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Thread: Feedback on SELEM; thoughts for improvement...

  1. #1
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    Smile Feedback on SELEM; thoughts for improvement...

    Hey folks;

    Well, I'm not going to be available very much over the next couple weeks. I'm stuck in southern Illinois for the next week on a business trip, and I have very limited Internet access out here. And when I get home, I'll only have a day or two before I'll be leaving for Florida for this year's ILDA conference, which is being held on board a cruise ship. So while I'm sure it will be a great time, that will be another week that I'll be out of touch.

    Nevertheless, I wanted to start a thread for people to share their suggestions regarding SELEM. This year was an incredible event, and due to the size of the crowd we had some unique challenges to overcome. And while I thought it was a successful event overall, there are certainly areas where we can improve how we do things. So please share your thoughts on this matter now, while everything is still fresh in your mind. I want to capture as much feedback as I can. Later, when I'm back home again, I can pull everything together into a master list and start working on the plan for next year.

    One thing I already checked on is the venue availability. And unfortunately, it looks like we're going to be stuck with the same weekend again for next year. If we try to do it a week earlier, we won't be able to extend the event. (Many people suggested we start the load-in on Thursday, so we'd have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to play.) So if we want to make SELEM longer, we'll have to stick with that third weekend, just like this year.

    If you thought something went well this year, tell us. And if you thought something should have been done better, definitely tell us! I'm looking for all kinds of feedback, and I'm not worried about being offended, so please be brutally honest with your suggestions. (Sometimes that's the only way to get your point across.)

    Adam

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    I think there should be more delegation on your part, Buffo. That will take some of the load off of you. It was better this year than last, but there are lots more folks that can step up and say "OK, this is my job. I can make {insert job description here} happen"

    With as many folks that attend this event, everyone can do *something*. I'm not trying to say anyone was slacking, but if folks have assigned tasks.....It will be simpler. I feel like *everyone* should do a little *something* for the benefit of the group.

    For Instance: I volunteered the cooking. Len lended (pun intended) a hand. That was one complete thing off your shoulders. Same could go for networking. Same for, say, power on the stage and so-on-and-so-forth.

    This year was alot better than last.

    With 60 folks, we should divide into teams with specific jobs (planned ahead of time), get to the venue, and execute..... That way everyone gets to get a small share of work, execute their task, then enjoy.

    I can only speak for myself and Myst. We had more fun this year b/c we knew ahead of time what was going on and what out job was. Having said that.....we still spent too much time on our task. Mind you, i'm (we're) not complaining. We knew ahead of time.

    This event is dynamic. There isn't any "set in stone" *anything*.

    I am a fly-by-seat-of-pants. Myst is not. As much as I hate to admit......more pre-event planning (at least on my part) will help both myself and others in the long run. AKA start planning now, then execute said plan at that time.

    Just rambling out loud.......

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    I think it was awesome!!! But doing the load in a day ahead of time would be wonderful!!
    Also, if theres a way to get 3 phase and water on stage, that would be nice too! I know Ill have something going by next year, and Im sure Jeff will too
    DJ Matt
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    Adam,

    First let me say that I'm hesitant to add too much, since this was my first SELEM, but I will make a couple suggestions.

    It may be beneficial to make a list of attendees and possible attendees a couple months prior and start to do as Mophead suggested and team them based on skill sets. As I see it, you should just be there to aid and support those teams and not have the burden of tasking yourself. All the coordination is a big enough job.

    I think the layout could be better as we discussed. (moving the scaffold forward, drawing the curtains and having workspace designated) It may also be better to have the hallway clear and Water/3 Phase workspace in on the back stage left. That leaves more room in the hallway for beer. With more people, it becomes more important to utilize all the space as well as we can.

    There also seemed to be a slight table shortage, so that may be something to consider. Some rugs/mats may also be handy to lay over the masses of cordage in some high traffic areas and keep tripping/damage to a minimum.

    I wouldn't abandon the idea of a show schedule either. It can be a loose schedule that designates an individual for that time block and if they don't utilize it, that is OK, but that way everyone has a given time they are guaranteed.

    Please anyone feel free to add to or disagree with anything that I have said.

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    Like ireedz, this was my first time so, I don't have a huge amount to add yet. It's is extremely helpful to have the potential date for next year this early as I can block out my work schedule accordingly.

