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Live Blog (tape delay) June 2009

Live blogging is fun, but kind of hard to do when you are going 60 miles per hour or in a moving vehicle. So I took detailed mental notes instead. I will try to get that same stream of consciousness language that is all the rage in the blogosphere.

Tuesday - 12:30am (Wednesday technically)

Although I have to get to work early tomorrow, I nevertheless stayed up to my usual lights out time. Tonight I was working on a budget for a future shoot. Rent something 6 times and you might as well buy it, I say, I hope. This is true for camcorders under a certain price anyway, not so much for BMW's. Too bad.

With this done, I e-mailed the Excel to myself and hit the sack.

Wednesday - 6:00am

See my previous post to see my odd waking procedure...Got it? Great.

I manage to roll out of bed at 7am, feed the cats, shower shave etc. No time for breakfast, so I grab a promotional box of raisin bran I got in the mail and a bowl of pasta from the fridge, leave my wife a note and bail. My car is a mess, inside and out. It has been raining in CT since last November, so there is plenty of mud and grime on the car. Luckily Saturns are plastic so it will never rust. The inside, while I cleaned it over the weekend, still contains lots of trash.

Who cares, right? It's a live blog. Not everything is meaningful. This reminds me of college. I was a DJ at WSAM, the carrier current AM station on campus - I think we had 1 watt. I got an award for talking too much. About nothing. Also I played a lot of Van Halen, when I was supposed to be playing songs by then unheard of bands like Phish, Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler.

Hey you wanted stream of consciousness.

Back to our story...


Stopped for gas then fired up the iPod and hit the road. One advantage of going in early is the lack of traffic in the Waterbury, CT madness. Here's an image of our local interchange, the "mixmaster.",+ct&ie=UT...

Speaking of a mess, I realize I have the old timey version of the iPod, but it is really difficult to navigate songs while driving without an abrupt meeting with a guardrail. So I try to make a playlist. This week I am listening to new episodes of the Bowery Boys, NY City History podcast; TED Talks; and of course the latest episode of Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me. One of these days I WILL get Carl Cassel's voice on my home answering machine.


Pulled up to the the fun begins.

The reason I intended to go to bed early last night was because I have an appointment at 2pm to demonstrate a DVD. Yesterday I made all the DVD menus, imported them into Adobe Encore 1.5 on my laptop. While CS4 is a great improvement, 1.5 is pretty stable...and portable. More on this later.


With fresh cup of coffee in hand, I fire up three computers:

1. Laptop. Open Encore and Photoshop. Import pre-made animations (rendered to MPG2 yesterday)
2. Edit station in my office. Start capturing a DVCAM tape needed for an ongoing edit that our PA is working on this week, so it is ready when he arrives later on.
3. Edit station in another office. My colleague had done the initial final edit yesterday, pending my review and tweaks. I sat down to review and tweak.


My, where did the time go? I have been reviewing the edit, making slight adjustments as I go. As an experiment, I export one sequence to MPEG2, just to see how long it will take later in the morning. It took about a minute, so that is good news, as there are 14 sequences going into this not-yet-authored DVD project.


Email from my client - can I move our meeting up to 2pm from 2:30? Of course.


Darn. I needed that extra half hour.


Editing seems to be done. The original footage for this project is a combination of HDV 1080i and SD 4:3 DV. Options for the final edit are either HDV 1080i, but then the DV looks bad, or 16:9 SD DV, so the 1080i shots are full screen and the 720x480 4:3 SD DV is centered over black or in any number of split screen positions, or 4:3 SD DV with the 1080 footage letterboxed and the SD footage full screen. You never know what type of monitor the end user will use, so you pick the lowest common denominator, which is usually SD DV 4:3. Even though you can do 16:9 SD DV and know that the MPEG2 will play back correctly off the DVD, not all DVD players are setup correctly for 16:9 televisions.
For this project, for now, it is 4:3 SD DV, however I may switch to 16:9 SD DV for the final edit, once I know if the end user will be using 16:9-ish computer screens.

Setup Media Encoder with all sequences and hit Start.


Darn - forgot to eat breakfast. Oh well, it will have to wait.

Sat down at laptop, and started setting up the DVD navigation. With a complex project, it helps to have either a diagram, flowchart or a good memory. I find that if I logically name my DVD menus in advance, this becomes flow-charty by its nature.

A DVD project has a sequence - how you perform this sequence is up to you, but make sure you do everything:

Turn text or button objects into buttons. I find it easier to make text as text and buttons as objects in Photoshop, then convert to a button in Encore, which automatically adds the (+) symbols in the layer sets.

