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100th Blogiversary

I know I tell a lot of stories about the old days, but this doesn't mean I'm 100 years old.

Just wanted to get that cleared up for those of you keeping a tally of how many times I mention 1" tape and CMX edit controllers.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress...

For those of you just joining us, welcome to the Mike Cohen Creative COW 100th Blogiversary.

"100 blog posts? So what," you might be saying.

Well I try to put a little bit of my personality and philosophy into every post. For me it's a big deal. It's a big deal not that I have composed and published 100 entries about my job and my life, but that in doing so I have gotten involved in other aspects of the Creative COW community. As a result of blog entries, I have had the opportunity to write magazine articles, to be interviewed in podcasts, to make friends and business associates and even to obtain potential clients for my company's services. Something that is good for the soul and good for business is, well, a good thing!

And from what I hear, the blogs in general are good for the Creative COW's business. Google searches often lead people to the forums. If I Google myself or certain keywords I have used in my blogs, these blog entries come up in results. Presumably I can't be the only one searching for "CMX edit controllers" or more likely "AVCHD editing in Premiere. If new first-time visitors to the COW get in via the forums, the blogs, the services or the video reels - that too is a good thing.

And speaking of good things, have you seen the wide selection and amazing displays of creativity in the video reels section? You could spend hours there getting free inspiration for your own projects. I've actually started taking notes as I browse the reels. Go ahead, click "VIDEO REELS" in the main menu..I'll save your seat.

So back to the 100 blog retrospective. The best thing to do is to browse back issues going back to 2007. It is educational for me to see what I was thinking at the time. So rather than regurgitating my favorite posts, I think I will regurgitate my favorite images as used in past posts. I get a kick out of grabbing a quick picture with my phone when inspiration strikes. I send the picture to myself with a note and then, often on a long airplane ride, fill in the gaps to try to tell my story.

This first one takes me back to my first position as a professional editor. The Ampex ACE 25 edit controller. For those of you who have only used digital nonlinear editing, lucky you. Back in the day, you had to have some engineering know-how in order to perform basic editing, assuming you were in a facility without in-house engineering expertise. For more on the subject check out this link:

Now back to our show:

This image brings back some memories. A surgeon I work with on a regular basis needed to do a live powerpoint presentation to a medical conference. He was in Vegas, the conference was in Portugal. Thus, he was scheduled to go on at about 4am Vegas time on a weekend. At that time of day, we couldn't get a local video conferencing suite, so we had to think way outside the box. WebEx is advertised and used as a great tool for corporate meetings, but using it in multiple locations including in front of a live audience can be a bit dicey. So we came up with a stop gap solution. This picture depicts our audio transmission system which included VOIP and two telephones.

Speaking of medical conventions, back in early 2009 we managed a conference on obesity surgery. Our company arranged the venue, the audiovisual and catering, invited the faculty, reserved hotel rooms and managed registration for about 500 attendees. Think of it as a mini-NAB for surgery. One of my roles was managing a day of live surgery. We streamed 9 surgical cases from NY, San Francisco, Miami, Michigan, Brazil, Chile and two other locations. Some signals came down ISDN, others via the internet. Everything went through a skybridge, and there was audio and video from our location going back to each location. To be even more clever, I created roll-ins for each surgeon and location, run off DV tape. This acted not only as a nice transition but also as a place holder in case of technical difficulties. It was a fun fast day with lots of audience participation.

My other jobs at this meeting were to document the proceedings for posterity (ie, transcription, publishing articles about the proceedings and possible future on-demand webcasting)...

And drinking a lot of coffee and tea.

2009 was the year I finally traded up to a smartphone. I went with the blackberry because most of the clients and doctors I work with use this device. It has made a huge difference in productivity while traveling and even while in the office. For example, if I have a hot and heavy editing session planned, I may not even boot up the laptop (e-mail computer) and just check the berry periodically. This can save an hour or more per day. You'll note around April 2009 the quality of my blog pictures improved significantly. Still underexposed and grainy, but certainly bigger!

