD during the live shows, and did a little reporting and lots of other activities. At the end of the semester as the grad student was preparing to leave, I was elected General Manager, given the elusive key card to the studio and it was off to the final Summer break of college.

Yep, I did another internship in CT, stayed on campus for the Summer and worked odd jobs around campus (theater usher, auditorium AV tech, TV studio summer session teaching assistant). The internship was with COX cable advertising. The other intern and I made weekly donut commercials for a local IGA store, car dealers and banks. We compiled the weekly commercial reels (60-minute U-Matic tapes) and delivered these to the head-end, and helped shoot some original local car commercials and the like.

Finally Senior year. Given the interest in tv production never before seen on campus, the art school created a post-production editing class, and the theater program created a single-camera drama production class. Needless to say, all of the same students who were doing the live newscast also signed up for these new classes. We were clamoring for information and ways to hone our skills, and we were darn busy. We would spend the week on classwork and preparing our stories for the newscast. Everyone managed to have few or no classes on Fridays so we could spend most of the day prepping for the 4pm live newscast. After the live show we'd strike the studio and often hang out in smaller groups until late. As GM and the guy with a car, it fell to me to deliver dubs of the show to Hartford and West Hartford cable access who had agreed to play our shows.

Then we'd spend all day Saturday and Sunday shooting our movie. Same crew members in different roles. For that I was lighting and editor. Here is some of the result:

Note to modern viewers - this was shot with a Hitachi Z1C, a 3-tube camera that was quite sophisticated for its day, recorded to 20-minute 3/4" U-Matic tapes.

Somehow I also found time to spend one day per week at the Travelers Insurance tv studio. Another guy and myself received no instruction, but we were given access to the online bay once a week to learn what we could in the hopes that there might be some work. Going from our tv studio's 3/4" machines and tube cameras to a Sony 9000, Grass Valley 300 switcher, Sony 1" machines and BetaSP decks was exciting. Alas the studio was auctioned off soon after and we were back to campus!

Anyway, by the time Winter break rolled around most of us were exhausted. But it wasn't over yet.

I spent Winter break with a friend in CT so I could start my final internship working for a high end corporate production company in Hartford. We did work for LEGO, Heublein, United Technologies and numerous golf club makers. I learned about another type of production and was exposed to the first AVID Media Composer in the state. In these days computer based editing was offline only. Once your picture was locked you would need to make a B-reel using the EDL generated by the AVID, then go to an online bay and reassemble the video at full resolution. Actually the word resolution is not relevant here because going from BetaSP to 1" was simply a direct analog transfer of video from source to master. One of the studios even had a D2 machine featuring pre-read (allowed editing video using the master tape as the source). The future had arrived.

Finally the day had come - I was a college graduate. A week later I moved into my swanky bachelor pad in Naugatuck, CT and started as a production assistant at Cine-Med, where I still work today.

In my next post I'll bring you the rest of the way up to speed with some of my adventures in the art of Medical Media Production, Medical Meeting Management, Publishing, CME, Safe and Effective Use of Medical Device videos, traveling for work and the occasional photo of dinner or cats. The bulk of my back catalog of blog entries relate to my career, but I'll try to summarize how I got here from there in the next entry.

If you just can't wait until the next installment, check out these links to get the flavor:

This reminds me, I have to update my website:

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jul 9, 2013 at 7:32:09 pm production, internships
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Movie Reviews that are Probably More Enjoyable than the Movies Themselves

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.


Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 26, 2013 at 6:00:14 pm movies
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Always on the Lookout for Interesting Visuals

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
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OMG - 200 blog posts

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...

Mike Cohen

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
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Live Event Coverage

Just back from working the Diabetic Foot Global Conference at the Dolby Ballroom / Loews Hollywood Hotel. Planning for the meeting goes back to the previous year's meeting - same location, new AV vendor and I attended for the first time providing stills photography, run and gun interviews and general oversight of all things AV.

The Dolby Theater and Loews Hotel are bookends to the Hollywood and Highland Center, an outdoor shopping area with a huge replica of the DW Griffith's massive Intolerance set.

This actual set stood on Sunset Blvd for many years until it was declared a fire hazard and torn down:

Anyway, there is the usual mix of trendy mall stores, and a few good restaurants. The way the hotel is connected, you need to walk through the mall to get to the Dolby Ballroom. Or you could go up to a higher floor, walk past the pool and get to the ballroom.

Day 1 - Travel

Actually, travel day minus 1 we had yet another snow storm. Someone should tell the weather factory that it is nearly Spring and the snow really needs to take a break. To be on the safe side I got a cheap room near the airport the night before my 6:30am flight. As it happened, the flight was delayed about 30 minutes plus de-icing time.

Off to Midway for a stopover. The landings here are often hard and fast. Midway Airport is somewhat unusual for a modern airport in that is is smack dab in the middle of Chicago.
View Larger Map

It is literally a square mile of airport with no room to spare. This is all well and good unless this happens, which only happened once in 2005:

Before the expansion in the early 2000's it resembled many small regional airports with the whole terminal on one level. Now it is a slick modern airport with shopping and dining but sometimes you still have a connection in the dingy old section.

The outgoing flight was delayed to allow us folks from New England make our connections. Then for the flight to LA it seemed like a dog's age, but was only 4 hours wheels to wheels. I actually got a fair amount of work done on both the laptop and a notepad. Sitting in an aisle seat as I prefer, it is difficult to see out the windows, although as you descend into LA you can see some mountains - this is blurry but you get the idea

Hit the ground, get my bags, take obligatory photo of the Theme Building, as seen in every movie that takes place in LA (I will not post the photo here), get a taxi, make sure they take credit cards, and begin the 45 minute, $85 ride to the hotel. One thing about LA, it is gigantic to us New Englanders. Heck, you can drive 45 minutes from almost anywhere in CT and leave the state.

