Arisia '11

A technical perspective, as usual

Arisia is always an entertaining mix of busting my ass and aesthetic play. Theatre and production tech and its supporting infrastructure, when done right, is itself a form of performance -- a symphony of motion, timing, art, and science all executed within a universe of gratuitously heavy and hazardous objects governed by disproportionately delicate control. From the logistics that gets the gear where it needs to be to the designs driving how it is all put together and operated, the end result boils down to how it *looks* and *sounds* to the viewer when all of that underlying complexity is abstracted away. Helping construct all those layers upon which the audience experience rests makes it fun on a multitude of levels.

This year's theme was "weird science", and be it fiction or fact, I think the combination of being a new hotel and experimenting with some hitherto mostly-unknown lighting gear fit that concept pretty well.

[As usual, each small picture links to a larger one.]

Rainbow over 561 Windsor Perhaps a harbinger of things to come was observed over 561 Windsor where the storage space is, as a strange rainbow-filled bright spot appeared from where I was in the nearby parking lot. I had gone in to shuffle some of the lighting gear around and pull what we weren't going to use aside, and create a care-package for each of two spaces that would be built. It's a miracle! We are blessed with the promise of a full range of color, in a broad spectrum from the subtle to the outright punchy! Actually, it was probably lots of ice crystals in the high atmosphere ringing the sun, supposedly an indication of impending snow, but this was like three days out from the load schedule.

Pine limbs down, almost hit the car Nonetheless, a big ol' winter nor-easter rolled in right before the intended day when loading was going to start and dumped about 14 inches on the whole area. In only six or seven hours. I woke up to the crashing of tree limbs cracking off my trees and landing in the driveway, and I was bloody lucky I had snugged the car right up next to the house and not directly underneath the pines. The heavy, clingy snow brought down four or five branches, one about 4 inches across at the base, which would have gone right through the windshield and all my electronics if the car had been about 10 feet to the right. This was shot after I dragged the biggest of them aside so I could start the somewhat arduous digging-out process. Thus began my Arisia Workout, to continue at high intensity over the next several days.

Did I mention that I moved to New England to have real winters?

Loading dock before shoveling Loading dock after shoveling  
Before After  
I headed in for the main loadup that night anyway, and figured I'd do a little more shoveling around the dock area to ease the truck's path in a little -- even though it had already been there earlier in the day and just brute-forced its way over the snow. Our 28-footer isn't the only vehicle that backs up to this dock, so I figured it was helping more than just us.

However, main load was deferred until the next morning due to delays getting the early load into the hotel, not to mention getting the truck in the first place as the snow tapered off that afternoon. Much of Boston, normally well-used to dealing with this sort of thing, was somewhat paralyzed for a while.

Lining up the liftgate with the dock platform Everything was fine in the next morning's brilliant sunlight, so I met up with the other folks at Storage to help huck heavy stuff.

Because the dock isn't standard height, we get to play this little game with the liftgate over about a foot of difference. And this liftgate was hurtin' -- barely able to lift some of the heavier wagons, which one of us theorized was due to low hydraulic fluid.

Packing the truck As often happens I wound up being the guy filling in on top of the load; I cleaned my shoes off and hopped up and stayed so the rest of us wouldn't be tracking water and salt in on top of the contents.

[Waitasec, was that the word "shoes"?? Yes, in this weather I really do wear shoes for this kind of outside work -- steel toed sneakers, no less. I'm not *that* hardcore.]

At the hotel dock Then we all meandered over to the hotel. Its docks are completely under cover -- nice to have in inclement weather. Vehicles were still tracking in a lot of wet, salty ook but fortunately that was mostly confined to the driveway. I pulled in along with our truck and unloaded a relative minimum of my personal gear, and then went to bury the car for the weekend in one of the local surface lots.

Where the Cambridge Hyatt had given Arisia a very favorable rate on weekend parking in their own deck, the Westin refused to consider anything of the kind and self-park would be a minimum of $28 a day or something. Unfortunately the nearby commercial lots aren't that much better, and now completely dehumanized as the only payment option is a credit card with a good mag-stripe on the back. No more real live people in the booths. And they wonder why South Boston isn't blossoming as they thought it would as an attractive event nexus, even with the airplane-hangar-like BCEC right in its midst.