Sometimes (a lot) I add pictures and anecdotes about food, restaurants and eating or cooking to my blogs. What the heck does this have to do with the multimedia business? Everything. If I am fed I have energy to do my job, or I have rewarded myself for a busy productive day.

Sometimes I take my pictures to the next level and make them into useful illustrations. Here for example I was talking about preparing for a trip. Charged batteries, extra tape stock and tightened wingnuts on your equipment make a big difference.

As mentioned, several posts talk exclusively about travel. I don't go to the ends of the earth or to exotic locations (with the possible exception of Cleveland) but I have been known to go to the ends of the airport terminal for a Mocha Chip Latte!

I also used the blog to follow our entry into high definition production. What better venue for HD imaging than surgery? Of course you can get plenty of discussion about formats, editing workflow and playback issues in dozens of forums, so I'll just wow you with some imagery:

Sorry if that was gross, but this is my business!

Just thought I'd take this opportunity to mention 1" tape, for those of you keeping track at home.

All that travel also affords the opportunity to snap some quality pictures with a real camera, and sometimes I like to share those images as well - and if you're lucky, a story to go along with it.

This was a unique venue for a meeting - Jackson Hole, WY - in August.

In 2008 I attended a convention in Toronto. Since my hotel was about a mile from the convention location, I got to see some of the sights morning and night.

This week I took the train down to Philadelphia for a meeting, took the train home, then two days later went back to Philly with the gang for a meeting. Sometimes conventions are in cities with things to see and a wealth of good places to eat.

Vegas is a weird town. The Strip is full of amazing sights and some shady characters - sort of an odd mix of themes. NAB and the Bellagio fountains are two of the highlights.

Post-Katrina, New Orleans remains a popular destination for meetings and the occasional video shoot. Just stay on the main roads.

Think I'll hang this one in my office.

How many times do you find yourself in Moline, IL with a few hours to kill? Those tractors are huge.

Another good reason to carry around a proper camera. And with that, we'll let the sun set on the first 100 blogs of my blogging activities.

I appreciate all the feedback and the readers. If this is your first time on the COW, welcome. For my old friends, thanks for coming back. I look forward to coming up with new stories, anecdotes, learning experiences, recollections and images in the next 100.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 27, 2010 at 3:58:10 pmComments (6) blogs, cow, video, technology, editing, streaming, conferences, travel, food, memories

The Family Archivist

While growing up, my dad was always the guy with the SLR or the Super-8 camera. Actually he still takes the most pictures at present.

As a result, we have volumes of photo albums, boxes of 35mm slides and a couple hours of grainy color film footage, luckily transferred to VHS back in the 80's before it disintegrated.

Around 1994 I took the opportunity to follow in Pop's footsteps, and start archiving every major and minor family event. When I met my wife a year later, I was pleased to learn that my future father-in-law had also developed a lifetime collection of media.


Starting around December 1994, I had a video camera in one hand, and a stills camera in the other. These days you can shoot both with one unit, such as a D90 or D5 Mark 2 (in my dreams) or more likely a digicam and a camcorder. Lately I have been choosing one or the other. For example, in 2005 when the Christmas Pudding nearly burned the house down from too much rum and a backdraft situation, I got that on DV tape. Then I shot stills in '06 and then HDV in '07, and back to stills in '08.

Most of what I remember is based upon my view through the viewfinder. This is my general appearance at a family gathering.

I have to say, the Sony Hi8 camera I bought in 1998 was extremely durable. Old faithful!

They don't make 'em like that anymore.


From 1994 to about 2001, the best way to distribute new pictures or video was via US Mail. Certainly Grandma didn't have access to e-mail until 2005, but given slow internet speeds in the late 20th century, prints and videotapes fit the bill.

Around 2002 I secretly borrowed Dad's 35mm slides and scanned about 50% of them and gave him 3 CD-ROM discs complete with HTML photo galleries for Father's Day. Secrecy is an important part of these projects.

