Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

OryCon Day 3: Match Game AM

We were lucky that the main ballroom was actually open around 8 AM (we were promised 9). Right after breakfast, we moved all of the Match Game SF gear into the ballroom and began setting up.

Lisa started connecting cables and placing speakers. I started unrolling posters and getting the panelist/contestant signs ready to go for when the hotel moved the tables into the ballroom for the stage. I unfolded the portable tripod (Noreascon 4 surplus) on which we usually set the foam-core sign that holds the game questions. (See this photo from Norwescon earlier this year for reference.)

"Lisa," I asked, fearing that I already knew the answer, "Where's the game board?"

Lisa looked up from the little tech nest (where the DJ had been working during the previous night's dance) and the blood drained out of her face. "Oh, no. It's still in Mehama!"

Oh, well, there was nothing to be done about it. If we had noticed as late as last night we could have run back to Mehama (about a 4-hour round trip at best) to collect it, but as it stood now, we were going to have to improvise. I set the questions upon the lectern on the stage and worked on other bits of set-up.

Lisa soon had more cause to complain. Although she could get the sound from the microphones to the speakers, she couldn't get any of the music to come out of the tape player and to the speakers. The speakers worked. The tape player worked (you could hear the sound when no output cable was plugged in). She tried three different cables, but in no case could she get the sound to bridge that gap. Marc Wells, working OryCon's tech, offered his help if he could. Lisa fretted over cables and tried to figure out a solution.

Even worse, my careful work in rebalancing the sound levels on the "buzz" and "ding" SFX files appears to have gone for naught, as the two sounds' levels were still wildly different from each other, and this is case where the same computer drives both sounds. Lisa has built a custom device with red and blue buttons that tell the computer to play one sound or the other, and this can't be easily split between machines.

By then we were after 9 o'clock and our production assistant Brad Ackerman had arrived. I needed to get up to the hotel room and change into my Game Show Host costume. At Lisa's direction, I took Brad with me to the room and handed him Lisa's computer bag, which contained her personal computer (as opposed to the Panasonic CF-27 Toughbooks that drive most of the SFX), and he took it back downstairs, where Lisa improvised using it to run some of the sounds.

When I came back downstairs about 20 minutes before scheduled show start, Scott Sanford had arrived, as had several other people whose names I did not catch. The hotel had set up the tables, and Lisa had directed them to put the contestant table and the lower tier of panelists on the ground, with the upper tier and the lectern on the stage. She'd also had the crew tape one of the unused posters blank-side-out around the lectern and improvised card slots for the game questions using blank A/B cards and tape. It wasn't perfect, but it did work, and was easier on me.

I asked Lisa, "When do you want to do the sound check on me."

She said, "Now." I dutifully came over and she attached the wireless transmitter (with the ECM-51a "Match Game" microphone plugged into it) to my belt and started adjusting things. Suddenly she started cursing and the speakers started emitting a very loud hum. She killed the sound and announced that she'd accidentally bumped the controls on the transmitter and de-synchronized it from the base station. This may sound simple, but it is not; it is a complex procedure to get the two pieces of hardware to talk with each other, best done well ahead of time, not seconds before "curtain."

Time was running out on us. I normally pride myself on an on-time start, but this time it was not going to happen. But to some extent that wasn't too bad, because a 10 AM Sunday panel tends to have many stragglers. Lisa wrestled with the wireless controls while I did some of the final bits of set-up with the panelists and made sure they knew the game rules. Lisa, having worked through the manual sufficiently to get the base and transmitter re-synchronized, summoned me back to the Tech Nest and wired me up. After a couple of more challenges getting the backup sound source to generate the opening titles music, announcer Ed Stiner was able to say those iconic words, "Get ready to match the stars!" and we were underway, a little over ten minutes late.

From then on it was mostly smooth sailing, except for some intermittent static from my microphone, first when the base of the microphone started to unscrew itself (the black part where I hold it is actually two pieces that unscrew to hold a type N battery that powers the microphone) and the second due to what was probably a loose connection on the belt-pack transmitter.

Scott Sanford "counted the house" and reported that we peaked at 51 people, not bad at all for Sunday morning for a function that OryCon has never hosted before. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and our panelists were very good and very funny and I'd love to have them back with us again. Some of them in particular probably really should be on Match Game Late Nite.

