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Measure Twice, Cut Once

COW Blogs : Mike Cohen's Blog : Measure Twice, Cut Once

This old adage is often repeated by the likes of Norm Abrahm and my dear departed Uncle Ted (you know they named a school after him - no joke). It is wise advice indeed. Just as relevant to production as it is to carpentry and limb amputation.

Planning for a video shoot can range from client meetings, detailed SOW's or as simple as basic preparations the night before - usually a combination of long-term and short-term tasks.

The night before a shoot, whether in a hotel room or my living room, follows a typical ritual for me:

1. Eat a healthy, hearty, bland meal. The last thing I want to be doing mid-shoot is wanting to leave the room. Pasta with a little butter and grated cheese often fits the bill for me. Fish or poultry sans a rich sauce is another good choice. Carbs and protein is a good combination in advance of hours of standing in one place.

2. Top off the camera batteries. Thankfully, Sony Lithium Ion batteries last for many hours and have little memory effect. Thus I use every available plug in my living room and kitchen to top off both cameras, the clam shell deck and the still camera battery.

3. Lately I have gotten into the habit of pre-labeling blank tapes. You never know when you are going to be rushed in the morning. The worst thing you can do is stick an unmarked tape into a camera and start rolling. Inevitably you will quickly change tapes and forget to label the first load - not good. I take more than enough tapes on a typical shoot. You never know, aliens could invade and wouldn't you know it, we would have yet another UFO landing shot with a cell phone camera. Well that will never happen to me.

For the typical surgery shoot, knowing the type of surgery I can anticipate how many tapes I will need, and then pre-label a few extra as well.

Another reason to pre-label tapes is the mini-DV tapes we use have two inserts in the tape case - a label sheet and a "precautions for use" sheet, both of which tend to be stuck to the back of the tape via static cling - most inconvenient when changing tapes in an austere environment such as the OR. Thus, these annoyances are safely left behind along with the cellophane wrappers.

I lay out the blanks in symmetrical pattern, remove the tapes and label them with the date, camera name and tape number. There is a 99.9% chance that this will be the only shoot on this particular date, so no further naming convention is needed:


Location, Location, Location

If I am driving to my location, chances are I have been there before. However believe it or not, there are a few hospitals that even I have not been to - yet. Back in the day, circa 1997, I would print out directions from Mapquest or Yahoo Maps. The only problem with these services, and to some degree with Google, is the preponderance for silly directions, just to save distance, not taking into account logic or actual driving experience. For example:

Take Left on Main St. South for 1.5 miles.
Take Right onto I-84 West for 18.5 miles.
Exit right onto Mill Plain Rd. for .02 miles.
Enter I-84 West and continue 100 feet to Exit 23a, NY City.
Take Slight right onto 684 South for 1 mile.
Exit right onto Middle Road Turnpike for 1.2 miles.
Enter 684 South for 152.5 miles to Philadelphia.


See what I mean.

Enter the 21st Century and Google Maps(or GPS). Now it is ever so easy to find your own directions, print out your own maps in as much detail as you like, and of course you can not only see satellite images that would make Jake Ryan jealous:

But you can in many cases get a street-level view of your exact destination.

Amazingly this exact hot dog cart was right where it was supposed to be. I was disappointed to see that the price of a pretzel has gone up $1.50. Must be the economy!

With my batteries charged, my maps printed and my ghrelin levels satisfied(look it up), it is off to bed for a few restful hours dreaming about what I always dream about the night before a shoot - going to the wrong location!

It's only a dream. I planned ahead!

Thanks for reading.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Apr 13, 2009 at 7:25:18 pmComments (1) planning, travel


Once again, Mike, you are indeed The Man
by Ron Lindeboom
A great read, Mike. Filled with good information and advice, as well as Google® Street Wise™ hot dog stand locations. Now that is information!


Have fun, Mike.


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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