Load-in crew When I got back from my trek across the mostly pedestrian-hostile intervening landscape, a large load-in crew had appeared from nowhere and was busily pushing stuff toward the ballrooms.

It's a fairly long haul from dock to function space here, in both halves of the place. Kind of a pain in the ass, but at least a wide and religiously clean roll path. And when the guys come down to dump garbage, and Royal Laundry shows up for linen pickup and dropoff, and with the countless other vendors always wheeling trucks in and out of here, it can get pretty chaotic at times. Next year we should try to coordinate a bit with the hotel, work around their regular busy peaks, and be ready to stay in our own lane when they and their suppliers need to do their jobs too.

Beginning gear deployment and construction We began unloading and counting stuff in against the inventory, and moving gear to its target locations. The Grand ballroom complex is pretty big -- you could easily fit the entirety of the Hyatt's Presidential space into ONE airwalled third of this one, and our main tent was to be two sections forming a rough square about 105 feet on a side.

As venues reach about this scale the time it takes to walk across them, not to mention the difficulty of having people on the other side hear spoken direction, starts becoming more of an obstacle. And z! had helpfully said "hey, let's use *radios*!" in some earlier email -- but even though I'd brought some along, they never got pulled out. We managed to make do by yelling loud enough. If the space was any bigger, though, I think the radios would have been really needed, but then there's the problem of having enough to go round.

The design documents and many other supporting files for this event can be found here, which will help explain some of the specifics mentioned throughout this. As our first go at adapting to this new space, I thought it all worked out rather well with very few compromises needing to be made on the fly. This is one very clear benefit of having a commonly-agreed-upon *room design* laid out well in advance and then everyone building from that instead of trying to jam six different ideas together at the last minute under time pressure. Go, us!

Easiest to monkey the truss and top-hang lights To get the maximum height, I wanted most of the lights top-hung, especially for a roughly identical load-balancing scheme when one side of the room would be on triangle-truss and one side on box. Why? Because ALPS doesn't have quite enough square 12" forks for the L-16 crank lifts, which seems odd but I accomodated the limitation by accepting the tri-truss where I could. Clearly, thought several of our crew, the easiest way to do this hang was to monkey along on top of the truss rather than wrestle with a long reach top-hang from a short ladder.

Here, however, we seemed to be contemplating the problem of passing wire over that huge piece of doorframe architecture. It's over 16 feet high, but is clearly the right way to get cabling past the traffic point without running on the floor. The modified layout and additional length has been documented in the post-con diagram making it easier to plan for this hop in the future. To connectorize that piece of run, it turns out a 50-foot cable will hang a couple of feet from the floor at both ends and conveniently connectorize the segment. In the case of the lighting stuff, the ends could just drop right onto the truss.

Door architecture best accessed via scaffold Since ladders for this would be dicey and cumbersome, the obvious solution was to assemble and use the scaffold work platforms which would later double as focus tools and finally followspot towers.

Top of the door architecture, not entirely structural The door frame piece is fairly structural, except for the inner panel itself which is basically just drywall. There's actually an aluminum band on top of the outer edge where it says ' 85" ', meaning the screws I wanted to drive in halfway to guard against wires slipping off needed to go just inboard of that. I got to use my new christmas toy, heh. Never owned a screwgun until this year. It's very dusty up here, mostly from whoever cut out this chunk of drywall and never vacuumed up, and at strike we needed to swab down the cables that passed over this with a wet towel to remove the crud they'd picked up. The hotel is only five years old at this time, and I wonder how filthy it'll be up here in another 20.

The "Onity" box is part of some sort of access-control system for locking the doors.

Before we got too far along on construction around the stage, Paul and/or Abby noticed that it was rather off-center in the room as laid down by the hotel people. Annoying, and we should have caught it way earlier, but it wasn't too hard to unhook and shuffle the platforms and slide the still-empty lighting trees around. We already had a bunch of wiring laid down underneath but through the mid-stage gap between the front and back halves [as I'd specified!] and NOT run through any platform legs, so nothing had to get backpulled or re-run -- just displaced a little until it was back together. See, there's reasoning behind all that anal-ness about wire routing.

