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Don't Forget to Hit SAVE A Lot

When a particular piece of software is acting up (ie, unstable, crashing a lot) a good rule of thumb is Save Often and Frequently.

However when things are running smoothly, which is most of the time, one must also remember to save one's work.

And I don't just mean hitting the save button. I am talking about archiving.

Here are some of the habits I am trying to get into the habit of making into habits.

(for the sake of argument this will concern Premiere)

1. Save your project frequently.

2. If you get an error message (ie, Premiere is running low on memory), save, exit and reboot.

3. If you get a program crash, pray.

3. (the real one) - You should have set your auto-save to a reasonable interval, so a crash should not bag you too much. Just open the last auto save. Remember the auto-save does not save the project file you are working on - it saves its own backup file in the auto save folder.

However these frequent saves only go so far. What if an asteroid hits your computer? Ok, technically it would be a meteorite, and a right tiny one with perfect angle of attack to take out your computer but not kill you.

In other words, backup.

4. At the end of the day, copy and paste your project file and anything new that would be difficult to re-create (artwork, one-of-a-kind compositions) to another drive or a usb thumb drive. I keep a folder on my desktop (system drive, separate from project drive) where I drag project files. Video, audio files (narration, music) and artwork created by another person are generally easy to recreate.

I am not working in the RAID world (not yet), in case you are wondering.

It is up to you how worried you want to be about separating the backup drive from the computer. I tend to eject the external drive from its bay when I shut off the computer, just in case of a lightning strike or previously mentioned meteorite. Not sure if a meteorite strike causes any electrical disturbances. Perhaps the static electricity from the displaced air, if there is not too much humidity, could have a capacitive effect. I'll ask Professor Hawking next time I see him.

5. Up until this point, a project is generally in progress. Again, whenever something is imported into a project that does not exist anywhere else, it is a good idea to make it exist somewhere else, even on another drive in the same system. What are the chances that all drives will die at the same time?

C3-PO: Approximately 325,000 to 1

Han Solo: Thanks Threepio. Chewie, take the professor and plug him into the hyperdrive.

Chewie: Grawrrl!

6. Once your project is finished, or anytime before that, make sure you have your project backed up in its entirety. It is, again, up to you if you archive the raw video, a project managed (trimmed) copy of the project, or just the non-video assets assuming you can confidently keep track of the tapes. If you are tapeless, make sure your original media (ie, Mp4/MOV/MPEG/MXF) files are doubly backed up.

Hard Drives = Cheap
Time = Not cheap

7. What about the potential to have the backup drive fail?

It could happen. Depending upon the project (one-off, never to be seen again vs. Your annual mortgage payment) you may want some additional redundancy. For example, I have a 1.5 terabyte drive with backups of really really important projects that are already backed up somewhere else. You never know.

8. Keep track of where everything is. Use Excel, Word, a TXT or HTM file, or go so far as to create a web-based mSQL file (aka, ask someone who knows how to do this do this for you), MS Access or an off the shelf asset management suite. At present, I am using Word. Sometime down the road we may go to a web-based database. Luckily, we have an in-house guy who knows how to create web-based things from scratch.

9. If it is every man for himself as far as backups go, share your list of file backup locations with your team, in case someone needs something of yours when you are not around, or you need something of someone else's. Murphy's Law states that things will go badly when it is least convenient, and that you will need a particular file when the guy who knows about it is on a plane to China.

10. Remind others you work with, such as folks who do not have mountains of data, to make periodic backups. 100 lost word docs could be just as bad for a book project as 1 lost Premiere project file is for a video project. There are open-source and paid backup software apps you can install on your network for this exact purpose. We use such a thing on our in-house servers for backing up in-house databases. I may investigate adding this to our overall network, for example to backup everyone's My Documents folder once a month. This would need to be done at the appropriate time of day so as to not bring the network to a standstill.

In summary, saving your work is important, but backing up your work, which is a form of saving, is vital. Granted, many projects are in fact one-off projects. But for the important and really really important stuff, it is in everyone's interest to back it up, and back that up. Automation can help, but determination to make a habit out of backing up in a timely organized manner is the first step.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jul 8, 2009 at 9:57:30 pm project, backups, premiere, anxiety, astrophysics

This video project is barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.

