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Live Blog - Books and Videos and Planes..Oh My!

Live blogging seems to come and go. We saw it a lot during the 2008 election season - now Tweeting seems to have supplanted live blogging. And soon Tweeting will be replaced by some new made up verb. Perhaps the forthcoming Yiddish social networking service will introduce the world to Shpulking - you have as many words as you want but your mother has to approve whatever you say!

Ok seriously, this will be a photo-based live blog. I often do a photo-based tape-delay blog, so this is something slightly new. I can't actually post to the blog by smartphone, so daily updates will have to suffice. And speaking of smart phones - my phone's camera is only as smart as 2009 would allow so the pictures are intentionally grainy.


Yesterday, I packed up what I needed from my office for the days ahead (I won't spoil the fun by revealing all my cards) - video camera, DSLR, laptop, desktop computer and a selection of hard drives.

This year I have been doing more gardening than the recent past.

I enjoy driving up to the house and seeing a colorful front garden

and I am also attempting to grow some basic container vegetables too on the back porch. The cherry tomatoes are starting to arrive! Lettuce and basil are going strong too.


Woke up early to get going on my to do list. Sure weekends are supposed to be for relaxing, but some weekends you need to get some work done, especially if days out of the office are a possibility.

First I finished editing some orthopedic surgery video. Tough to shoot if the surgeons are wearing those big space helmets, but the stuff that looks good looks really good.

Mid-day I took a break to go to the vet for some cat medications, then hit the library and a big box store on the way home. Picked up some fresh cod for dinner.

Back to the edit bay/living room - finish the shoulder replacement and render out WMV files to post to our client review website. Gone are the days of racing to FedEx for the 7pm cutoff.

Next task is to burn 8 DVD's, authored earlier in the week and saved out to ISO files from Encore. A variety of edited surgical cases for use later in this blog - maybe.

Testing on both the computer and a standalone DVD player is important - you never know when and where these might be used.

Last assignment of the day - edit an interview between a surgeon and a patient - about the experience, decision-making process and result. This is becoming more common for promotion of a surgeon's practice. In this case, it is purely educational.

Next I prepared dinner - cod wrapped around crabmeat stuffing, topped with crab claw meat, lemon juice and white wine. 40 minutes at 375 and we had a nice treat. We don't eat like this every day, but once in a while we pull out the stops! (camera phone pictures of food never look good - sorry)

Final step of the day is to write this blog.

Next stop - Tomorrow - see you then....

...time passes....(Zork reference)

Three Days Later

So much for this live blogging idea - one must have access to the internet and an energy level to go with it.

So I left off on Day One - the prep work.

Day 2

Flying somewhere on a Sunday is a mixed bag - you don't want to spend all day away from home, but if you are checking luggage that you can't live without, then you don't want to give United Airlines an opportunity to lose something. They love those opportunities - love em!
Well this trip is mostly me and my carry-ons, so I flew out of Hartford at 5:30pm - direct to Chicago. Met up with my colleague, our on-staff medical illustrator, who I do not see very often. We had a nice dinner at PF Changs to catch up and strategize for our meeting.

Day 3 - The Meeting

We have a series of surgical books we are producing - a book with accompanying interactive Flash disc with all the surgical videos, narration and illustrations. This project has about 100 original images all about pancreatic surgery. So we had an 8 hour marathon session with the book editors to review every image and note changes to be made for the final draft.
Next steps after that are the final layout, proofreader, then send to press, review the "galleys" which are not old-school galleys but rather a digital printing at print size with bleed, but we still call them galleys. Then the actual printing.

Oh my.

Meeting broke at 3 - cab to O'Hare which was rather deserted compared to later in the day. Stocked up on food for the flight to Vegas.

...hours later (took off 1 hour late)....

Arrived in Vegas to learn that NAB was in APRIL!!! Yikes.

Ok just kidding. After the very long wait for luggage and equally long wait for a cab, I checked into the hotel, got a nice upgrade thanks to some nice person somewhere, and met up with fellow Creative COW Steve Wargo for a late dinner and drinks at the Harley Davidson restaurant.

Steve and his crew had arrived before me to setup in a suite, and they actually did some interviewing before I even landed.

This gets me back to a point I made in my previous post about working with freelancers. If you have something critical that needs to be done at a location away from your home base, don't just trust anyone you find on Google. Remember what Forrest Gump says about boxed confections. But I know I can trust a crew with whom I have worked before to do the work that needs to be done, even if I am not there yet.

Steve, feel free to chime in.

Well that's the short version. The long version to come...

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 19, 2010 at 10:40:07 pmComments (1) workflow, GTD, teamwork

A Photo Blog

On this week's journey, I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Well, perhaps a bit of commentary to tie it all together.

