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...http://www.sonicbeating.org/binary/pix/anime-cons/animeboston-2006/
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