Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

image

This is what happens when you don’t wrap extension cords properly. The get all kinked up and don’t function efficiently.

Inside the rubber jacket are little thin copper wires that do not like to be kinked. They object to it so much that they break. Broken wires don’t work so well at moving electricity from point A to point B.

Camera assistants are usually the culprit, as they like to ‘over and under‘ everything.

I keep pleading with them to stop, but I think they think my pain is amusing.

Every time you over and under a stinger, an electrician cries. It sounds kind of like doves.

Camera and video cables get the over and under treatment, everything else gets coiled clockwise – or the next time someone uses the damaged stinger to plug in a hair dryer that pulls enough power to light up a city block, the stinger will melt and people will panic. Which is funny, but bad.

Just like doves crying.

Filed under: Photos, Work, , , , ,

I haven’t spent an entire day lifting cable in some time.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s good because, well, I haven’t had to lift cable in quite some time, and bad because the only thing that gets one fit for lifting cable is lifting cable. Last I checked, they don’t have a 4/0 machine at the gym.

I got a call from the union hall (haven’t had one of those for a while) to wrap a location yesterday at one of our local sports arenas. Arenas are great because they have nice wide ramps and large freight elevators, but bad because most rigging gaffers feel the need to run cable all the way around said arena.

As most arenas are not small,  that’s a lot of cable.

I don’t have any problems pulling (rolling the stretched out cable into a coil – it’s called pulling because one straddles the cable and pulls it into a coil while it’s flat on the ground) cable. I can use the overdeveloped swimmer’s muscles on my back all damn day – plus it increases my sprint speed in the pool, so everybody wins.

What hurts me is lifting the cable – and moving cable from one place to the other is just about the same as it’s always been.

One picks up the 100+ lb coil of cable. One deposits said coil onto some sort of wheeled contraption. Then, one wheels the cable to the truck and lifts it again.

Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Coil, lift, drop. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting), then repeat.

We were very, very lucky that the temperature stayed relatively low at 78 degrees, so the heat wasn’t the factor that it will be later in the year.

After we finished loading the truck, the best boy asked me if I wanted to unload the truck at the lot today.

I was sore, but work is work – and these are really nice guys that I’d love to call me back again, so of course I said yes.

The sequence for unloading the truck is just about the same for loading it, but without the coiling part.

Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lift, drop, count, lift. Lunch (light, unless you want to puke while you’re lifting),  repeat.

Someday I’m going to produce a ‘Get Fit With Cable’ exercise video and make a mint.

Or not. The shipping costs would kill any profit margin.

Since I haven’t been doing many cable lifts lately, I started to hurt a little bit before lunch on Thursday, and really, really started to hurt before lunch today.

Right after lunch, we found out we had to rig two sets, which was a bit of a relief as it would allow me to use different muscles for a couple of hours.

By the time we were dismissed, I was filthy, smelly and sore. I briefly considered going to the Korean spa and soaking myself in the hot tub, but settled for  take-out (I am so not cooking tonight) and got the side-eye from just about everyone in the place.

Fuck them. I’m eating dinner after enjoying a very hot shower and a smearing of the biceps with ointment.

Filed under: crack of dawn, locations, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Work light

Temporary worklight, in the permanents.

Filed under: camera, Photos, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , ,

Friday Photo

Three-Fers, cropped

Sometimes, when one is doing cable runs, one wants the ability to branch out and make a single cable into multiple cables – much like a power strip that you use in your house, only with a lot more power.

Enter the three-fer.

It allows us to plug three things into one cable. It’s usually used at a distribution box to allow the connection of an HMI ballast and some smaller cable (banded, as opposed to the heavy cable).

One has to be careful, though, as the three-fers aren’t rated for as much electricity as the cable and if overloaded can cause a fire.

Exactly like a power strip in your house, only with a lot more fire.

One of my greatest regrets in life was not having a video camera on The Night The Cable Caught Fire. It was *cough cough* years ago and the reactions of production (screaming, running around, tearing out of hair) compared to the reactions of the electricians (calmly walking to the shutoff and killing the power, then telling anyone who was in earshot about the *really* big fire they saw on another set) was priceless.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, Uncategorized, Work, , , , ,

Ouchies.