Note when taking taxis in certain US cities. The driver may say they take credit cards, but when you get to your destination they will often try to get cash in stead claiming the machine does not work. Don't fall for that trick.

Got to the hotel and amazingly my room was ready at 12 noon. Perhaps they were holding it for me since I was staff. Anyway, nice room for the 6 hours a day I would be there. Here's the view:

I could also see towards downtown from my room. I have always wondered what this large building is looking South from Hollywood - if any locals know please let me know. Probably just a warehouse, but it is so much larger than the surrounding buildings.

Dropped my bags, washed my face (seeing as they don't give you a hot cloth on domestic flights anymore, I make a habit of applying a hot washcloth to my face as soon after landing as possible - it is somehow refreshing - too much information? try it yourself) and went down to meet up with my co-workers from our other office in Louisiana. For an hour we stuffed tote bags with brochures and sell sheets from some of the sponsors of the meeting, then we had some lunch. While this may look huge in the photo this Taco-Shimi was about the size of a postage stamp, but it came with a really tiny fork:

The rest of the day was spent scoping out the meeting rooms, getting familiar with the schedule and meeting some of the course faculty.

For those of you who have not been to a medical meeting, they are like many other meetings - general sessions, breakouts, hands-on labs, lunch symposia, faculty events, cocktail receptions and an exhibit hall.

Our company manages the meeting from soup to nuts, including soup and nuts if they are on the menu. Faculty, registration, AV, agendas, soliciting sponsors, selling exhibit hall space, arranging food and beverage and special events, CME accreditation for physicians and nurses and all the details. Meetings range form 15-20 people on the low end and over 1000 people on the high end.

We all got together for an early dinner across the street at a new Tex-Mex place, then had a stroll with a few others up Hollywood Blvd and without realizing it had followed them to a large shoe store. On the way back I took an obligatory photo of the Chinese Theater, and actually saw a celebrity getting into his limo. If there were not other people shouting "Seal, over here. We love your music" I probably would not have known who it was!

Then I actually had some time in the hotel room to catch up on some e-mail and download and review an edit from the office server.

Day 2

The first day of the meeting was a preliminary session with about 75 attendees and maybe 15 faculty, in a much smaller meeting room with basic AV. My job at this point became photographer.

Get photos of the speakers, the panelists, the audience, the food, the exhibitors, NOT of anyone eating or drinking!

Mid-afternoon we checked on the setup in the Dolby Ballroom - this is on the roof of the Dolby nee Kodak theater - they hold the Governor's Ball there after the Oscars.

This day ended around 5pm, and our group re-grouped at 6 for dinner at a well known Hollywood Italian restaurant for decent food. I tried an Italian beer which was pretty good. After dinner we put up some signs for the main event and looked in on the main ballroom which was all set for the next day.

Day 3

Today started off with registration and breakfast for attendees at 7:30am. I introduced myself to the AV crew, found a spot for myself and my computer at the tech table, got into position for opening speeches, and we were off.

During the breaks throughout the meeting we showed highlights of the photos taken during the preceding sessions on the main projectors and plasma screens in the lobby. People like seeing themselves on a big screen.

Also during the breaks we walked around getting brief interviews or testimonials from both attendees as well as faculty and some exhibitors. A co-worker armed with a wireless dynamic mic acted as reporter while I shot handheld video.
Here are the first ones that we have posted online:

We'll also be releasing some highlights including interviews, photos and b-roll. A 3-day event should be the gift that keeps on giving if you collect enough media during the event. We should have enough material to help promote subsequent meetings.

This was a long day. The session got out at 5, immediately followed by an opening reception in the exhibit area.

Note, you can photograph food by itself:

Next it was on to a VIP reception at the top of the hotel, featuring spectacular views of the surrounding area, and more interesting food to photograph.

Finally time for sleepy time - but wait, taking photos does not leave enough empty hands to eat more than a few canapes. (if any locals can explain what the heck a canape is, please let me know). So I joined my co-workers at the Cabo Wabo restaurant. Much like Sammy Hagar's music, it was nothing special. Ouch!

Day 4

Today started off just like yesterday. More talks in the main session, plus a few breakouts in the afternoon. The special event of the day was the annual Edward James Olmos award for diabetes advocacy, given to one of the meeting faculty. His presence adds a bit more Hollywood to the event and everyone likes to have their photo taken with a celebrity.

From there we went to a faculty lunch, then more general sessions.

6pm rolled around - run back to room, drop off all but still camera, and get on bus to the faculty dinner at a fancy downtown restaurant. More photography until about 10pm, with a nice break to have dinner myself, and sleepy time by about 11.

Day 5

Final day started with 6 different breakout sessions in three 1-hour blocks. Each attendee could attend up to 3 sessions, each with a lecture and a hands-on component. More photos and video b-roll. Then lunch and back to the main ballroom for the final afternoon sessions.

Wrap at about 5pm. Help pack up. Celebratory glass of sparkling wine, group photo, then figure out dinner. We agreed to meet in an hour, so I left my bags in someone else's room and took a walk down to Sunset Blvd, saw this thing:

and these tree-like thingamabobbers:

And met up with our whole gang once more for a pint in the lobby, then had a quick dinner nearby. Cab to the airport and red-eye back to CT.

Overall, despite a lot of non-stop activity, and about 3000 photos taken, it was a lot of fun.

Thanks for joining me on this trip, and thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 29, 2013 at 7:22:20 pmComments (2)
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What Star Wars Means to Me

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.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 7, 2013 at 6:48:54 pm star, wars
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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.

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