Notice I said "unhook"? This is one of the very very few venues that still has the little yellow interlocking hooks intact on their risers that help keep the platforms together. We never even had to tape the joints or cinch the assembly with load-straps. Ahh, new risers.

Building side-stage trees Obviously, when hanging heavyish SeaChanger units that far out on pipe and base, balance must be maintained. It was a little wiggly on the carpeting, but not bad and didn't feel unsafe to work with. The trees were so far back from the notches where the drape line would end for a reason -- to get better coverage from what are essentially point-source lights. Placing side booms right next to the active deck is kind of self-defeating, as the first five feet onto stage becomes essentially useless. And coming from a high angle, more like pipe-ends rather than tormentors, prevents performers from shadowing each other. Here I could peek everything past the drapeline in a rather elegant way.

Brand-new cyc, out of the box We had a brand-new seamless cyc, pulled right out of the shipping box there on-site. The story behind this was sort of ironic; the flameproofing cert on the old one [with a seam!] had expired and it turned out that buying a new, seamless and inherently flame-retardant cyc outright was cheaper than getting the old one re-done.

For the record, it is 32' x 16' and matches our aluminum "truss" and its uprights quite precisely as a kit. The bolt-on extenders need to be added to the 24' folding truss piece.

New cyc tied up The five-point cyc lift is orchestrated...
Once it was stretched and tied on, the five-pole lift was orchestrated.

A new twist to the procedure, developed last year, is to lash all the upright hooks to the truss with tieline so the hooks can't disengage if the upright isn't pushing upward enough. I saw enough time wasted on previous builds with people going "oops" and trying to fish their pipes back into place from 14 feet below that it was high time to insist on a firm attachment from the beginning. It's not clear that everyone actually understands the right way to lash it together and I didn't supervise this time, but it seemed to work well enough.

new cyc looks gorgeous! And poof, we have a cyc. This thing is gorgeous! Much less wrinkly than the old one, and whiter than the old natural muslin. Ultimately it still needed a little outward stretch at the corners to get rid of some bellying in the middle -- easy with a couple of sandbags and binder clips.

ETC Sensor dimmer pack and Smartfade board We were reaching the point where lights would be ready to test, so it was time to haul out the board and get the rest of the dimmer pack plugged up. The Colorblazes, seen here in the background, would also have to be laid out along the cyc now that it was in place and dedicated power run for them. Each 72-incher draws 420 watts at full white, so two circuits for the bunch of them. The DMX run would then complete through the cyc units and then over to the last stage boom.

The Smartfade represented a bit of an experiment in terms of control for the events we were about to do. But at this point we only needed to test rig functionality; I set it up on the stage so a single person could check channels just by looking around.

This year had the interesting wrinkle that it mattered which way the 'Blazes were laid down, because we were subsplitting each unit into two parts so that each one took six DMX addresses. But the "low end" of a Colorblaze is fixed, so to have a nice 1:1 channel slider correspondence to which stripe of color comes up on the cyc, the unit has to be oriented correctly. I think it's toward the power connector, but don't quite remember. There are also little numbers on the LED modules inside. Having them oriented all the same way also gives a little better beam uniformity when the units are physically aligned the same, making focus a little more straightforward. This came up last year as well, but I didn't really note it in that writeup as we either got lucky on endian-ness or just quietly fixed it. Anyway, note for next time -- determine the physical low end, and orient that toward stage right.

crank up the house trusses As a further experiment I loaded my offline-preconfigured show basics from an SD card, and was pleased to see the board slurp it right in. With the rig intact and already showing the happy preheat glow in every instrument, it was time to crank the house trusses up to trim and safety-pin them, do a little cleanup, and ...

Quick tech meeting ... stop playing with the Colorblazes long enough to have a quick tech meeting.

The venue actually does have pull-down hard-points in the ceiling, from which trusses could be flown on motors. So why the wheezy ol' crank-ups? Because to fly anything in this space requires that PSAV, the in-house production staff, get involved and that means spending about five times the money to get the show together as well as having to coordinate with their riggers to change anything. As in many venues around Boston, they have a stranglehold on the function space and many aspects of its usage. The only way we had to circumvent that was to bring everything from the floor with our own gear. I'm sure the PSAV guys appreciated the long weekend off, and we found their closets full of stored truss and motors anyway and dreamed about what we might have had. Fortunately, the L-16s at their maximum height actually fit the space rather well, gave an acceptable angle onto stage, and didn't look like the toy toothpicks I thought they might in this big room.

