Friday, April 21, 2006

This seems to be the closest thing to a vacation I ever get.

I've been to Las Vegas more in the past 12 months than in the preceding 12 years.

I'm not really a gambler, so I always kind of feel like an imposter, and yet circumstances as of late seem to keep sending me back.

Someone I know through the blog hooked me up with a pass to NAB, so I'm leaving tomorrow and coming back on Tuesday (I'd stay longer but I've really got to try to drum up some work for next week).

I normally go to Vegas with The Blonde, who makes for great theater but is a bit stressful to travel with. This time I'm going by myself, which should be fun just because it means I'll be able to spend part of the trip actually relaxing by the pool without worrying what trouble I'm going to have to deal with next.

"You'll have a great time," my friend said when I told her why I'd be missing the Blasters concert a group of us had planned to attend Saturday night. "You'll tear the town up - just like Hunter S. Thompson."

"Um, yeah" I said.

A nice sentiment, as we're both huge fans, but Vegas isn't the same town as it was when Thompson terrorized it.

It's not the 70's anymore and the strongest thing I'm going to ingest is a watered-down vodka tonic.
The Dunes is gone, and while the Flamingo's still there it's a moldering hulk with a half-assed remodel awaiting a date with the wrecking ball so that we can have yet another themed resort hotel/casino.
One cannot - anywhere in Vegas, or Nevada for that matter - get a steak for $1.99 and I'm pretty sure that Hunter S. didn't have to bring along Flat Stanley.

When another friend heard that I was going to Vegas, she insisted I take along Flat Stanley for her kid's school project.

"You know, just take Flat Stanley's picture in a variety of interesting places, but you have to be in the photo or it doesn't count."

"I'm traveling by myself. How am I supposed to get in the photo?" I asked.

"You're a college graduate, I'm sure you'll figure it out".

So now my plans to do not a lot (besides gawking at all the cool NAB stuff and lounging by the pool) have changed and I have to spend at least part of the weekend cajoling complete strangers into taking our picture at various locations around the Strip.

One thing I'm sure of, though. Flat Stanley will be a hell of a conversation starter.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's official - the magic's gone.

One of my DVD rentals was the TV show Firefly.

It's a good show, but while watching it, all I could think was "Damn, I feel sorry for the poor bastards that had to work on that thing".

On a TV show, you have standing sets, swing sets, and locations.

Standing sets stay the same episode after episode - once the lights are rigged they don't move around (much - unless you're the victim of an excessively cost-cutting producer who forces you to pull the lights out of one standing set and put them in another each time you move), and all we really have to do is move around the 'floor units' (lights that are on stands and not hung in the rig) each time we shoot the set.

A swing set is a set that's only there for a short time as it's only going to be used in one episode. On a TV show, every time you see a place just once, that's a swing set. Watching Firefly, I noticed that over half of each episode seems to have been swing sets (alien spaceship, ballroom, bar interior, bad guy's office, etc..).

A swing set has to built, dressed and lit before it can be shot - that requires a lot of man-hours even if there's a rigging crew, and once it's ready to go the lighting always has to be tweaked, set pieces have to be changed, etc... Needless to say quite a bit of this tweaking takes place with the producers standing there, yelling about how we're not working fast enough.

Oh, and you'd think it would take less time to build and light a really small but complex set - like the interior of a spaceship with teeny little cubbyholes everywhere, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong. Sometimes the teeny cubbyhole-laden sets are the worst.

Here are my thoughts on shooting in those little western town sets (all the backwater towns on Firefly seem to be western-themed).

The magic's been gone for a while (I know too much - so I notice things like boom mic shadows, lighting mis-matches, sound glitches and actors looking in the wrong direction on a reverse angle), but the fact that I was sitting on my couch thinking about how badly the crew must have gotten spanked instead of rooting for our intrepid heros as they escape just in time really brought it home.

I wonder if this is how magicians feel when they watch a magic show.

Poor bastards.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

So I'm selfish. I can live with that.

It's still incredibly busy out there, but over the weekend I decided to be selfish and take a few days off.

I didn't get offered any work, so I didn't turn down anything down for Monday or today, I just didn't didn't make any effort to get on the phone and see who's hiring.

A friend of mine called on his way into work and was shocked that I was at home, stirring risotto and getting ready to put a movie in and relax when everyone else in town is standing on a set somewhere.

I know that I have to make hay while the sun shines - but at some point, I just can't anymore and have to take some time to rest.

Four days in a row (five, counting tomorrow) has felt like a six week vacation, and I really needed that.

I'll make work calls tomorrow.