One year ago, I completed a project for a new client. Turnaround time was fast.

Recently, anticipating some revisions, upon inserting the eSATA drive containing the project, I was dismayed to learn that the drive was no longer viable. All it did was spin up, click and repeat. Bummer.

Luckily I had saved a backup of the project to my laptop - not the final project, but close enough.

Not since 2003 when I cut my final Media 100 project have I needed to batch digitize a video project. Media 100's original LVD ultra-wide SCSI2 drives were originally quite expensive. Thus, we did a lot of deleting of raw footage and batch re-digitizing/babysitting from 1999 until about 2002.

eSATA drives on the other hand are quite inexpensive, so Premiere projects and video tend to stay put where they live. Thus, the need to batch digitize a Premiere project has been a rare occurrence. Until now.

First I copied the backup of my Premiere CS3 project and associated non-video assets (photos, music, narration) to a new drive and imported the old project into a new CS4 project.

Next I right clicked on each video file (offline in the project) and performed a batch digitize. Crazy as it sounds, it worked great. One file however would not digitize due to the clip's in-point being so close to the start of a tape. I manually captured this tape, did a "replace media" and no worries, worked like a charm.

Turns out the version I saved to my laptop did not include the final narration or music, so I had to find those elements and manually insert those. What I did have, thanks to our robust client review website was a WMV file of the absolutely latest edit. I downloaded the WMV file and imported it into Premiere. I placed this file on the uppermost video track and lower most audio track, set the video opacity to 60% and the scale to match the project, and hit play. Because the sequence and the WMV were 80-90% the same, I saw basically a blurry image as it played, and it was obvious where the edits were. Same goes for the audio. It became immediately obvious that the music was different. That was easy to fix.

Finally, having lined up the narration and music, I used the Razor tool to cut the WMV at each edit point representing the difference between the old and the new versions. I deleted the portions of the WMV that were the same, and then proceeded to rebuild titles and two PSD files to make the sequence perfect.

I then saved a copy of the project in 10 different locations both at the office and at home, e-mailed myself a copy and forwarded this e-mail to all of my e-mail addresses.

Ok that last part was made up, but the important lesson here is to backup final projects, something I do religiously now.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 10, 2009 at 8:48:47 am premiere, adobe, media, management

How do I Spell Relief? J-K-L-;

If you grew up in the late 70's or early 80's like I did, you could not go five minutes without seeing one of the now famous spelling commercials on tv. First came the Oscar Meyer jingle:

Oscar Meyer has a way of B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

Next came Tommy Lasorda spelling relief R-O-L-A-I-D-S.

No wonder I can spell so well!

The subject of this post, thus, is about the letters (and symbols) that mean a lot to me:

Relief from endless mouse clicks and eye movement in Premiere is spelled J-K-L-;

Let me explain. Back in the day I was edited a video on our old ACE 25 edit controller. For the benefit of those younger than say 25 we used to cut video machine to machine, using DOS-based editing controllers to not only sync up the decks, but also control via GPI signals the switcher, CG, DVE or ADO and in some cases the audio mixer. The ACE-25 actually had a built in audio mixer. Thus during a preview, you could set the timing of the switcher effect and setup your audio levels. Then when you hit "execute", actually hitting the preview and record buttons together, the machines would pre-roll, roll and record your edit automatically. Pretty sophisticated work for a 8088 processor with half a megabyte of RAM and a lot of dust bunnies inside the CPU. Here's a picture of the ACE 25 and the VPR-80 1" to get you in the mood:

The whole reason for this trip back to Hill Valley, circa 1955, was to talk about motion memory. In other words, do something enough times and you can do it with your eyes closed. Operate the ACE-25 long enough, and you know where the keys are without looking, even the keys that change function depending upon what the CRT display shows. Touch typing is the same, although as I get older and my typing gets faster, I Make the sammee errorsa with greater frequencyu./

Enter Nonlinear editing. The AVID has always had the custom keyboard with labeled functions. For Premiere you can buy such a keyboard, however some of the built-in factory keyboard commands are logical, while others cause two serious problems. Anytime you need to use the mouse, for functions that are used with any frequency, you are putting yourself at risk for RSI. Also, anytime you need to move your eyes from the screen to the keyboard, just to change finger positions, you lose focus. Do this 500 times a day and you could lose hours of productivity.

