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DSLR: A New Beginning

A fruitful career is filled with new opportunities for learning and improvement. Over the years I have taken still photos with a variety of point and shoot cameras, both film and digital.

A few of the book covers and many of the catalogs, brochures, videos and websites we have produced have included these images. This year we are releasing a book that is chock full of color photos. All of the images in the draft layout were video stills grabbed off a dvd we released previously. For this project we determined it was time to take our stills to the next level.

We chose the Canon EOS 7d as our DSLR camera. The stills and HD video capability appeared to be a good combination of features and benefits. The results so far have been great. The stills come out of the camera at 48" x 72" at 72ppi - plenty of resolution for printing in an 8x10" textbook. The auto focus includes a clever grid system for targeting the subject and honestly the auto exposure is a pleasure.

(note - click the images that follow for not quite the native size but pretty big)

I also spent a day shooting on auto, partial and full manual, in both bright lighting and darkened operating rooms. Once you find a setting that works in the situation, it is best to stick with it. In the dark, focus is not always what you think it is going to be so check your work often.

As for the 1080 HD video - a tripod or other stabilizing rig would be helpful. In the testing environment, which is a common setting for us, a tripod is unlikely, so a future Zacuto or other brand handgrip or shoulder mount may be in order.

The following is only a test. Please stand by for further instructions.

(please watch full screen - displaying it at small size to fit the page layout result in cropping)

For more on DSLR video, please visit the eponymous forum.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 29, 2010 at 8:44:26 pmComments (1) dslr, photography, mark ii, eos 7d, canon mark ii, canon eos

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

99 Creative COW Blogs on the wall...

When I first started this blog, I thought I would share some memorable anecdotes from my early years in the business. Like the time the Chyron blew a gasket the day before our weekly college newscast. Or the time I broke a 1" master my first day on the job. Or the time I visited Las Vegas for NAB while still in college and was taken to a show featuring scantily clad dancers by my tv professor and his buddies. Yep, I had some memorable times.

But then, once I completed my brief history of college, internships and early work experiences, I realized that I have a lot to say about my current job duties, activities, travel adventures, workflow improvements, editing and technology experiments and did i mention traveling? Oh, and eating - I do like to talk about good food - and how many other blogs feature such memorable multimedia elements as cell phone pictures of cups of coffee and gas station egg salad sandwiches?

Sometimes I go back and read some of my earlier posts and even I have learned some things. I can take a walk back in time to roughly early 2007, and see a pretty accurate rendition of what I was up to professionally, personally and emotionally. I even recounted the losses of my dear grandparents Hilda and Izz, whose influence made me the person I am today.

Sometimes I have talked about technology for the sake of technology. But most of the time I try to relate my tools to my methods and my methods to my madness. Do all of my posts about travel mean I dislike travel? On the contrary...interstate travel has always been a part of my job. Video shoots and conventions take place where the business is - getting there is half the fun. The other half of the fun is doing the work. Is standing at a tradeshow booth in dress shoes for 8 hours fun? You decide...Spending those 8 hours talking to surgeons about the products I help to create, getting feedback from satisfied customers and selling our products to new customers is...priceless! Watching my work projected in front of 1000+ people in an aircraft hangar sized auditorium is something to remember.

At one particular meeting, a military surgeon came to our booth to compliment the usefulness of our textbook on penetrating trauma. He took it with him to Iraq as a reference to help him save the lives of both soldiers and civilians injured by IED's and gunfire. Those countless hours sitting around a conference table editing the text with the other members of our team seemed very worthwhile.

As we started shooting in HDV and various flavors of mp4, I have documented the learning curves to hopefully help others flying by the seats of their pants, and for posterity.

There are other experiences I do not, or can not blog about. Proprietary information or experiences to a client or work-in-progress of course have no place in a public forum. During these projects I spend less time on the COW, only monitoring interesting forum threads and occasionally chiming in where I can. But all experiences feed the collective treasure trove of knowledge, training and brain food that I hope to impart to the world when I can. The form of future information sharing may be text, video, audio or some medium not yet invented.

To the folks out there who have read my blog posts, articles and forum posts - thanks for reading. If you have given feedback, thanks again. But I'm not in this for recognition. I am trying to give something back to a community that has given me a lot of valuable information both earlier in my career and up to the present. Paying it forward is the theme around here. Never stop learning and growing.

If you haven't read some of the earlier posts on the COW Blogs, take one down, pass it around...

Thanks for the opportunity to share a little bit of my world with the wider World.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 25, 2010 at 7:37:49 pmComments (1) blogs creative cow

Site Survey

Occasionally I get a chance to visit a location before the actual shoot date. In the case of a surgery, this is not really necessary - in fact usually the legwork that goes into getting clearance is best done off-site. It is not uncommon to need to get a TB test or proof of your measles mumps and rubella vaccine from 20+ years ago.

But for locations, such as hospitals in this case, where we will have specific facility requirements, a visit and meet and greet can make a big difference.

What's that you say? Aren't all hospitals the same? Not on your life.

Today's visit was to a fairly new hospital with operating rooms less than 1 week old. Newer usually means bigger rooms, newer equipment and organized layout. Given our usual shot lists, this can have a definite impact on success.

We viewed the different patient care and instrument processing areas, met some of the staff and department managers, and reviewed a tentative schedule including locations, times and personnel required.

