Tech Day in the Life: Neil Kurtz

Posted on: February 16th, 2017

This is the first installment of a new series of “Day in the Life” articles featuring IMS team members and how they spend their day on the road supporting our clients.  This is the recent “day in the life” of Neil Kurtz, Event Staging Technician.

ims-neil-kurtzI hear a faint beeping in the background. What could it be this time: a truck reversing? A scissor lift navigating the ballroom? A forklift rumbling by on the dock? No, it’s far too early for any of that.

Rolling over, I blink my sleepy eyes open and try to focus on the alarm clock. 3:30. Did I oversleep? Can’t be, the room is far too dark to be mid-afternoon. I swing my legs out from under the comforter and my feet hit the carpet. Time to get this 16+ hour day started.

My crew starts trickling in and the driver is calling to let me know he’s here, but can’t get onto the dock because another vehicle is blocking the way. A call goes out to find someone from hotel security to get the other truck moved.

Finally on the dock, the crew is present and accounted for and gear starts flowing into the room. Once we’re done unloading the equipment, some of the crew peels off and starts working with the lighting director, others with audio. I task two of the utility crew members to start building screens as I focus on my switcher. After consulting my wiring diagram for the 100th time today to make sure I’m not missing something, I start setting up my graphics machines. I get pulled away because lighting can’t find some of their instruments. Were they on the pull sheet? Did we leave them on the dock? The back hall? Never mind, they’re inside the case; someone just misread the tape label on the lid.

Back to the laptops. T-minus 2 hours until the client walks in the door. Laptops placed: check. Cables labeled: check. Inputs patched: check. The screens are up, and my crew members are starting to put projection together. I check on audio and lighting, to see how everyone is progressing and get a status update. All green lights!

Break time. Well, let’s be honest: the crew gets a break. I get a break from the crew in exchange for some precious quiet time to get ahead on things.

Next project: networking. Projectors, recorders, and graphics computers are all wired up, but one of the laptops can’t ping the rest of the network. After checking the connections on the switch, I see where I left off earlier; an air gap. Things usually work better when they’re plugged in. Let’s try that ping again: success! I set up a file transfer to all the laptops and begin configuring my recorders.

My audio engineer starts ringing out the room, making sure the microphones don’t feedback if someone walks in front of a speaker.

Lighting has fixtures in the air and they begin their tedious task of focus. The projectionist is having trouble with a projector lamp, so he swaps out lamps. Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve our problem. After a few phone calls, double checking things, crossing our fingers and an ounce of hope, the lamps finally strike! The projectionist starts his convergence as the drape line starts to go up.

The client walks in the room, introductions are made and status updates are provided. Everything is good for rehearsals, and still on track for a noon start! The client sits down and we start going over changes and additions. There’s a new set of PowerPoints and a change in the order of the videos. For the Q&A, they’d like to have 5 lavaliere microphones for the panel and 3 handheld microphones for the audience. I make a note to tell the audio engineer later. Also, the colors for the drape should be red and blue, but not blue blue. Maybe a nice shade of cool water blue. I make another note for the lighting director to figure out what color cool water blue is.

After a brief lunch, we dive into rehearsals. The first presenter is confused by the downstage monitors and keeps talking to the next slide. We take a brief time-out so I can pull out my handy laminated monitor labels from my tech kit and put them on the appropriate monitors. The presenter thanks me and resumes his rehearsal. Video 1 fires and runs as it should, and we make a graceful transition back into the presentation. He wraps up and practices his toss to the next presenter, taking direction from his colleagues and the production team. The second presenter hasn’t arrived yet, so we have an unscheduled break.

The crew steps away for a few minutes, and I start checking emails. There’s a show next week that needs my attention, so I send the project manager a note, telling him we’ll chat at the end of the day. Since the home office is on the opposite coast, I add 3 hours to the local time and remind myself to not let it get too late before calling. I also check the schedule, looking for my next day off. Thankfully, there’s only a show day and travel standing between now and some R&R. ‘Head down and power through’, I tell myself. Now the client is waving at me from across the room. Our next presenter is here, so the crew rallies to knock the rehearsal out.

It’s now been 12 hours since I left that wonderful cocoon of a bed. Load in, set up and rehearsals are done. Just a few short hours until I can have a cold, adult brewed beverage in my hand. But those short hours are probably the most critical. Doors open in 30 minutes, and there are about to be 400 people in this room that I’ve had all day to construct. Will everyone enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed putting it together? I’ve just had a whirlwind day putting all the pieces where they belong and I couldn’t be happier. Thankfully the show goes off without a hitch, and the client is thrilled. The crew takes care of a few odds and ends before powering down for the day. We’ll be spending all day tomorrow in this ballroom, so no one lingers. My FitBit alerts me that it’s time to start winding down for bed, but I brush it off in exchange for that hard-earned frosty beverage.