Now to the subject of this post. J-K-L are the default Premiere keys for Play in reverse (J) - Stop (K) - and Play forward (L). A lot of the editing I do is cutting a full reel down using the razor tool, then ripple deleting the whole sequence to get my first edit. I have thus changed the default Razor at Cursor command from CTRL + / to ; - thus I can easily park my ring finger of my left hand on J, made easier to find by that little pimple on the key, my middle finger on K and my index finger on L, and without moving my eyes or my mouse, move my index finger to ; to razor at the cursor. I still need to use the mouse to select and delete a clip, but there must be a way to do that with keys also. I have thought about changing SAVE to the H key, so I can save my work without changing positions of hands or eyes. And to boot, you can hold down K and either hit J or L one press at a time to go forward or back one frame at a time, meaning you don't need the arrow keys, and you can hold down K and press and hold J or L to move forward or back slowly. This is like switching a machine gun from burst to full automatic. (As if I have so much as seen or touched a machine gun; I read all of Andy McNab's books and pretend to know what I am talking about!).

Here, in the very latest HD video quality known to us insiders as Samsung Cell Phone Video, here's what I call "dance of the digits":

So in summary, learn your keyboard shortcuts, but change them to suit your workflow and habits. I have weaned myself away from some of the Media 100 shortcuts, which I depended upon for the first year or so of Premiere usage. However CS4 has changed selected functions, such as Target higher or lower track, so it's time to retrain my brain yet again. I am going to have to start doing crossword puzzles in order to keep my brain firing on all cylinders. Maybe I can run an RS-422 cable from my cerebral cortex to my dusty old ACE-25 and call upon the unprecedented power of MS-DOS 3.0!!

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jan 5, 2009 at 5:41:57 pmComments (3) editing, premiere, cs4

Adobe Media Encoder CS4 - Improvements all Around!

When I read about the new and improved standalone Media Encoder that comes with Premiere CS4, I was very excited. Gone are the days of exporting files one at a time from Premiere, a potential savings of hundreds of hours per year. If this works, it would be like Space Mountain - worth the price of admission. Can you tell I grew up in the 70's when Space Mountain was the best ride Disney had on offer?

For those of you unfamiliar with the pre-CS versions of Premiere, let's take a look back. In Premiere 6.5 and earlier, you were limited to one timeline per project. This is the main reason why we did not use Premiere very much, even though we had it on a G3 going back to about 1999. Come to think of it, we had like Premiere 3 on a Power Mac Quadra 650 around 1997, and we were offered, get this, an SGI Indy2 running Premiere around the same time. Imagine cutting video on a UNIX computer! What's next, a portable telephone you can fit in your pocket?! Crazy talk.

So in the early versions of Premiere, you could export the video flavors of the day, Sorenson 3, RealVideo, maybe WMV or MPEG1. However you were still limited to One Timeline - One Export. Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.

No worries, we used a media batch encoder the name of which escapes me. It was full featured, but ridiculously slow. At the time, late 90's, we were encoding Sorenson 3 Quicktimes for our CD-ROM library and selected websites. Sorenson 3 on a G3 400mhz computer was like watching paint dry. Actually the paint may have been a bit faster, given prevailing conditions of relative humidity. So we purchased a PCI card called the "Magic Encodomatic" or something very different than that. This was a card with 6 Pentium processors, cost about as much as a Geo Metro two-door hatchback with power windows and the sports package, and accelerated Sorenson only rendering by about 600%. This saved us hundreds of hours of time.

Fast forward to Premiere 6.5. The timeline limitation and media encoder remained about the same. However you could now do Batch Encoding. You could, in fact, do most of what the new CS4 Media Encoder can do, video format options aside. in other words, you could batch encode both files and Premiere projects. Since 1 Premiere Project = 1 premiere Timeline in version 6.5, you could edit your project, save, close, repeat, then load each project for encoding and walk away. The formats available for batch encoding were limited to everything but MPEG1 and 2, which were components of the included Main Concept MPEG encoder. Separate but Equal - somebody call the Post! However a poorly promoted download from Main Concept allowed access to the MPEG encoder from the batch encoder. This download was well hidden on the internets, so I used to keep a CD prominently displayed on my desk for any future re-installs of Premiere.