19-degree instruments at this distance were a full stage shot, which was okay since I wasn't counting on any area isolation other than what maybe separate channels in the sidelight could do. Only a little bit of shuttering in the 19s boxed up the front washes quite nicely, not losing a lot of light, and I took *out* the 114 frost I'd originally specified because it was *way* too fuzzy at that distance. A little bit of barrel-out defocus was all that was needed to smooth things out.

House left stuff Even the plain ol' construction scaffold from Lynn Ladder doesn't get too ugly in a room this big. So all the stuff at house left here fit in pretty nicely and still left quite a bit of seating room, which was the whole idea.

Close examination of the scaff on this side reveals a very ghetto lashup to accomodate what became the lighting-control booth. Two stacked tables, and a third thrown in across a cable trunk [where it wouldn't sit flat] for the chairs. It all barely fit in between the X-braces but was actually fairly secure. Why wasn't this just on a mid-level set of work platforms? Because some collective of myself and the Arisia finance department screwed up and failed to actually make sure to order them, and I didn't catch that fact when the delivery came off the truck. So neither scaff could have a mid-level. But we made do, including building a little temporary throne for the masq show-caller on the other side.

And what of that lone 6x22 cannon sticking out of the scaff, reachable from the desk? That was for a very special little hack, following the year's informal secondary theme of ... wait for it ... ponies.   ZOMFG PONIES!!@!#!   I managed to cut an appropriate gobo and get it loaded into there without destroying it, and this was put to astoundingly successful use at the beginning of the Masquerade. Acting on Joel's brilliant inspiration, Sound played the well-known THX "deep note" trailer, and as the chord resolved itself I faded a big pink pony up on the cyc. House management had seated the conchair *right* up front and center, and from all reports she was completely doubled over laughing hysterically. And that after already being completely awash in ponies of all different forms from many other people. Later the masquerade MC calmly held up a My Little Pony figure and mentioned this theme, and I brought up the gobo again and made it gallop around a little by wiggling the back of the leko. More merriment ensued.

The 6x22, roughly equivalent to a 10-degree, has a multiplying factor of about 0.18. So from around 100 feet back, that's still a pretty big pony. But the gobo looked flawless, possibly because of an unavoidable very slight blurring from the light even at best focus. [Which, in this case, was beyond where the barrel screw would allow it to travel so for best equine-crispy-critterness it had to hang halfway out the end with nothing but friction retaining it.] And it fit on the cyc, which at this juncture was kind of important. I didn't even have a formal dimmer output run back there for it -- I drove the Leko with this little redneck two-channel, uh, test "board" [literally, mounted on wood] made from a couple of old dorm-burner dimmers with the linearizer hack added.

House right stuff, almost identical Almost identical stuff at house right, albeit in a slightly asymmetric plot, also showing a nice swag to the truss from where the cables jump off the door architecture.

These overall room shots were actually done a little later in the weekend just before strike, with daylight streaming in through the open full-height window curtains at the back. The spot is already off its stand and the ladder is left over from the previous night's last show where it helped someone get to the platform. These scaff ends actually have a very nice ladder formed into them at the middle, easier to climb than a lot of other models, but apparently even that's squirrely enough to bother some people and one of the Teseracte spot-ops felt more secure going up the 12-footer and then transferring over.

Almost invisible behind the scaff and ladder, near the doorframe, is one of the house-lights control panels. [One per room section, with a ganging control panel on the rear wall of E.] Typical Lutron system, but one of the newer ones whose presets can't be programmed without a laptop and special interface. The hotel is unable to remote the house-lights control to where a client may need it in the room, and they don't have one of those cute wireless remotes we've used in other venues. As an event begins nobody has the time or spare bodies to dork around with running through a full house over to faraway lighting panels and getting it coordinated right, so the the scoop and two parcans on each truss were our fake house-light. They were all aimed to splash across the ceiling and send a nice diffuse glow down. The 3000 watts of this I had on tap was *barely* enough for safe walk-in light, but it was sufficient with the hotel's system taken completely down to dark.

