Arisia 2018: part 3

  Sunday slammin'

I got up early Sunday morning and brought my coffee right down to the main ballroom, because I really wanted to sit down at the Ion for a while and understand the whole deal with setting up for busking on it.  The term as used here means being able to do fairly spiffy and versatile combinations of looks on the fly with a small handful of sliders, and basically play the lighting rig like an instrument along with whatever's happening on stage.  Even now, a few years after its release and several software revisions based on user feedback, the Eos/Ion console family doesn't make that very easy.
Fuck this board.  Just fuck it.  Stupid Hog-wannabe fail I had taken a little time before con to download the latest manual and try to study up a little, and the more I wrapped my brain around the nomenclature and workflow the more I kept seeing this as a Hog wanna-be that still got a lot of stuff wrong and added needless complexity.  I even asked around on our lighting list, and was pointed toward a nicely done video that Angela had put together a while back -- sort of a novel approach, but likely not compatible with what we had here.  As I sat down and tried to work through recording distinctly *separate* fixture parameters into submasters and cuelists, I just got more frustrated.  This would have taken ten minutes on a Hog 4.  But by working carefully and un-doing some mistakes and remembering what Daniel had hinted at, I eventually got a pretty close approximation of what I wanted and thus felt reasonably ready for the "Puppetry Slam" Masquerade halftime show.
So here's a bit of a diversion about my findings, of interest only to folks familiar with the Eos/Ion family and/or the relevant concepts, which I suspect most readers will want to simply skip.  That's okay; this is in-depth geek stuff, not discourse on social justice.
The reason for separating parameters to be controlled on different sliders is so that they can be used in a wide variety of combinations.  For example, having a selection of positions and motion effects for moving lights on one playback, colors on another, and gobos on a third allows for many different looks and progressions from just playing those three sliders.  In my specific case I wanted to separate hue, saturation, and intensity for the side-stage Lustr LED fixtures.  When you're accessing units in the "live" display, once you start modifying anything about color, *all* of the HSV fields populate with something and if submasters are recorded that way, they will invariably "stomp" each other in unexpected ways when playback is attempted.  Even if they're all supposedly pure HTP subs, which is crazy.

The answer that Daniel described, and it still took a bit of messing around to understand it, is to program it all in Blind and note that changes take effect immediately into permanent memory -- this is not a temporary editing space like the Hog "programmer", and there's no concept of "record" to save what you build because it's already done.  For cues or submasters, the memory object has to be created first -- which in Blind is a matter of doing something like "Sub 3 [return]", making a new sub with no content [and no indication of whether you're working on something already extant or something new].  Now as units are selected and parameters get changed, they're already memorized in that sub, poof.  The way I found to enter individual parameters across multiple selected units is to click the mouse in the top of the parameter column -- the command line updates to say, for example, "channel 5 + 6 Hue" which I think is the only way to reference *only* hue and not anything else.  I may very well have that wrong, and there's a less klunky way to enter such values.  [Later edit: yes, there is -- I realized later that bringing up the CIA also shows all the fixture parameters on mouseable buttons, where they can be individually selected.]  Even spinning the encoders doesn't seem to avoid suddenly updating extra columns like Saturation along with.  And for Hue especially, since we're talking about a color-wheel value in degrees, entering 359 instead of 100 will allow the slider to progress across all possible hue values when run up and down.  Other parameters may have similar non-0-to-100 ranges.  Busking in HSV is kind of interesting because you quickly learn about where to run the resulting Hue slider to for the approximate color you want before pushing intensity up.  Blue is awfully close to hot pink, and there's a large range of rather icky greens.  Maybe applying a curve would help? 

