Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rolling to San Francisco

This morning we picked up the Uhaul Trailer from a new place and loaded it up with the equipment. We packed our belongings and hopped in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and laughed a little as we headed on our way.
We were laughing because as we took stock of what we needed to get there, do the job and get home, we have it all covered.
From GPS, to Camera gear, Laptops with Air Cards for wireless internet access (which is allowing me to blog at 60 miles per hour right now.. good thing Allen is driving) it is fun and relatively easy.

Allen said "We should be doing this for a living!"

I reminded him that we are.

So, as we fly along the highway to San Francisco in the warm 82 degree sun, I realize how thankful I am to be able to do what I love and with people that I love to do it with.

2008-10-29 14:40:11 -0700

Monday, October 27, 2008

Presentation Fashion Tips from an audio guy

I was running audio for an event yesterday in a small room and it was being video taped.
The main doctor arrived and to my dismay, she was wearing a white blouse with Ruffles down the center. It looked pretty, but I knew it was going to cause me problems all day.

ruffled blouse for work

You might ask, what does the audio guy care about the presenter's blouse?

Have you ever been to a presentation where the presenter stood on stage and the lavaliere microphone was clipped to the lapel of their sport coat? When they were looking straight ahead the volume of their voice was one level, as they looked at the audience to their left, the volume got louder because now their mouth was closer to the microphone, and then they shoot their head to the right, and the level almost drops out.

This is the audio engineers nightmare to deal with.

The best place to place the lavaliere microphone is about 4 inches under the chin, clipped onto the presenters shirt or blouse.
This way the microphone is close to the origin of the sound, and because it is center, when the presenter turns their head to speak, it stays pretty close to the same distance from their mouth.

Their are other techniques that can be used quite successfully if you have the right microphones, but most of the time, you get whatever the AV company that you rented them from had on the shelf.

So, Gentlemen presenters, wear a shirt that has a buttoned collar, for a casual presentation, wear a polo shirt. Do not wear a Black T-shirt under a sport coat. You may think it looks cool, but there is no place to put the microphone in the center. If you clip the mic to the top of the T-shirt, then odds are, it is going to mash against your neck and make all sorts of jabba-the-hut sounds.

The men are a lot easier to deal with than the ladies. Usually, the men show up to present with a tie on, or at least a dress shirt, so it makes it pretty easy.
Women have 6,423,891 different blouse styles that have been created just to challenge the audio guy during the presentation.
So, ladies, even though it looks sexy, low cut blouses don't work for using lavaliere microphones. When you clip the mic to the center, it is 10+ inches from the source of the audio... Your mouth. Ruffles in the center... they look pretty. They sound horrible. Every time you move, the entire audience is going to hear the Ruffles... Rustle! Necklaces that are big and noisy should be left for the day of the conference when you are not presenting.

Oh, and lastly, Take off the lanyard with your name tag on it. The lanyard hits the head of the microphone and makes a ton of noise that is distracting.

The moral of the story here is:
The success of the presentation does not only lie with the crew. The presenter has responsibilities just like the Audio Engineer, Lighting Director, and Stage hand. As you pack your suitcase, take a second to choose the clothing that will best accomplish a successful presentation even if you really wish you could wear that flashy new outfit you just got.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Prague to Houston

My Alarms went off at 3:00 am.... The Iphone Alarm, The Travel Alarm, The Television alarm, all of them screaming at me to get out of bed.
I got to sleep around midnight, so, three hours just wasn't enough. Some of the guys believe the best way is to stay up all night when you have such an early flight, but I have always thought... if you can get an hour or two of sleep, you should take it.

My flight was at 6:00 am and I fell asleep before we even took off. Landed in Frankfurt and had to go out through security and then back through Security and passport control to get to my next flight to Houston. I finally got to the Lufthansa Business Lounge and found a couple of small turkey sandwiches to wolf down. Boy they were tasty.. a little spicy mustard and a few small glasses of coke, and it was time to board the plane.
I changed into some pajama pants and then took my seat against the window and read my Clive Cussler novel, "Skeleton Coast"
I read to keep myself sleepy, but I didn't want to fall asleep until we had taken off because I wanted to sleep in the reclining position. As soon as we hit the air, I put the seat in the flattest position it would go and crashed for about 4 hours.
I missed the first meal that they served so, I was glad about getting a turkey sandwich for sure.
The flight went without any problems, and I landed in Houston 10 hours from when I left Frankfurt. I took a cab to the hotel from the airport that took about 40 minutes and found that they did not have a reservation for me.
I decided to deal with that later, and went up to the ball room to see how far the crew had gotten along.
I was pleasantly surprised with the progress they had made, so I went back down to the concierge and mailed my passport to Rick in NJ Fedex Priority Saturday delivery. Rick is going to take our Passports into NY on Monday and get us Chinese Visas for Shanghai.

