Monday, April 23, 2007

Caesar's Palace - Celine Dion

Celine Dion is not exactly at the top of my list of "singers I push the scan button in my car and hope to hear." Still, she's got pipes and I do like some of her songs. Somehow, DB knows people. I don't ask, he just does. he got us in for a private tour of Caesar's Palace where Celine does her show. The tour was a technical one. It was given by the front of house guy and I think a staging director. This was a very enlightening tour. I enjoyed it very much. What I enjoyed the most was when at the end they played a couple of cuts from her DVD they'll be releasing this fall. They cranked up the system, displayed the unmixed, and unedited show on the big stage screen and I could hardly stand it. The sound was amazing. A 5.1 room with truly enveloping sound. Five million dollars worth of sound system had better sound that good! It did. Her voice was strictly mixed to the center while everything else was left/right/sub and rear channels mostly for delay and fx. We got to see the show later that night. It was very enjoyable. She holds nothing back, and gives it her all. I took a lot of pictures on the tour and I thought I'd share them along with a few comments.

Here's the huge poster outside the theater.

Here's the front of house position. It's a digital board, of course, and it is linked to a Pro Tools rig where sound effects and other tracks are mixed with the live performance. Plus they record many but not all of the shows. This is useful for new musicians and substitute dancers to learn the material without a rehearsal.

Up the stairs and off of stage left is the monitor mixing area. The rack unit in the back is all for Celine's voice. It travels with her. If she sings at the Grammy's or something, it goes with her to keep her sound consistent. It is entirely analog. Behind it is the wireless director. Yes, wireless director. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of that, they don't want the frequencies getting out!

This is a shot of the stage and front of the house seats from just around the corner of the monitor desk.

A picture of the house from the "cheap seats." I believe they cost around $75/show. You can see the Front of House position. We got to sit in the row behind it for the show that night. Those seats were a little more than $75!

Another picture, showing the hight of the room. It seats just over 4000 people. They consistently put over 95% capacity in each night.

Now, walking around the back, here is the a spot and the area where the director and light controls sit.

This is the directors spot. Nothing to fancy but the funny thing about this, and the reason I took the picture is the monitor on the left. It is a static stage view that has sharpie outlines on the screen. The rectangles show where the trap doors on the stage are. This way, they know not to open it until it is clear of a stray dancer.

Now we're on the catwalks. Access to a lot of interesting stuff. Here we're above the stage looking down at the front. We're 90+ feet up!

And another view of the grid. It took a minute for me to feel secure walking around up there!

Up above the stage now, this is a swing that is lowered from way above the stage during a show. There are three of them and three girls descend from the ceiling in the middle of the song, come all the way down to the floor and start swinging. Then they're pulled back up by the end of the song. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.

Now we're up a level above the previous pictures. It's dark up here so these pictures aren't the best. What you're seeing is a web of cables that run all the curains and props that open, close, move across the stage, etc. The are attached to....

...these motors. I think they said there were forty of them on each side of the stage.

If you have an event at Caesar's and you want to broadcast or record it, here's where you come and plug in. We're down under the stage now. To our right are load-in doors. The problem is, they made the loading dock too small and obstructed so no one can use these hookups.

And here's the Green Room. It is set up differently for Celine than for Elton John, who does Monday/Tuesday shows, and different again for someone else who may come in. Jerry Seinfeld was coming in soon after we were there. Now THAT would have been fun.

Of course, the Green Room isn't so green...

The door next to the green room houses the brains of the digital FOH board and this Pro Tools recording rig. They record 84 channels. Notice the modified G5 at the bottom.

This is an area back stage where the dancers can practice. Not a lot of room, but they make the best of it. They have exercies and warm up equipment in there too.

What we're looking at here are special effects areas. Not that interesting below stage, but here you can see where stairs and a tree are "stored" before they are "launched" up onto stage.

It's hard to see, but we're under the stage looking at the front seats from the bass player's position. The bass player can view the stage only through the mesh in the steps. In fact, the drummer, guitar players, and keyboard players all play under the stage. They are revealed in the show via a back light so that the audience can see them vaguely through the mesh.

