28.1.08

SIAW: Day 1

Ok, so I'm going to blog about SIAW.  For the record, I'm on the tech crew with four other people: Colton, Julia, Anthony, and Jacob.  Jacob's new; Julia and Anthony have been in SIAW for two years; Colton has done SIAW for like six years.

What it was like before the day started: Colton and I were singing random bits of song: stuff from Monty Python, The Rolling Stones, and Guns and Roses.  We switched nametags to mess with everyone's mind.

So, today started out OK, the guy from BBC took care of moving most of the equipment off the stage so we didn't have to.  He came up to me and asked me if there was anything I needed to know afterwards.  I told him I'd had experience, asked him how to clear cues from a lightboard, and then he left.  So we have a pretty blank check as to what we can do (yay!).  Things were pretty interesting all day.  To put it in Colton's words, "Everything we planned for if it went wrong was fine, and everything we expected to work was broken." 

Our problems started out with the follow spots.  Now follow spots are spotlights mounted on rolling stands.  They're operated by humans, and BBC has a couple fairly nice ones.  Well, they had been disassembled (they were borrowed and returned disassembled).  One worked, but the other one didn't.  We pretty soon figured out why: there was no bulb.  Well, after some consideration, we decided we couldn't do much.  We assembled the working one, left the broken one sitting on the floor where it was, and waited to run into the guy from BBC to explain everything to him. 

We managed to get the equipment closet of doom from space unlocked and found it in a worse mess than it had been at the beginning of last year, and undoubtedly all our hard work cleaning it out was wasted.  Nonetheless, we raided it for a bunch of stuff: two MXL 990 condensers, a bunch of XLR cables.  Then we started to dig around.  Buried under two empty mic cases, a slide projector, and the case to an old video camera, we found a suitcase with six pencil condensers in it.  Bingo! 

We went back up in the balcony and rigged the clearcoms (clearcoms are headsets that run over XLR cables and are used for communication between the tech crew members and the stage managers).  This, amazingly, went off without a hitch, although we haven't done the backstage clearcoms for the stage managers (those will come tomorrow so we don't get in the way of the set construction crew).

In the middle of this, Joe, the guy from BBC, showed up and told us the scoop on the follow spots.  After hearing that they'd been borrowed, we checked the lamp in the working one, and sure enough, it had a huge bubble in the glass envelope (you should NEVER touch the envelope on a spotlight lamp because the oils from your fingers could cause the envelope to bubble or shatter).  Joe told us that he'd get new lamps from their lamp supplier by tomorrow. 

We looked through their drawers to see what we had in the way of wireless lavalier/headset mics.  We found five packs, but only four receivers.  This, of course, didn't surprise us one bit.  We went through all the headsets and found that most of them were unused.  But we had five, which is what we needed. 

Meanwhile, we had the official SIAW tech crew meeting where we gave the usual sarcastic, pithy introduction to the tech crew.  We put together a shopping list (9 volt batteries and floppy disks).  Then Colton went off to Mr. B to ask him to go out and buy the stuff we needed, Anthony and Jacob went to see if the fifth receiver box was anywhere in the building and if we could use it, and Julia and I went to test which jacks on the stage worked and which channels on the soundboard they corresponded to. 

Julia and I had a fairly uneventful time.  Basically, plug a mic into the jack, let me listen and see if I can hear you, and if I can, score!  We have a working channel.  If not, then move on to another jack.  I also discovered two 'mystery' channels on the board that had working mics attached to them even though there was no equipment onstage.  It's our guess that they were the choir mics, which we've never been able to get to work. 

At about this time Anthony radioed that he had found the receiver for the fifth box, so he and Jacob and Colton came up to the balcony.  We're going to check to see if we can borrow the box and we'll get it tomorrow.  Colton agreed that it was probably the choir mics, then he, Julia, and Jacob went off to do something else.  Anthony and I meanwhile ended up trying to trace the choir mics, which had some interesting results.

After staring up at the choir mic wires in the ceiling (and getting spotlights in my eyes), I determined where the wires from the choir mics ran.  On either side of the wall behind the stage at BBC are some darker patches which I've always thought were where the speakers were originally, before they built the stupid and ugly box that hangs right above the stage and holds their speakers now.  Well, anyhow, I wanted to see if I could find these wires somewhere, so Anthony and I went up to the second level, the baptismal.  I opened the first door that we came to, commenting to Anthony that it felt like a crime investigation or something.  Inside it were a ton of white robes presumably used for baptisms.  There was the one door to the baptismal, and another in the back corner that I thought led to a dressing room.  But I opened it anyway.  I found myself staring into the inside of one of the speaker enclosures on the side of the wall.  Anthony came up behind me and commented that this now really felt like National Treasure.  I stepped out, half expecting the floor to suddenly fall through.  There was a subwoofer back there, and a ton of other stuff.  There were some racks, and an angel doll (the Blair Witch reincarnated!) and some speakers shaped roughly like pipe organ pipes.  We were, of course, very quiet considering we were just feet away from the acting company standing onstage.  I traced the choir mic wires and they led to a set of wires numbered 24, 25, 26, and 27. 

We left and went back up to the balcony, but the numbers I had didn't correspond to the numbers of the channels running into the soundboard channels.  So, this is an unfinished investigation. 

Well, we went on and tried to find mounts for the pencil condensers in the suitcase.  After looking through all the drawers up in the balcony, Julia and Anthony went back to the closet of doom to look back there. I showed up a little later, and at about that time Julia found a grocery bag with a few handheld mics in it and a bunch of mounts.  We were getting ready to leave when she looked back and saw another box of mounts and grabbed that, too. 

We looked through the bags and found all our mounts (after Anthony somehow managed to unlock the suitcase that had somehow become locked!).  We also counted seven AKG D310 mics.  I checked and these are about $100 apiece.  Quite impressive for sitting in a grocery bag! 

And that pretty much finishes out the day. 

Somewhere in there Colton and I found an artifact: an ANCIENT video camera, with a telescoping microphone.  That was unique. 

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