Enter Premiere Pro 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and CS3. Batch Media Encoder - gone. Nice one. So we purchased Sorenson Squeeze, a reasonable substitute, but alas a 2nd program to run, and pretty slow for most formats. Oh bother. The improvements in Premiere from multiple sequences to pretty much every other feature were worth the trade. I guess the Media Encoder became a free agent and nobody drafted him. Presumably he went back to the minors and played shortstop for the Pittsfield Mets until he was called back up to the big leagues.

So finally, the good folks at Adobe must have found a dusty old copy of Premiere 6.5 in a supply room, read the manual, and realized the error of their ways. Premiere CS4, as has been discussed at length elsewhere on this website, is a big improvement in so many ways. The Media Encoder (AME) works as advertised.

However, unless you have perhaps a quad core system, running AME and Premiere at the same time may be an issue - it is for me. With AME only running, and encoding, the system performance goes up to 100% - presumably it is using all cores with no interference. With multiple apps running, you can get a bottleneck. I recently learned, on the Premiere forum, that you can right click on a process in the Windows Task Manager, and set the affinity of an app, telling it which CPU to use. Depending upon what you are doing in Premiere, this either helps, or it doesn't. The best use of AME is to ronco it.

I will not go into the various formats AME will encode - pretty much all of them, as would be expected in this day and age. The only bad thing I have observed so far is that Still images, exported through Premiere, now have to go through AME. This is a chore. What used to take one keystroke, now takes half a dozen keystrokes, mouse clicks and waiting for AME to start, render and finish, and to add insult to injury, Premiere does not import the still into your project. Seriously? Yep. Print Screen, paste into Photoshop, crop and save is faster and with HDV, the quality is great. To save you the nausea, I will leave it up to you to click this link for a screen-grab-in-lieu-of-AME-still-encoding sample. fallopianhd2.jpg

As you can see, this batch I set off before I left work and it was done a short time later.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Dec 31, 2008 at 5:56:31 amComments (2) premiere, media, encoder, adobe

Large Project Editing Workflow

I'd like to say I have been so busy catching up on work that I have not had a chance to write new posts. This is partially true.

Partially, I took a week to visit my folks in insanely sunny Florida, helped my wife through some medical troubles (no, for the last time, I did not film it) and have in fact been pretty busy at work.

Oh, and I discovered I know a lot of people on Facebook.

But back to the important topic of workflow.

As described in excrutiating detail in previous posts, I make the most of to do lists, post-it notes, scraps of paper, e-mails to myself, Excel spreadsheets and various other attempts at self-organization.

I recently completed a project which was an excellent exercise in organization. I will describe it in generic terms, but give some specific example of learning points.

The Documentary/Promo/Movie Trailer to Promote a particular career

Ok, I guess that wasn't too generic. It is an interesting project.

We pitched a casual documentary style approach, using inspirational interview clips and relevant b-roll, good music, and little to no narration.

Once we had cleared the various PR hurdles, we got three great days of shooting at several medical schools and hospitals, including a c-section. I developed a list of questions, and while conducting each 30 minute interview came up with follow-up questions designed to get people to talk about what they do best(which is not talk about what they do best. What they do best is do what they do best.) It is my job as producer to draw out performances, even and especially unscripted candid interviews. We also tried some possibly hokey segments, some of which will never see the light of day!

The next step was to digitize (capture) all of the raw footage, 4 66 minute DVCPRO tapes and about 15 mini-DVCAM tapes. We shot primarily with 2 V1U cameras in DVCAM mode (incidentally, the two cameras did not match as I'd hoped they would) and shot a few interviews with the DVCPRO, although we could have left this at home and saved gas.

After 3 days of digitizing, while doing other work of course, the next phase begins - logging. Rather than logging the tapes before capturing (digitizing) I capture and then log.

Step 1

Take each interview subject and isolate unedited on its own sequence. In some cases we shot an interview with two V1U cameras, with the lenses practically touching, one wide one tighter, to facilitate editorial or time based edits without jump cuts or dissolves. This is a good way to simply edit out long pauses, ums, ahs, coughs, or retakes. But one can also compress a long thought into a short one. Since the V1U has no timecode output, we try to have each interview subject clap their hands, which is an easy way to sync things up. We generally had a lav going into only one camera, so you find the good audio, fill left or fill right, and turn off the track from the other camera.