For the record, and this is probably not likely to change within a year given its stated difficulty, none of the four presets or the "off" can actually go to complete black. In "off" a few top-hats along the walls are still on. The only way to go full black I found was to go to preset 3, which is fairly dim in only the rectangular chandeliers, and then hold the "down" arrow button on the panel until they go out. So whoever goes to mess with them next year is forearmed. Maybe the hotel will have upgraded to a remoteable add-on by then, who knows. Enough events probably ask for it.

Complete stage look The overall stage look, with the two big IMAGs. [Note that the airwall behind is already being taken out on this morning of strike, which is also why the chairs are stacked up.]

The original design called for little winglets of drape at right angles to the main drape line to shield the screens from lighting splash, but it happily turned out they weren't needed. My side-stage angle was high enough and the screens were far enough out that I could completely cover the stage and still cut off the screens entirely. That was another reason to go with source4 ERSes and SeaChangers rather than some cheaper, klunkier solution involving wash lights -- I had really good *beam control*. That made the $230 or so rental difference all worth it. ALPS has the SeaChangers in nice six-pack roadcases, so that's how many I ordered. And they are not only *so* much nicer, faster, and quieter than the ColorMerges from the previous year, they come without the baggage associated with having yet another gear supplier.

Sidelight and fun backdrop on one of the bands While I took almost no pictures of the actual events, here's one example of how well my intentionally "sidelight-heavy" rig worked -- playing with some looks as Faebotica set up on stage. I could have any color on the talent from either side, and the cyc looking *completely* different as the sidelight didn't touch it. Add a minimum of face light, barely visible on the backdrop but enough to round out figures, and I thought it was a nice stage picture. A very careful look here reveals where the main warm/cool washes cross through the drape gap and intersect, and to either side the rounder output of the additional "shadow-killers" from fresnels on the side pipes. There was an almost non-noticeable color shift between main and "killer" only on the warm side, but with everything else up there was no way it would start being an issue. And no shadows of the *side trees* themselves showed up on the cyc via the main wash, which mildly bit me last year -- this time we pulled 'em far enough back to really work well and integrate with the rest of the rig's intentions. Straddling the drapeline has many merits.
Another reason I didn't get many event shots was that there was a video camera and often its operator right between me and center stage when I was sitting in the lighting booth. And speaking peripherally of video, I had to balance sidelit subtlety versus completely washing out the cyc with front-light for the sake of the cameras, and there was a bit of the usual bickering about human vs. camera perception levels. Okay, so I got it a little wrong a few times but was quick to cheat the "fred" up a little brighter when the request rolled in. Maybe when prosumer video gear finally gives a fully manual iris at an affordable price point, this issue will settle down for us. C'mon, guys, this is Art!

The backdrop texture, of course, was from glass lenticular gobos in the Martin 918s. These took a decidedly secondary role this year, as the whole club-dance event was in an entirely different space on the other end of the hotel and other than me renting him some infrastructure basics, was handled soup-to-nuts by DJPet and his vanload of *very* fun toys. My only mild shadow problem came from the throw of the wiggle-lights which couldn't be shuttered to avoid hitting the side trees in a "cyc spread" position anyway. But for random textural add-ons, who cares.

Climbing scaffold in heels Faebotica played a nice little rehearsal to about ten of their closest friends, the PMRP radio-play ran, and then it was time for Teseracte to take over and do their thing. They owned the room after midnight for *all three* main nights of the convention, which was one reason for having the ability to simplify lighting-control as much as needed. Their lighting guy likes having a few useful basics under his fingers, so he got his very own scene-memory page in the Smartfade which I added a few things to as he asked for them.

Teseracte's performers double as crew as needed, so sometimes they just have to climb scaffold in dress heels. I wish I'd gotten a better shot of this, as it was all rather funny.

