[Lots of reference URLs near the end.]

Anime Boston 2006 [from a fairly narrow viewpoint]

As some of you may know, I spent Mem Day weekend swingin' lights for the
dance room at Anime Boston.  I also managed to see some of the con itself,
and took note of a bunch of differences in how things are set up and run
as contrasted with ... what, general-purpose SF cons?  I was working with
Nick Binary and some of his associates, aka the "Sonic Beating" crew, who
also do the monthly Psyforia trance-dances in Cambridge.  Very clueful
and hard-working fellows.  I wound up rooming with them, too, once we got
through to the con-com that yes, we might actually need to stay on-site.

What I brought in was a subset of the Arisia dance plot -- roughly the same
washes/gobo-shots conventionals setup including the "white blast", rented
from ALPS, and my four 918s except that this time they were all on one side
of the room.  This was basically because the side over the DJ stage was
done with real truss and crankstands [to handle the additional weight and
separation], and the far side of the room only had a 12' goalpost with the
conventionals.  In the early talking about it, the dance crew didn't expect
to try doing anything on the far side of the room at all, but I sort of
insisted on *some* light from the other direction and I'm glad I did.  The
existing Hog programming for Arisia would still work fine.  In fact, between
the first night and the second night I had enough downtime with the rig in
the air that I got a *whole* lot of housekeeping done in the cuelists and
exorcised several pesky little problems that I've never been able to quite
figure out the reasons for in the past.  There are still the odd occasions
where I have to hit a key combination like 5 times to get something to happen
but at least I could watch the meta-lists simply not being random enough and
know there wasn't much to do about it but persist.

I used my two small Lep dimmer packs for one side of the room's conventionals,
and rented two others for the other side.  ALPS has bought a bunch of the
moral equivalent of the LD360 packs except that they have direct *stagepin*
out; they're called the ULD series and are wired the same way internally.  So
I only needed a mess of edison<-->stagepin adapaters for the DJ side, which
made for a much tidier wiring job over on the more publicly-accessible far-
side goalpost.  I was slightly concerned because there was absolutely
*nothing* to safety that one to, but it was sufficiently back-weighted
and sandbagged and buffered with chairs that it just wasn't a problem.

Turned out that we had plenty of power.  The Sheraton has these large "power
cubes", with a large 100A elephant-pecker 5 or 6 pin plug that goes into any
of several outlets throughout the ballroom complexes, and breaks that out
through a short fat cable to a steel box on wheels with about 14 20A circuits
and a couple of various twistlocks or stove type plugs.  The Sheraton guys
simply dropped off a second one for the other side of the room, obviating
any need to go outlet-mapping or fly power cables across the ceiling.  This
was really useful, since I needed to get four separate 20A feeds for over
there.  So the only cable that had to fly was a single DMX feed -- which I
managed to sleaze pick points for by clipping 'biners over some of the
internal structure of the ceiling features that hide the icky fluorescents.
Not sure I would have wanted to try hanging four 100' pieces of power hose
from those.  There is like *nothing* substantial up there to attach to --
it's all cheezy sheet-steel joist and a few pieces of wood glued together.

The music genres were fairly oriented toward fast trance/tribal and some
hardcore, well over 120 bpm most of the time.  Oh, and of course some of the
"J-pop" that's become popular in Japan, which is sort of Eurodancey but with
all Japanese lyrics.  Whatever.  The "phase-lock-loop" beat-matcher cuelist
kept up with it just fine.  I found Friday's sets a little more confusing and
thought Saturday was much more rockin' by contrast; some of the con reviews
seem to have the opposite opinion.  By Saturday I and the DJs all had a
pretty good groove going in general, and I thought there were several "magic
moments" where things really came together.  Having it be a two-day gig was
generally rather nice.  During the daytimes the room was also used as the
"Lounge", so I threw some soft bits of odd color/pattern on the walls to
mood it up a little.  One wiggle could also shoot slow-moving gobos out
the door to the main hallway, which helped attract a little attention.

We did loadin and most of our setup Thursday night, so Friday morning I had
a little time to wander around and see how other parts of the con were
going.  I stuck my head into main tent, i.e. that big auditorium room in
the Hynes, and was astounded to see that *nothing* had even been loaded in
yet.  Apparently Mike Lee from Immedia, the lead tech for the Hynes side of
things, was going to get everything done in like 5 hours.  I stopped in
later in the day and found things much farther along -- truss and screens
in the air, a stage in place with a black backdrop [no cyc], a couple of
guys up in a scissorlift aiming parcans, and ... a real fight ring in the
middle of the floor.  As in, a big elevated platform with ropes stretched
around it.  With a line of those heavy black steel concert crowd-control
barriers on the floor around it on three sides, yet.

