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Mike Cohen's Blog

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Mind Blowing Awesomeness

I had my doubts. Could James Cameron possibly be successful blending sci-fi, environmental/political commentary with Steroescopic filmmaking? Seemed like a stretch.

But let's look at the track record.

Terminator 1 - made most other sci-fi/action films of the 80's look cheesy.

Aliens - a sequel better than the original, especially in the sci-fi genre is quite a feat.

Terminator 2 - proved that technology can in fact enhance a story.

True Lies - Combined action, comedy and effects in the practical real-world.

Titanic - say what you will about the contrived romance sub plot, this movie set the new standard for realism and epic storytelling, disasters or not.

Yesterday, the day after Christmas, I checked Google and was pleasantly surprised to learn that Hicksville, USA actually has a Real-D theater, just a few minutes from home. I went down to the mall, $9.50 in hand, only to find that the 3pm show was sold out. Not since Return of the Jedi's opening weekend have I been unable to get a movie ticket.

So I patiently awaited noon today, paid the extra 2 bucks for an advance ticket, and found my spot in the theater's sweet spot. From the opening 20th Century Fox logo in 3D I knew I was in for a treat. The opening shot of the inside of the star ship, as the marines are coming out of hibernation, was all I needed to see to know that Cameron had hit the mark. Because those eyeballs floating 2 feet in front of my face were no 3D effect - those were my own eyeballs. From the very first frame I was having a religious experience.

Even without the stereoscopic photography I believe the movie holds its own as a new classic action/sci-fi adventure. But what was so amazing about the 3D was that it was used in a nuanced, subtle way. Once my brain got used to it, I had to remind myself that was not how movies were supposed to look. But the sound design, such as of the flying swarms of insects in the forest, are just as important as the sense of depth. In fact many of the 3D elements are out of focus in the deep foreground of cinema's classic shallow depth of field. Rather than wanting to reach out and touch an object floating in front of you, you feel like you are immersed deeper into the scene.

I feel like I just spent 2.5 hours in Pandora interacting with real life forms. The environments, skin, hair, creatures, weather, weapons and yes even the humans, all fit together in a realistic puzzle - blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.

I'm sold. Avatar is a masterpiece.

Run, don't walk, to a 3D theater near you.

Seeing the making of is almost as cool as the movie itself:

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Dec 27, 2009 at 2:04:12 pmComments (1) avatar 3d

The Best of Both Worlds

Cine-Med has several major product lines. One is educational videos for surgeons and nurses. The other is medical books. For a new book now in the works, a textbook for Surgical First Assistants, we require hundreds of new photographs, some in the studio, others in the operating room. I call this the "best of both worlds" because my specialty in medical imaging honed through years of creative video productions now includes print work, from brochures, catalogs and posters, to book covers and editorial image content.

Our office layout includes some multipurpose studio space in the loft - suitable for photo shoots, temporary offices or break areas. This week we brought out all our toys, including HDV cameras, lights and the new Canon EOS 7D DSLR for the stills.

Here is my colleague Jake taking a few behind the scenes shots - nice memories for the talent.
And we made quite a mess - but a controlled mess - given the surgical gear, sutures, gowns and gloves.

First, you cannot approach such a shoot without a battle plan. The authors and I reviewed the current draft of the book, featuring temporary images grabbed from various DVDs we previously produced, and made a list of each setup and the corresponding page numbers. Then we transposed this list into a handy dandy checklist, and gaffer-taped this to the wall. Then, once we started shooting, we used the divide and conquer method - hit each page, refer to the temp images, and make our moves.

While I cannot post images from the day due to the proprietary nature of the pre-publication content, I can tell you with proper focusing and exposure, the 7d is nothing less than spectacular. Well, ok, here is one particularly tasty image:

**Click the image to view it full size - this is actually cropped from a larger image - at 72ppi it is 48" wide - that should print ok at 300dpi.

We had the HDV cameras standing by in case we had time to take video of the same setups, but alas, we shot over 700 stills - many with me hanging off a ladder at a funny angle in order to get the right perspective.

Next step will be sorting out the images, associating the selected shots with the appropriate page numbers, color correcting and/or cropping images, passing this data to the book designer, and awaiting the final draft. Upon approval of the PDF, we start the final pre-press activities, and finally publication.

A productive and enjoyable day producing quality images - I can't think of a better way to spend a day.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Dec 18, 2009 at 5:06:50 pmComments (1) photography publishing 7d

Coming Attractions

It is year-end, and things are pretty busy around the widget factory. But I have numerous new blog posts in the works for 2010 - with eye-popping visuals, video and more!

Here's a partial list:

• Shooting video with a DSLR

• Using digital stills in a video

• Making something out of nothing

• Workflow improvements

• Working with narrators

• Project tracking taken to the next level

• E-Marketing for your small business

• Interview Techniques

• and periodic "Lost Episodes" recounting more adventures from my early career.

So enjoy your holidays, be safe, and join me in 2010 for more Creative COW Blog Excitement.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Dec 16, 2009 at 7:40:28 pm workflow dslr video management

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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