The room plan worked out fairly well in general. The IMAG looked great and nothing got in its way including my lights or any people backstage, and as far as I know nobody even stumbled into any of the projector tripods. Our dead-case pile at backstage right could have been made a little neater, as it spilled a little far into real estate that the large groups of performers needed, but it wasn't a total mess and we could still find things. We wound up cable-ramping the house back left door anyway instead of flying everything on the truss, as sound didn't have quite enough snake to make the hop. The room's 100+ feet long but a lot more cable gets eaten when you start going around the periphery in addition! And after I tucked a couple of permanently-on safety lights under the rear risers, the fact that we had a big gap next to the entry/exit path was much less of a hazard.

For the record, out of 40 sandbags ordered, we had about 8 remaining in the trunk once everything was up. 40 is probably about the right number to have on hand.

One thing we need to think about better in the future is that if we have ASL interpreters, we plan where they're going to stand way before we did in this instance. That light got focused with the house open before the Masquerade, and that's just lame. If an MC podium can be planned on a room plot, so can an ASL signer, its lighting throw lines, and the block of hearing-impaired seating.

The hotel staff was really excellent to us. The electrician couldn't find his 50-foot camlok feeders and came back with a batch of 100-footers and a gush of apologies, and y'know, they conducted electricity just fine so we were all good. That, by the way, is unusual -- the hotel can supply feeders to a client's dimmer pack or PDU as part of the electrical package they sell. The housemen bent over backwards to get us what we wanted and ask for direction on where to put things to not be in our way, and didn't blink when we went hunting for more tables in the catering storage room ourselves. They were really careful with the airwall when moving it, and knew where to stack chairs to not be in our way at all. Everyone I ran into in the back hallways, security office, docks, up and down the staff elevators and across the main lobby -- all very cordial, "good morning, how are you", really giving the feeling that our staff and their staff were all working together as a team, and *nobody* in those sectors gave me any crap about being barefoot or even looked down funny.

[While it's been claimed to me that someone went to bat for that particular latter cause at the administrative level as part of informing the hotel about how Arisia works, I don't buy that as the sole reason that none of the hotel staff cared about it. Such things rarely reach down to the level of the staff we were commonly dealing with anyway, and furthermore I was around over the summer for some of the early walkthroughs and it wasn't any sort of issue then either. They just appear to have the wisdom to not care about it or want to groundlessly impinge on any guest's comfort.]

Misconfigured truss in dance-tent I did manage to escape the Grand complex every so often and run around a little. Speaking of the dance tent, here it is with its seven acres of dancefloor. I only got one shot of its early build but we already see a couple of issues. The stands need to be much farther out, as it's generally a bad idea to cantilever long sticks of truss. [That got fixed before hang happened.] What I didn't catch here was also the fact that the truss was bolted up wrong, not continuing the brace pattern through two joints. That's a little more minor but not the safest thing if it was going to be under full load. Which it wasn't.

Jim sent in his own report on the dance space later, which I've turned into something of an equipment link-fest and reposted. Hopefully other people got pictures of the dance-tent when it was up and running. It would probably be difficult, as Jim's stuff tends to keep up a pretty fast pace when it's running and as he points out, low-light-capable video would probably work better.

There's my car! I didn't see a whole lot of the con from staying relatively busy downstairs, but did get up to the staff den and some other spaces once in a while. From the upper floors I could look out toward the Laz parking facility and spot the fact that my car was still where I'd left it.

A chaos of submasters after a weekend of shows In contrast to many other regional cons, we had quite a number of events here besides just the Masquerade. I got to do some nice aesthetics with the belly dancers, and a bunch of cues banged in by total guesswork for the Our Hideous Future musical folks seemed to keep them reasonably happy. By the end of the weekend the board had crazy bunches of memory stored, occasionally spooled off to the SD card [visible as a vertical red line to the right of the knob in the big pic, which I surmise is ALPS paint on the card's back edge as they intend it to just be left in there]. The board labeling is a bit contrast-enhanced here for actual readability. The "baseline" subs used to construct everything else were on the yellow tape, and my intent was that per-show subsets and derivatives would be copied into memories on different pages and labeled on changeable white tape lower down. That's pretty much how it happened. We didn't come close to running short.

[Yes, we peeled all that gubbish off before packing up the board...]

