Arisia 2010

A rather minimal pic set this time around. Excerpts from the summary
writeup that I sent in to Techno-Fandom are sprinkled throughout.

Small images link to larger ones, as one would expect.

Proof that I can get *three* of the wiggle-light roadcases into the Prius. Even if the last one goes in wheels-up, there isn't *quite* enough width to get the fourth in next to it.

This was in the usual process of moving these to Arisia storage to go on the logistics truck -- one reason I also help with logistics and truck-loading every year, since I have to send some of my gear to the hotel that way.

As in previous years [see '08 and '09], build proceeded pretty much as usual. No crank-ups and long spans of truss this time; just upright 16-ft sticks on big square bases.

Review text:

	We used an *assload* of sandbags.  I don't think we'd ever ordered 50
	before, and we wound up adding to that later for something like 68 of
	them.  They pretty much all got used -- Arisia owns a lot more drape
	bases now, we needed a few for the truss bases [but not all that many
	cuz those 4x4 monsters are *fknheavy*] and the small-tent boom bases
	and lots of screen legs in the ballroom and throughout the rest of
	the hotel.  I really really hope we got 'em all back to ALPS, as I
	think we may have had an inexact packing count and I wasn't about to
	dump all 1300+ pounds of them back onto the floor.  Unfortunately
	they really are the right thing for the purpose, but even at our
	somewhat discounted rate they ain't super-cheap.

	One really important improvement came in how the Arisia cyc "truss"
	is deployed.  This time we lashed down the horizontal piece into the
	little right-angle hooks that hold it to the uprights, so it couldn't
	drift up and out of said hooks [or rather, the poles couldn't escape
	downward].  A perennial problem had always been lost upright-to-truss
	connections from inconsistent pole-raising speed; this time everyone
	was forced to stay together and the entire thing went up in ONE
	smooth shot.  Five pieces of tie-line, and a whole world of solved
	problem.  In fact we raised so enthusiastically we overshot past the
	"max height" lines and a couple of the top sections came out of the
	lower ones; that was fairly easy to correct and after everyone set to
	the max-height lines the thing was just about *perfect* with only
	very minor post-fiddling needed.

We've discovered that wetting down the cyc a bit helps it "hang out" and become much smoother after being wadded up in a storage bin for months.

Review text:

	After the cyc was hung, a thorough water-spray job then reduced the
	wrinkles quite a bit.  The late-in-the-rental-game addition of Carl's
	Colorblaze LED fixtures completed the rig; this time we actually
	cheated the whole stage out from the wall another six inches and
	dropped the 'Blazes right *behind* the stage which worked fine to
	front-light the cyc because their throw is so narrow.  And no risk of
	someone kicking them off the back lip.

A somewhat cockamamie but functional lashup to hang the wiggle-lights at the right angle to mostly play on the ceiling for the dance, but still cover the stage. Compare real-life implementation vs. earlier conceptual drawing.
This also helped their 80+ pound weight [mostly in the ballast on the back] center nearer the axis of the truss and leave more room on the crosspipes for other lights. The original idea was to use a C-clamp as a spacer; the problem was that the truss we got had far fewer crosspieces so the only thing behind where the light could hang was the junction. Fortunately, the hotel had random scraps of wood kicking around the back hallway.

The lights actually like hanging what looks like upside down like this, as they can run in any position and this way the hot air exits *upward* from the lamp end in a more natural flow.

Review text:

	This was finally the year to try the "wiggle-lights as spots" hack,
	which I've had designed up for about three years but never really got
	a chance to play with.  Yes, there were NO spot ops for Masq except
	for the awards part at the end, and Joel simply stood up from his SM
	seat on the one spot scaff we bothered to construct and spot-opped
	to grab 'em out of the audience.  Spots for the entrants were all
	handled by the two wiggle-lights in the house instead, controlled
	semi-manually off my Hog PC.  It worked quite well, especially when I
	managed to not lose attention to where a performer was heading [!],
	but I sort of cheated:  I kept the spot circles fairly huge so the
	pinpoint accuracy wasn't really needed.  Sometimes I irised them out
	even *bigger* and basically held them still, for example on Hani's
	"Marvin" entry on stilts where his head would have been out of the
	circle anyway.