I took along a Canon AVCHD camera just to grab a few shots of key areas, to help brainstorm our shot lists as we approach the shoot date.

This site visit followed an annual strategy meeting with one of our clients.

And getting here was half the fun.

Thanks for watching.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 15, 2010 at 6:01:27 pm site survey planning travel

Creative Management

Or perhaps, Creativity management. I have blogged a good deal about Project Management, but not much or at all about Creative Management, ie, the job of being a Creative Director and/or Department Manager. What's there to talk about? Let's see...

Being a department head, whether that means it is you and another person, or you and a half dozen folks, or you and many other people, means being organized enough to manage your own work, keep everyone else on task without micromanaging, and doing so in a way that emphasizes quality, efficiency and creativity. In addition, if you are Creative and Group manager, you also have a stake (or total control) over the creative direction of projects.

That can be a big adjustment for a new hire, or like me, someone promoted from within. But like most jobs, you start with the fundamental skills and knowledge, and then you learn as you go, you use your mentors and you get better. If you have good people working for you, you can then use collaborative ways to enhance your own creativity. Letting others have a hand in the process creates ownership of projects and leads to a more cohesive group. A cohesive group should be able to efficiently turn out quality creative work, on time and on budget. Everyone wins by working together.

But everyone will only work together if you, the Creative Manager, can find a way to manage creatives (people), manage creative (ideas / project designs) and processes in a creative and logical way. You must be organized, confident and prepared for anything.

Just a little creative management philosophy for your consideration.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 7, 2010 at 5:16:39 pm creative management

2010: The Year We Make Contact

Back in 1985, when the above titled movie was released, I excitedly asked to be taken to see it. Although I barely understood 2001, it was science fiction starring the star of Blue Thunder and Jaws.

Well here we are in the actual 2010, there are no deep space missions afoot, and the Soviet Union is long gone (or is it?). So reality is not quite as exciting as the movie (or is it?).

So while the HAL 9000 does not make any day to day decisions for us, it seemed like a good time to start upgrading some of our editing gear. First step is the addition of the much-hyped Matrox MXO2-mini. I should say that most of the hype surrounds using the mini with Final Cut, but little has been described about using it on a PC with Premiere. After getting a few snippets of information on the COW Premiere and Matrox forums, I decided to go for it. The price point is right. Concurrent with this new piece of hardware, we upgraded my machine to Windows 7 and an i7 processor. Here are the results so far:

First off, Roy Scheider would be happy because my desk is starting to look like the inside of the Leonov:

The new deep space transport's central computer is an i7 processor with 8 gigs of RAM, Windows 7 Professional, a new NVIDIA graphics card and for good measure the new Matrox MXO2-mini. We went with the non-MAX version. The i7 chip does a nice job rendering h264, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our shooting habit includes both HDV, standard DV, standard DVCPRO, and now AVCHD Canon camcorder for the odd pickup shot or reference shot) and h.264 (EOS 7D DSLR). Granted, one can import all of these formats natively into CS4 for somewhat real time playback on the same sequence. But you are limited to monitoring on the LCD computer monitor. Monitoring HDV this way actually looks good, but you lose a monitor for your editing interface.

The Matrox unit gives you simultaneous HDMI and Component or S-Video analog output.

So now one can see what the edited sequence will look like on an actual HD monitor, or analog monitor as the case may be. Not pictured above is the existing Sony 13" Analog CRT (Component or S-Video inputs). So we can account for viewers of any format.

So I thought I'd test playback in a testing situation, not an actual edit, just for the sake of, er, testing.

First off, the MXO2-mini, like the full MXO, is meant to capture into the native MXO format - in the case of CS4 on a PC that is the Matrox I-Frame codec, or the Matrox uncompressed format. However I wanted to see how my legacy formats would perform, using the MXO2-mini as a monitoring interface. Granted it is no Kona card, so I was not expecting a miracle, but here are the results (all playback from internal drive, not RAID - not yet):

EOS 7d files

Playback in the preview viewer is real time, little stuttering. This is probably a combination of the i7 and the Nvidia card.

Playback on a sequence in full HD, out the HDMI is sharp, crisp and near real time - some stuttering. Rendering the sequence results in a more perfect result. My boss walked by and said "that looks nice."

h.264 files

I had immediately available a previously created h.264 file, made for the web (Vimeo perhaps) so it was 720p. Playing at its native size on the 1080i sequence, as expected, it was its native size.

Scaled to frame size, playback remained smooth, and the scaled image did not look too bad, taking into account the existing compression data rate.

DV files

The MXO2-mini on a PC does not yet offer upscaling upon capture, so the only options for DV material are to scale to frame size on the sequence. Again, native:


Results are as expected, but at least you can see in real time what the end result will look like on an actual video monitor.

A full render of the sequence will give a proper preview. And you can turn off the HDMI monitoring and edit as usual on the LCD computer monitor, and then activate the HDMI when you want to check something. Workflow may vary by project.

The other advantages of the MXO2 are the ability to monitor After Effects, Photoshop and Encore, also over the HDMI output. Although those tests will be in the next entry, 2061: Odyssey Three.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to investigate reports of a black spot on Jupiter. Open the pod bay door, HAL.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 6, 2010 at 5:08:47 amComments (3) mxo2mini cs4 windows 7 hd 7d

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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