As mentioned, getting this board instead of some of our more traditional consoles was a bit of an experiment. It's got all the usual basics, but some minor UI issues that I worried would make things a little more difficult here and there. Before the con I sent out some preliminary thoughts on board organization, and with the show [or our many shows] now done I've added a followup. Executive summary: it worked. The whole thing can be read here, likely of any interest only to lighting-control geeks and/or those who have run their own shows on these and want to see just how full of crap I am. Those interested in exploring this more can also find all the documentation and offline emulators at ETC's website [turn on cookies and user-agent headers or they won't talk to you]. Just for completeness I've also saved our final SHOW03.ASC file for perusal as well, showing how memories and cues and patch get saved. Memories are called "group", and note that they go up to 576 in the case of this board -- 48 subs * 12 pages worth. After that, about three-quarters through the file, comes the patch. The funny business starting around DMX 49 and up in the patch is a hack to collect all the common cyc-unit colors together into their own channel blocks, e.g. "all reds", "all greens", etc. Everything else is simply 1:1.

There's one particular nasty UI trap involving memory page 1; that's described in smartfade.txt too and is good to remember for future show planning.

The tape over the "G" SeaChanger sliders was to keep the "super green" wheel out of the picture for those used to mixing simple CMY, as it really doesn't add [or, ahem, subtract] that much in a beneficial way to any color selections unless you're striving for a really pure green. Which we rarely seem to. But that's what it's for if you need it.

Strike sequence and supplier lists to return gear to Tech didn't really have a strike plan or a way to coordinate with logistics on the out, as much as I tried to bring the matter up at the party and at least get people thinking about it before the libations completely took control. Some active resistance against even *discussing* it irked the hell out of me, because we were otherwise looking at a total charlie foxtrot. I woke up Monday morning with a fairly clear sequence of events in mind and went downstairs nice and early to see how much of it I could implement. Well, the chairs had already been moved into stacks, inevitably running repeatedly over the video and audio lines on the floor, so there was nothing to be done about that, and as I arrived the hotel guys were just doing the airwall push -- right past our box-land and the IMAG projector tripods, which they swore none of was actually in their way. Thus, getting various bits *out* of their way in advance was a big fail. But the room was now clear, so as people trickled in I was really the only guy in the place with half a Plan so the rest of my proposed sequence more or less played out. Obviously my scribble doesn't cover sound or video specifics, but the idea was to streamline overall teardown flow across the whole room.
Our list of organizations and people who supplied gear and how to get it back to them was kinda frighteningly large. These got copied to big signs in the next room for staging into labeled piles.

Having video's "Arisia-TV" servers on a big honkin' UPS allowed zero-downtime transfer to local wall power, which then allowed ripping up all the cabling from the PDU. I guess that alone made bringing the UPS along worthwhile, even though the damn thing weighs around 100 pounds.

Repeat after me: "Hobbit is *not* going to TD. Hobbit is *not* going to TD." ...

While I would really love us to be a really crack crew with perfect workflow, solid communication, and gracefully-executed high clue all round, this is volunteer labor and it's just not possible to be selective. Some of the folks who show up *are* really good, and that's how stuff gets built quickly and right. But in every group there are invariably a few slackers and drones, sour notes that consistently ruin the symphony of technical production for the rest of us. Perhaps, after I don't know how many years now, it's time to face this problem and solve it. The fact that I'd even bring any of this up in the middle of a rundown on an otherwise fun weekend should speak volumes about why I could never be an effective TD, but if the deeper particulars of this are interesting in the slightest they are held in a separate rant which is likely to come off a little harsh. You're warned.

Walking the cyc to a clean piece of carpet Walking the cyc
Teseracte's last show in the space, "Buck-nekkid Buffy" or whatever, had evidently gotten a little out of hand and left a mess of confetti and broken glow-stick fluid and who knows what other effluents on the stage and carpet underneath. I thought they'd gotten a little more careful about this sort of thing; they'd been fine over the rest of the weekend. Anyway, yuck, and with the rest of the stage already gone we couldn't drop the cyc in place onto that. So five people carefully uprooted the entire thing from the bases and walked it around to the other room, where the bases were reattached and then the standard dropping and folding procedure happened. A somewhat dicey maneuver, but we just *got* this thing and there's no way we were going to have it needing laundering after its maiden gig.