Check the button navigation - remember not everyone uses a mouse. Also add extra button areas so the user does not have to click the text precisely.

Assign button links - either to other menus or to timelines. Since most of the MPEG2 files are rendering, I can setup the menu navigation and the limited animations which are timelines.

Set timeline end actions. I like the end action to return to the last menu. Or if ambitious, to return to the next option on the main menu - lead the navigation.

Set menu color set colors and the color set used on each menu.


Ok, got the new MPEG2 files from Media Encoder in the other room. Transfer over the network to the laptop. I keep a shared folder called INBOX where everything goes, then move it as needed once you have the files.

Import the new files into Encore then make timelines for all, set end actions and link everything up.


Navigation, links and testing complete. Given the rainy weather and typical traffic on the Merritt Turnpike, I need to get outta here. Still need to export an ISO file burn and test the DVD. What to do...


The reason I put this project on the laptop is because I knew this would come down to the wire. I grabbed the mouse, mousepad, power supply and threw these and some blank DVD-R discs in plastic clamshell cases into my satchel, left the laptop running and took everything to the car. I set Encore to compile the ISO file and hit the road.

The ISO actually finished in about 10 minutes. I pulled over (you think an iPod is dangerous in the car - try a laptop) and shut down. Burning can wait.


Stopped at the mini mart for coffee and I have to get some food. Of course this is the one mini mart in America that does not sell prepackaged sandwiches. I wound up with a cookie dough flavored energy bar. I see why this particular mini mart is always surrounded by kids on BMX bikes. Note to self, add BMX Bandits to Netflix Queue. Nicole Kidman was a cute teenager.


Got on Rt 8, next stop Merritt.


Merritt Pkwy - right on schedule...for now. Suddenly the sky opened and traffic ground to a halt. Note to self, pick up some gopher wood on the way home.


The traffic and rain over, I arrived at my destination, checked in, got an ID badge and went to my client's office. Fired up the laptop to burn the DVD. Meanwhile they showed me the all-in-one PC/Touch Screen they are evaluating for this project. I knew this was a possibility, so I intentionally made the DVD menu buttons big enough to use your finger.

Disc burned, inserted into touch screen, and all is good.


Meeting complete, time to get back onto the slip and, for the ride home. There was a tree down so once again it was a parking lot.

Whenever I leave the office, some secret Bat signal must get illuminated, because suddenly I get a lot of phone calls and e-mails. Well if you think an iPod and a Laptop are difficult to use while driving, a Blackberry is even worse. Even dialing the phone is a challenge if you are not using a speed dial button.

This made me think of the Operating Room. Many OR's now have voice controlled functions for such things as CO2 pressure, light illumination, camera position and even iPod controls (seriously). Why can't cars have some kind of head-up display with voice activation? We must have the technology.

One day perhaps.

Speaking of one day, one day I made this video of driving through Waterbury and up Rt 8 into the Lichtfield hills. Exciting isn't it.


Arrive home safe and sound. Oh yeah, the dishes. At least I unplugged the toaster this morning...oh wait, i didn't have breakfast. Which reminds me I am hungry. What ever shall I eat?

How about some pasta with clam sauce. I think this calls for another grainy home video, don't you? Sometimes non-HD, point and shoot poorly exposed video of our pets is just what the doctor ordered.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 24, 2009 at 6:57:45 pm travl, dvd, authoring, encore

Video Grab Bag

Recently I was asked to make a video loop to play on the hotel television system during this week's convention. No problem, I had already begun receiving videos. The format requirements were simple: DV tape, DVCAM tape or authored DVD.


In reality, I received videos in the following formats: DV tape, Authored DVD, Windows Media, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, H.264, DIVX - all the usual suspects.

In most cases this is not a problem, Premiere Pro 2.0 will import just about every format. A few files had to be converted to another format due to the wrong audio frequency (32 vs 48k). Two videos came in without their audio, so i used Squueze to convert the original file to an MP3,import the MP3 and line it up on the timeline.


Next problem, the videos in a non-720x480 format, about half of them, cannot be stretched to full screen without losing image quality, which in effect would make the authors look bad. So I decided to make the project 16:9. I used a Jumpback from Digital Juice as the background, took the name of the medical society and put this on the left and right sides of the screen ESPN style, and then depending upon the size of the videos centered the image at whatever the maximum size possible for each file. Not too bad, makes it look like it is supposed to be shrunken. Compared to the 720x480 and even the 640x480- videos, the smaller ones don't look so small, because everything is part of a larger display.