Step 2

With each person on his or her own sequence (timeline) I next chop up the timeline into topics. In other words, I edit out the sound of me asking a question, so I am left with the person answering the question, with black spaces. I like to do things methodically, so I do this for every sequence, before actually viewing the material in real time.

Before proceeding to the next step, just for some psychological reason, I like to know how much material I actual have to now go through. So I ripple delete the spaces on all the timelines, so I can write a time next to each person's name. My yellow lined paper now looks like this:

Harrison Fjord - 22:00

Barbara Edyen - 7:00

Bruce Willjyis - 4:15 (boring)

Peter Jaquson - 11:15

you get the idea - I can now tell myself, "Self, you have 1hr 33 minutes of interviews to watch."

Not so bad.

Step 3

With everything chopped up, I now go back to actually listen to the material and make notes. On yellow lined paper, I write the person's name and then a few words for each unedited chunk of interview:

Steven Shmeeldurg

1 - why he got into his career - money of course!

2 - met his wife on a project

3 - When he knew this was the career for him - he could produce mediocre work and still get rich

4 - etc

5 - so forth

6 - so on


After this step, I now have a few sheets of lined paper. Now to select my, er, selects. I do this on paper, placing a check mark next to the clips I want to use. I go through each timeline, and just eyeballing the clip number, move the selects to a higher track. With this done for every speaker, I then copy and paste the selects to a new timeline, and watch it all in order. I save this timeline as edit 1.

Now I save as edit 2, and start weeding out the, er, weeds? My goal is as short as possible to get the message across. The goal was stated as between 3 and 20 minutes, whatever works. I wrote on my yellow paper:

Edit 1 - 23:00

Edit 2 - 17:00

Edit 3 - 14:00

As the amount of material is reduced it becomes increasingly more difficult to make cuts. I got to about edit 5 and maybe 7 minutes of really good gems.


The page down - spacebar to play - delete to delete keys makes things a bit easier in this process, although you need to use the mouse anyway.

Now for about three weeks (3 months) I had been brainstorming ideas on how to actually cut this together. The brainstorming started before we actually shot anything, but not knowing if we had a chance to get the kind of material I was envisioning. The plan came together - somebody call Howlin' Mad Murdoch.

With my shortest-humanly-possible-without-losing-some-nice-moments version in front of me, I came up with an editing format I was happy with, and realized I need to add some more time in the form of b-roll, SOT and some more interview segments from a second set of questions. Time rose back to about 15 minutes. Some efficient use of the three camera setup for one SOT sequence and some thoughtful cutting of the interview segments got me down to about 11 minutes. I next added a title sequence and conclusion and hit 12 minutes and change.

I watched this edit (7) another time or two and tweaked some edits on each pass.

Now to add the music and hopefully make it more engaging.

stack of discs 

I recently added a bunch of new CDs to my Firstcom contract, so I grabbed a few of the new titles, and found some contemporary sounding music. I decided there should be music under the whole program, including the interviews and SOT segments. Since there is no 12 minute track in the Firstcom library (I know, Sonicfire Pro could do it) I decided to use different tracks based upon the mood of the music and the subject matter being discussed (someone call Steven Shmeeldurg, maybe he can use that technique!). 


Some of the Firstcom discs include just the audio CD, so you need to rip the music. Others include a DVD-ROM of AIF files, including both the full mix and the separate instrument tracks. The separate tracks makes things more fun and you have more control over the mood. This also helps transition from one piece of music to another - you can bring in the drums or piano before the previous song fades out - hopefully this makes it less jarring. But kids these days are used to quick changes, right?

With the music added, I spent a few more hours perfecting the mix, and then time to render out to FLV for web viewing. Oh wait, have to color correct the multiple cameras, right. Premiere has numerous color correction tools, and it took a little while to find the right combination or 3-way color correction, Proc Amp, HSL, Levels and Equalize (not all of those and not the same cobination on all clips). Not bad for a first pass, we can tweak it on the final edit. Remember this is for the firtst edit.