    It's an enormous amount of work and organization of volunteers, which is difficult at best in any activity. Assigning a set of people to what they're best qualified to do and have a backup plan if they stumble is probably a good idea. I don't know squat about running shows or networking a bazillion laptops but, being a caterer, I know food and by default of working with a lot of bands and DJ's, I know sound and have aquired the equipment so, I can already offer help in those areas.

    A loosly based schedule might be good even though I realize it's a bit of a "fly by the seat of your pants" weekend. Having a targeted goal for different events would be helpful. For example, I knew nothing about the Pangolin demonstration being at 5 p.m. on Saturday and, had I known a few days earlier, I could have made more of an effort to get TO SELEM earlier. If we know what some of the highlights are going to be (ie. Lasarium show, Pangolin talk, some other featured speaker, door prize time,) and assigned anticipated target times for them, it would help add a little structure.

    Just my $.02 without giving it a lot of thought before responding.

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    A simple schedule that tells people when they need to have stuff setup, when things are going to start, when lunch is, when meet and greet time is, etc would help a lot.

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    Well, since you asked....

    Actually, Adam and I talked a bit about this over breakfast Sunday morning.
    So, here are my observations, and hopefully my brutal honesty isn't presented in a way that I come across as just another grumpy old fart!
    If I start to sound like some Army dude with my comments - well, I blame it on 20 years with Uncle Sam

    Most of my observations are really based on that fact that SELEM has gotten HUGE in a very short time.
    Adam has always gone above and beyond in getting the event organized, but lets face it - it has gone WELL beyond what Adam alone can manage, and that certainly is NOT meant to cast any doubt at all on Adam's capabilities. Adam has done a GREAT job in the overall "strategic" planning for the event, but as I told him, he needs an onsite "field commander" that can keep things running once the event kicks off.
    As has been alluded to by others, we need a TEAM of people that can commit in advance and keep things running at somewhat predictable pace during the meet.
    (Hopefully I'll be in a position job-wise to step up next year; this year I was the proverbial "knot on the log", it seems...)

    For the record, my comments that follow are not aimed at Adam or anyone else in particular -
    these are more of a "We the People (of SELEM)" need to collectively try a bit harder to keep the event on course. One thing this year's event proved - we definely have the "stuff" aspect of the event covered; now, we just need to work on the organization during the event!

    Reason for the event

    I think one of the things that needs to be decided up front is what SELEM is supposed to be about.
    Beyond the social aspect - which is very important, IMHO - is it primarily about getting together to run shows, or is it a hardware "tweak fest"?
    If it's suposed to be about running shows, the auditorium in Newton is the perfect place. If it's more about working on hardware and "show n' tell", I would submit that an open convention hall-type venue would actually be a much better place to have the event, where you could set up to work on hardware without worrying about tripping over massive quantities of audio, power, ethernet, water hose, and ILDA cables!
    (That last point IS a concern, and more on that later - I'm afraid with the current setup we're an expensive accident waiting to happen).

    Schedules

    As cool as SELEM has always been, this year was very haphazard when it comes to what was supposed to be happening when - the only thing I knew was going to happening in advance was Bill's Pangolin demos (which I personally always appreciate, BTW!), and I was there early on both Saturday and Sunday mornings! When did all those shows run, anyway? I heard I won a door prize? WTF...over!

    Most attendees spend a lot of time, money, and effort to get to the event, and in some cases have very little free time available in their life / work schedules to make this work.
    While it would be accurate to say that a first-time SELEM attendee is almost always going to be blown away (overwhelmed!! ) by the people and hardware onsite, I think many "returnees" show up with some expectations of what will be happening when over the course of the weekend, and the only way to begin to meet those expectations is to have some sort of predictable schedule.

    Cut & dry -
    This may not be a popular idea with everyone, but we NEED a planned schedule, and we need to try to follow it.
    If we're NOT going to do that, I think that needs to be known upfront, so attendees and their guests can plan (or not plan, as it were) accordingly.

    Let's face it -
    Not all of us are as young as we think we are (or act! ), and for various reasons, not everyone can - or needs - to be spending 14 to 16 hours or more at the venue with the hopes of seeing some laser shows before the day finally ends. Similarly, it has been mentioned previously that it would be nice if we could encourage more participation from our significant others, family, and friends. While I think that is a GREAT idea (and I actually attempted that this year), I don't think that will ever go far if we don't have some sort of predictable, reasonable schedule in place.

