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True Stories

If I am waiting for a plane or waiting for the distance between Connecticut and California to shrink, I sometimes recall past experiences. This was supposed to be the goal of this blog, but the present seems a lot more interesting. So we'll take a break from the hustle and bustle and recall a few unique experiences. One can always learn from the past. I am somewhat methodical in my, er, methods, so I'll go sequentially...


My first solo shoot. Having accompanied several shooters on about a dozen trips both in the OR and other settings, it was time to be the lead guy on a trip. We were doing a video about the immune system. Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike was a new experience for me, but it is basically a very busy road which passes through some really polluted landscape. Interestingly, ballast from ships returning from WWII was dumped in the swamps near the Meadowlands.

Anyway, I arrived at my location in Southern New Jersey. Setup One was a hospital room. A child was about to receive an infusion of intravenous immunoglobulins - basically a treatment for immune diseases such as Kawasaki's Disease or Guillain-Barré Syndrome. As it turns out, this was rather uneventful - took about 30 seconds. Next setup was a laboratory, where I threw some orange light on the background and shot various angles of a lab technician mixing the IV solution. Slightly more interesting. Finally on the ride home I stopped for a tour of my dad's office in Edison. Most interesting of all!


Cincinnati. Growing up, the only thing most kids knew about Cincinnati was WKRP and Loni Anderson. As it turns out there is more to this town than meets the eye. My particular shoot was at, get this, a hospital! Seriously, it was the first Ob-Gyn surgery I had filmed and it was a doosie. People often ask me if I get queasy. Usually the answer is a resounding No. On this occasion, the answer was Yes. Since kids and moms read the blogs, I will just say that there was a lot of blood, and you the reader can use your imagination.


Around this time we started going to Philadelphia a lot to work with two different world-renowned surgeons. One was another Ob-Gyn surgeon specializing in reconstructive surgery. Again, without going into too much detail, he is a specialist in fixing problems with incontinence and other problems in that region. But the best part about this surgeon was his personality. He had some funny stories to tell about his patients. Knowing there are some comedians here on the COW, see what you can do to setup the punch line "I need you to water my lawn!" During one operation, this surgeon said, "This ovary is really calcified. Mike, you gotta feel this." So I dutifully put on some gloves and was handed the excised organ in question. It was indeed the most calcified ovary I had felt (up to that point anyway.)


The week after my honeymoon, I was off to South Bend, Indiana. You get off the plane and there in the airport is a shiny new Hummer - the big Ah-nold version. South Bend is home to AM General and of course the University of Notre Dame. This particular project was about Cryosurgery. Not quite as cool as it sounds. There is an opportunity for a Mr. Freeze joke here, but I have already mentioned the Governator once, so I will let it go. Basically, for two days we were setup in a local doctor's office with a camera. Each patient that came in had some form of wart to be removed. Technically, not all growths on one's face or neck are warts. There are plantar warts, moles, skin tags, and other exciting appendages. Amazingly, a liquid nitrogen spray freezes the little devil and after a few treatments it will fall off. Hasta la vista, baby. We also did a video about using the cryo spray gun, venting the excess liquid nitrogen, and learned how to make a fun fruit punch for Halloween parties!


LA. Although I visited LA once during college on a family vacation, this was my first trip sans-Griswalds. We were shooting hernia surgery. The surgeon asked that we shoot with two cameras. May I remind you this was 1997. Video cameras and operating room tripods weighed in at about 90 pounds each at the time. So my colleague Mike and I took some fly by night airline out to LAX and checked into the Riot Hyatt on Sunset Blvd - the hotel where Led Zep was known to tear it up back in the 70's. We hit Hollywood Blvd, went to the Ripley's museum and stuck our hands in the various imprints on the Walk of Fame. Thinking back, this is a good way to pick up an unwanted souveneir. Should be called the Walk of E. Coli. Anyway, the next day we arrived at the hospital setup our two hulking towers of stainless steel and BNC cables, cameras (HL35(?)) tube camera with dockable MII deck on one side, HL55 2/3" CDD camera with portable BetaSP deck on the other. Lock and load! This video remains a top seller, if hernia surgery is your cup of tea. It is one of the most common surgeries performed in the world, so it is the cup of tea of a lot of people.


Detroit. Cue KISS music. I visited the Motor City a few times this year, just the luck of the draw I guess. For the first trip, I stayed at the Omni Hotel, a glass structure reminiscent of the Bonaventure Hotel in LA - a hotel I always wanted to visit since seeing the 1980 Michael J. Fox classic "Midnight Madness." This futureworld was complete with a Ford display, monorail and a direct link to GreekTown for all the lamb chops and souvlaki you can eat. The next morning I arrived at the hospital for a planned C-Section. The doctors had determined that the full-term baby had gastroschisis - a disorder in which the intestines have herniated through the umbilicus during development and stayed there. Having never seen a baby being delivered, this was very exciting. What was not exciting was seeing the baby rushed to another OR, while I had to break down my gear and move it all to the other OR before they did the surgery without me. No worries, I think one of the surgeons helped carry the tripod (the big 70 pound one) One of these days I will post a picture of the beast. For now here is a cartoon.

Once in the OR, the surgeons reduced the bowel back into the baby's abdomen and used some mesh to reinforce the skin until it grew large enough to accommodate the contents. In other words, the baby grew inside the womb with some of the bowel outside of the abdomen, so there was not enough room to put it all back where it belonged.


The New Millenium. High tech was upon us. We had recently started using the Media 100 XR for most of our projects, but we kept two online edit bays up and running. Since LVD SCSI drives were very expensive ($3500 for 9 gigs) the long form projects remained on 1" tape.

One particular long project was the creation of a 25 tape video library. A surgeon has previously recorded about 50 DVCPRO tapes worth of live cases. So it seemed we were starting out with good material. However, the switcher feeding the DVCPRO deck was not synced to anything, so every time there was a cut there was a loss of picture sync. Oddly the audio continued. So first we had to dupe off the tapes to a new reel, in order to be able to use the source tapes for online editing. Once that was sorted out, we sat with the surgeon for a few days editing all the cases down to length, then a few weeks later recording hours of narration for final editing.


While we were in fact in the 21st Century, the world had not yet caught on to this fact. We went to Baltimore to document a conference, basically consisting of 2 days of slide lectures. In 2001 Bill Gates had not yet convinced the whole world to start using PowerPoint. Thus, as each speaker presented his slides, we had a guy in the back of the auditorium scanning the carousel of the previous speaker.

However because it took 60 seconds per slide scanned, it became a bottleneck. Well, the conference ended, we managed to return all slides to their rightful owners, and we journeyed back home to begin editing the slides into the video. Each lecture became a 400x300 Sorenson Quicktime file to be integrated into an Authorware CD-ROM. Seemed so high tech at the time!

End of BCE - Before Computerized Era

2002 - The Computerized Era - in other words, the time by which everything was digital, and the 1" machines died. It was a long time coming. With that I will sign off for now. The fact that I can recall such details from BCE is pretty incredible since I don't recall what I had for breakfast today. I will pick up this trail in a future post tentatively entitled "Tales of a Fourth Grade Editor."

Thanks for reading. Sorry about the graphic story....Ah yes, it was eggs!


Posted by: Mike Cohen on May 19, 2009 at 6:06:45 pmComments (3) production, stories, editing

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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