The gaffer and crew on Reluctant Porn Star are some of my favorite people in the world to work with, no matter what it is, but the DP on the show, while a very nice guy, isn’t really used to working on low-budget shows.

He’s used to working with higher budgets which means more equipment and larger crews (and rigging crews, which RPS doesn’t have), so the lighting set-ups are way too big for the small crew that we have.

Our location was a neighborhood of  some very lovely hillside homes in the south  bay – the views from the houses were amazing, but the problem with working around hillside homes, is, well, the hillside.

Our truck was down a very steep hill from the house where we were shooting, so anything that we needed had to be brought to the set in a stakebed (if we could get one. Transpo only had three since it’s a low-budget show), or carried as trying to push even a lightly loaded cart up an 18% grade is hilarious, but ultimately futile.

Our first shot was  day exterior, which didn’t require any lighting, which was good as we had to run cable up the hill and down the hill for the night exterior. Since they were looking at the street, we had to run the cable through the yards of the houses – over the fences, through the ivy, etc.. We also made an attempt to pre-light by placing some lamps in the yards where we thought they might work.

Up the hill, down the hill. Up the hill down the hill. My legs were screaming well before lunch.

Of course, any attempts we made at pre-lighting went out the window when we started actually lighting.

I’ve mentioned before that there’s a difference between actual dark and cinematic dark. The latter requires a surprisingly large number of lights even for a small area, and since we were spread out over an almost-vertical city block, we used pretty much ever light in our truck.

Right after we’d lit and shot one direction of the night exterior, it started to rain. Since there was no way to shoot the reverse of a huge wide shot with rain when the first half had no rain, they told us to wrap everything and they’d come back another time and reshoot it.

Two hours later, right after we’d finished wrapping, we were informed of the plan to shoot the reverse tomorrow, so we’re going to have to re-run all the cable and re-do all the lighting.

I managed to get home just before the sun came up.

Filed under: hazardous, locations, long long drives, up all night, Work, , , ,

A glove-ruining kind of day

Some things are better in the summer – the beach, outdoor barbecues, swimming pools, street fairs, fresh produce.

But one thing that’s decidedly not better in the summer is running cable in a downtown LA alley that doubles as a de facto relief station for the area.

Although the temptation is to blame the mess on the local homeless population, many of the people who we saw pissing in the alley (right in front of us) did not appear homeless. They just appeared to not want to walk the 50 yards or so to one of downtown LA’s  self-cleaning public toilets.

Guess that cable just screams “hey, come relieve yourself here!”

Depressingly enough, most of us are used to dealing with a certain amount of human filth – it’s just something that’s to be expected when one works in certain parts of Los Angeles (although we’ve been known to simply leave extremely heavily soiled cable right where it is and call it a loss), and it wasn’t any worse than any other downtown alley in the morning while it was still cool – sure, we had to watch for the fresh liquid (thankfully, there was much more liquid waste than solid waste) on the ground and on the walls, but as soon as the sun moved into a position to be able to hit the alley the smell got really bad, really fast.

Normally, the production company will pay to have downtown alleys steam cleaned and then block off access until we’re done shooting (in order to prevent re-pooing of said alley), but this particular alley wasn’t able to be blocked as it serves as the access driveway for some of those overpriced downtown ‘lofts’, so I guess production just didn’t see the point of cleaning it in the first place.

Of course, the center of most alleys are not all that gross (admittedly, though, after years of working in downtown alleyways most of us have a pretty high filth tolerance), but we run our cable down the very sides – up against a fence or a wall, and that’s where most folks choose to do their business, if you get my drift.

While I’ll spare you some of the gorier details, I will say that I’m not sure which smells worse after baking in the summer sun – shit, piss, vomit, or used tampons.