If you do wind up with "too much stuff" in the memory, the way to get rid of individual parameters is to reference one and then type "@ [return]" in the command line.  This is the standard way to un-set attributes in Eos-ese as a whole.  The Hog syntax is "knock out", a bit of a Britishism, but removes exactly what you say to remove.  Simply setting a stray parameter to 0 will *not* accomplish the desired thing -- because as soon as the sub or cue runs and asserts, guess what!  The value has to simply be *blank* to not have any effect and leave it for other faders to control.

I also finally figured out how to make cuelists, which are obscure on the Ion but absolutely foundational on the Hog.  To store or build a look into a new cuelist, say, list 7 as I was using for some wiggle-light positions, reference "cue 7/1" which creates the new list and saves cue 1 within it.  Once a list exists and cues are written, the list can be bound to a slider as a playback by typing "Cue 7/ [return]" in the command line to get into its context and then doing the both-buttons "load" to a new fader on the wing.  A blank fader will get auto-configured as a sub or a playback via this process, depending on what was last referenced.  Loading a slider won't work if it already has anything bound to it -- the old slider assignment has to be removed first by holding down "escape" and tapping the relevant bump button, or there's also some unclear rhetoric about "{release}" softkeys in the manual.  [They couldn't make "delete" work as one might expect, but instead you "delete" a submaster memory but "escape" its binding off a handle??]  Once that's set up, the cuelist will run independently on that slider, yay!  Usage is still a little klunky -- the bump button becomes a "go", the relevant auto-marking for non-intensity stuff is done in each cue's time, and the slider can manually control intensity up and down.  There doesn't seem to be any "auto-execute" functionality when the slider moves up off 0, but I might have missed something.  Each cue completes as the fader reaches 100, and then you have to *hit the button again* for the next cue.  The other button will go backwards through the stack.

I couldn't figure out how to kill a running cuelist quickly, but bumping the cuelist back far enough to hit its 0 seemed to eventually de-assert it.  Maybe "goto cue" "0" and a bump would have done that?  Much of this is inscrutable from the manual -- ETC has so twisted up their usage of the words "load", "delete", "escape", "release", "off", "shift", "move", "restore", "go to" and the like that mean very different things on other brands of boards, that you really have to learn a whole new mapping for what the hell they intended. 

At any rate, I learned a little more about this thing but that doesn't necessarily mean I've gotten to like it any better.  To be fair, I don't get a lot of time on these desks so maybe there's a more efficient way to set up this sort of workflow that I just haven't caught onto yet.  I didn't find too much of real use by poking around various online forums.

Anyway, after all that I finally had my separated side HSV and a fistful of other stuff ready to go on an alternate fader page, and the Slam rehearsal and run went off pretty well overall.  Their "cue sheet" had came to us as a stack of scribbled Post-Its in someone's notebook, which Abby was kind enough to spread out on a sheet of paper and go make copies of for us.  Hopefully they've learned how to describe their tech requests a little more clearly...

It had gotten colder... I took a brief lunch break upstairs, and looking out from the staff den across Boston, the steam plumes made it obvious that the weather had gotten colder.  Our load-out wasn't going to be quite as balmy as the in, I supposed.

Doom and Gloom Doom and Gloom
My next event was lights for Doom, Gloom, and Despondency; a succession of readings and songs about topics as dark and miserable as people could come up with but still be deliberately funny.  The game was to see who couldn't resist laughing, and eject them from the room for a short penalty until they could "regain their composure".  Lighting for this was pretty much listed as a "set-n-forget", but heck, if I was going to be on duty for the thing, why not actually run with it and do some subtle changes to follow along?  I popped a couple of different gels into the rig, notably a handful of steel blues for a more "dead" feel, but kept some reds and whatever other weird stuff was already in there on tap.  So when an entrant title seemed to involve certain topics, I decided an overall mood and gently brought that in for their time.  For example, a more blood-red wash for pirate stories.

