Monday, September 13, 2010

Let the Games Begin

I met Austin in the lobby and we took off for a bite to eat and to explore a little. I hadn't eaten anything since dinner on the plane the night before which wasn't that good, so the first restaurant we stumbled upon was TGI Fridays and we both agreed that a cultural experience was not as important as ensuring a solid meal that would help get us refreshed. Lunch was good and we wandered down to Red Square absorbing the culture and shooting some photos. I didn't shoot too much and haven't had time to process what I did shoot.
Russian Billboard
 As we came into Red Square, the view of the Cathedral was blocked by a huge grandstand that was being torn down and I was very disappointed. I am hoping that it will all be taken down by tomorrow evening and I can get a clear shot of Red Square with the cathedral in it. Here is a shot of me in front of the Cathedral though.
Steve in Red Square
Moscow 1
Austin and I were started to get weary so we stopped at a cafe on the Square and ordered a Spaten.
We hung out there for a an hour or so and then Miles, Priti and Elaine joined us. Eventually, we headed back to the hotel and Elaine and Austin both broke away from us. We stopped back at TGI Fridays for a drink and to see if the football game was on. They didn't get any stations that showed American football, but we hung out anyway and waited for Tom and Evan to arrive. Once they got there, we stayed until the place closed and I finally got back to the hotel at about 1:00 am.
I am pretty shocked that I didn't pass out before then, considering that it had been about 36 hours since I left my house in Folsom and only got about 2 hours of sleep on the plane. I slept like a baby, and woke up around 7:00 am. The bed here at the Marriott is great and it was really hard to consider leaving it.

Evan and I met out AV Vendor, Maria in the lobby and talked about the upcoming workday. We were supposed to start our setup at 9:00 am.  Maria told us that the truck was stuck in traffic and that it was going to be 10 minutes late. In Russia, 10 minutes means a half hour or greater. A couple of things you learn working over here are: Everything is going to be late... Something is going to be wrong and no amount of preparation is going to change that... and lastly.... it is what it is... you can get all worked up about something but most likely, the only thing that getting worked up is going to affect, is your mental health.
So, The truck was later than we were expecting.... We have all day to setup and the meeting doesn't start until 8:30 am tomorrow. Not a big deal.
Maria got a phone call that the gear had showed up, and we went up to the ballroom to get things started.
When we got there, we found that the room was not even close to set up, and that one of the airwalls was still closed. Our setup is supposed to be round tables for 80 people and the room was set up classroom style. Evan went to a meeting with the hotel to ask them to get the room setup as soon as possible, and about 15 minutes later, he came back in and told us that we were screwed. The reason that the room is set the way it is, is for an event that runs until 7:00 pm tonight, and there is no changing that.
We immediately decided to have the AV Vendor show us all of the equipment so that we wouldn't have any surprises as 7:00 pm.

To start off, we requested a 16 channel mixer, with a minimum of 10 XLR inputs. They provided a 12 channel mixer with 8 XLR Inputs. We requested a minimum of 4 channels of graphic equalizers, and they provided 1 channel. We asked about the wireless microphones, and fortunately, the 5 microphones we requested were there, all thrown kinda loosely in a case. They informed us that they had  "Madonna" mics and we asked if they had regular Lavalier mics. They said they did, but that the "Madonna" mics worked much better. We told them that we understood that, but that the presenters would never wear a Madonna style headset mic. It turns out that the Lav mics are omni directional, and I am going to have to struggle against feed back for sure.
Next they showed us the video switcher, and while it was a lot closer to being right than the DJ Mixer that they gave us in St Petersburg, it was only a two channel input switcher and we need four channels.
We asked about cables for everything and while they may have brought enough for what they thought we would need, it was clear that they underestimated what we really needed and we had to make a quick inventory on paper of what we wanted.

I decided that while they were shaking their heads yes, and telling us that they would get us the equipment that we wanted, I wanted to make sure that there was no room for interpretation. I grabbed a pen and a pad and drew a diagram of the entire sound system and labeled everything so that everyone was clear. Tom drew a diagram of the video system and I went over both drawings with the vendor.
By the way.... most of the technicians don't speak any english and the ones that do are pretty limited. You have to keep this in mind because, while they will shake their head and acknowledge that they understand what you are saying, they may not be getting it at all.

We went over all the elements of the show and I think we are about 90% confident that they now understand what we want. We are about 40% confident that they will provide it, but we are 100% confident that we can piece together a show and keep our client happy. The only thing left is that we asked many times if they had drape to setup in between the screens so we could put some lights on it and make it look good. Each time we were told that it was difficult to find, and they had to get it from St Petersburg. Before we sent the crew off until 7:00 pm Evan and I decided that we should see the drape and also see the support system that they were planning on using to hang it.
It was only then that we found out that all they were intending on providing were drape skirts for underneath each screen. We were trying to explain that while we wanted the screen skirts, we also wanted thirty feet of pipe and drape for in between the screens. This resulted in a lot of back and forth in Russian and you could tell this was going to be a problem. Maria finally told us that they were making calls and trying to locate the drape. With that, Evan asked her to interpret for him to the crew and he was very gracious. He told them that he was sorry for the confusion, and thanked them for being willing to work with us to accomplish this show. For the record, Rick sent them pretty clear specifications about what we needed, however it was a good move on Evan's part, because none of these guys were involved with the planning process and we need them to be on our side. After Evan finished, one of the techs said something back to Maria in Russian, and she interpreted it for us. His statement was simply, "It happens" and everyone chuckled a little. It was a sign that at least everyone there understood that this is all part of the business and this is what we are all here for.

I am now going to take a nap, and then grab a bite to eat before we start our setup 10 hours later than we were supposed to. The only scary thing is that we don't know if they are going to be able to get us all the gear, and that if something is really messed up, there probably won't be enough time to do anything about it. Other than that... everything is just great!

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