From about 2004 to 2008 I was making DVD compilations of the classic family films and the new events. In 2005, in honor of Grandma and Grandpa's 60th Wedding Anniversary the tour de force of family DVDs was released, featuring the best productions and film clips going all the way back to about 1974.

Back in the day, people liked being on film. These days I get a lot of shots of people covering their faces.

Now, as time rolls on and inevitable milestones that we do not look forward to have transpired, we luckily have these memories for posterity. However one must keep track of everything, and let me tell you, stuff is everywhere.

I have had numerous home computers since 1994. I make sure to back up data before retiring a PC, however there are still multiple hard drives and stacks of CD and DVD discs, not to mention boxes of photos and Hi8 tapes.

Social Networking

The evolution of social networking for family members has gone from telephone to letter writing to e-mail to limited website linking to today's best-so-far solution, Facebook.

Telephone was of course limited to voice. It was great telling someone about a trip or event, but without visuals.

Back in the early 80's when long distance was still expensive, we had a system. One ring, call Franny. Two rings, call Rita. Three or more rings, ok to pickup - could be grandma. I think we invented Caller ID!

Then of course was the signaling system. Used after a long car ride, such as from Massachusetts back to Iowa. Hit 0 for operator, and place a collect call to Buster, the dog. When Grandma said Buster wasn't available (in reality, Buster had died years ago), we would say "Operator, just tell them to tell Buster that we arrived safely" knowing that Grandma could hear us say this. This was a way to avoid paying for a 1 minute phone call. Sorry Ma Bell - you've been punk'd.

Letter writing was never much of an enjoyable activity, aside from post-cards and the odd thank you note.

Jump ahead to e-mail. With 28.8k modems, sending more than one photo at a time was out of the question, and files had better of been under 100k. This continued until AOL started allowing multiple attachments. Then came broadband, around the same time as free web photo galleries. So photo sharing became easier. However this still involved multiple websites to juggle. Still not great or easy.

Finally social networking sites were invented. I admit I hesitated before accepting my Dad's friend invite. But now that I have, along with cousins and relatives who I have never even met, it's truly one big happy family. Now one can post a picture or video, and without any effort or stamps, everyone can see it, and if they desire, comment or pass it along to their own group of friends. Brilliant.

What I am getting at, is there is now - finally after all this time - an easy way to share your memories with a large disparate group of people.

Looking Ahead

So this week I started compiling my treasures, 1994-present, not only into a more organized offline fashion, but also bit by bit into my online family network. While it gives me joy to watch my Grandpa Morris talk about working in the shipyards during WWII or how he was arrested for selling hot dogs on Coney Island, it gives me even greater joy to share that video with my uncle, who had never seen video of his father, and with my mom, dad, brother any extended family. It's not that I did not have the ability or inclination to send my uncle a copy of this video in the past, it is just so easy now that we are all connected and communicating on a daily basis.

Last week I did a Skype video chat with my mom and dad in Florida. Now that is something all of my grandparents would have loved to see. But, you are thankful for the memories you have, knowing that you are always creating new memories for the future.

Thanks for reading. Now go get those shoeboxes from the attic and get scanning!

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jul 29, 2009 at 4:50:48 pm memories, photography

Cool Beans

I admit it. I spend a lot of time on the internet.
All day it is available, though we need our bandwidth at work for uploading stuff to our client server, but at home all bets are off.

So what do I do with all this free wifi? Do I read wikipedia on the porch, sipping a mojito with the sun on my face?

Hardly. I sit in my pleather desk chair staring at my 24" HD computer monitor. Nothing like a change of pace from the office!