	The spots-hack runs over a preset matrix of 15 positions on stage --
	5 x 3, all captured one at a time [by focusing tightly about
	chest-high on my 6' ladder placed carefully over each point] and
	stored in the Hog position table.  The five cuelists that do the work
	then reference those positions.  Motion cues [using about 2s with a
	"damped" path profile to simulate a heavy object swinging] are
	written into the five lists that spread across the 5 x 3 matrix --
	each one with three steps: downstage, midstage, and upstage.  In
	other words the more times a cuelist is triggered, the farther
	upstage the lights are "pushed" -- it's fairly intuitive once one
	gets used to which cuelist to kick, and if someone's moving back and
	forth across midstage it's a fairly easy matter of "go go" on 3, "go
	go" on 4, "go go" on 2, etc since they tend to stay mostly midstage
	anyway, and in practice they do.  Set-in-blacks are easy to handle by
	mousing down a separate brightness control and then moving to the
	center-center position in dark, manually fading up on cue.  At that
	point I know *exactly* where the spots are pointed and there's no
	wild-swinging oops on pickup, either.

	Doing the spot hack isn't just about mirror motion, and the many
	people who immediately come up with "joystick?" to suggest an
	alternate control syntax need to be aware of a few additional pieces.
	Having both lights move smoothly toward predefined known aim points
	actually keeps things much more coordinated and accurate.  But along
	with motion, there are also iris size adjustments that happen along
	with -- when a light is shooting farther across stage, it gets irised
	down just a bit to keep the spot size the same, and larger when
	closer.  Thus there are three iris-size presets that also need to be
	defined at setup/calibration time.  And the two upstage right/left
	positions invoke an automatic fade to black as someone exits, whereas
	the other cuelists trigger an appropriate fade *up* to begin.

	So that's a lot to coordinate at once, and trying to do that manually
	by arbitrary mirror movement, even with multi-axis joysticks, would
	really suck.  Because of the throw angles, the control syntax of how
	the board works, and the fact that I'm running off a *laptop keyboard*,
	there is basically no arbitrary X/Y capability that would get this
	right.  The Hog stuff is a commercial product, which is already
	pushing obsolescence, and besides its own internal concept of
	single-parameter control wheels has no provision for input and x/y/z
	conversion math from devices like joysticks or tablets.  Those who
	suggest sitting down to write something to accept such input and
	squirt out all the right DMX over USB are welcome to try, but should
	have a goodly number of unallocated coder-hours available and likely
	the ability to reverse-engineer all the undocumented protocol sent
	to the Hog widget along with.  Under Windoze.  In other words, ain't
	happenin' any time soon, and you can stop bugging me about that
	now thankyouverymuch.

Thursday evening's crew dinner was a big pizza feed; some of us kept working through most of that time and grabbed what we needed on the fly just before it was all gone. No time to stand around telling war stories; we still had plenty of work to do.

I never got any pictures of the small-tent build, but one of its simple trees can sort of be seen in the long shot here. It all ran on one of my LD360 packs, with enough separate wall-outlet circuits found in that room to feed its two inputs to pretty much full capacity.

...Time passes here... and the rest of a mostly problem-free build got completed before the first official con events started happening on Friday.

Review text, on blending a large video screen into the main-tent drape:

	The IMAG-as-part-of-drapeline was awesome.  The thing that made it
	really work was the availability of a very tall projector-mounting
	place in the box-corner, mostly helped by the huge trunks from ALPS
	stacked up, to get the entire beam over anyone's head passing through
	backstage.  We should try to do that more often but the problem may
	be finding sufficient RP height and throw.  The asymmetric lighting
	plot screwed this just a little; the screen would possibly have
	worked better with lighting if it had been at house right instead,
	but that would have cheated away some of video's workspace.  On the
	other hand, it would have been farther out of lighting throws and the
	video folks could simply look up at it to see what they were sending.

	One problem I sort of fixed was that the side-stage lights at SL
	were basically throwing diagonally across and *onto* the front of the
	screen at stage right; I wound up hanging a piece of drape straight
	forward off the line at SR and behind the truss upright, which
	covered just enough of that within appropriate shutter-cuts to keep
	the screen dark.  A quick morning hack, but it worked.  I'm feeling
	like I should update that funny little room .GIF to show
	the screen rig...  It's irrelevant for next year, but an equivalent
	is well worth thinking about for the Westin.
... and safety, although we didn't catch *all* the places in advance where the Hyatt house staff had simply lost a bunch of the leg pins on their stage risers and had half-assedly replaced them with random untethered bolts, and we later had to fix a couple of saggy places.
	The stage pieces got lashed together "internally" this time, i.e.
	load straps were run around some of the *inner* corner legs and
	tightened up.  This works fine, as the intent is to firmly join all
	the floating corners together, and uses a lot less strapping length.
	So those huge 3-inch or whatever yellow things from BSFS or whoever
	aren't necessarily needed for making a stage safe, where the shorter
	ones we already used in the truck can suffice.