One interesting thing is that the players under the stage cannot see the piano player/conductor, so they're fed his image on a closed-circuit TV. Each player can also tap a switch with his foot and talk with the director or any other musician if there is a problem.

They use "real" drums and electronic drums.

It's hard to tell what this is, but this is an aux perc stage that is cabled to the ceiling. It comes down from above stage during the show, some one plays on it, then it returns back above.

And finally, the hats, with "Dion" labeled in the middle.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Eating Some More- Las Vegas, Day 3

We have needs. We have to eat. Where to go. Someone decided we were going to "New York, New York." here's a picture of the hotel. It's a miniature Manhattan skyline, complete with the statue of liberty.

Parking is free everywhere you go on the strip. Valley Parking is free as well. You tip the guy a buck when you leave the car, tip him a buck when he brings it back. OK, it's not free, but it's very convenient.

Once inside New York, NY, we were very surpised to see once again...ANOTHER casino! Notice the New York Skyline. The shops in the mall area were made to look like you were walking down the street in the city. (but nicer)

Here is the restaurant we ate at. Called, as you can see "America." Pretty good food.

This was on the wall behind us. A map of the whole U.S. with little icons representing each region. I couldn't fit the whole thing in one shot. Sorry.

For some reason, we had on-going "bets" all week. I think Kimsu started this one. "Eric, for $5 drink this whole container of green chunky salsa." A few others threw another $10 into the pot. He did it, but he said it ruined his dinner.

Where else can you go from New York to Paris in just a few steps? Only in Vegas, I guess.

I can't remember where this was (can someone help me?). It reminded me of the mummer's parade, excpet there where not floats. Everything was made out of flowers. Pretty creative.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'm famous

Thanks to my friend Jason who pointed this out and sent this highlighted picture, I have learned that I appear on Apple's web site. How cool is that? This is a picture of Tim and me trying to connect to the internet in the "Apple Lounge." All we could do was connect to the router, but the internet was down. Dumb.

Anyway, for those of you keeping score at home, this is my 100th post. Kind of pathetic since I've been running this for about a year and a half.

Friday, April 20, 2007

NAB, Days 2 and 3

Some of the things on display at NAB are things like helicopters, TV news trucks, big satellite dishes, and a big ultra-def theater. But my favorite thing was the sports truck. All the gear is actually in a trailer. It's the truck that shows up at a sporting event that is a self-contained television studio. Baseball games are broadcast this way, as well as football, hockey, you name it. This particular trailer was evidently most recently used for golf.

If you've ever taken the time to watch golf on TV, you may have noticed that as soon as you watch one guy put a ball in, they immediately take you to someone else on the tee, then to someone else in the fairway, then, someone else getting out of the bunker.

This is all monitored and scheduled for broadcast in this truck. It was kept very cool, by the way...

Tim may be the only person I know of who could actually sit down and know how to run this stuff. Don't worry, he's just pretending!

Here are all the preview monitors.

This is the audio mixing desk. The mixer was actually able to monitor and mix in 5.1 surround. Ahead of him (out of the frame) is a window that allows him to look into the main room where the producer/director sits.

On Wednesday, Tim and I met up with Neil who wanted to see an IPTV presentation. He is doing work on that at his company and so he wanted to see how other companies are using the technology.

So let me try to help set the stage. Most of the people who attended this tech conference were men. But many of the presenters were young, attractive women. I had no idea so many women were involved in the tech industry. Well, I'm a little slow.

This young lady is giving this slick presentation. She is representing a company who provides content and servers to companies like Time Warner, or Bellsouth. Companies that can combine content and on demand TV, telephone, internet, and wireless. The idea is that you may be sitting in your living room watching something but then need to leave to go somewhere. Using your mobile device, you can pick up where you were in your living room and continue to watch the show on your hand held. Pretty nifty. The presenter was going through this, showing simultaneous broadcasts of msnbc on both the large screen and the PDA.