Quick note about the little gray Lightronics board we had there in second tent: it's a simple two-scene preset, but it *does* have a submaster mode and programming them is dead-simple.  Get what you want, Record, bump-button.  While Doom was setting up I ran through the channels to figure out what the heck I had where, and wound up with all of 4 sliders to run the show from.  The two narrow spots highlighted each entrant, and the rest was various wash combinations.  Oh, and if we run those trees with six lights and the two dimmer packs per again -- the easiest way to deal with contiguous channeling, and I think someone figured this out during build, is to address the packs

    1 - 4                        7 - 10
    4 - 7                       10 - 13
That way you use the first three channels of each pack [and thus no more than 3 lights per feed circuit] and get 12 channels all the way across the rig.

Doom group The Doom group at the end, in their finest funerary: judges, past winners, and the trophy which gets further embellishments and passed along year to year.  They had not run this in real event space before, and seemed pleased that someone actually cared enough to stick around and lend some enhancement to the show.  It's my yob, mon.  [Kludge and Ed were also busy between acts getting sound dealt with.]  Some of the group are friends with the tech crew anyway, so they're familiar with how we tend to approach tasks.

  But now it was time to shoo everyone out of that room and do the all-hands quick strike and conversion to Masquerade greenroom, as well as go spiff up Main Tent and get it ready.  We got a bit of respite in terms of space, as an extra line of temporary gear storage was allowed to form on the other side of the depot door path, so it wasn't quite the black-hole-dense tetris job like last year.  We do have an awful lot of *stuff*, needed to serve a 4000-person tech-heavy convention...

The actual Masq run crew was off getting dinner during this; we've decided that it's a good idea to relieve them and have a whole different crew swap in for halftime and in the case of camera ops, finish out the event.  Many of us used to stay and run the entire evening for these things, not to mention being in rehearsals for many hours beforehand, and unless one has superhuman amounts of enthusiasm, that can be a real grind.

Line around the block for Masquerade The line for Masquerade before house-open stretched all the way down the hall by Commonwealth, right to the door by the tech depot.  Like last year, I stuck the fourth wireless comm set on my head and could monitor the backstage and run-crew channel, just to hear if they needed anything and then the flow as the show started.  I started the weekend with fresh batteries in all of the packs and cleaned contacts, and periodic testing resulted in never having to change a set of batteries over the whole weekend.  Z!'s HME packs are pretty frugal on power, even when running two or three event slots a day.

Video land in full run state My view of the Masquerade was highly variable -- I observed how video-land was running for a while, which included all the audio on reasonable speakers at the switcher.  Old camera tweaks and converters aside, the significant other new part of the rig was the big single flat-screen monitor with all the camera previews and program out rendered onto it, eliminating a whole bunch of separate, heavy and power-hungry little monitors.  And Bill's enhancements to the shading setup were making his life a lot easier.

Camera operators Some people saw the Masq mostly through tiny little boxes atop the cameras they were running. 

Impressive end to dance number Since I would be immediately on duty for halftime, I spent the latter part of the Masq watching from under the lighting scaffold and ready to jump as soon as it was done.  This entry had a fairly impressive ending.

There must have been enough light on stage for the cameras; I haven't heard any complaints yet.  It's possible the MC was *too* bright between entrants, as it tended to bring our usual problem of a lot of spill onto the stage making it harder to truly "set in black".

Puppetry, monster circus The last act ran and the judges took off, and then it was my turn on the board to put the morning's programming efforts into practice!  Busking it went well and Puppetry Slam was actually quite funny; there's clearly a lot of dedication to the craft among the participants -- both in construction and performance.

Shadow puppetry, monkeys jumping on the bed Shadow puppetry, down came the good fairy
This one's cue entry said "no light", and here's why -- a shadow puppet screen, rendering such old favorites as "monkeys jumping on the bed" and "little bunny fu-fu".  In this variant, Fu-Fu's arsenal escalated through billyclubs, morning-star maces, and finally a gun.  Which could actually shoot visible holes through shadow field mice, in perfect time with the sound effects -- that was pretty impressive.  I didn't get a chance to examine the gear to see how it was done.