We finished setting up and I finally got to take a shower and then had a burger in the bar with Matt and Joe.
After a quick dinner, I fell right to sleep and woke up around 3:00 am.. turned over and went back to sleep till about 5:00 am.

Call was at 6:30 so, I went to the ballroom and fired up the sound system and did a couple of mic checks.
Now we are in the show and it is going very well.
Here is the view from my hotel room last night. I know it is not the greatest shot ever, but I liked the sunset, so I snapped off a frame or two... then realized I needed sleep more than I needed the perfect shot.

Houston Sunset

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Final Show Day

After the show ended last night, Allen and I walked down to the St Charles Bridge and took the subway to the Muzem stop, changed trains to the C line, and then got off at the Florenc stop. At this particular station there is a Photo booth that creates passport photos. We dropped in 80 Kc into the machine and got our pictures taken.
Then we went outside and I saw a sign that said the Golden arches were 59 meters away.
So, I convinced Allen that he needed to experience a Big Mac in Europe. We were both really hungry, so after we devoured the Big Mac, we hopped back on the train and ended up back at the St Charles Bridge.
We went and joined the rest of the group for dinner, and then back to the hotel for a quick drink at the bar and up to my room to fill out Visa Applications for China.

I got to sleep around 1:00 am and the alarm went off at 5:45. Ugh!
The show is almost over today and all seems very quiet.
We strike this afternoon and are going to enjoy a nice dinner tonight. I have to get some sleep though, because my car to the airport is picking me up at 3:30 am. I fly from Prague to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to Houston and start setting up for a show the following day. Then I strike that show and head over to the Airport Marriott for the night, and fly home on Sunday.
Monday Morning I am supposed to receive some video tapes via Fedex and then I have to edit a one day show that is happening now, and make 20 copies of the DVD before we leave on Wednesday for a 1 day show in San Francisco. We load into the San Francisco Marriott on Wednesday and do the show on Thursday. After the show is over, we strike it and load it into the trailer and drive home Thursday night. I will be home on Friday and then depart for Singapore on Saturday.

We will be in Singapore from the 1st through the 8th and then fly up to Shanghai for a setup and then a 1 day show before we fly home on the 10th.
Then I believe I will collapse.
After I am done collapsing, I am headed for a few days to Phoenix to do another show before Thanksgiving.

This is a busy month!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day Two of the Show in Prague

The show went well yesterday. No major problems at all. It was a long day though, and sometime in the mid afternoon, the replacement LED's showed up. After the show ended, we all pitched in and helped Christopher pull the broken lights and wire in the new ones.
Then we walked to the historic square and went to dinner at a really cool place that was about a block off the square.
I had Pork Schnitzel. It was THE BOMB!

After dinner Rob, Joy, Allen and I went to shoot photos.
It was a little depressing since the sky was black, the streetlights in Prague cast a weird yellow color across everything, so we shot till about midnight and stumbled back to the hotel feeling good that we made the effort, but not very hopeful about capturing anything cool.

Our 6:30 am call this morning made me wish I had just gone to sleep last night instead of dinner and shooting. I am still barely keeping my eyes open.
I started processing the photos from last night, and although the sky wasn't nearly what it was in May when we were here, I am pleasantly surprised with what I got last night.
Here are a few for you to look at.

Steve in Praha 1

St Charles at night

Prague Alley

Prague Streets

St Charles Bridge Night 1

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And now... an update from Prague

The show just started and everyone is happy.
Yesterday was a pretty long day. We had a few equipment problems. All of the LED strips that light the set decided that after working all afternoon, they were going to go on strike! So, all of a sudden, they just decided to stop working. That problem took a few hours to sort out. The mixing console we are using is a Yamaha O1V96 digital mixer. Neither Evan nor I are that familiar with it, although we have both used it in the past.
So, when the Aux sends weren't producing any audio, we started pushing buttons and sorting through menus. We found that the Aux Sends were indeed patch to the omni outs and although we tried a lot of things, it just wasn't going to play nice with us.
So, I broke down and got the manual for the mixer out. Yeah.. a crazy idea... I mean.. Who reads the manuals?
Well, as I opened the cover, I was dismayed to realize that the manual... was in German. Perfect! So, I got on line and downloaded the English version of the Yamaha O1V96 digital mixing console User Manual.
After finding the correct section, I read through the directions and it was no help whatsoever. That is why I don't read the manual.
Evan and I put our heads together and figured it out and got things rolling.

