Thrashing on Thursday
|Our load-and-go at home was a bit more leisurely, since Mark was picking up the Penske that morning instead, and I arrived at the hotel a little before noon. In distinct contrast to last year when we could start unloading a little earlier than our official pickup time, this year was a mess. The ballrooms were still in use, and the ongoing renovation activity upstairs had everything jammed up on the high-side docks ... part of which apparently included a whole lot of new beds.|
I wormed in past not only this full-size semi, which was indeed full of
mattresses getting delivered upstairs, but there was *another* one just as
big waiting out on the street.
On the dock, guys were busily rolling them out two and three at
a time, but it was still sort of slow going to deliver them and they
estimated that each trailer was a two or three hour unload.
So basically one bay out of two would stay jammed solid all afternoon.
Y'know, I *had* requested the Ops department to ask about this a while back -- potential interference from the renovation, stray dumpsters, whatever. Just to set some of our expectations.
|Somewhere post-noon I peeked into the back of the ballroom and saw a bunch of suits sitting quietly around tables and a setup of A/V gear still running. Evidently it was some kind of conference for bankers from Santander, and they weren't even close to done yet. The kicker was that they *knew* they were running overtime and simply forked up the necessary penalty/bribe to the hotel to stay longer instead of doing better planning in the first place. The new kid on the financial block around these parts, but backed by plenty of that historical one-percenter arrogance that tells them that the little people who load trucks and reset function rooms don't matter. Have I ranted about corporate gigs and the flagrant *waste* that goes on around them? Another fine example of that here, and impeding *our* progress. And we had scheduled deliveries coming, too. It would be totally unfair to make our vendors wait for the same surprise reason, but I suppose rental houses like ALPS are used to that sort of thing.|
|Artshow and the low-side had already unloaded, and our trucks were parked in tandem out of the way. [Nice "butt sniff" backing job, somebody!] Fortunately the bankers wrapped it up fairly shortly, and then their outside A/V contractor had to strike and load out -- thus taking the one remaining high-side bay [and in the meantime, the second mattress semi had swapped in]. After that our truck could get in but still had to dance around the vendors when they showed up and vacate long enough for them to drop off.|
I saw very little of this process, actually.
I couldn't unload yet either, and it was time to go fetch the third
"thermally sensitive" load from Storage.
Mark hopped in the Enterprise and I grabbed crew to ride shotgun in my
car, the only extra seat since it was still fully loaded, and we went
over to wrangle the rest.
It was a fairly short load, and the high-side bay was finally clear when
we got back so the last gear got zipped into the ballroom pretty quickly.
Then I headed to the Aloft to check in and figure out where to put the car -- turned out there was plenty of room in the lot a block away, for not a huge financial burden, so I went for it and they conveniently added that right onto the room bill. Some people apparently didn't like the relatively compact "euro" style of the Aloft rooms, but I found ours perfectly functional even if appointed in a somewhat millennial-trendoid feel. And because I opted out of daily bed changes, they kept throwing $5 food coupons under the door.
Tilting back to tech
All this kept me off-site for more of the afternoon than in previous years, which was actually convenient relative to the build timeline. When I finally wandered in, tech things were well under way and the truss rig was close to finished, which I mostly stayed clear of unless someone had a specific question or a piece of gear I needed.
Kinda too bad, really, because Daniel had done up some really beautiful drawings to work from along with matching pipe tape to make it a smooth process. [Having a link to the final versions thereof would be nice, ahem]
|There were plenty of other things to be worked on, though, and as I looked around the room I saw that the scaffolding order had arrived and nobody had touched it yet. So I grabbed another person or two and started assembling our towers. The first thing I noticed was that Marr had given us some really nice deck planks, brand new with a nice grip-coating instead of the usual splintery plywood, along with what seemed to be very new end-frames. We even had to push membranes of dried paint out of some of the pin holes, hinting that they'd never been used.|
Contrary to what some of our helpers seem to believe, knocking together a
two-course scaffold tower with wheels is very quick and takes no more than
two people, maybe three near the end when you're passing the top rail
First thing is to upright an end frame and attach one of the "X" braces to
it, after which it can lean onto the "X" by itself and freestand.