Stuff cleared from under truss rig After Masq we did a mini-strike, clearing drape and other impediments from underneath the truss in case PSAV came in earlier than our call and wanted to lower it.  Someone else would have to deal with the ramp railing, though; that was the housemens' thing.  We also cleared everything off the scaffolds, with the idea of knocking them down first thing in the morning and doing the Marr return ourselves.  We possibly could have cleared some chairs and done the disassembly right then, but everyone had had a long day and there were libations to go enjoy so we left it for morning.

Weird windblown patchy snow It was snowing a little by Monday morning, with a howling wind pushing it sideways and into funny patches, and a hearsay forecast of 1" - 3" by the end of the day [which didn't actually appear].  That wasn't a fun prospect for loadout, but hey, it's January.  It was very dry, though, and the sidewalk between the patches was totally tolerable for the walk to the Westin.  Absolutely no issues about feet at the Aloft, by the way -- maybe one neutral comment from the desk clerk checking me in, and then some healthy admiration from an overnighting Fedex pilot who saw us leaving -- "You're not going out like that, are you?"   "Yup, sure we are!"   "Wow, that's pretty tough" [or something like that].

Intercom cables over door... ... and flipped down I'd done the usual run of intercom cables over the very front edge of the door woodwork, tagged gently back with tape; it all flipped right off from the ground as expected.  Well, almost; a couple of them hung up on the screen, but were easy to flip the rest of the way down.
At least three people got tutelage or refreshers on flip-coiling and cable management over the course of the weekend, including one of the fellows from the local barefoot hiking group who had also gotten interested in generally helping at Arisia -- with us on the tech crew or elsewhere.  He had actually studied my ancient tutorial on over/under winding and was already doing it with his own cables at home.

Truck used as storage locker I took a peek at things out by the docks.  The "whole weekend" Enterprise truck wound up getting used as a storage locker for carts and crates, possibly not such a great idea in retrospect because of the people-points burnt to handle it ... but apparently Art Show at the very least had a bit of space crunch this year and really needed the pipe carts to be elsewhere.

Icicle hanging off water bottle And yup, it was cold, even in the relatively sheltered area of the docks tucked under the building.  These are the bubbler bottles right by the door into the high-side, whose caps apparently don't always seal well.

Load of scaffold to return Dan had hoofed it down to the Ryder yard in the meantime, and came back with our third truck for the weekend.  The scaffold had been taken down by now, and as other people ran it out I stayed here lashing it in and getting it safe to roll.  Dan then took off for the quick run to Marr.

We finally determined the best route for that -- down D to Cypher, over to A St, down to Old Colony and back over to continue on D.  Marr's warehouses are basically right there.  I had asked Marr, and learned that it's how their own drivers would go.

Scaff ends all hung on forklift Down at the Marr shop, Dan got this shot from the back of the truck after the guys there pulled a fun little hack to ease offloading.  They simply stuck a forklift into the back of the truck and hung all the end pieces right on the forks, and the entire batch of them could then be transported across the warehouse at once.

  While the main rig was coming down, I set myself to packing up the intercom and the rest of my gack.  People were being really good about bringing stuff over to my pile, and coiling up the headset wires and for the most part tying them right -- thanks for that, it saved a lot of time!  Amusingly, one came back wrapped in a white tape label with this written on it:
    Returned from Main Stage
    "Works OK but muff is very uncomfortable"
Well, yeah, some of the ear padding is on the old side, and getting a few new muffs has been on the to-do list for a while now.  So, noted.  The more fundamental problem is that those fixed-boom SMH210 headsets aren't very adjustable and are a bit of a brain-squeezer after a long shift, and there's not much to be done about it in principle except spring $$$ for a bunch of different headset types.  Whoever that was could have come and asked for a different one; we had one or two extras.

