If you ever sit around the projector with an Open Air Cinema
Technician you may hear a few of the many 'war-stories' that they pack around with them. You might hear about the tech who was rescued by 2-dozen bikini-clad women after falling in a swimming pool while attempting to float an inflatable movie screen in a swimming pool. Or you might hear about the three techs that were pelted with camping gear as they tried to hold down a 50-foot movie screen in the middle of a sandstorm. Believe it or not, nearly everything in the venue - except
the inflatable screen - was flung far into the Nevada desert.
In sharing tall-tales from Open Air Cinema events, veteran technicians will inevitably share a story or two about Movies Under the Stars in the city of Walnut Creek, California...the 'Rite of Passage' for every Open Air technician.
Walnut Creek has been sponsoring Movies Under the Stars since 2003. In that time the free outdoor cinema event has become the premiere family activity for local Walnut Creek residents. The experienced organizers know very well how they want their monthly outdoor movie events to unfold. And they pull out all the stops!
An evening under the stars in Walnut Creek, California usually involves a mix of live folk bands, hula dancers in grass skirts, spotlights and MCs in sparkling jackets. And to complicate matters, it is all staged in the middle of the Heather Farm Park baseball field, a venue feared by every technician who has ever had the misfortune of setting up on a baseball diamond. So, to pull off a Walnut Creek show without a hiccup is the ultimate challenge for a seasoned technician; the ultimate test of an Open Air Cinema Technician's skill and prowess.
Today that challenge falls on us.
We arrived on site early to assure that we would have plenty of time to set up the Open Air Elite 40x22.5 System
. We met our contact, who came loaded with a cooler full of cold drinks to buffer us from the heavy California sun. We laid down a large plastic tarp and rolled out the screen which is always transported in a tight roll. Once the stakes, ropes and screen were secured we turned on the blowers. After flipping on the blowers the screen billowed and began to rise. With two technicians holding the front ropes, and one technician watching the back ropes we simply guided the inflatable screen upwards as it lifted itself into place. Its remarkable to see such a large screen go up so easily and safely.
With the screen fully upright, we began setting up the chain of Mackie speakers, three on both sides of the screens we noticed a potential problem with the generator. Fortunately, we had a spare generator on hand and plenty of time to troubleshoot. We eventually got the main generator rolling, and kept the backup generator close to serve as a standby. However, it wasn't needed as the main generator served us well the rest of the evening.
As the other two techs set up the audio, I went to the projection mound to set up the projector and the mixing console. At this point I was given a schedule of the event so that I could begin to map out the varous transitions. We would be projecting a Powerpoint presentation from a laptop and then making a fade to a 55 second DVD introduction. In the meantime, the spotlight would light up the MC (in his sparkling jacket) upon the stage. After the intro, we were to fade straight to the feature.
As twilight approached, over 2,500 people had laid their blankets out on the lawn in anticipation of the movie. Everything was set to go. We got the cue, and began the fades. And....SHOWTIME!
Another entertaining outdoor movie night in Walnut Creek with Movies Under the Stars, and no bikini-rescue team required.