The "Cosplay dance" Friday night, sort of a club-dance atmosphere but much more subdued than the "real" late-Saturday-night dance. I used a couple of the static or very slow Hog dance cuelists to play on the ceiling a little, but none of the high-energy stuff. Didn't want to shoot our wad early, after all.

The major Saturday event was of course the masquerade, an all-day commitment from the "costume-friendly tech" presentation in the morning all the way through rehearsals and run. I got to noodle aesthetics and work with a most excellent board-op who was willing to swap in at the last minute and took to composing looks on a relatively unfamiliar console like a fish to water. Almost every entry was done as a cue-block, which actually yields many different looks and really shows off the versatility of a lighting rig as opposed to cranking all the entries through with just warm-fred, cool-fred, yawn. And this all included using color-changers at the sides which needed to be pre-cued in black, giving slightly more complexity to each cue block.

My job was to add appropriately to this, with the caveat that doing ground-up wiggle-light programming takes a long time so in general I'd try a few things from a long-standing repertoire of preset looks and see if the entrants liked any of it and just capture the basics into a cuelist, take some fast notes and build its run framework for real later. This time, backdrop hacks were secondary to running the spot-matrix as that was the only means of additional front color-emphasis we had in the design. We got a little behind schedule as usually happens during any of these days but made up time at the end, and finished with plenty of time to eat dinner and re-fiddle things once the actual entrant run-order sheets arrived.

Review text:

	Basically, the wiggles were providing front color-punchup as they're
	a short-arc source with a high color temp and have some interesting
	spectral output via some of the more "pastel" dichroics on the color
	wheels.  That somewhat harsher quality of light combined with the
	fact that they're essentially point sources at that distance is what
	adds the sparkle and rounds things out away from the rather drab [and
	frankly a bit greenish here, not sure why] 3200K from the wash
	lights.  Danielle and I wound up cueing two boards at once and using
	the combination from wash and wiggles quite a bit, with deeper hues
	from the Colormerge units at side-stage filling in the modeling, and
	were pretty happy with the results.  The other important thing that
	followspots add, be they human or machine operated, is that element of
	motion -- the circle doesn't necessarily *have* to be sized exactly
	to the talent, it just has to give the sense of moving dynamic and
	emphasis as the entry runs.  And this method did, in spades.

	One minor issue came from trying to do too many things on the Hog at
	once, when entrants also wanted some cute background stuff.  The
	spots-hack runs manually and trying to do the final move/fade on
	them PLUS fading the cyc effects at the same time produced some
	klunky-looking lags on exit.  But I've since thought of a simple way
	to link those cuelists together, so if we do this again that
	shouldn't be a problem.  With the two house wiggles doing spots, the
	only lights left available for FX were the two down at the stage
	corners without a whole lot of throw, so I couldn't paint the entire
	cyc with texture as we've done for other cons [well, without losing
	the spots capability too].  Offsetting them and using the three-way
	prism yielded an okay spread, though, so we went with about five or
	six instances of adding cyc-play stuff.  Including the *nine-cue*
	Frodo entry -- yup, one of them did the whole trilogy in 60 seconds
	all the way out to Grey Havens, and it ran perfectly [including a
	nifty volcano fire effect] and left us all sweating bullets but
	ecstatic.  Anyway, with these relatively minor caveats I hereby
	declare the wiggle-spots thing a success and it can only get better
	next time.

	The upstage entry platform seemed much more sensible than previous
	years' mid-to-down route, and actually seemed to lend more backstage
	room for performers.  Then again, the box-pile's footprint was a bit
	less this time possibly due to the types of cases we had, and/or a
	bit of tetrising that I and others did.

The Masquerade segued into the usual fairly major lighting changeover for the club-dance, which has become pretty routine for our crew by now. I went back to the old method of chaining both DMX lines together into one, saving the cost of a Fleenor splitter, and the combined path length wasn't much more than either of the split paths anyway.

I didn't get any dance pictures, but some other people may have. See the LJ community for some pointers to other peoples' photo sets and even a few videos of various events. I didn't get any Masquerade pictures either, but other attendees probably did and if all else fails, there's always the "official" stuff from Sandy Middlebrooks albeit mostly overexposed and with that same awful turd-brown backdrop. I wonder if he'll ever realize how badly that thing just *eats* fleshtones? Here's the flat list of 582 images, wrested from that script-driven nightmare of a website as usual. Totals about 67 Mb; have fun. They're more watermarked-up than in prior years.

Once things were off and running, or rather dancing, I trotted out another little project I'd brought along just for fun -- something I hadn't even thought about much for *years*.

Review text:

	The dance was ... well, the dance, as usual.  I brought the "flamers"
	back in -- sometimes they're just the right kind of cheeze for
	certain things, and in this case they made admirable truss-warmers
	for the house trees.  The dance cueing ran on autopilot for much of
	the evening, because for a while [when not upstairs enjoying some
	libations] I was busy with a different little project.  I had decided
	to dig out, where "exhume" is the proper synonym, some of my old
	laser gear from Back In The Day.  After fooling around with it in the
	living room at home and being astounded that the argon still fires
	and the old oscillator-box not only still works but the sixty or so
	little trimpots inside are still *in tune* and not dirtied up, it
	seemed only right to bring it to Arisia.  I put the laser and scan
	head up on the scaff out of harm's way, placing it far enough back
	that the beam going too low would get blocked by the platform edge,
	ran out some sections of airwall as a quick-n-dirty screen, and set
	the box out on the table for *other* people to come up and play with.
	And they did -- there was usually someone there wiggling the sticks
	most of the time.

	The rest of the stuff ran pretty much as it has lo these past N
	years; I channeled up the cyc units to split them into narrower
	stripes to play back and forth behind Zed on the stage and the bits
	of inter-cuelist housekeeping I've done over the past couple of years
	has definitely helped alleviate some odd states the Hog would
	sometimes get into.

A pre-con shot of testing the argon and scan-head at home. This stuff is what I spent a lot of the eighties building and playing with; the last big coordinated show a small gang of us hobby laserists did at Arisia was back in 1993, and the year afterward we punted Arisia entirely and went skiing that weekend. I think that's the only Arisia I've ever missed.

Most of this gear is built out of scrounged and trashpicked parts, a few specialty items bought on the cheap, and a lot of duct tape. The argon is on the order of 0.01% efficient in terms of light produced vs. the 1500 watts of heat sent out the vent; it's been far superseded by diode and DPSS nowadays but back then, it's what we had. Still buried in the stockroom are items like the rack of 3 paralleled helium-neon heads, a bunch of bounce-mirrors to place around a room, a big "routing box" with choppers and stepper motors and effects-generators mounted inside, and a bunch of control electronics for it. All done in analog and bare-metal TTL.

<crusty-biker-voice> Arrrr, the good ol' days. </crusty-biker-voice>

The dance went until ridiculously late [or is it early] as usual. Once I finally got up and got enough coffee back into me I went and helped cover the Sunday events -- much less complex, which let me actually hang out and relax and actually watch some of it.

Review text:

	In contrast to last year when I was almost asleep by 3am, Zed kept
	the floor busy pretty much right up to 6AM when the hotel started
	coming in to do airwall turn.  We had to sort of shut down in a hurry
	and drag the sound table back across the airwall line, and I resisted
	the temptation to try and refocus the trees at that point.  Mike R.
	and co. graciously picked up that task the next morning before I
	finally rolled my sorry butt out of bed.  That and a little bit of
	wiggle-FX carried Sunday's events just fine, including a quick cyc
	repatch to create the now-traditional red-to-blue cyc gradient for
	the radio play.

Skinny White Chick concert ...

... where it suddenly struck me that my cyc-light channeling experiment yielding R, G, B was appropriate for this as a static backdrop, since that gives ... *white*, right?

Bellydance! As its own separate event, not jammed into Masquerade halftime. They were delighed about this. Advanced pregnancy doesn't keep the dedicated down by any means, either. And the two in Trek uniforms [complete with phasers and communicators] dancing to "White and Nerdy" was a hilarious high point.

