Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Making the Magic Happen

Yesterday I posted a picture of our Match Game SF front-of-house setup, with the contestant and panelist positions. But the next picture is just as important for putting on a show that people have come to expect.

Eric Larson is our preferred announcer when he's available, and you see him here reviewing the scripts for Saturday night's show while Lisa gets the sound levels adjusted. travelswithkuma supervises. To the right is the Producer's table where Bob Hole (ideally) sits and distributes prizes.

Besides Eric's Announcer microphone, we currently only have one live microphone — my ECM-51A telescoping mic, attached to a wireless belt-pack because I have neither enough practice dealing with long mic cords nor a cord-puller off stage to help keep me from tripping. We have the microphones but not enough channels on the sound board nor the long cable snake (we figure we'd need 150 feet, and it would be heavy and expensive) to wire up the panelists. Lisa says she'd prefer an auxiliary mixer for those microphones, which she could then feed into the main board. In fact, I think you'd need another person just to manage those microphones.

All of the sound effects and music feed into the main board. One computer has the "think" music and can also play the opening titles and the commercial overlays. A second computer has the yes/no bell/buzz sounds, with a program than plays various sounds based on keyboard input. To make that easier to use, Lisa built a custom button set with two buttons that feed the computer the keystrokes. (Actually the left/right mouse clicks.) In addition, she carries all of the music around on both cassette tape and CD just in case the computers fail.

The computers are a pair of old Panasonic CF-27 Toughbooks, surplus of LASFS requirements, and with their hard drives replaced with CF cards. They are slower than molasses (the CF cards are much slower than hard drives, but they can't crash), but tougher than nails. If you drop one of them, you have to be more concerned with breaking your foot than with hurting the computer. We use them for nothing else than generating SFX for the show.

As a result of all of the gear, one of our requirements is a power outlet. We have power strips, and our gear does not out-draw a standard 15A outlet, but more than once we've been constrained in our set-up by where the power outlets are in a room and where we can run an extension cord. (Hooray for gaffer tape!) The speakers (one monitor, two audience) are not powered. The microphone is powered, and we have to remember to bring the odd-sized "N" batteries for it. (This caught us out in Sacramento, where we forgot to replace the battery in the microphone and actually had to stop the show and have Lisa come up and do it while the show was live.)

One of Lisa's other tech dreams is to build six panelist stations and two contestant stations that would light up like on the actual show, probably incorporating microphone stands as well. This would replace the index card paper signs we've used for years. It would look very cool but also increase the size, weight, and complexity of our kit a lot. (The cable snake would have to carry not only the sound, but also the communication lines for all three lights as well.) Lisa says, "Please don't suggest going wireless; it would be just as complicated in different ways."

It is possible to do a less elaborate version of our show ("Mini-Match Game"), but as we've grown more elaborate and added features to the show, I've felt that it would be disappointing to not include the full set, particularly to anyone who had been at a previous show and came expecting the performance levels we've set ourselves.

I almost always end a show by thanking the people behind the desks who make the magic happen, and I mean it sincerely. Presenting the show as I do is actually relatively easy and fun, although physically exhausting. To have all of these people working so hard always humbles me.
Tags: conventions, kuma bear, lisa, match game sf, westercon

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