We finally finished last night around 10:00 pm or so and then went to the hotel bar and I had the best Mozzarella and Tomato Salad of my life followed by a Club Sandwich that was to die for.
Then I went to bed. Slept like a baby till 6:00 am this morning. This was really a good thing, because the night before, I got hit with Jet Lag and lay awake till 4:00 am knowing that I had to get up and work all day.

Saturday we went to a little town about an hour train ride outside of Prague called Kutna Hora. It was really enjoyable to get out of Prague and see more of the Czech Republic.

On the Train

Rick Tina Rob Bill

Cobblestones in the Fall

We walked around the little town and saw a big church called St Barbara's, and shot a lot of photos before heading back to the train. While we were waiting for the train, we met a couple of Newlyweds from St Louis. We chatted them up for a little while and then we got on the train and after beating up Rick for a while, everyone fell asleep, except Rick and I. Back to the Historic Square and down into a little basement Italian restaurant for a nice meal before heading back to the Hotel to meet some friends that we work with from Munich.
Sunday we worked for a while and then went out sightseeing around 2:00 pm. We went up to Prague Castle and got to go inside St Vitus and see the most beautiful cathedral. Before that we walked through a wonderful garden and saw some great views of the city of Prague.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


It is Sunday morning... and for whatever reason.. I have writers block... I will post something later, but for now.... We are all here safely, and having a great time.
Here are a few photos from yesterday.

Tina, Rob and Allen on the train to Kutna Hora
Tina Rob Allen


St Barbaras 1

Sunday, October 12, 2008

International Shows

On Thursday I am headed for Prague, so I started pulling out supplies that I will need for working in Europe.
I took a trip to Radio shack to pick up a few European Power adapters. If you are like me, going into Radio Shack is just plain annoying. Having worked there when I got out of high school, I do a a bit more tolerance than most AV guys, however, if I step my foot in the door, I just want to look around and not be bothered by any sales people.
Of all the garbage that Radio Shack sells.. I wouldn't go anywhere else for travel adapters. Scotty hooked me up with this little bit of info. The ones they sell are THE BOMB! Here is a shot of one, and they are about 10 bucks. The reason that they are so good, is that they fit snugly in the outlets over there. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but trust me, the little ones are a pain, and don't stay connected.

Power Adapter

I will end up taking about 4 of those with me. I will probably need about 2 of them, however, it is always a good thing to have an extra or two to save someone's day that forgot to bring one.

I also found my silk passport neck case. Although I kinda feel like a geek wearing it under my shirt, it is much better than having your passport jammed in your jeans pocket when wandering around the city.
Nyquil and Dayquil tablets are a must... being sick on the road is really hard. You go into an apothecary and instantly you realize that you are pretty much completely lost. Everything is in a different language, and nothing looks familiar.
When I was in Munich and had the flu, I went into an apothecary, and looked for cough drops. I couldn't find anything that looked like cough drops, and I went to the attendant, and asked for cough drops, and she looked at me like I was speaking.. well.. English! I wanted to cry, I was so beat up from being sick... I just needed cough drops. At this point, I started hacking up a lung, and almost instantly, this German woman realized what "Cough Drop" meant, and led me to a rack where I bought a few bags of mediocre drops.

Carmex, Airborne, and a small kit of pills ranging from Advil, and Aspirin, to Muscinex and Tums. Be prepared is the name of this game.

I will also bring my unblocked international cell phone, and probably buy a local sim card once I get to Prague. They usually cost about 20 dollars and however much you want to spend for minutes. Well worth the investment to save a boat load of money on your US Cell Phone Bill.
Mag Safe airline adapter cable for the laptop so that I can watch movies on the airplane. I also have recently purchased a spare battery for the Macbook Pro. Oh, and a backup iPhone.

