Thursday, November 18, 2010

America's Favorite Past Time

The show is in the truck and as Jonny said it in his Facebook post. Peace out Florida!
Yesterday the general session ended at 9:30 am and it was game on. We had about 20 people working to pack up all the equipment plus whatever Mike had on his lighting crew. So, you can imagine the energy in the air as all these people scurried around like a small army.
Once the stage was cleared, the lighting truss came down and the set was unbolted.
It was a pretty fast strike, and just about everything was pretty much in it's case around noon.
We pushed the gear that was ready down to the truck and they started loading it. The 11 breakout rooms were still going and finally they ended, so a crew of guys went on to strike them. Meanwhile our AV sub rental vendors showed up, so we had to rush and get all of their equipment ready to go. When the break out rooms were struck and the equipment started rolling into the ballroom, I started sorting it and putting it back where it belonged. Front of House cables in this case... PCS Microphones in that case...  wait.. where did that EQ case go? ""Will someone go get it off the elevator, it wasn't supposed to go until it was full."
It was good work though. I have no doubt that as the show gets unpacked at the shop in Phoenix, there will be a lot of cables that didn't make it exactly where they were supposed to go.
We finally had sent everything down to the truck that was ready to go, and now we had to wait for the two last rooms to finish. About 6:15 they broke and in about 40 minutes we had struck them and were rolling the equipment to the truck. When we closed the doors on the truck in Phoenix, Eric said that he thought this truck was the most packed truck he had ever sent out. When we loaded it this time, we disassembled some scaffolding and tightened it up even more. This was because we wanted to get 22 more cases on the truck. All of the projectors that were rented out of Houston had been shipped out to Orlando at a big expense. So, if we could pack the truck tighter and get the Projectors on the tail, Jonny could stop in Houston and save some money. It was very difficult to figure out how to put the last pieces of this puzzle together. It was like we had 10 feet of truck left, and 12 feet of equipment to put in there.
We finally got it to all fit, and closed the doors to the truck.
A few of us staggered over to Blue Zoo to meet a few of the guys for a drink, and that was nice, but all of a sudden my body said "Stop sitting here and get some food and then go directly to bed" Fortunately I had the common sense to listen to it. Evan, Allen, Jonny and I went over to "The Fountain" restaurant, and I got a bowl of chicken noodle soup. While I hadn't really eaten much all day, I was so tired, I just didn't feel like I could eat much of anything. The soup was good, and at the end of that, I went back over to Blue Zoo to say goodbye to the guys.
I went back to my room and packed, and then fell into bed exhausted around 11:00 pm. I set my alarm for 4:00 am and then called the front desk for two wake up calls.
This morning, Jay, Eric, Allen and I shared a van ride to the airport and got on a plane headed for Phoenix. I feel right asleep once I got on the plane, and have no recollection of us pulling away from the gate or taking off. I woke up about two hours into the flight.... Flying coach is no fun. US Airways isn't horrible, but when I fly United, most of the time I get the upgrade to First Class. Even when I don't get the upgrade, there is Economy Plus Seating which gives you an extra 5 inches of leg room and it just doesn't feel so crowded.
On the positive side, US Airways has Wifi available on the plane. I am currently writing this little story at 35,000 feet or somewhere way up here.
In a few hours, Allen and I land in Phoenix. We will relax at Eric and Audra's today and tomorrow hop in the Jeep and drive back to Folsom. It has been a solid month since either of us have been home, and I am really looking forward to being able to get home.

There was really something special about this show. First of all, I have to say thank you to Rick for having me on it. We basically just rocked out the AV for America's Favorite Past time.  It is pretty cool when you get the chance to be involved in something as big and as cool as this is.
Rick has over time put together a very cool team of people. When we first see each other, we greet each other with big hugs and it is always really good to see each other. Not many people would say in their lives that they were really excited to see their coworkers. Even our clients comment on this. Our MLB client mentioned that she thought it was pretty cool that we all hugged each other.
I also want to say a special thank you to Eric for bringing Allen and I down to Phoenix and giving us a months worth of work, putting us up at his house and feeding us Chili Cheese Coney hot dogs with  Jalapeno peppers at 9:00 am in the morning for breakfast. It has been a great month full of laughs and hard honest work. Lastly, thank you to Audra Gilbert. Eric's wife Audra is amazing. She takes amazing care of us throughout all of this madness. Home cooked meals, rides to the airport... Rides from the airport. Audra is a wonderful host and she and Eric have become close friends.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Major League Work