Then bring over another end frame and attach the rest of the "X" to
it, and all of that can stand alone while the second "X" is added.
Maybe add the big diagonal "gooser" at this point to help square things
up and be more rigid.
*Then* lift the end frames one at a time, to tilt the assembly up while a
second person puts the wheels into the bottom pipe ends and locks them in
with drop pins.
Throw a plank or two on the top and start the second level, which is when
the folks more confident with heights and balance should go topside.
Scaffolding is quite light for its assembled outer volume and is relatively
easy to lift, even when built up two-high with planks on it.
And it's always nicer when it's not raining concrete dust on your head.
Oh, and don't lock the wheels until the tower is in its FINAL
position -- it's okay if it wiggles around a little while people are still
building it, they expect it to and manage their own balance accordingly.
And that grip-paint felt really great when I was standing on it.
I then quietly busied myself with the intercom system, starting with the
usual three long shots over the door woodwork [and got the pin directions
right this time].
I changed the layout a bit this year, moving the headend and wireless
base to under the stage on the "bullshit power" circuit instead of back by
video, and this actually simplified everything a little.
The system power supplies tend to have multiple outputs and effectively
constitute a three-way splitter, so with that and a handful of other
splitters and Ys it went together in a fairly nice star topology with
minimal pack daisy-chaining.
[Full resolution: il02.png]
An important improvement was indicating *how* to label the various
cable ends, especially when final hookups would be done on a nosedive
crawl under the stage.
I spent some bit of time under there, getting this together and also
constructing the general "rehearsal bus" to include power, intercom,
Daniel's lighting control network, a video monitor feed, and a voice-of-god
mic [which never happened, they used a wireless].
Heck, might as well add chilled water, compressed air, and propane
lines while we're at it.
The complexity over by video turned out to be simpler than shown -- with
the consolidated switch gear, there was no longer the second table behind
the director/switcher station.
The comm system was once again generally quiet, except for a bit of a mysterious hum at the end of that video chain -- which I didn't hear anywhere else in the system, it seemed to be localized somehow but not getting back onto the rest of the audio bus. It also wasn't particularly loud so we decided to just live with it, and I never solved what that problem was.
One minor problem came up, with an easy fix: at one point I found that the "signal" functionality of the B channel wasn't working -- not that we actually use it in practice, but observing its action is a good quick test for proper DC presence and line termination when hooking things up. By knowing the system layout, diagnosis didn't take long -- turned out someone had plugged the green intercom lead into the XLR "Mic" input on the back of the crawl camera, and that loaded the line in some way that didn't make it go totally dead [or worse, short its audio or power]. Moral of the story: don't plug intercom into anything other than *our* known intercom gear, even if some other random thing says "intercom" on it which some of our cameras very well might. It's almost guaranteed to be incompatible.
