Friday, May 16, 2008

Work in Carlisle

OK, after that huge long ramble about my personal life, now a bit about work.

Written almost a week ago, which is a bit confusing for me reading it now, but the internet has been sketchy.

I'm quite busy. In a good way, I think. We've got these conferences of J.John, which are kind of messing up everyone's schedule down in the shed. Basically it's every Tuesday and Wednesday, in 2 different cities. So we send crew down Tuesday morning at 6am or so, rig all day, gig in the evening, pack down, finished by about 2am or so, then the same again the next morning, finishing everything and back to Carlisle at around 3amish.

This week was week 3, out of 10, and was my first time on crew. The team leaders here had figured out a complex scheme to try and reduce the load on the crew, by sending different shifts of people from Carlisle, so that no-one had the complete 2 days of 6-am to 3-am, which is kind of killer. Anyway, I was in the car that shuttled down at 6am on Wednesday, arrived about 10 past 8, rigged all day, did the conference/thing, de-rigged, and then came back. I got dropped off home at around 4am.

I was expecting to be doing graphics, mainly using a programme called songpro (evil programme. the latest incarnation which they have here is even more evil than the old version we have on the ship...) for displaying lyrics on the screens during the singy bit and also some titles and playing videos too. The guy who was supposed to be doing the graphics the first day, however, didn't go back to Carlisle, but instead stayed on for the second day, and said it made no sense for him to no do graphics, since he knew how it would all work with the band and everything, and so could get it perfect.

Not everyone from the first day crew, however, came back the second day, so I ended up "shading". I hadn't been shown yet how that all worked, but had a basic idea. At the most basic level, shading is kind of just doing changing the Iris levels, gamma and blacks and colour correction live on the cameras, from the OB truck, during the whole show, so that cutting between shots it looks the same, and so that the image on screen looks good and is "Legal" TV levels all the time. So once we'd rigged, I spent as much time as possible playing with the controls, figuring it all out.

I also had a bit of time before the event to play with the Jib a bit. Now that's fun. I thought the crane on the cranedeck was multi-tasking while swinging a big stick around. Well, the jib is even more complex, as not only do you have the big stick, but you have a *lot* of people sitting around underneath it, and have various screens and stuff to not bash into while swinging the big stick around, and also all the usual pan/tilt controls for the camera at the end of the big stick, and Zoom and Focus as well.

As with shading, I think it's one of those skills that I'll get better with, with time and practice. Hopefully I'll get both. I didn't kill anyone or destroy anything or knock down the tent while I was trying it, so I don't think I've been banned yet..

Anyway, sitting next to the director in the truck for the whole event was kind of stressful, in a good way. It does need to be right, all the time, and I'm not all that great at it yet. By the end of the show he had stopped reaching over to grab the shading controls from me and fix things I was messing up, and wasn't having to shout at me to fix things myself quite so much. I think that's a stage in the right direction, for sure.

The whole rigging/de-rigging thing wouldn't be so bad at all, if we only had out equipment to set up. We're only doing video for these conferences, so it only takes us about an hour or two to get it all done. 1 fixed camera on a tripod, 1 on a dolly, and one on a jib, 4 screens and projectors, and all the cabling.

However, the sound and lights guys really don't seem to know what they are doing so much, or have enough people to rig it all, so we end up doing huge amounts of the rigging of all their gear too! Including building their speaker-stacks. Heavy, backbreaking kind of work.

Still, fun.

On the way back, we did get a bit lost. We also blew a tire at 2.30am. That was fun. So we had to figure out where the spare tire was, and how to get the wretched thing out of the enclosure. It was only 4 of us, coming back 2 hours after the rest of the team who had been there for the 2 days (but with a longer break in the middle) had left. Stupid Ford car. Inordinately hard to get the silly spare tire out. We managed it, however, and eventually got home. After dropping off two of the other guys, we were stopped by the police just to check who we were while driving about in the backstreets of Carlisle.

My room here is really nice. Small, comfortable. One really nice thing is how the sunlight comes in in the morning. It's really great. But, if you only get to bed by 4, having the sunlight coming in at 7 really isn't so wonderful. By 7.30 I couldn't sleep any more, so got up, had breakfast, and went into the shed. I was kind of supposed to have the day off, after the conference long day, but the video of the conference needed to be edited and made into a DVD, so that we could sell them next week. So I got started on that.

Next day, Friday, I'd basically finished the editing, of the first conference, anyway, and was missing the tape from one of the cameras, which strangely enough I've since found out the director had found in the tea-bag box he had taken home with him... anyway, at lunch time on Friday, 6 of us headed down to Manchester for the Northern Men's Convention, which we were doing Lights and Video for, again. Ian stayed back, as he's waaay too busy and we could manage without, which meant Euan directing, myself doing graphics, shading, and lights, another guy doing the songpro stuff (evil programme), and the 3 cameramen. Fun. They looked after us much better than the J.John thing, providing sandwhiches and drinks and so on. We rigged on Friday, slept at a Travel Lodge inn, then did the conference all day Saturday, and headed back to Carlisle that evening, arriving back around 10.30pm or so.

The shed gate/door thingy jammed, as we were putting the van inside, so I ended up at the top of a shakey wooden ladder with a big crowbar whacking the thing to make it go back again. I miss Deck Dept...