    Also, for all you smokers that frequently get together and perhaps come up with ideas or plans for what might be happening next -
    don't forget us non-smokers when you come back inside! (<cough, cough>)

    Food
    There is no doubt that the Mophead family effort makes for some GREAT dining!

    Having said that, it seems that the afternoon BBQ throwdown has become an event in and of itself - and while the initial discussions some time ago were to offer that as a way to save time for everyone when it comes to dining, I don't think it is really serving that particular purpose now. It DEFINITELY "consumes" all of Mr. & Mrs. Mophead's time (for many days prior, in fact), and I would submit that for the group as a whole, it is another distractor, not a time saver.

    I would suggest that thoughts be given to "simplify" Saturday's dining experience, and make it a more predictable, time-sensitive event for everyone.

    BIG ION LASERS

    OK, there is no doubt the the big ion lasers are some of the coolest big toys around.
    Having said that, we REALLY need to find a better way to accomodate them! Right now, the loading dock entrance is being shared by everyone coming and going, gear being moved in and out, big expensive ion lasers, 3-phase AC power, and running water (occasionally leaking) - and frequently, all these things are converging on the same floor space at the same time. Additionally, "downrange" from the ion lasers is the same hallway we have to use to move to other locations in the venue, and it isn't always that well controlled.
    As I alluded to earlier, I feel this is a potentially expensive and possibly dangerous accident waiting to happen, and better space utilization needs to be planned. As far as using ions in the stage area - well, it would be cool if they're really being used for a show, but all the concerns I've already mentioned - and then some - would still apply.

    Shows, Shows...did I mention Shows?

    OK, call me crazy - but I think the primary intent of holding SELEM in Newton is running LOTS of multi-projector shows in a cool venue where we can pretty much do what we want - and possibly get in some good practice towards doing some "pro" events down the road!

    In the days leading to the event, I was very encouraged by the equipment discussions and separate thread concerning all the shows folks wanted to run at the event. When I arrived at the auditorium, I was absolutely blown away by the scaffolding and equipment setup that was already in place, and was really looking forward to seeing this thing kick off!
    However, by Saturday afternoon, I was missing the "good old days" of "1 - 2 - 3 - click", because face it, even though the synchronization was "loose" at best - we ran a LOT of shows over the course of the weekend back in those days!

    As I mentioned previously - when did all those shows run this year, anyway?

    I do acknowledge I was able to borrow DZ's very cool mini projector (thanks, David!) Saturday afternoon to run the Mike Dunn shows I recently acquired, and Flecom followed up with a cool round of ADAT conversions he had on hand. That filled up maybe an hour or 2 at the most, and based on the crowd that gathered in the auditorium, it was definitely appreciated - but beyond that, it was kind of "pfftt...", nothing, notta', (at least not until some time late that evening), just a lot of scaffolding with lots of gear sitting there, and not much going on beyond the occasional dance hall music and repeating beam rail patterns - which are cool, but only for a few minutes when nothing else is happening...

    I think that the multi-projector planning is getting a bit TOO complicated given the time constraints we have to work with, and I would submit that given all the prep that takes place on Friday, if we're not ready to start running shows by early Saturday afternoon, we may have bitten off a bit too much.
    As cool as sounds to have a dozen projectors setup running different parts of a multiprojector show, it's only cool if it's actually running! A dozen projectors running the same show simultaneously would still be EXTREMELY cool in my book, and beats a dark auditorium any day!

    I would suggest treating this like we're prepping for a public display that opens on Saturday afternoon, and be realistic about the planning and prep time available...

    BTW -
    Is it REALLY necessary that everyone has access to a router connected to the Internet?
    This is a 2 to 3 day event, not a permanent office; this could be easier...

    In Summary

    Have schedules, stay at least "loosely" organized, keep everyone informed, simplify - and run MORE shows MORE often, starting EARLER in the event!!
    SELEM doesn't necessarily need to be longer - just a bit more organized once we get there

    And it really was still a cool event......

    Thank you for your support!
    Last edited by Stuka; 08-28-2010 at 14:11. Reason: freakin' typos....
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  8. #8
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    Thank you for the excellent debrief , Teniente Coronel Stuka, I agree wholeheartedly with your views.