I posted it online before heading home for the evening (incidentally, all of the above took about 4 days of focus.)

Once at home, I watched the full video over my DSL - always a good idea to check out your work via a home computer setup. Although we have cable modem attached to our network at the office, the home DSL experience is a good test.

It looked pretty good, so I e-mailed the client a link.

The next day most of the feedback was very good, a few comments about music choices and some of the interview clips, but these things are very easy to fix. I was also asked for a script. I quickly made a two page Word doc listing the times and brief summary of each sound bite, just so people could refer to this while reviewing. Once we lock things down for the final, a full transcript will be needed for approval. It is a good idea to have a transcriptionist in your rolodex (what's a rolodex?) for these purposes.

I should add that during the final day of editing, I was getting the inexplicable "Sorry, a serious error has occurred, Premiere needs to close." error, usually when doing anything in Premiere involving doing anything with any function. Not good when you are almost done with a project. On a few occasions I lost about 10 minutes of work. It seemed the faster I worked, the less frequent were my manual saves, and Premiere's auto saves were set to 20 minutes.

After a few frustrating incidents, I set auto save to 1 minute intervals - a little annoying, but even with frequent crashes I did not lose too much work. I dealt with this hassle so I could finish the project.

Once the video was online for client viewing, we determined a few things about my computer. First, someone had installed AOL instant messenger without permission - whether or not this was the culprit, it wasn't helping. Next we tested the RAM and that checked out. So next was a reinstall of all Adobe products. This seems to have fixed the problem, although I have still had a few Serious Error crashes, but nothing like before. I'm sure we will figure out the problem eventually.

Thanks for reading.




Posted by: Mike Cohen on Aug 5, 2008 at 6:03:08 pmComments (1) workflow, premiere, editing, documentary, interviews

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

Premiere Pro Tips and Tricks - Starting a Project

Ok, so you have decided to edit a video in Premiere Pro. For the sake of argument let's pretend you are using 2.0, which is rather similar to CS3.

If you are coming from AVID or Final Cut, you may be surprised to see some of the choices Adobe has made in their features, or lack of a few seemingly key features. Believe me, you can get used to anything, and once you do, it's no big deal.

Coming from Media 100 there were a few features I could not believe Premiere was lacking. But Media 100 used to cost $10,000, Premiere is a $800 program.

Ok, let's back up.

Before you even import any media, you need to get comfortable with the interface. 2.0 and CS3 have adopted the interlocking windows of all current Adobe products. If you move one window the adjacent windows move in proportion. It reminds me of one of those puzzles where you have sliding boxes which when unscrambled make a picture or a face. Hey, remember those toys with the man's face and the magnetic hair with that pen...I get easily distracted, bear with me.

If you are using two monitors, or one large screen, play around with the window positions and save your workspace. The default editing, audio, color correction workspaces which come from the factory are ok, but you may find something which works for you. I seem to save a new workspace every few weeks. On my laptop, which lets me plug in a external monitor, it has been a bit tricky. The widescreen laptop screen only goes up to a certain resolution, while my external 19 inch monitor has a higher resolution.

Once you have a workspace you like, set your preferences. Given a Windows computer's propensity for crashing, I like to set my autosave interval to 5 minutes and the number of saved projects to 50.

A final custom setup is your keyboard preferences. you can in fact learn about features of Premiere by studying the keyboard preferences menu. The Adobe manual is certainly of little help (ouch!).

The default keyboard shortcuts may make sense, for example I for mark in and O for mark out, but you should do what makes sense for your mind-finger connection. As mentioned above, I used Media 100 for 5 years, so my brain became accustomed to the non-customizable keyboard shortcuts for the most common editing commands. Thus, I setup the Premiere keyboard as closely as possible. That way I do not have to memorize very many keys, as they are second nature.

You can purchase pre-labeled keyboards, reminiscent of the old Sony 9000 edit controllers, but again, the commands are pre-set and non-changeable. Once you memorize the key commands, and in reality your fingers have a memory of their own, you don't even have to think.