After every two author videos is a brief promo clip from the sponsor. Their production group edited the promo in HD, so I asked them for an anamorphic 16:9 DVCAM tape, which imported into the Premiere 16:9 SD project. With the clip conformed to 16:9 it filled the frame perfectly.


On the hotel system, the DVD player feeding the cable system correctly letterboxes the DVD.

On the Plasma screens scattered around the hotel, the standalone DVD players correctly play the DVD anamorphic.


So the learning point here, is given a mixed grab bag of video formats, one can make it look appropriate, make each author look as good as possible and serve more than one display scenario with one project.

Now if I could just find my room key!

Thanks for reading.


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 13, 2008 at 7:55:44 am editing, premiere, encore, dvd

Go Fast Productions

No, that's not the name of a new company - but it sounds good actually.

I actually was thinking of the term "go fast boats" as used in the Miami Vice movie(it has been on HBO in a loop). Basically fast racing boats used for smuggling.

This week was a go fast production week.

Monday - Pack my gear, print Google maps of two hospitals and a client's offices in Massachusetts. Fuel up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster (Saturn ION) for a mere $30, and hit the road. I also hit the library to stock up on books for my wife and hit the supermarket to get her some provisions.

Lately my best friend has been a thermos bottle. I brew some coffee using a French Press, add a few spoonfulls of hot cocoa powder and little milk to the thermos bottle, then fill it up with the brew. This stays hot and comforting all day long. I pull over at every rest stop, or about every half hour, and have a small cup using the screw on lid from the bottle. By doing so, I guarantee that I need to stop at every rest stop for obvious reasons.


First stop Brockton Hospital to visit my dear Grandpa Izzy. After an hour or so of visiting, I hit the road for Burlington, MA. Checked into my hotel, a Candlewood Suites. I specifically chose this hotel because it offers a microwave, fridge, stove and even a dishwasher. Although only staying for two days, it is much more enjoyable to me to have breakfast in my room. The hotel has a little food pantry with non-hotel prices for cold cereal, milk, muffins, cookies, cans of soup, juices and the like.

Tuesday - Meet client at a local hospital at 7:30am, get changed into scrubs, get to the OR, setup my gear, plug my DV recorder into the video laparoscope, test the recording, then go to the cafeteria for some toast and mediocre coffee, then back to the OR for the case. Lately I have been shooting surgery with 2 cameras - one overhead, one on sticks.

After the case, I packed up my gear and went back to my hotel to check e-mail, make some phone calls and grab a sandwich. Then I headed back to Brockton to see Izzy for a few more hours and help move him to a nursing home for a (hopefully) temporary stay.

Next day was up to the client's offices for some tabletop product shots, lunch, and some more shooting and brainstorming.

Wed evening I drove back to CT, with a few stops for bad gas station coffee (I may need to start traveling with my French Press and a 12 volt water kettle for the car) and a stop at Trader Joe's for some raspberry jam and gluten free pasta. Got home, not really hungry, I watched this week's episode of New Amsterdam and part 3 of the fantastic John Adams miniseries. Check it out.

Thursday AM - Fire up the trusty laptop, plug in a USB hard drive with 300 gigs free, and capture all my raw footage from this week. While the tapes were loading, I did some more e-mails and did the dishes. Got to the office around 12:45pm and spent the rest of the day on correspondence for other projects, and started chopping up my video from this week. Oh, I also had a conference call at 7:30am!

Thursday evening at home, with the rough narration and script in hand, i cut the first edit of the promo, finishing around 11pm. I rendered an AVI out of Premiere, then used Squeeze to make a WMV file(scaled down slightly from native size - this project is 16:9 SD), uploaded that to our web server for the client to download and shut off the computer around 12:45am.

Friday AM - got to office around 10:30am - more correspondence and followup on other projects, reviewed some DVDs from a colleague, checked the progress on a 2500 DVD in-house duplication project (slow going) and then started preparing some digital stills and graphics for the next edit of the promo. Got home at 5:30pm, watched 2 episodes of Gene Simmon's Family Jewels then fired up the computer for hopefully the final edit of the promo. Final narration from the narrator arrived, new music requested, and some new graphics. Finished at midnight, plus the WMV render got me to bed around 1am.

Now it is Saturday at 9:50am, and I write this blog post while awaiting final edits, so I can make a DVD loop and get to FedEx by 4pm. It is about a 20 minute drive based upon prevailing traffic conditions and weather, so I need to burn the DVD no later than 2:30pm. Presumably i could take the laptop to go and finish burning as I drive, but that's pushing it.