Apparently the first big event in there was the "Kaiju Big Battel" [sic],
where Kaiju refers to the popular large Tokyo-trashing monsters like Godzilla
and Anguirus and Mothra.  This show began as an art project at BU [I think],
and has apparently been developing since about 2002 and playing various
venues around here and as far away as NYC.  As I wandered through looking at
the setup some of their people were in the ring rehearsing moves, including
the jump-off-the-ropes WWF style smackdown stuff.  The premise is totally
hilarious, and pits a large cast of monsters and other characters against
each other in a series of sham fights "because the fate of the world is at
stake".  As they rehearsed more, I soon realized that the floor of this
ring contraption is totally *designed* to make noise, and a peek underneath
confirmed this: basically thick boards laid loosely over a steel framework,
leaving plenty of gaps that close with a loud bang any time someone stamps
or lands on the padded deck above.  The center of the frame has a lot of
flex, so the whole thing is almost like a stiffish trampoline -- which
probably helps absorb the *impact* all the more.

The other impressive part of this was the mockup buildings the group had
built -- including a very detailed 8-foot or more cardboard Pru as the
centerpiece.  Almost put our N4 Smoot Bridge to shame, in fact.  And they
only built these models to smash into tiny bits as part of the show.  The
group's costumes seemed fairly detailed as well, as well as being amusing --
Kung Fu Chicken Noodle Soup, for example.

In general, a lot of anime fandom is about costuming and character
reproduction.  Not just for an isolated masquerade event, although they do
have one -- some people stay in their "cosplay" mode the *entire* weekend,
including full hair-styling and lugging 40-pound props around with them.
A lot of it is all about being seen, as one's best effort as accurately
representing anime characters.  The better costumes get the most hallway
pictures taken of them.  Maybe more people will learn that if you insist
on using the wrong white balance in the Hynes spaces, your shots come out
totally sickly green.

I did catch the beginning of the official Masquerade, but at that point I was
mostly taking note of technical issues and differences.  It was interesting
to see how Mike and his crew approached working in the Auditorium, in
contrast to how we did things at N4.

One major difference was that they did a stereo house, and in fact fairly
well.  Two four-cab clusters were flown at the ends of the front lighting
truss, far enough apart to give good coverage into all the seating areas
[upstairs and down] and carrying enough oomph that no delay stacks were
needed.  I caught a little of the anime music videos ["AMV"] one of the days,
and they sounded pretty good with decent imaging even from fairly far back
in the house.  There were also two large clusters of subs on the floor right
behind the drape lines, which were definitely used to good purpose during
anything with music.

Rear-projection screens were about as large as what we had at N4, except they
were flown from chainmotors and the projectors were on scaffolds backstage.
They didn't have the totally-clear 10-foot crossover aisle requirement; there
was an aisle backstage but it was narrower and had scaffolding and cables
in the path.  This arguably made things a bit easier on the techs.  There
was also a big video-switching nest at backstage left.  The FOH gear [sound,
lighting, some video-feed from a Mac] was about where the N4 sound nest was
at house right.  They didn't use the booths in the back of the room at all --
everything was done from that small FOH cluster or backstage, and the longest
cable runs simply had to go up to the balcony and along a minimal way and
right back down.  For video-only events such as the AMVs, they dropped
another largish freestanding fastfold and projector onto the stage for the
folks in the front center.

Lighting, at least for the masquerade, was actually sort of flat and lifeless
and definitely had "eye-sockets" issues.  One front truss with a bunch of
straight-on pars in red/blue/white, and one upstage truss with some amber and
blue backlight.  And all focused sort of haphazardly, since they were trying
to get that done near the end of that 5-hour setup widow.  The masquerade
lighting basically amounted to "turn all of the above on and leave it up", no
attempt to be theatrical or help set moods.  This almost makes sense because
they tend to crank masquerade entries through in a faster, cattle-chute
manner.  The extra lights for the battle ring were almost better -- they'd
mounted a six-bar of MFL pars in the middle of each balcony rail on three
sides and a fourth on the front truss, so the ring had plenty of white
hitting it from four sides.  But by masquerade time, the ring had been
struck and replaced with more seating.  They could have re-aimed the side
pars to very good effect, but they remained off.

There was also no backlight at all on the MC podium, making the IMAG of the
MC somewhat indistinct.

They had the incandescent house-lights somehow remoted to downstairs, and
I failed to find out exactly how that had been done.  But it's evidently
something that's possible.  They didn't worry about trying to isolate certain
groups of the incandescents; they had just told the electricians to turn
off all the mercs and that was the end of it.

Unfortunately, whoever was on the sound board during the beginning of the
masquerade evidently had no clue how to notch out the 400 hz or thereabouts
ringing that was permeating everyghing the MC said.

As the masquerade began I noticed a wire trailing across the stage near
the front, evidently a Speakon to the monitor wedges, but it wasn't tucked
up near the front -- in fact it was right underfoot for many presentations.
Several acts kicked it around as they moved, and nobody appeared to notice
this and go fix it.

The masquerade had way more entrants than we're used to, and yet used *no*
greenroom.  All the contestants were simply cattle-herded all together
backstage right, and had to stand there the entire time and shuffle slowly
forward as their turn approached.  And not just people, but their props too.
Entries would run and generally exit opposite, and then pick their way back
to stage right through the dark, treacherous crossover or maybe just exit
out into the audience to see the rest of it.  Drape lines were much less
formalized here -- they obviously didn't care if some of the audience could
see the next upcoming entry before it actually stepped out.  I only stayed
for about 4 entries, though, because I had to get back to help get the
dance room changed over.