The title card is from the Philly Airport. I had just enough time between flights to grab a bag full of food for the 4 hour trip out to Denver. I ate it all, and got a lot of work done on the plane. Sometimes I think I should install an airplane seat at my desk!

Let's backup a bit. The planning for this trip was interspersed with another time consuming project. I suspected there might be some last minute work to do before leaving town, so I packed my bag days in advance.

As predicted, the night before the flight, I had a request to help create a powerpoint presentation matching the design of the video graphics, and including some video clips from the edit. To avoid a late night in the office I decided to take the computer home and do the rendering at night while I did some other chores to prepare my wife for a few days alone:

Clean dishes to eat...

...a pasta casserole with vodka sauce, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and Kalamata olives.

Media Encoder seems to move slowly when a deadline is looming. The files finished at 11pm. I set the FTP upload going and went to bed. When I woke up at 3am, the files were ready and i could email my client.
No time for breakfast, gotta hit the road.

One nice thing about such an early flight is I can get to the airport in less than 45 minutes, security is a breeze and the terminal is deserted.

I have to admit I was a bit bleary eyed.

You know it is an early flight when the sun is just rising while making your connection.

I spent the flight primarily reviewing the detailed shot lists prepared by my colleague. being familiar with the shots and formulating questions for our contacts on the ground would be helpful in the meeting scheduled a few hours after landing.

Back in the Denver airport, underground to the choo-choo, luggage, pickup curbside by another co-worker already in town, and to the hospital for pre-production.

After a long flight, airport food, car ride, meeting and running on vapors, we all decided to get grocery store food and dine in our rooms. But we were not done yet. After getting the gear charging and self-nourishing, it was time for a final planning session, going shot by shot, deciding upon the schedule and division of labor. Teamwork is vital.

Next morning, get to hospital, change into scrub attire and get setup. Specifics of the shoot are, as in many cases, proprietary and not able to be discussed in detail. However it is the teamwork and the process that is important to talk about here.

Lunch break arrived around 1:30pm for me. The break room had one of those automated coffee machines - you select decaf or diesel, mocha or regular, small or large and hit GO!

Back to work. The afternoon was spent getting a lot of stills with the 7d and various action shots in and around the OR. Follow the shot list, work the system, get your shots, think on the fly, stay motivated, think creatively, give directions, explain things, show peole what you need and make your moves.

Finally at 5pm it is a wrap for the day. It's a weekend, people have plans. Our plans are to find a restaurant, eat, maybe see some daylight, and have another planning session to make sure we get what we need on the final day.

Here are a few interesting shots from the day.

Overall, despite the earlier hours, cheap coffee and dry air, a satisfying way to spend the weekend. The material captured over two days will help to complete several important projects over the coming weeks. For now, thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 6, 2010 at 9:09:21 pm travel, production, planning, teamwork

MBWA: Managing By Walking Around

In this entry I'll take you on my daily walk around the office. Maybe you'll pick up some business advice along the way.

8am - finish breakfast, feed the cats, make some ham sandwiches and make my wife a hot cocoa. Hey, it's getting chilly. Managing the home is just as important as managing my work responsibilities. Looking after my family is the most important task of all.

8:30am - Knowing Waterbury, CT I'm stuck in traffic. In the 1960's a huge interchange between I84 and Rt 8, colloquially known as the Mixmaster, was built. Almost instantly, gridlock was the result. A 100 million dollar highway widening project a few years ago appears to have done nothing to ease congestion - in fact it may have made it worse. A big local scandal emerged after they completed the work. It seems the contractor bought after market storm drains and did not actually attach the drains to underground concrete pipes in some cases. So the work had to be redone at great expense to the state.

8:45am - arrive in the office. Boot up the laptop. Since I am a blackberry-addict, there are few surprises in the inbox anymore - actually more efficient because I spend exactly no time doing e-mail in the morning. Check voice mail. I don't get too much voicemail anymore, but occasionally. Maybe I will add my e-mail address to my outgoing message. Anything to help customers get in contact seems like a good move. Next stop the coffee machine. Those little plastic cup single portions are a great invention. I keep a fresh half and half carton in the fridge. It has become a nice routine, and it gets me out of the office early in the day. The only good line from Indiana Jones IV was when Indy said to a student, "If you wanna be a good archaeologist, you've gotta get out of the library."

So after the coffee brews I take my morning walk around. Say hello to everyone you know - you never know who might need help with something.

Customer Service - a chat with our customer service person updates me as to any concerns or requests of our customers. That is, people who buy our products. Unlike a traditional production company, we have a catalog of nearly 2,000 products. Direct mail, e-marketing and website e-commerce generate a dozen or more unique product orders each day. Sometimes the requests are for particular new topics, sometimes a request to host a video on an intranet. Other requests are tech support related or requests for a free trial of the video library. In other words, find out what customers are asking about, and try to respond with a solution. In other words, customer service!