So I was ready to load out pretty early in the game.  Once things calmed down a little in the ballrooms and I realized that Arisia TV had shut down and didn't need the big UPS anymore, I figured I'd test the in/out parking privileges supposedly granted by the Aloft and bring the car over to load up.  They'd given me a printed QR code which supposedly would open the gate, but this was a total fail in both directions.  For a whole stream of people, apparently -- from what I could tell, everyone had to punch the "help" button and talk to the parking headquarters, give a name and room number, and receive manual intervention.  The parking facility blamed the weather; it's apparently been a problem ever since they put that system in.  Once in a while someone seemed able to get it work with their phone displaying the QR code; I can't imagine why that would be any better than a nice crisp black-n-white paper copy with no folds in it.  Maybe we'll see next year; at $25 a day [in 2018] it's a little more than the Channelside but nowhere near what you'd pay under the Westin, and still with a high convenience factor.

I got loaded up and re-parked, and then switched fully back to Logistics as truck loading continued and Storage runs started.  A lot of Tech gear could go back, and once Dan and I found that Art Show was loaded he was ready to fire up and take it home.  So off we went, with me riding shotgun, figuring we'd just tandem this delivery in with the same crew that we figured was already over there.  Apparently this took Lisa by surprise; when Dan and I showed up at Storage, everyone else was gone!  A call or two later, Lisa and Mark headed back over to help us offload.

Before they got there Dan and I started simply shoving stuff out of the truck and up the elevator, which went surpringly fast with just the two of us.  I was in the 'vator just kicking carts out into the hall and going right back down, and that flowed nicely until we started getting to the smaller stuff.  Meanwhile, more help arrived.

Pipe guns as art As we continued with just the four of us, it took a surprisingly short time to not only empty the truck, but do the long push down to the annex and put everything away.  I thought the first two "guns" in made an amusing little vignette.  Maybe it's because the individual items of Art Show are large volume, that we got this room filled back up pretty fast.

We broke an Akro-Mils! We actually *broke* one of the supposedly indestructible Akro-Mils crates.  It was still a little cold, was full of reams of paper, and fell from about a 4-high stack going over the little carpet bump into the Annex.  Wham.  So maybe the claims that these are the only ones that survive Burning Man don't include an appropriate cold-weather data set, dunno.

Even though we were done and back in a reasonable time, we still only made the very end of Dead Dog.  That didn't really bother me since it was still going and there was still food to be had, but Lisa was really trying to work timing to not have truck crew volunteers miss it.  Our "surprise artshow truck" evidently threw all that off a bit.  Nonetheless, it was nice to have that all put away, and we all got to sleep at a semi-reasonable hour.

Tuesday breakfast The traditional Tuesday logistics-volunteer buffet was held nice and *early* this time, which helped limit random extra people and distractions and conversational ratholes.  We were here to work, and this was just a fuel stop.  And while I observed a couple of quick downward glances, no problems from the waitstaff about feet -- I didn't even try to plead any excuses before walking in this time, no point in it.

Smoothies from the buffet A couple of us observed that the fruit smoothies that Sauciety puts out for breakfast are really good, and that having something like this might be a great idea for green room / staff den if they're sufficiently easy to make in large quantity.  And the color is awesome.

More mattress deliveries, in the way Tuesday, as back to a normal real-world workday, brought swirling chaos to the docks again.  I went to move a truck between sides and saw that yet more mattresses were on the way in, and that one of the high-side bays had already gotten a dumpster dropped in it [pink arrow].  Oh, this was going to be all kinds of fun, since we still had a lot of stuff to fetch out of high-side.
I tried to negotiate for a little slot of time with one of the waiting mattress drivers, but trying to talk to someone from outside a truck never works over the idling noise ... and it was clear that he was already pissed off, when he muttered something about "fucking ridiculous", slammed his rig into gear, and drove off away from me.  Then he swung around and basically started the equivalent of a K-turn right in the middle of the street, with a 53' trailer.  Seeing as he'd need lots of room to do that, I went back to my idling truck already hanging half out of low-side and backed up into the bay to open up the space in front of me.  He completed his turn [which was fascinating to watch] and headed up toward the light, and I honestly thought he was *leaving* in disgust or something.