I set the most used commands so that with my left thumb hovering over the space bar, my left ring and middle fingers rest over the W, E, S, D keys, with easy access to the 1,2, F1, F2, F3, F4 keys. My right hand is usually on the mouse. I have a Microsoft mouse with two assignable buttons near my thumb, which I have assigned to + and - for easy zoom in and zoom out. Oddly, the Microsfot Intellipoint plugin can make Premiere unstable, but boy are those buttons convenient. When my right hand is not on the mouse, it hovers over the arrow keys, with easy access to CTRL / which is my razor tool.

The final useful buttons are the J, K, L buttons which are play forward/shuttle, play backward/shuttle and stop. These are factory default and they somehow make sense.

In case you are wondering, here is what I have my other favorite buttons do:

1 - insert 2 - overlay F1 - mark in F2 - mark out F3 - go to in F4 go to out

W - target higher video track S - target lower video track

E - target higher audio track D - target lower audio track

CTRL D is a most used command to assign the default transition at the current edit point on the targeted track, and CRTL SHIFT D for the default audio transition.

V, N, C and M/Shift M are useful commands as an alternative to clicking the toolbar.

Don't forget to save your keyboard profile for future use.

These few setup routines can really improve your efficiency, save you unnecessary mouse usage and reduce editing time.

Now, if I could only remember the keyboard command for "windows XP, please don't crash."

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 1, 2008 at 9:43:40 pmComments (13) premiere, pro

Premiere Pro Tips and Tricks

No offense to the many awesome FCP users, but I have noticed these blogs are a bit light on Premiere Pro posts.

I thought I'd write a series of Premiere Tips and Tricks, great for the beginner and hopefully interesting reading for everyone else.

A Brief History of My Experience with Premiere

Back in 1995 we decided to investigate nonlinear editing. At the time, we were running two Ampex 1" suites, one with a 2 bus Vista switcher, the other with the old standby Grass Valley 100.

We visited Expo95, the annual Connecticut video expo, this one held at Quinnipiac University's Ed McMahon School of Communications. At this expo, we evaluated the IMIX VideoCube and the Radius Telecaster. Am I stirring up any happy memories for anyone yet?

The VideoCube was very Media 100-like - a so called "finishing system."

The Telecaster, having nothing to do with Fender guitars it turns out, was a hardware based plugin with Premiere 3.0 (?).

We decided to evaluate the Telecaster, which ran on a PowerPC Mac of some variety, probably had a whopping 100 megs of RAM, amazing it worked at all.We found it worked fairly well, however Premiere at the time was fairly clunky, and there was no time code based batch capture, so we passed.

The next year we purchased the debut edition of in:sync SpeedRazor, running off a Targa 2000 Pro PCI card, and our very first Pentium 1 133mhz machine, along with a 9gig SCSI RAID. Even with the RAID the data rate was too much for the computer to handle, and we could only play back our edited timelines in 10 minute increments before dropped frames. Thus, this system became our multimedia authoring station, knocking out the very best Cinepak Quicktimes money could buy.

We continued doing most of our editing on the 1" systems until they started to melt. In 1999 we acquired a Media 100 XR, and in 2000 and 2001 purchased 2 refurbished Media 100 LE systems from B+H. The Media 100 was a perfect replacement for the online bays, and the pre-8.0 software is basically an A-B roll edit system. The LE systems came with Premiere 5.0 for the Mac, which was slightly less clunky, very 6.5-like in fact. An upgrade to one system added the familiar Media 100i software.

By 2004 however, the Media 100i version 8.0 software upgrade required OS X. However our G3 400 machine would never handle such an upgrade, so at that point we decided to stop upgrading Media 100. 

Around this time we bought two Premiere 6.5 PC systems for the sole purpose of digitizing our vast library for eventual online streaming. 

It turned out, these computers were very useful 

It was at this point that I "borrowed" a little used Pentium 4 system (used as a kiosk twice a year) and installed Premiere 6.5 and Pro 1.5 in order to start knocking out projects requiring more than 2 video tracks and 4 audio tracks. I was hooked.

In 2005 we rebuilt this system with better components and adopted a reasonably priced modular storage solution, for easy sharing of projects and archiving of everything.

Finally in late 2007 I got a core 2 Duo system with CS 3.

So now you know the history. Tune in next time for the actual Tips and Tricks.

Thanks for reading.


Posted by: Mike Cohen on Feb 1, 2008 at 8:28:37 pmComments (1) premiere, pro

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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