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Creative Inspiration

Weeks are for work. Weekends are for personal enrichment. Maybe that enrichment is biking, skiing, cooking, cleaning (really?!), hiking, reading, going to the movies or theater, or whatever floats your boat. For me, it is keeping a collection of inspiring activities at the ready so when the moment strikes, I have no shortage of ways to stimulate my mind.

This particular weekend is supposed to be icy cold - nothing out of the ordinary in New England, but with a lot of travel coming up I think I'll lay low, watch some inspiring media and exercise the parts of my brain that are dormant during the conference calls, spreadsheets and HR tasks during the week (more on all of these important subjects in another entry!).

Here's a still life of my options - in high school art class we would have had to paint this, but that's because we didn't have digital cameras in 1988!:

I won't go through every item, as some of these books I have not read yet. Over the past year as I spent countless hours waiting for connections at such hubs of international travel as Charlotte, Nashville, Midway and Denver airports, I found myself in one bookstore after another. They all have displays of self-help and business books. I have gotten into the habit of snapping a picture with my phone of any book I'd like to read, then looking online for a better price. Airports are about the most expensive place to buy anything. Well looking at reviews often convinces me that what is on display isn't always worth the paper it is printed on, but through blogs and podcasts I discover other resources.

One interesting choice is "642 Things to Draw." This book simply has blank pages with descriptions of pictures I can draw. Sure I could have a sketchbook but it is sometimes ok to have a little nudge to move the brain where it might not normally go. And no cheating - if you don't know what an antelope or a violin looks like you have to guess. You should see the chainsaw I drew!

Clay Shirky's book has gotten a lot of press and one I am looking forward to. Not shown is "The Accidental Creative" which I have read a few times and passed along to another person in need of some work/life balance.

"The Writer's Journey. was recommended by a screenplay seminar instructor I met here in CT, and is a good review of the hero's journey as used by countless writers of both books and movies. Once you read it you say to yourself, "aha, George Lucas thinks he's clever doesn't he!" But in reality, as I formulate stories for half-written screenplays it is a handy reference.

In the lower right, speaking of King George, is "Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution." This is one of my all time favorite reads.

The book starts with a concise but useful story of Lucas, Copolla and the breakout from Hollywood of these two filmmakers, the creation of ILM, eventually of Pixar and early digital animation, nonlinear editing up to more recent advances in CGI, and how Lucas was driving a lot of the innovation. Yeah we all know this right? But this book is full of anecdotes and a look back at how some of our favorite films were made. On my recent trip to San Francisco I went looking for the warehouse that housed the original American Zoetrope studios, only to find a high-rise condominium tower. So much for historical preservation!

Here are a couple snapshots of the interior:

That's Ben Burtt doing sound effects editing on Star Wars in the basement of George Lucas' original home studio.

And here are some pioneers of the first CG animation:

And speaking of our favorite directors, while I don't subscribe, this anniversary edition of DGA quarterly has some great brief interviews with a host of directors:

Since Spielberg doesn't do DVD commentaries, this visual description of the Private Ryan opening sequence is a fascinating read:

The movies shown are three of my favorites for their technical mastery as well as their longevity. Each from a different era in filmmaking, each was innovative and a challenge to the filmmakers. How fitting that the current issue of Creative COW has Douglas Trumbull on the cover - a living legend of filmmaking innovation.

So why the food products? Digestive biscuits, tomato bisque and porridge are three comfort foods perfect for a cold wintry weekend spent feeding my mind - might as well feed my stomach too!

Well, thanks for reading...I've got some reading of my own to do!

Mike Cohen

PS - at least one other member of my household is interested in my copy of Creative COW magazine - get your own!

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 13, 2012 at 6:51:51 pmComments (3) creativity, filmmaking

Nice Day for a Drive

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

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

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

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

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

Leaving Woodbury along Rt. 6.

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

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

Yeah, I'm cool!

My destination.

Setup for Meet the Press style discussion.

The primary setup.

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

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

Passing through the region of my ancestry.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

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

Greatest Hits Volume XII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A more typical view nowadays.

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

With the end product.

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

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

Oh heck, here's a particularly tasty one:

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

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

Hope you enjoyed the look back. I did.

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

Mike Cohen

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

Happy New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Cohen

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

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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