I am working on a show in Orlando for Major League Baseball. While it is a nice change from all the Pharma work that I normally do, it is a massive show and that means a massive amount of work.
For the last three weeks, I have been working in Phoenix at my friend Eric's shop prepping gear, doing little shows here and there in the Phoenix area, and getting the shop ready to make this show happen. About 1400 feet of 1' x 2' steel was purchased in 20' and 24' lengths, and three of us made an assembly line. I measured and cut the steel, Jonny welded it into frames that were 10' x 4' and 8' x 4' with 2' blocks in the center. Once they were cut and welded, Allen ground all the welds smooth. 
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Then we had to drill holes in strategic places to connect the pieces to each other, and build carts for all of it to ride in. Once all of that was done, which took about 3 straight days, we had to build a podium to match and a table.
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We set up some lighting truss out in the parking lot and flew a couple of test pieces of the set to make sure that it was all going to work.
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 All of the steel went to a powder coating company, and a couple of days later, we picked it up and continued to to build on the set. We had to rip pieces of wood into 1" wide strips and attach them all around each set piece and inside the podium. In the midst of all of this construction, emails are flying through cyberspace changing the big picture plan all around us. Equipment was being purchased. Gear was being rented like mad. Eric, Jonny, Allen and I were pulling the show, labeling equipment, packing stuff in cases, and getting all of this madness ready to be loaded onto a 53' semi truck. While Allen and I were building stuff at one of the shops, about 200 feet away, Eric and Jonny loaded the tractor trailer. The load was packed floor to ceiling, front to back, and there really wasn't a bit of room left in the truck when we closed the doors. 2010-11-15 03:22:42 GMT
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We had a nice BBQ at Eric and Audra's house with some good friends, and then Jonny left around 5:00 am in the truck and drove for the next 4 days across the country to Orlando. Allen, Eric and I all flew to Florida, and on Friday morning, at 7:00 am, the truck doors were opened and the set was rolled into the ballroom and assembly was started. we worked for about 2 hours on the set and got a good jump on getting it together when the rest of the crew arrived, and we all started to unload the rest of the truck. This seemed like it took forever and was a tremendous amount of work because there was so much equipment in the truck. The push from the truck to the elevator and from the elevator to the ballroom was pretty long, so everyone was pretty tired by the time everything was offloaded.
We divided into teams and everyone worked very hard putting all of the pieces of this huge show together. We had about 40 people working like ants moving equipment around and unpacking cases. It is always exciting to see how a truckload of boxes comes to life and through the talent of many diverse technicians, it grows into something so large, you would never believe that it came out of road cases.
Through out the day, the lighting, audio, video all flew up in the air on lighting trusses, as well as our creation, the set.
Once, the entire set was hung from the lighting truss, long sheets of vinyl were stapled to the frames and stretched tight.
When it all finally was put together, and lights were focused, video projectors were aligned, the set came alive.
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Photo: Courtesy of Mike Steighner

While it would seem like that is entirely enough work for anyone to do, the main ballroom is only a portion of this project.
The following day we started on the break out rooms. We have 11 rooms with full audio, and video systems that have to be put together. We spent the entire day scurrying around with a ton of gear and about 16 people setting up these 11 rooms.
The setup day we worked about 13 hours, day 2 was about the same, and today we finished up the breakout rooms and had rehearsals going all day and most of the evening. Today was about 13 hours as well. Evan and I ran around the entire day from room to room and floor to floor troubleshooting problems, delivering cables and equipment to technicians and fielding questions from clients. I am pretty exhausted and tomorrow will start the first official day of meetings for this show.
It is a great feeling to work with a world class crew and be able to be a part of something so enormous.

More to come......