Today is Sunday, and I spent the morning reading my bible in Costa Coffee, and drinking a rather nice Cappucino, and then popped into the shed to get my email, and start off the DVD duplicating (which I didn't have a chance to do last night). Stupid duplicator makes about 12 bad DVDs for every 10 good ones. At least we can put 100 or so blanks into it and just let it run though. So kind of better than the one we have on Doulos, which does 10 at a time, and has to be manually re-loaded, and printing on top of them has to be done 1 at a time by hand. Except for the stupid problem with the bad DVDs....

Anyway. When I'm not rushing around to these conferences, and editing the footage from them and making DVDs, I'm also working on the back-end to the new OMNItube website we're making. I'm writing the code to do automatic video conversions to produce streaming flash video versions of the hi-res files we're going to be selling, which is not really so much fun, but fairly productive, and an interesting project, getting to know the deep murky internals of Joomla CMS and the PHP language... I've got most of my end of the programming done, so hopefully can finish on that soon, and pass it all back to the web-designer, who will finish the site. (I hope.. I have a nasty suspicion that the designer wants me to do quite a bit more work on the site than I really want to do. I'm happy to just do the deep back-end programming bit that he can't do.. meh. We'll work that out later..)

Tomorrow we should have a load of new equipment and stuff showing up, including a "Jumbotron", which is an ENORMOUS screen/projector thingy, several thousand folding chairs, a load of translation equipment from Billy Graham's organisation, and so on. I've no idea where we'll put it all. The shed is kind of stuffed already. We also will be preparing for the next J.John conference which is Tuesday, again, so I'll have to finish the second DVD and make sure they're all duplicated...

Also the new Bus is being got ready to be driven on Thursday over to Germany, where it'll get most of the steel-work done, before being driven back here for the re-fit, which we need to do in the next 6 weeks or so, ready for the really busy conference season in the summer.

As we only really will have 2 days between conferences or events *ever* during the next 2 months or so, and we need to either have the Truck (which we'll be gutting to fill the new bus) or the Bus (which will need to be completely fitted with all the gear from the Truck...) that changeover will be complicated, and very busy too.

It is busy here, and there is a lot to do. However the scheduled work time is relaxed, and one can take a lot of time off, officially. Whole weekends, for instance. From what I've seen, there is a huge need for more organisation/management here. I'm normally opposed to the whole over-managment emphasis that most of the west, and especially the ships have. I'm sure that there is way more beuracracy on Doulos than is healthy, and that gets in the way of real work. The team here seems to kind of has the opposite problem, I think. Partly, and perhaps mostly, it's because of how much the director has been away, recently. And when he is here, he's got so many conferences and all that to actually be at and direct. Last week, he said he had 92 hours of conference work he need to be at, as well as getting all his usual 100 or emails every day to work through. That's insane, and that's totally without being at the shed to make sure people are actually doing stuff that needs doing at the time. The guys are great, doing good jobs, very clever and so on, but some of them are perhaps not as focussed, or focussing on what needs to be done at the time.

Yes, I know. I'm not immune from that myself. I'm very easily distractable and end up taking way more time on stuff that really doesn't need it. :-) Hopefully being here and seeing it taken to an artform will help me avoid and combat that tendancy in myself.

Anyway. That's a sort of longish overview of what I'm doing at the moment. It's fun. I'm enjoying it, but I miss the ol' M.V. rust bucket like crazy.

Oh? You wanted to know about the coffee maker?

Well, I bought it. Wasn't that hard at all.

All kind of anti-climatic, actually. I mean, after all that agony and everything.

You know, I do kind of wonder if I went though all that just because I was supposed to write that blog entry, or something.

It's really cool, makes good coffee.. It's obviously not expensive. Some parts of it are very cheaply made - I don't think they'll break or that; but just the way the metal is finished inside - and some of the joints really are not polished.

I still haven't learned how to use everything properly, the whole "stretching milk" thing I think will take a bit of practice. I'm not actually using an espresso type of beans, actually, but a random fair-trade colombian blend I found. Tastes pretty good to me. There's still a bit of a "new plastic" taste to things, which hopefully will be gone soon. If not I'll have to run some vinegar through it or something.

The hot chocolate made with steamed frothed milk is veeery good though :-)

And it's really nice to have decent coffee at breakfast time, or when coming back from work.

Instant coffee: just say "argh, no, yuk! bleh, what a horror and a disaster, oh my goodness, what an awful idea, good grief do you think I'm crazy or something?"


Richard said...

Yep, Songpro sucks... get an Aston!

'Shading'? Wierd word... not heard that before... I think you meant 'racking' the cameras [normally done by someone called a VO or Vision Operator or VC Vision Controller]. I tried doing this but found it way too difficult. In post it's called 'grading' [normally done by someone called a colourist]... not heard shading before.

I looked up shading on the net to see and cannot see it used that way except by a few US sites.

Kris said...

Daniel, I wish you were here. Still. I'm leaving in two weeks...can't wait, either. The ship has gone mad and there are battles to be fought here, and you'll be a good reinforcement. Also, since you can't use your espresso machine on the ship I'd like to offer to take care of it while you're can just send it to my house in Minnesota and I promise to use it and love it in memory of you every single day.