|Lighting focus was happening meanwhile, and I don't think I touched any of it that night. I drove the lift next door briefly to put the camera/lighting/intercom shot over the woodwork in C, and generally went around attending to other minor deployment tasks. We didn't work too late on Thursday evening; crew call was at 9 the next morning and we weren't in bad shape considering.|
|What I never got a picture of and apparently nobody else did either, was the absolute *rats nest* of a power distro that PSAV gave us to split out 18 or so single circuits. The nice PDU rack that hotel engineering used to give us had apparently gone off-property after PSAV took over, and what they had now was a smallish box with cams in and three-gang breakers and a bunch of "TL5" twistlock outputs to present three circuits each -- then feeding a clutch of their three-phase distro boxes through a tangled pile of the flat cable that they like for running under airwalls and across doorways. This then had to get broken *in* to the Socapex feeding up to the truss, leading to a whole 'nother layer of high-power spaghetti on top. It was something of a horror show, and made for a lot more stray noise once various sound and other signal cables got run past it. The flat cable isn't internally twisted, and probably radiates AC fields very differently than typical round 12/3.|
|We already sort of knew power was going to be a cluster from all the confusion about it and PSAV's inventory on the conference calls, and rented another couple of LEX "pagoda" boxes [aka "mushrooms"] from ALPS to add on. One of these wound up running from a completely different main breaker behind E, and we then had to daisy-chain more circuits under the airwall into B to get enough to run the conventional cyc units [new this year]. Hopefully having those instead of the traditional Colorblaze LEDs was worth the upstage truss work for the sake of more spectrum-balanced video. Fortunately, the different feeders didn't bring any notable ground faults [we metered it] so we can perhaps surmise that the company-switch panels along the back of Grand all come from the same local bus. Next year, we really should limit PSAV's scope of power work to bringing camlok feeders to where we need them and we rent in the right equipment to build from there.|
|There were some other *really special* gear-related surprises around the ballroom over those two days, but I'll let others with more information relate all that.|
|Build continued the next day, and as the actual start of the con neared we had the second tech meeting. Roles for that evening's events were assigned, and remaining tasks reviewed. It's good that we hold these, if for no other reason than to help lock people into specific roles in advance, because otherwise it would either be a scramble to find someone who could deal with them or wind up having a small number of people trapped in function rooms for hours on end. We always have a large set of runtime positions to fill, and expect people to trade off to the extent they're comfortable with. Even with the meetings it's sometimes hard to get people to take jobs -- they're either unsure of their own abilities, have other things to go see, or are just plain tired of doing particular functions over and over. I didn't volunteer for anything in that night's block myself, because this year I had a slightly different agenda to attend to.|
|Registration finally ramped down for the night and things settled into the late-evening events, with relatively few tech demands. It was time to go wandering for a bit, to pop into the Art Show reception and go spin some LED staff at the drum circle. Others decided it was a convenient time to practice some contact acro. All good fun, but that was enough playing around for one evening.... It was late, time for bed, and then back to real work the next day.|
A sketchy view of Saturday
|More tech meetings were had, and more roles assigned. I did another brief "advocacy" stint by Saturday's short registration line, but by now things there and up at Infodesk were actually going pretty well without my help. My pre-assigned tech event slots were coming up, and I needed to do a little prep work in advance of the first one -- lighting the Bellydance that evening.|
Ironically, that was another total failure to take pictures.
I was so busy trying to get things together and then work the show
that I didn't even think of it -- I think the camera was stashed in
the Depot someplace anyway.
Bottom line was, what I wanted for Bellydance had not really been
set up in the Ion light board yet, and even though I'd tried to study
up a little before the con I wasn't sure how to get that together.
The thing that saved me was getting out the
and setting them up as side footlighting on the stage wings.
I put that together quietly while Masq rehearsals were going on, tucked
it all under the stage during the intervening Hawking run, and then
popped them into place during the next changeover.
I got David to fix the patch and bang in a few basics to make them work
the way I wanted, and even though I was missing control over some parts of
the rig I was pretty much ready to go and had Samara's cue-sheet in hand.
I was actually rather pleased with how Bellydance turned out; if anything the Rokboxes were throwing more light on the dancers than the main rig, and looked a whole lot better than boring old tungsten warm/cool. The low "shinkicker" angle was also entirely appropriate, for a dance style traditionally illuminated from fires on the ground, and the dancers were sort of framed by their own imposingly tall shadows out at the edges of the cyc. I could also get plenty of punchy color on them, because that's what multi-emitter LEDs are great for. By dumb luck, perhaps, a reasonable stage picture, and since nobody else seems to have captured any of it either, the only record I would likely ever have would be the video once it got processed and released.
I still wanted to get a better handle, so to speak, on setting up the board. I had another event coming up where I'd need to do more things on the fly, and wanted more of the rig immediately functional to do that. An in-depth chat with Daniel later that evening gave me some good ideas.