So I swung over to high-side with the intent of lining up on something, anything -- the *third* bay there had also just been vacated by a roll-off truck pulling the recycle-cardboard crusher out of there, but they'd said they were going to come back with a new one in a few minutes.  The mattress guy was *not* leaving after all, he'd just pulled up toward the light to begin a long back-in to the dock -- which he started to do right in on top of me, as I was trying to figure out where to go -- he was being a bit of an aggressive dick about it, actually.  Then another small truck showed up with guys to service boilers or something.  Basically it was a whirlwind of trucks all vying for this space, resulting in a whirlwind of *people* inside at the security desk wondering what the fuck to do about all this and Lisa frantically on the phone to people above her pay grade.  The security guy actually had to say "awright, calm down, everybody!  What's going on out there?"

The mattress guy was "on the clock" and the unloading crew guys insisted that they *had* to get him in by 9:30.  For another three-hour unload.  Then the boiler-service fellow brought me that morning's learning experience: he said "aah, no problem, we'll just load from the street" which he could do because he had a liftgate.  There wasn't any particular reason we couldn't do the same, and now it appeared to be our only option.

Loading from the street So that's what we did -- I asked one idling car to move out of the way, squeezed the Enterprise back out past Mattress-man's big unmoving butt, and slotted it in next to the boiler guys but farther back so we wouldn't clash load paths.  It was a little more work to bring things out the side door and down the ramp, but not a showstopping hardship and we got it done.  It was how my own gear had gone in and out, too.

It was still pretty chilly.  Look close [big pic]: Julia's totally doing the "toe-float" thing on the diamond-plate steel!  But for the most part we were still working hard enough to not notice.

The deeper learning experience was that apparently among professionals whose jobs involve trucks, this is a relatively frequent thing -- there may be full docks or even no docks any time or place in their daily movements, and drivers just deal with it as they're able.  It's easy to fall into that mindset of "oh, we *have* to have a full dock to load our stuff!" -- not necessarily true, once all options are studied.  Heck, we have to use the lift at Storage and NESFA anyways, and yes, it is always a bit of a pain but it's what we do.  Because of so much gear and personnel crossover between Arisia and Boskone, talk of renting combined space at a facility with real docks *has* definitely occurred over the years.  Just sayin'.

Frankly, we should not have *nearly* this much crap still left in the hotel by Tuesday morning.  If that means that *all* the convention's departments and functions need to start shutting down and packing earlier, including dead-dog food, so be it.  Having it in a truck overnight is fine, as long as we're not running all over the building in the morning and finding ourselves locked out of rooms we thought we still had [yes, that happens frequently] and having to roll things out past people trying to work their own normal days.  We should be 100% *out* of those spaces by Monday night, period.  Whatever's left should really be down to whatever can fit in personal vehicles or be carried out and popped into a truck without moving it.  The Tuesday buffet is a pleasant social interlude for dedicated crews, sure, but we shouldn't be staring at this much on-site work afterward.

Having the four days of con is a luxury already; let's keep our responsibilities and our endpoints in perspective.

Both trucks at Storage?? Finding and fetching the remaining stuff took longer than it did to actually load it, but soon enough we were ready to roll out.  I checked out of the Aloft and retrieved the car and we headed to Storage, where for some reason the NESFA-bound truck had also gone.  This is the usual point at which I start failing to understand various personal-agenda reasons for logistical wrangling; to some degree it has to do with optimizing for Boskone a month later.  We peons just pushed stuff into Storage as directed and stacked things up and then got the hell out of town, refreshingly early this time, for a well-deserved long rest.

_H*   180125