While Mike Lee evidently tries to be the all-purpose techie for AB's main
tent, from TD to lights&sound designer all the way down to house manager and
MC-introducer, he's probably more overextended the bigger the event becomes.
So far he's apparently managed to black-box enough of it away from the con
administrative types that if they lose his availability one year, they're
probably SO skrod because then they'll have to actually think about it.  For
example, the AB logistics people had no idea that the gear for the dance
[once we threw the ALPS gear in too] would be a substantial truckload just
by itself.  And they had no idea that most commercial gear rental vendors do
*not* pick up on Sunday, because Mike's been special-casing them all this
time.  They had made no provision for storage of anything until the next
business-day pickup opportunity.  This caused various excessive scrambling:
first using a van and a pickup truck to deliver Nick's gear and my stuff
to the con, and then begging and pleading for a driver Sunday morning so
we could use the AB 22-foot Penske to haul *all* the dance-room gear over
to Arisia storage and get it out of the hotel.  We did this and got the
truck back to them promptly at 3pm when they needed it to load out the rest
of the con, so it worked out.  But I hope it also carries a lesson learned,
especially if they want a bigger dance room next year.  [I will admit, one
nice thing about a Sunday loadout that I took note of was far fewer union
guys around in the Hynes, leaving the con's crews much more freedom to move
their own stuff around, load trucks, etc.  They had maybe one forklift guy
for the big items.]

	-*-	-*-	-*-

Anime cons definitely attract a younger crowd.  Think "myspace" for where
you'll find many of the reviews... but what was rather puzzling/annoying was
the propensity of audiences to *scream*, like they were teenage girls at
Beatles concerts or something.  Is this a culture thing they're trying to
copy from Japan?  It is also fairly clear that 1337sp34k has become fairly
mainstream whether it involves hacking or not, with heavily stickered
laptops, shirts with "1337" stenciled on them, and picture captions about
how person X pwnz person Y.  But most of the visible efforts seem to go
toward serious cosplay, and making sure to Be Seen.

The other common defining aspect of AB was *lines*.  Very long lines that
people had to wait in, to register, to get into events, maybe even to eat.
Shayde can probably tell you how registration came in idiotically huge
waves, which was why they needed two large sections of ballroom to cattle-
chute people into, which of course makes rooms stinkingly hot fairly quickly.
I haven't put extensive thought into this but it really seems like this
whole deal with long lines in confined spaces could be dealt with by somehow
"tagging" people with some token expressing their order of arrival and
maintaining some sense of when they could come back, and then *sending them
away* for a while.  Might work for registration entrance prioritization,
but maybe not events seating.  One thing to keep in mind is that this con
began in 2002, and in just four years has exploded to just shy of FIVE-digits
of attendance numbers.  In other words, growing pains from the word go and
from what I could determine, not a lot of prior-art knowledge brought from
other cons to help design their processes.  So I'm thinking that a little
more crossover at the administrative level might help.  [No, I'm not counting
myself in that class except maybe a little advice on tech logistics..]

I could not figure out the political distinction between "staff" and "not
staff" or "volunteer" or whatever.  The dynamics are different, and it feels
like to some extent they're still a little wrapped up in some concept of
"rank".  I managed to largely ignore it, preferring to concentrate on
getting the job done rather than who had what titles.  Nick handed me a
badge whose blue lettering and associated yellow lanyard apparently let
me in past the orange-shirted security people whenever and wherever I
needed to go, prevented being hassled about taking a seat while standing
around very temporarily in an event room, and apparently this helped get
their people up to speed very quickly as to who I was and why I was there.
And their staff "hospitality suite" was fairly well provisioned -- albeit
with *catered* food and pre-bought deli platters, making me think "okay,
that's why we don't get much lighting budget".  They don't do the staff
suite quite the same way, and may not have thought about lower-cost options.
Oh, and there's NO general con suite in the traditional sense -- attendees
have to completely fend for themselves as far as munchies and food.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options in the Pru mall.

And to top off the odd little differences, their way of doing "dead dog" was
a completely offsite excursion Sunday night -- in this case, an en-masse walk
over to Boston Billiards for finger food and libations.  Boyhowdy, that's a
lot of pool tables in one place.

Other reviews and pix follow.  I didn't bring a camera to AB at all,
so I'm relying on other peoples' batches to round out the scene...
Binary's pix, mostly of the dance room and a few outside. Pay particular
attention to IMG_0089 for how the Hynes looked for the masquerade. For the
most part he took the only shots I can find of what we did, and even those
show almost *none* of the lighting's effects. Few or none of the other
people who uploaded pictures took any of the dance room at all

The "Memories" forum at the Anime Boston site. Look for the threads:
   post links to REPORTS
   post links to PHOTOS

Many pictures of the "big battel", beginning around "start=260"

The Kaiju group's own self-review

In case anyone needs a refresher on how N4 looked

_H* 060603