I was intrigued by this, and after the presentation I began asking Neil a lot of questions about it. So he asked the presenter if we could see the PDA. We wanted to know if it was proprietary. It turns out it was, though it was running the microsoft handheld OS. I wanted to see it stream the video to it and see what other channels were available. "Sure," she said, handing me the device. "Let me know if I can answer anything for you."

So I started playing with it. I didn't want to just watch msnbc so I pushed a button that I thought would take me to a menu to view other channels. Oops. I did something. Couldn't get the channels back. I wasn't too worried, she obviously knew what she was talking about, she could reset it for her next presentation.

Oops, the device is in French (just like the GPS display on Chuck's rental, but that's another story), and she doesn't have any idea how to fix it. She plays with it for a while and as it becomes more and more obvious that she can't navigate the device any better than I can, some things come out about her.

It turns out she's just the face for the company at that presentation. She really didn't know anything about the product, what it did, how it worked or anything. She was slick, she pushed the remote at the right time, navigated the menu correctly, but outside of the presentation she was clueless. In fact, she had a little cassette recorder with an earpiece in one of her ears that actually had a recording of someone reading the script. She just repeated it to everyone. So she was about a second behind what she heard on the tape and had the ability to stop it and start it as she needed. She said that they had just completed the script two days before the show started and didn't have enough time to memorize it.

As I thought back to other presentations I saw, it began to make sense. All the smart tech guys were there to answer your detailed questions about the product, and interact with other geeks, but many of the presenters were not only not with the company, they probably didn't even know half of what the stuff they were presenting did! (In most cases, we didn't really mind).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where to Eat? LV Day 2

I know, I'm behind on my posts. As I have mentioned, my internet options are very limited. It is so unbelievable, and ironic, even, that the one place where the greatest concentration of tech minds are gathered, internet is scarce or unavailable all together. But don't get me started. I'm paying $10.99 for a 24 hour internet connection right now so I'm squeezing in all I can. We leave for home tomorrow, my internet runs out in about an hour, so I'm going to try to get this post off before I run out of time!

We flew in on Saturday night, technically that was day 1. Sunday was our first full day, however, so day 2 was Tuesday and here are some pictures and commentary of places we went, ate, and explored. Janet's probably right, people like pictures, so here are some pictures...

Where we ate Monday night.

A picture of something, not sure what, on the strip.

Inside the Venetian.

DB and Neil waiting for a romantic gondola ride.

Yeah right, notice the price!

Good ensemble--nice gig! playing to....

....these people. Notice the sky on the ceiling.

Rafael would be proud!

NAB Day 1

It is really hard to describe how big this thing is. For anyone who has ever been to the LV Convention Center, you will have a pretty good idea when I tell you that it consumes the North, Central, South lower and South upper Halls, plus the Hilton across the parking lot, where I believe a few keynotes and things like that are being delivered.

We started off the day heading straight for the Apple display, where they were demoing the release of Final Cut 2. A very impressive demonstration of the power and intuition of the video editing software. Actually, they've bundled several software items into that one package so it's pretty impressive. The rest of the day was spent watching a few demos of various software and hardware products from companies such as Sony, Panasonic, JVC, etc. High Def stuff, displays, cameras, it's all kind of overload. At lunch, after having wondered around for a while by myself, Tim asked me what I thought. I answered that I was somewhere between overwhelmed and bored.
The Apple Final Cut 2 Presentation

Neil's jaw was perpetually dropped open as cool new feature after feature was revealed.

We are here as a team primarily to research SAN server information so that we can hopefully set up a high capacity video editing server that can be shared over fiber and edited on several work stations. It has been very interesting to be on a lot of these conversations of discovery and planning. I've learned a lot so far.

These pictures were taken on the stairs halfway between the upper and lower South Halls. One, looking left, one looking right. I can't even show the full size of the hall with these shots. Take what you see and multiply it by four, plus some things outside, which I'll show tomorrow.