The wiggle-light isn't burning -- the silk-flamers reappeared as stage-corner ornaments during the bellydancing for that "desert firelight" look, or something, helped along by the funky footlights.

I wasn't sure what to do for the "Malice in Wonderland" period dance, but one of its organizers suggested a Cheshire cat theme. Well, I tried.

After this our crew was pretty much done, and could go party. The remaining events were pretty much self-supporting as the folks who ran them have their own tech staff. And we had all the next day to strike.

Review text:

	Having the tech party on Sunday worked really well for me, as it
	allowed spending more time on the dance on Saturday and then hanging
	out with folks in a mostly non-working context late Sunday night.
	The Teseracte people took over the ballroom for the overnight, and
	their lighting guy *really* loves playing with the LED cyc for
	moments in the movies.  Oh, and of course Teseracte [e.g. more
	traditionally-skilled operators] is another reason for having at
	least one regular followspot.  At that point the wiggles were
	powered off and the laptop was safely up in the room.

	Teardown was *fast*.  Kudos to whoever attacked removing all the pipe
	and drape as the first thing -- that opened things up the right way.
	When I ran a bunch of stuff under the stage I tried to pull it through
	*between* the first two rows of platforms, so that for teardown all
	we had to do was remove the load-straps and pull open a gap with the
	downstage sections to reveal most of the cable runs all ready to lift
	and coil right out.  In general, thinking about wire paths and ease
	of wrangling later in a weekend is probably good to do.  I observed
	that the big "easel" pieces of paper used to indicate where to stack
	differently-owned gear worked well, and that with those visible on
	the piles it is *not* necessary to burn miles of tape marking out
	stupid boxes on the ballroom carpet.  That didn't prevent someone
	from trying, wasting some quantity of white gaff to do so.

It started to snow that night -- after all, what's an Arisia without any snow? This made loadout and gear-return a little more interesting.

Review text:

	I met the ALPS truck Tuesday morning, and managed to get them in so
	that their driver could drop the lift-gate right through the big back
	door onto the ballroom floor near where I'd staged the stuff.  A
	small brute-squad formed to help push stuff onto the liftgate, but
	after the two huge trunks went on the *truck* started drifting away
	from the building on its own.  Eep!  It stopped after a couple of
	feet, but the driver had me sit in the cab and hold down the brake,
	as apparently the transmission in this truck has no parking-lock and
	the e-brake was proving totally inadequate.  After a while all the
	thumping and rocking I could feel from up front stopped, as they
	finished loading.

	My next task was to haul Bromberg's gear up to his house way up in
	boonies NH.  It was snowing again; I was glad to have loaded the
	previous night [and parked my car in front of the ballroom doors,
	with permission, to try and prevent all the random electricians and
	plumbers from parking their vans there in the morning].  The Prius in
	full freight-mode swallowed the long pipes easily, and I got all his
	stuff and a few items of my own in and sent the rest of my crates
	with the Arisia truck.  Bromberg's town apparently waits until
	the snow stops before plowing, making the last few miles rather
	interesting as it was an inch or so of a miserable slush/sand mix and
	easily the bumpiest part of the ride up, including ascending to about
	800 ft ASL near the end.  The car struggled up all this fine and I
	made it to his house, but was finally defeated by Mike's driveway.
I got up it to about THERE and no farther, as the old packed-down slick stuff under the freshly fallen snow created an almost frictionless layer.
	Even trying to go up backwards with more weight on the drive wheels
	didn't do it.  The problem was that it was fresh snow basically on
	top of ice, or very hard-pack underneath left by his plow guy, and
	all right around 32 deg F at the time.  [Mike frequently has the same
	problem with his own Prius in the winter too...]  When I finally got
	out of the car to walk up I promptly went on my ass -- the car was
	getting better traction than I was.  I alerted Mike that I was there
	and grabbed a shovel to clear a couple of strips down the steep part,
	and then got the car out of the way so Mike could gingerly back his
	4x4 down toward the end of the driveway [and slid fairly uncontrollably
	the last 10 feet or so himself] and we crossloaded the gear into
	that.  He then managed to crawl that back up the hill in 4-low to
	the garage where we put things away.

	So, overall a good con with a few more learning experiences even
	after doing it several times in this venue.  Next year, new place,
	and we hope to do some of that info-gathering walkthrough soon.

_H*   100208