Marketing - Next door down, we discuss marketing plans that may be afoot. We have been managing e-mail lists for our different product lines, made up of past customers and folks who sign up via our website or at events or tradeshows. The best part about a new e-mail campaign is viewing the open and click results. We can actually see who clicked a link, and then check that against the orders database to see who made a purchase. A qualified lead who actually completes a transaction is a beautiful thing. While there perhaps I can contribute some copy to a new catalog, postcard or website description, identify stock photos for an ad or get in touch with a publication about advertising. Think the Creative COW Magazine would run an ad for surgical videos? Probably should stick with medical publications.

Speaking of publications, next on to Publications - I have a couple of book projects on the fire, but our in-house expert always has some good advice concerning workflow and the press schedule, paper choices and pricing. Our designers work very well independently, but constant communication and attention to detail are vital. All work in progress is posted to various secure servers. In summary, seek advice and input from people who have a different set of skills and knowledge than you do. Teamwork is not only about like minded people working together, but it is also people with different backgrounds helping one another accomplish their goals.

Operations - Here I can check if my vendors' invoices have been paid or more importantly if our invoices have gotten paid! Submitting timely expense reports helps keep records orderly. And when it comes time for employee performance reviews, make sure a copy goes in the file.

Administrative Assistant - I try to have a fresh list of tasks every week. Writing letters, managing mailing lists, transcription of videos and even some basic html layout work are all great tasks for a good admin. Train your assistant to do many of the tasks which keep you from doing what you do best - creating. It is also a good idea to share your travel schedule, as this person may be answering the phone and taking messages. Finally, if you are expecting a call from someone important and you tend to not be at your desk much, make sure someone is on the lookout for you.

Meeting Planning - This is an aspect of our business that often comes as a surprise to people who only know of us as a publisher or production company. But planning and accreditation of medical meetings is a lot of work and we like to think we do it well. Each meeting has a registration website. There is reporting and detailed record keeping. The meeting location needs to be secured, blocks of hotel rooms reserved and catering to order. Participants in the meeting may sometimes be given continuing education credits - there is a whole system of record keeping for this as well. My role in these efforts may range from helping to design a website, basic database maintenance, to serving as AV support during the meeting itself and sometimes even shooting video of the proceedings, or editing a DVD after the fact.

Order Fulfillment - I started in this position right out of college. At the time we basically sold VHS tapes and the occasional monograph. Today, the previously mentioned catalog of DVD and CD-ROM products, along with over 15 textbooks and numerous specialty packages need to be processed each day. Digitizing and rendering along with DVD authoring and package design also happens here. While most of the library is already digitized, one can also find the DVCPRO tapes, or in another undisclosed location, the original 1", Betacam or 3/4" master tapes. Really, order fulfillment is one of the key roles - get the customers what they have purchased in a timely manner, and ensure quality every step of the way.

Back to the Production Department - since I know what each person is working on, my job here is to review works in progress, make suggestions, record temp voice tracks and troubleshoot as requested. But a tenet of lean project teams is "hire good people and let them do their jobs." This frees me up to go back to my office and do my job, which is a lot of coordination, project management, planning and helping others to do their jobs even better.


In other words, customer service. I am not so much managing all of the people with whom I interact. Rather, I am managing my own workflow, and managing to help others with theirs.

11:15am - I don't know about you, but I could go for another cup of Fair Trade Organic Decaf with a splash of cream and some cocoa powder sprinkled on top. You never know who you're going to run into in the break room.

Thanks for walking around.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Nov 6, 2009 at 7:59:01 pm managing, teamwork

A Project Management Poem

'Twas a week before deadline,
And all through the office,
Desk jockeys are working,
To add that last bit of polish.

Whiteboards are filled to the edges with tasks,
And hard drives are spinning fast.
From office to office computers are buzzing,
The i7 and quad core renders are mind numbing.

With K-cups dripping and snack products stocked,
The workflow is humming and may never stop.
But as time ticks past like blank discs from a spindle,
Day after day the punch list will dwindle.

A hundred and fifty mpeg2 files await,
On a hard drive destined for arrivals late.
All will be sent like the end of a race,
And projected on screens around McCormick Place.

Some videos arrived on the formats requested,
But a few were in flavors not even suggested.
Come DIVX, and Quicktime and h-264,
1080, 720 and soon many more.

But in the end the flavor matters not,
For a video is a video and it's all about plot.

The pallet it fills with boxes and crates,
New products are shipping and books that we make,
Are due from the printer in time for the truck,
To take our dear cargo on the road with some luck,
When arrived in Chicago our goods will be waiting,
For 5 days of sales, promotion and celebrating.

Yes, it is time for our annual surgical convention. Most important of all is great teamwork that makes everything come together like poetry.

Thanks for rhyming.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Sep 25, 2009 at 12:05:26 pm poetry, teamwork

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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