About 3 tons of Camera gear also come with me... At least it feels like that much weight when you are carrying it all around the city. The compliment of photo gear is:
1. Canon 40D Digital SLR with Battery Grip.
2. Three Batteries
3. Four Compact Flash Cards in a Card Wallet
4. Expo Disc White Balance Filter
5. Polarizing Filter
6. Gradient Neutral Density Filter
7. Canon 50mm 1.8 Lens
8. Sigma 10mm Fisheye 2.8 Lens
9. Canon 24mm-105mm f/4L IS USM Wide Angle Lens
10. Sigma 70mm - 200mm f/2.8 Lens
11. Sigma 1.2x Teleconverter
12. Gitzo 6X Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod
13. Canon Battery Charger

I have tried all sorts of Camera bags and backpacks to haul this gear around as I capture photos in these cities, and so far the best option is a Tamarac Velocity 9 Sling bag. Backpacks distribute the weight well, however you have to take the pack off every time you want to change lenses and it slows you down quite a bit. The sling bag fixes that, however all that weight is being carried on one strap and after 6 hours or so, you just wish you had a sherpa. In Thailand, I purchased a knock off North Face fanny pack. I can carry the 70-200 lens in there and a few other things and just have the camera to haul around, and that seems to be a much better solution for my back, however, it is limiting as to what you can bring with you as you walk around.

For this trip, I am going to try something different. No bags of gear this time! I purchased the Gitzo Fleece Jacket complete with about 14 pockets designed by photographers, for photographers.

So, we will see how this works.

Thats about all I can think of for this trip.
The rest of what I bring with me is listed on this blog entry:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

local photo shooting

Allen and I grabbed our cameras and went off around Folsom and El Dorado hills trying to capture some photos of the local areas.
Here are a few photos of what we captured yesterday.

Railroad Tracks 2

Railroad Tracks1

Allen at the Antennas

We were not supposed to be up here... but no one was looking.. so we unchained the gate and went Jeep'n!

Allen's New Ride
This is Allen's new ride... it comes with free air conditioning
Hot Rod

Hot Rod 2

Geocache tree

Small Waterfall


The Bridges
These are two of the three bridges that cross the American river in Folsom
Allen at the Powerhouse

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another day in Miami

The IT contractor came back last night after we had more internet issues, and still claimed that there was nothing wrong with his system. We showed him the problem we were having with our clients VPN, and he claimed that the clients server wasn't responding. I asked him to reboot his router, and magically, as soon as it restarted... the problem was gone.
So, everything smoothed out last night and after a quick drink with the boys I went to bed around 11:00 pm.

Knowing that it was going to be an early day today, I set my 1st alarm for 5:10 am and the hotel clock for 5:15 am. Then I called the front desk and it rang for about 15 rings. I hung up and called back and about 10 more rings someone finally answered. I asked for a wake up call, and then went to sleep. At 5:10 my alarm went off. No wake up call from the hotel.... Nice!
I got up and turned the shower on...No hot water! I let it run for about 15 minutes and still got nothing. Cold showers in Miami at 5:30 in the morning are really no fun.

This morning went rather smoothly after the cold shower. A lot smoother than we were expecting.
The Internet connection seems solid for now, we uploaded the presentations into a live meeting event, and the show is rolling so far without a hitch.

Yesterday in the middle of the meeting that we were doing, the sound of jack hammering filled the room. Loud enough to almost startle the presenter.
When Evan went out side and around to see what was going on, he found a worker with a hammer drill, drilling right into the side of the room we were meeting in. Nice....

So far today, all has been quiet. I hope it lasts.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Does anything work in Miami?

So, beyond all the jackhammering that we are hearing through the walls during the meeting, the Internet connection that the hotel is providing is very sketchy. This morning, it seemed like we had Internet access, but our client's computer could not connect to the VPN. I checked the settings, and rebooted her machine about 20 times. We called the help desk and they were pretty much no help. They just kept telling us to reboot, restart and retry everything I had already done. Then we lost total connectivity in the training room. All 10 machines lost their connection to the Net.
The client took her computer up to her sleeping room, and paid the 10 dollars and was able to connect up there, so it was obvious that the network serving the sleeping rooms was a different connection than the meeting space.

We called the hotel and they sent someone from Engineering over to help. Not a good sign. If there was a problem with my toilet, I would have been happy to see the guy with the light blue shirt and the workman pants on... keys hanging off the belt loop, but this was going to require someone a little more specialized. So, after he left telling me that he didn't know what the problem was, and that he wasn't sure if he did anything, We had some level of connectivity back up.
I talked to the hotel staff and told them that they needed to get the network contractor here onsite now... not just now.. but NOW!!!!