Part of what we're walking it around, of course, is the neatly stacked-up scaffolding. Two work-towers' worth makes a fairly tidy little bundle once packed down. But that and all the rest of the stuff ultimately couldn't remain where it was.

Scaffold got staged outside for pickup We had to be entirely out of the Grand by midnight -- told that another show would be loading in by then. So everything had to get staged for morning pickup by vendors elsewhere. The hotel security guys were kind enough to let us stash the scaffold *outside* in the loading-dock area right under their little office window, which made it really easy to pop onto the truck the next morning. That was accomplished by me simply talking with them directly, where it never would have filtered through our hotel-liaison chain in nearly enough time. While our hotel rep eventually learned of this and was mildly concerned about theft, it's about the last thing I was worried about over less than twelve hours on a cold night in a bleak and nonobvious-to-find loading dock. If someone really wants to steal scaff, any number of construction sites [including another Lynn deployment right across the street at the same time!] would be equivalent targets.
The Lynn order was specified for a "tailgate" dropoff and pickup -- i.e. a promise on the client's part to have someone to assist the [solo!] driver when loading the stuff. In theory, he should have a crew around the truck wrangling the stuff and never have to get off the flatbed. On the in, the truck had backed up to the dock and the stuff had gotten handed off to the horde of people milling around and streamed toward the ballroom, but for pickup I was the only one around to help this poor fellow out. For the larger pieces he stayed on the truck and I handed stuff up -- it's a nice shoulder workout. He said while that's true, it gets old pretty quickly. He regaled me with some funny/sad stories about having to load stuff all by himself on several occasions -- where he'd pull in and someone on the jobsite would point to a disorganized heap of parts and say "there's your stuff" and walk away. And the stories of damage followed by denial are legion, as he's been on jobs where he personally dropped off undamaged gear and later picked up a mess. Yes, the company imposes charges for damage outside normal wear and tear especially when there's that kind of eyewitness proof.

All the ALPS lighting gear had to be moved completely to the other side of the hotel [temporarily stuffed into the back of the Arisia truck to do the transfer] and stored in Galleria which was a bit of a push from the east dock, but somewhat conveniently combined with the order from the dance tent two floors up. Of course all of our personal piles had to leave Grand as well. Most of it went into cars as members of our crew made their departure. Me? I was there for another night -- per the usual for lighting people, first in and last out.

The high irony here is that by well after noon the next day, all the hotel had done in Grand was vacuum and move a few risers around -- nobody had shown up to do the next build in there at all. There were a few folks from Forrester setting up out in the prefunction area, but they certainly weren't using the ballroom yet. We could have easily kept rental gear and stuff staged for our own truck tucked into a corner of Grand all night, as we've commonly done in other spaces for the last decade-plus. I hope someone arranges a more sensible schedule with the hotel for next year, and takes some of the learned realities of this place into account.

Parking fees are gonna hurt... It was snowing the next morning, with the promise of it all turning to ice around midday. With a bit of trepidation I headed out to the lots after dealing with our various vendor pickups, knowing that severe pain was about to ensue the moment I inserted my card into this machine. [Pic obviously shot on the way in when it was sunny out, partially to record the phone number in case there was a problem. But every time I glanced out, my car was still there! Yay! PoniesZSzZ!@!]

huge snowflakes coming down on the ride home I got my own gear loaded, dropped off one of our crew in Somerville, and headed for home. The flakes were already turning to those huge sloppy ones as they often do as a day like this warms up, and things were entertainingly slippery. Six or so inches had come down that morning, and I managed to get home and shovel out before the ice crust would start forming on everything. At least I didn't have to grind my way up to New Hampshire like in 2010.


Arisia. Bringer of snowstorms.

_H*   110120

Additional references

SmartFade user manual -- for software version 3, which we were using

midpix11.txt -- direct, unencumbered links to Sandy Middlebrooks' perennially mediocre shots from the Masquerade greenroom
  [Apparently, no shots of the actual show this year]

The Post-Meridian Radio Players, presenters of the "Dr. Who Starship of Madness" show

Arisia Livejournal community, where there are likely to be several other sets of pictures posted

Arisia Facebook group wall, where even more picture sets will likely show up. Should be mostly visible to non-farcebook users, a refreshingly rare configuration