Tonight, as mentioned in my previous post, is the 15 year reunion for my college tv station. Then the rest of this week I get to not drive anywhere besides the office. Joy!

Thanks for reading.


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Mar 29, 2008 at 7:10:14 am editing, encore, premiere, travel, driving, stress

It has been 3 months since my last post

Hi. My name is Mike. It has been 3 months since my last blog post.

All: Hi Mike.

I have missed all aspects of the COW. I receive my Business and Marketing forum e-mails, but frankly have had little time to read these, or browse the forums or the blogs.

Well, dammit, I pledge to find the time. Here is a little review of what has happened these past 3 months, and why I have strayed from the COW's fertile pastures.

Ooh, that last sentence may have come from a Mike Huckabee speech!


Early October 2007

With the looming medical convention in New Orleans I have these key projects to finish:

1. Planning for live surgery event Oct 25. Drive to NY to check out the Florence Henderson Theater. Actually it is the Florence Gould Hall, although sometimes it is referred to as the Elliot Gould Theater. Contract with a prominent video conferencing service for lots of clams as Fred Flintstone would say.

2. Wrap up DVD on colon surgery. A hand drawn flowchart saves the day. Encore 2.0 lets you view the project like a flowchart, however I have never gotten Encore 2.0 to successfully build a project without an error, and in some cases the project file becomes corrupt altogether. So using Encore 1.5, a roadmap is the key to avoiding confusion.

It is at this point that I start wearing a hat to work every day, due to the incongrous patches of baldness thanks to the above project.

Oh well, it was a learning experience.

2. Next project is, get this, a DVD on colon surgery. This one is a bit more complicated, as each of 25 surgeons has his or her own chapter, including a Flash interface, video, narration, illustrations and a companion printed book.

Mid-October - Medical Convention, New Orleans

I had not been to NOLA since 2004. The convention center and tourist district are largely unchanged. During the taxi ride form the airport we see a lot of homes with tarps on the roof, and the French Quarter has many many abandoned homes and businesses.

The Loew's hotel however is quite nice, with one of the nicest indoor pools I have seen in a hotel.

A Few Representative Pics from this trip:




My last day there while walking around the French quarter, I called to check on my grandma Hilda. News is, she isn't going to make it. Her first words upon learning this, "Mike is going to miss talking to me." 36 hours later she was gone.

Over the New Year's holiday I started going through my home video collection, cataloguing all my videos of my Grandma Hilda. I feel so lucky that she permitted me to interview her on camera several times over the past 10 years. I recommend doing this with anyone you care about and will miss when they are gone.

Late October, 2007

Time for our big live surgery event. Four hospitals in NY transmitting live cases to the Florence Griffiths Joyner-Kersee Gould Henderson Hall. I find this funny. Two hospitals had full iSDN connections, two had only marginal IP bandwidth available. The ISDN feeds looked good, the IP not so good. We filled the time with some pre-recorded HD surgery. We rented a Panasonic PT-DW10000U HD projector and some XDCAM decks. Of course playing HD surgery after IP surgery is like viewing the Mona Lisa in person compared to using a ViewMaster. Actually, ViewMasters usually look pretty good, so make up your own metaphor.

The next day we rented out the historic Hudson Theater adjacent to the Millenium Broadway hotel. This day consisted of about 40 PowerPoint lectures, panel discussion and a presentation over ISDN from London (cha-ching$).


I couldn't resist taking this shot:


With this big event over with one could focus on the coming tasks for the rest of the year.

Early December, 2007

Fly to Tampa, FL. I have not been here since 2000. Little has changed, although I never actually visited downtown. While the Courtyard is a nice hotel, it is centrally located in a ghost town. Walking at night just a few blocks to a great cafe was like a Twilight Zone episode. You know, the one where a salesman finds himself alone in a strange every episode! Next day I was to shoot 3 surgeries, however the patients were put to sleep before consenting, so I was stuck with the 3rd case of the day, which turned out to be a bad case to videotape.

Next day fly to Phoenix to shoot 4 new videos. This shoot went great. Word of caution, if someone recommends going to a little town with lots of cute antique shops, run the other way and don't look back. Aside from the dozens of what I would call junk shops, Glendale, AZ actually has a great German beergarden and restaurant called Haus Murphy's which made the trip worthwhile. It was also the winter festival, which was a lot like a New England winter festival without the snow.

Well, here we are in 2008 and looking forward to wrapping up some lingering projects and starting some new ones. Now if I could just shake this cold...ACHOO!



Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 1, 2008 at 10:00:40 pmComments (1) workflow, travel, encore

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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