They came down with a cellphone and I talked to him for a minute and explained the problems we were having, and he told me he was in Fort Lauderdale (just great...) and that he would be here at 1:30 pm. The meeting was starting at 1:00 pm and at about 12:57 pm, we lost the connection again.

We started the meeting without the internet, and finally the contractor arrived. He said he was going to do some testing on the router, and about 20 minutes later, we were back up.
When I finally talked to him, he said that the router had been up for over 30 days, and that there was nothing wrong!
I guess he doesn't consider that the bandwidth we are paying for, not working... is something wrong.

Lies lies lies... Nothing was wrong, and he did nothing.. but it magically starting working again once he arrived...
I am not saying I am a computer guru.. but I wasn't born yesterday.

I asked if he was going to re-boot the router tonight, and he said he was planning on it.
Then I told him that he was going to have to be onsite tomorrow during our computer training, which he said he would be. So, we will see if he actually shows.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Miami Florida

I had a 7:29 am flight out of Sacramento and a connection in Washington DC to get down here to Miami. A pleasant day of flying. I got upgraded to first class which allowed me to use a couple of upgrades that were due to expire, so that was a good thing.

I landed on time at 8:30 pm and took a cab to the hotel, and ran into Evan and Eric, so we had dinner at the bar and I called it a night. I got to bed around 11:30 pm and slept till almost 9:00 am today.

We had to meet one of the Trip Directors in the office at 10:00 am and set up a printer for her. After that we found that the rooms were available for us to setup. This seems like it would be a good thing, however the hotel told us that the rooms wouldn't be available till after 4:00 pm and we had everything scheduled to arrive at 4:00 pm or after. Things such as labor, power, computers... you know.. everything that we needed to do the job.

So, Evan made some calls, and moved things up... we loaded in about 2:30 or so. The load in was from one parking garage, across another, into a tiny service elevator, and then down a service corridor. With the humidity in Miami at almost 100 percent, we were covered in sweat.
But all is going well, and we will be done early today, so that is a good thing!

Right now I am configuring 10 of the 20 laptops that we have for a meeting tomorrow.
Thats about it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I am headed to Miami on Saturday for a show and thought I would use the time off this week for a day trip down to Yosemite national park. With the doors off, and the half bikini top on the Jeep I took off around 8:45 am and only got about 3 miles away before I realized not only was I cold, but with no doors on the jeep, it was going to be a bit of a rough day with the wind buffeting me all day. So, I put the doors back on and with a quick bite at McDonalds, I was off again. The road to Yosemite from Folsom is very slow. It is really windy and it starts out very rough. All along the trip there are little "Old West" Gold mining towns with populations of anywhere from 150 people to 900. Very interesting and beautiful ride.
I stopped at Jamestown Harley Davidson to see if anything struck my fancy, and then headed the last 70 miles to the park.
Right after James town there is a beautiful body of water that for the life of me I can't remember what it is called.
But I took a couple of shots there.

The Crossing

The Crossing 2

Yosemite National Park Entrance

It is 70 miles from Jamestown to the park, but it is also another 24 miles from the entrance of the park to the valley floor. So, it was a long trip to get into see the "Good Stuff." After finally making it, you shoot through a tunnel carved into the side of the rock and when you pop out, this is the view you get.

Me at Yosemite Portal

The Jeep at the Portal

From this point, it is still about 13 miles down to the valley floor where you can sit at the base of El Capitan and Halfdome and just stare for hours at the massive rock. Sitting in front of these rock faces is a very calming experience. It almost feels like life is in slow motion. You don't think about work, home, bills, the stress just floats out of your body and all of a sudden, you realize things like,man that sun is hot, and wow.. am I hungry! So, here are a few images that hopefully give you a 1% idea of what it is like at this amazing place.

Yosemite Valley 1
Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Creek 1
Along the road on the valley floor is a gorgeous creek bed

Yosemite Creek 2

Half Dome Vert 1
Half Dome is tremendous!

El Capitan 1
The Mighty EL CAPITAN!
El Capitan 2

I took about 300 photos in about 4 hours, so, I have to process a lot before I can post them.
On the way home it was pretty incredible. With all the mountains that you have to go over, you could watch the sun set in front of you with a beautiful orange and purple color, and then by the time you got over the next hill, you got to see it set again! So, yesterday, the sun set three times here in California. Here is a shot from the last one... it is not very good, but I just pulled the jeep to the side of the road and shot it out of my hand with no tripod and it gives just a peek into what I saw at the end of the trip.
The long way home