A few months ago I did a video operating job for the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Using a system called Watchout, which is used to project synchronous video onto a lot of screens at the same time, I operated the opening show. We had rehearsed diligently. We were ready. The technology was ready. The presenters were ready.
We were about 30 minutes in and everything was going fine, when in the middle of a video we hear a low popping sound. Nobody in the audience noticed. Everybody on the crew instantaneously awoke from their slumbers and stood at full attention. The audio guy comes on the intercom almost immediately and says in a concerned voice: “I have no more audio from Watchout”.
He was operating a state of the art digital audio desk that could detect, even if there was no audio being played, that there was something on the other end of the cable. He was telling is there wasn’t. As if somebody had taken a pair of scissors and cut the cable.
The video system was already playing, the director and I looked at each other with a knowing look: in about 20 seconds, the timeline would hit a new block of audio that would synchronise with a video screen of a man talking. We were powerless to stop the video and could only hope for a small miracle to keep from looking like fools and screwing up the so very important opening show.
Unfazed by this, the director just kept barking commands to keep the show running, he and I both needed our full concentration on the actual show and leave the situation up to the technical folks. A few seconds before the start of the audio, I look in their direction to see two people behind the audio desk physically unplugging audio cables, quickly I look away and count down the seconds to our certain humiliation.
Then the screen starts up and we hear the glorious sound of a synchronised voice over playing just as rehearsed.
At the end of the show we found out a device called a DI caused our issues. It had been working fine for days but fried itself during the show. It was the ludicrously quick thinking from some talented crew that kept the audience from ever knowing something was up.
This is not an unusual story, I don’t mean to pat anybody’s back in particular. I’m sure some more experienced crew will shrug at this and say: “I eat broken DI’s for breakfast”. But it deserves pointing out that the smooth, slick running show you saw the other day has had hundreds if not thousands of man hours poured into it to run that smoothly.
For every smooth transition, for every story being told, intelligent people have made difficult decisions and solved tough problems to keep the technology from forming a boundary between you and the information. That, I believe, is our job. To allow the story to persevere and achieve it’s maximum potential.