    The scaffolding was a great addition. The Two MOBOs and the Bounce mirrors, Priceless.

    Next up, Steve gets Brutal.

    Guys, in some ways we had better lasers back at the conf room.

    However, I own this problem as much as the rest of you.

    We're at overkill on projectors. We're at pitiful on the entertainment value scale this year. If you've got 30 Kilobucks of projector and software setting on stage, use it effectively.

    One, you had DZs ILDA splitter box. It was under utilized. 3:2:1 click added the interesting fact that shows look a bit better if slightly unsynced. Despite on and off pleading from me for a year, scan head X axis were for the most part in phase, and projectors were arrayed on the scaff like boxes in a warehouse, one over the other, and all pretty much aligned. Tilt some of the boxes 33.3 degrees, and dont feel you need to respect other's airspace, um, I mean, scanspace.

    Congrats, if those were microwave emitters, you would just made a excellent phased array over the horizon radar, not a artistic laser show. Boooring, YAWN...

    I guess I need to get a Tarm or Lobo tape onto youtube for y'all to see some projector placement/phasing lessons.

    This is NOT Allthat's fault, this is a growth issue and is NO one's fault.


    Scan angles were too small.


    Next up, the projectors. If you've got a fault or a completion issue, pull it into the restrooms, you thus have a proper bench, safety, room to move, a place to solder, and plenty of light. Do check the power feeds first, but pull the "workbench" into the hall and off the stage. Many of us will be glad to help with boo-boos.

    Projectors II, The interlock horror. We need to standardize on 5 volts / 600 ohms impedance on Pin XX for the shutters, plus the 11-17 loop. if installed. I managed to dodge this with the Laserium stuff by careful rigging, but as a whole, our installation is inconsistent. More then once, shutters were removed or held open with blutack.

    Projectors III, The Awakening of the Scan Angle Beast Guys, 12$ worth of parts and twenty minutes of effort adds image size controls to your projectors. I'll start another thread on this, but dual potentiometers are common, accurate,and cheap,and work with diff signals. Dont do it in software. ILDAs standard implies full signal = full angle. We had a size issue with the multiple scan head shows from Laserium. My new control system comes with 20 Dual head beam shows. We could not use them effectively, if I hooked them up, or if a guest brings there own controller. One other thing. A DPDT switch is three dollars and twenty cents at Radio Shack, add the scan reversing. Two projectors I observed did not follow the ILDA standard of PLUS Signal = Up and Right, in Rear Projection. I know most of you only parallel projectors once or twice a year, but it is a very useful addition to the projector and avoids loss of resolution incurred with some software size controls.


    Projectors IV, Circular Error Probable.
    I hated the view from the ground floor, it must have looked great in the balcony, but for those down in the "cheap seats", this was not a impressive display. Angle some stuff down. Not all of us wish to attend the "Scorch Fest" upstairs.

    Projectors V, the cast reunion.
    Adjust the placement so power is somewhat equal on both sides.

    And one more thing, we should be up and scanning by noon. If a piece of gear is not ready by noon, abandon it till later. The Friday setup crew did a great job.

    The ion stuff can migrate down to a bathroom, I have a Masters in field expedient plumbing, and I will use it. Ion repairs were down this year, and it was more or less newbie training, which is good.

    PS, put the presentations at the conference room in the evenings over beer.

    PS^2 , (* for non programmers, ^2 means "squared" ) we need a weak haze and weak audio at the conf room.

    Flames welcome, I learn new words that way.

    Steve
    Last edited by mixedgas; 08-28-2010 at 10:48.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stuka View Post
    I think one of the things that needs to be decided up front is what SELEM is supposed to be about.
    Beyond the social aspect - which is very important, IMHO - is it primarily about getting together to run shows, or is it a hardware "tweak fest"?
    I think I am probably alone on this one, but to me the shows sort of come second to the social aspect... sure a lot of people might want some "hey look at this how can I improve it?" advice, but talking to the people there, to me is much more satisfying than watching the shows... its amazing the amount of intelligence/experience there is in SELEM attendees

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuka View Post
    This may not be a popular idea with everyone, but we NEED a planned schedule, and we need to try to follow it.
    If we're NOT going to do that, I think that needs to be known upfront, so attendees and their guests can plan (or not plan, as were) accordingly.
    I agree 100%... at least a "after x o'clock only shows"