(speaking of leather-like materials, when I first got out of college, I found a cool bachelor pad in Naugatuck, CT. Naugatuck was made famous as the home of United States Rubber, later known as Uniroyal. As you have probably guessed, everyone's favorite fashion accessory, Naugahyde, was created there. In fact my apartment was just off of Rubber Ave. Oddly, there were a number of adult bookstores also located on Rubber Ave. I'm sure this was just a coincidence!
Another interesting note about Naugatuck was the presence of the Peter Paul factory. Up until 2007, the official town slogan was "Some times you feel like a nut, 'mounds don't" I never liked that expression.)

Ok, back to our story.

So I sit, and I stare and my eyes go fuzzy. Occasionally I find the unexpected surprise.

For example, just tonight, while reading up on the next Space Shuttle flight I discovered:

You can see the International Space Station zip by at a gajillion miles per hour on a clear night. I dutifully went outside with my binoculars, let my eyes adjust, looked 13 degrees past North and lo and behold I saw a twinkling light moving West. Then I realized this was dust on my eyeglasses. I really need to clean those more often. Then, all of a sudden, moving faster than any airplane. In the binos it was a slightly larger twinkle of light, but I know it was the station given its high rate of speed and the multi-colored world flags flapping behind it.

Speaking of the Space Shuttle, when I was in 4th grade we took our first non-Disney trip to Florida. This was the early 80's so a Space Shuttle launch was still a pretty big deal. We went to the beach, moved closer to someone who had a radio (people used to bring boom boxes to the beach) and listened to the countdown. I should mention we were in Deerfield Beach, about 200 miles south of the Cape. People were pointing in every direction at all the wrong things, when suddenly we saw the faint streak of smoke as Columbia moved up and out over the Atlantic. I dutifully snapped a picture with my 110 instamatic camera. The negative for one picture is about the size of the fingernail on your ring finger, so when we picked up our prints from Fox Photo in the Valley West Mall, all you could see was blue sky and beach. Oh well, I remember being there anyway.)

Speaking of the Space Shuttle (again) - years later while visiting one of the Orlando area attractions, I saw the Columbia launch again - this time, I'm afraid, on its final journey. Luckily I had since upgraded my 110 Instamatic to digital.

Another fascinating web diversion is the various mapping services. Satellite maps and streetview is cool, especially for planning a driving expedition in a strange city (like Naugatuck). I have discussed this before in my travel related blogs.

Here's a little video I made when Streetview was first released:

Google Earth is even cooler. I like going to, say, Disney World, where there is a full 3D version of the theme parks actually created by Disney. You can't go on the rides, but there are enough home videos on the webs if you desire a trip through Mister Toad's Wild Ride. And you save yourself $150!

The Live Maps is pretty cool also. My favorite activity is checking out all the houses I have lived in. Apologies to the current residents.

My formative years in West Des Moines. Malls. Highways. TGI Fridays. Life was good. We had previously lived in a sleepy little town in Western Massachusetts which, at the time, had no highways, no mall and a once famous restaurant called the Busy Bee.

I won't bore you with all 7 of my boyhood homes. E-mail me if you must know them all.

Although here is everyone's favorite family home, the Brady Bunch house:

Who knew it was right on the LA River?

Ok, now for the backlot tour of Cine-Med, my employer.

Here is the facade of our home office, in a serene, park like setting:

The other side of the building looks out over a pond and adjacent garden center.

Our lobby displays some awards

And our original Arri 16mm camera.

Alas, I have never shot with this, but some classic films were captured in this format. Maybe you have seen some of these:

This 2nd film is by Dr Blalock. If surgeons are Hollywood directors, he was Cecil B DeMille. Check out the movie "Something the Lord Made" for more.

Lucky for me I get to work with modern day equivalents - the Scorsese, Spielberg, DePalma, Kubrick and Fincher of surgery.

Back to our tour:

Board Room

Snack and Coffee Station

Lunch Room

Production Dept

Home Base

So, this concludes our tour of my childhood homes, a historic glimpse at the rubber and almond candy industries and of course the medical education headquarters. Please visit the gift shop on your way out and come back and see us soon.

Oh, and I nearly forgot - thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jul 10, 2009 at 8:32:40 pm maps, memories, movies

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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