In our 90-minute time slot, we managed to play three games, what with starting a little late and with game 3 running into Sudden Death before we got a winner. We even gave away one of the Bonus Round prizes, and that one was perhaps the most perceived valuable one for most of the attendees: a membership to next year's OryCon! We wound up the show almost exactly on schedule, giving the crew 30 minutes to strike the set and pack things out to Lisa's van. That wasn't enough, but fortunately the next event was the Art Auction, and that was not bothered by moving of gear. The bottleneck was primarily that it's impossible to get hotel carts at Noon on the last day of a convention. Lisa ended up having to carry half of the equipment one piece at a time out to the van until almost 40 minutes later when a cart materialized and she was able to move the rest.

I couldn't stick around to help with tear-down because I was on two consecutive additional panels, for a total of three, except of course that Match Game SF probably "counts as three" all by itself. Still, I joined the panel in writing constitutions (your colony ship has set down and it's time to form a government), followed by a panel on "Petite Conventions." (Note that size is relative. A 150-person convention like SMOFCon or Potlatch is "petite" in North America, but "standard size" or bigger in places like New Zealand.) In both cases, particularly the first, 50-55 minutes just wasn't enough time to do the topic justice. The Writing Constitutions panel deserves a write-up of its own, but I don't have the energy for it.

Lisa came to the Running Petite Conventions panel as well, as she chaired the 21-person Micro-Eclecticon that we ran when Sacramento's Eclecticon folded many years ago. She also made sure that I ate one of my food bars during the panel, lest I keel over from low blood sugar.

Finally done with my fifth and final panel of the weekend, I checked the Westercon table, then went to the room and changed out of my suit, after which Lisa and I went over to the food court again and got lunch to bring back to the table. This allowed me to relive Glenn Glazer, who needed to get going to catch a light rail train to the airport.

We didn't sell any more memberships during the rest of the afternoon, but we stayed until the bitter end when the hotel was starting to tear down tables around us. I didn't have anyplace to go anyway, since I'm not going back until tomorrow.

A bit after 4 PM, I got an urgent e-mail from a Menlo manager in the Chicago area who asked if I could please help her out of a jam with a little Access programming. I had her put the database in question where I could get at it, signed in to one of my work machines in San Mateo, and proceeded to get to work on it. After a while, it became apparent that I couldn't get the job done while sitting at the packed-up Westercon table, because people wanted to come and chat. I wouldn't ordinarily mind that, but I had work that needed to get done quickly while someone urgently awaited the results for use tomorrow. I thus had to pack up and head back to the room. Glad my Gold status gets me free internet in the room!

After a couple of hours, I turned the job around and got confirmation that it worked the way they wanted it, and was wished a good evening. I'm not going to complain; they were working even later, being two hours ahead of me, and they weren't even done yet. The good part from my point of view was that I was a go-to guy who sometimes can pull rabbits out of his hat, and in this case the timing was such that I could actually do it.

Although neither Lisa nor I were very hungry, we knew we needed to get some dinner, so we walked down to Denny's. I couldn't finish my meal. I think I must be coming down with something, as I'm full of body aches. I wouldn't think I'd caught the flu, as I've been immunized against it, and I thought two weeks or so was sufficient for the shot to have taken effect.

After returning from dinner, we made a very brief ceremonial appearance at the Dead Dog Party, but mainly I just waved, said, "Hello. Goodbye. I'm going to go be ded now." Then we limped back up to the room where I got ready for bed and after recovering some energy, wrote the above LJ entry.

There's so much more I'd like to write and more people I'd like to mention with whom I talked, not just about Match Game, but I'm wrung out. Although my flight tomorrow isn't until 2:30 (and thus I don't plan to leave the hotel until around Noon or so), so we have no pressure on check-out, we do need to be in the restaurant by 9:30 or thereabouts to use our included breakfast coupons.

I'd say I had a good time at OryCon, although there was drama and stress at times. We're also happy that Renovation chair Patty Wells got to see what our show looks like in light of our hope that we'll be invited to do it at Worldcon this year.
Tags: health, match game, orycon, work
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