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuka View Post
    BIG ION LASERS
    ya this kinda scared me more than a little bit this year, there was a LOT of water on the floor next to all the 3phase wiring that was going to the stage and the ions... plus there are a lot of people that crowd around here, while people are trying to get on and off the stage or loading dock...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuka View Post
    "1 - 2 - 3 - click", because face it, even though the synchronization was "loose" at best - we ran a LOT of shows over the course of the weekend back in those days!
    actually it was 3-2-1 click, we did this once during the weekend (me and Aaron) but I agree the multi-projector thing is cool, but maybe we are trying to over do it...

    plus if you are not in zone 1 or 6 it seems your projector wont be doing a whole lot... and a lot of people come a long way to see their projector in a big room once a year... delegating them to "backup singer" seems kind of mean... (IMHO)

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuka View Post
    I do acknowledge I was able to borrow DZ's very cool mini projector (thanks, David!) Saturday afternoon to run the Mike Dunn shows I recently acquired, and Flecom followed up with a cool round of ADAT conversions he had on hand. That filled up maybe an hour or 2 at the most
    I ran 2 hours of ADATs before I was told to turn them off

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    The Two MOBOs and the Bounce mirrors, Priceless.
    that means a lot coming from you lol

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    Next up, Steve gets Brutal.
    ruh-roah

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    One, you had DZs ILDA splitter box. It was under utilized. 3:2:1 click added the interesting fact that shows look a bit better if slightly unsynced. Despite on and off pleading from me for a year, scan head X axis were for the most part in phase, and projectors were arrayed on the scaff like boxes in a warehouse, one over the other, and all pretty much aligned. Tilt some of the boxes 33.3 degrees, and dont feel you need to respect other's airspace, um, I mean, scanspace.
    I agree, 3-2-1 click plus offsetting the scan areas would have probably made a very nice effect

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    Scan angles were too small.
    I had mine as wide as possible, but height was a concern because of the people that wanted to be in the balcony... if we continue doing this we need to consider if we should even allow anyone in the balcony unless your just completely nuts

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    Projectors III, The Awakening of the Scan Angle Beast Guys, 12$ worth of parts and twenty minutes of effort adds image size controls to your projectors. I'll start another thread on this, but dual potentiometers are common, accurate,and cheap,and work with diff signals.
    well when I play back ADAT shows my sound card dac has a pot for scan angles... but I am planning on making a "remote" for my projector with an extra key-switch, X & Y scan size and a pair of DZ's color correction boards (RGBB)

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    I hated the view from the ground floor, it must have looked great in the balcony, but for those down in the "cheap seats", this was not a impressive display. Angle some stuff down. Not all of us wish to attend the "Scorch Fest" upstairs.
    I agree, I had to have my projector scanning almost straight up so from the bottom floor with the rest of the people that valued their eye-sight it was pretty lame

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    Projectors V, the cast reunion.[/I][/U] Adjust the placement so power is somewhat equal on both sides.
    I think this was a last minute error, since Adam's projector died... but ya the power levels were really, really unbalanced...

    also I think we need to have a solid shelf across the two scaffolds on at least the top row... not having ANY projectors in the middle didnt really make a whole lot of sense

    Quote Originally Posted by mixedgas View Post
    Flames welcome, I learn new words that way.

    Steve
    lol, I have been called some pretty awesome words, so I know how that is

    anything I added is IMHO and feel free to completely disregard it...

    but most importantly, Adam, you need to start delegating tasks as you see fit... this isnt a one-man show anymore

  10. #10
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    I really appreciate the use of the spot out front for testing the hazer in a large venue...set to a power level of 8 for a while...then down to level 3 of ten. It seemed to hold it's own for a good while until the breaker kept tripping on the break-out box near center stage. A few many amps passing through.....a few too many it seems. No one hit the fog buttons as I watched for a couple hours just to see. I feel like structure is good to a point...I , for one would like to see what has not been seen.....home brew 3d graphics shows. And yes I am working on a few projects. I think breaking some elements or groups into specific areas is great. That would release the main arena for shows only...on possibly 2 stage areas. No one has set a projector in the balcony...fans and beams well over head at stage level....would have been impressive.....no one was interested. Maybe next time.


    Oh and lots more BST !
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