At least I was on the crew that was laying the cable. I feel for the poor bastards who will have to wrap the stuff after it’s been pissed on (and worse) for days. I won’t be there. That’s one circumstance under which I have no problem at all turning down work.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

From one extreme to the other

Monday, I was working the shooting set, so I showed up early, dosed up on free coffee, and then stood in the air conditioning (the stage was so cold I needed a sweater to keep from shivering) and walked lights around at the gaffer’s direction. The set was a slow one – hard to get into, hard to move around once inside, no place to stage lights within easy reach, so we did a bit of running, but still…

That air conditioning was awesome, and our gaffer and DP both understood about the access problems, so there were no ‘impatient moments’ all day.

Since Monday was the last day of shooting, I got invited back to wrap the stage, which was a good thing – nice guys on the crew and a stage so close to my house I can bike to work.

Originally, production wanted to wrap the entire stage in two days with two guys – luckily, they were shamed by the derisive laughter into giving us three days with four guys (that, and the production office is on a stage that was a very difficult and slow wrap, so they were more than likely already watching and re-thinking), which allows us to finish in time without killing ourselves (remember: haste makes injury).

The first day, we wrapped all the loose stuff on the floor (lamps, distro, etc..) and took down all the lamps and hardware from the pipe grid (luckily, no vertigo moments for me).

Today we realized just how lucky we were to get the extra days and extra guys when we went up in the perms and saw exactly how much cable was there – when you see a light hanging above a set, there’s a lot of cable associated with said lamp (enough to run across the perms from the ‘can’ to the lamp and then down to where the lamp’s hanging, usually right above the set. Average cable to hanging lamp ratio for stages that have power available in the perms is 150 – 200 feet. If there’s no power upstairs, then double that as the power will have to run from the ground up to the perms, then across and down again), but what we saw was bordering on overkill – and not laid out neatly either – this stuff looked like Medusa’s hair on a windy day. Twisted, knotted, piled up randomly – someone at some point had tried to make space on the floor by tying bunches of cable to the knee rail every five feet, which meant that we had to walk along while bent over and cut the ties before we could even start to wrap.

Normally, we wrap the stuff on top first and then work our way down, but when it’s not possible to find the top, we just have to pull.

One selects a cable, pulls like hell and if the cable doesn’t move at all (or if it moves a teeny bit and that vein in the forehead blows out from the strain), then one chooses another cable and pulls like hell.

Repeat until at least two colleagues have been tripped and mess is untangled enough to tell what’s what and then pull like hell again – only with more precision.

Did I mention that it’s currently about 90 degrees outside and all the heat in an un air-conditioned stage rises to the roof? We were all completely soaked in sweat within a few minutes, so we were all very happy to come down at lunch. Not so much to eat – a meal followed by wrapping cable in the heat in a bent-over position leads to a terrible mess that looks absolutely nothing like Medusa’s hair on a windy day, but more to get a break and walk upright for half an hour or so.

I wasn’t hungry, but was afraid not to eat at all, so I had the filling of about a quarter of a sandwich and an iced tea. I normally don’t drink really cold drinks (they hurt my fillings), but today the ice-cold felt so good I didn’t care.

Then, we went back up the the perms and finished wrapping the cable. After lunch, we had an extra guy who had been on the cluster fuck that was the other stage (and who came over to help us after they were done over there instead of going home and relaxing) and we went much faster with the extra person. We managed to get everything in the perms wrapped.

Tomorrow, we’ll lower it all down to the floor (one coil at a time, using rope because although this particular stage does have hoists available, production won’t rent one for us) and then check it in when the rental house guys show up.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Photos and a question

First, the photos:

Really old cable.

Is it fiberglass or is it asbestos?

Now, the question:

This is really, really old cable. The cable we’ve used for, well, just about forever has rubber insulation, and this is clearly not rubber.

In a debate about what, exactly it was, half of Monday’s crew thought asbestos, and the other half thought some sort of fiberglass.

So, who’s right – or were we all wrong?

What the hell is this stuff and do I need to make a panicky call to my doctor because I got my face too close to it?

Filed under: Photos, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , ,

April 2017
S M T W T F S
« Mar    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Flickr Photos

Tags

Origami bird

Window view

More Photos

Archives

Categories

Random Quote

"If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." -Anne Lamott

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 865 other followers

Twitter Updates

Blogroll

Not blogs, but cool

%d bloggers like this: