Termination: AV Gets Licked in Scaff Pole-Vaulting

AV gets licked in scaff pole-vaulting.


10 June 2010

Text:/ Graeme Hague

Gather round the campfire for a tale from long ago; from an era when video projectors had just crawled onto dry land from the boggy swamps of the R&D department. Back when the giant-sized projectors ruled the landscape, with brains the size of an egg; lumbering and bellowingly loud. Settle in as I crank up the rocking chair, duff my pipe and relate a story of amazing derring-do; of a technician courageously going above and beyond the call of duty; putting his life on the line, just so the show could go on.

The occasion was the North Queensland Games and the location was, not surprisingly, a north Queensland city which will remain anonymous in case someone there decides to sue like a wounded bull. And, by saying ‘games’, I mean the athletic kind, with competitors throwing sticks and hammers, jumping into sandpits and running in circles – the sort of thing the government supports with ‘institutes’ costing millions of dollars so every four years we can cheer on people in swimming togs.


The main feature of the opening ceremony – for which we were spreading a network of time-delayed speakers around the oval – was to be several hundred children flipping coloured cards above their head, vaguely in sync to music. It’s the sort of thing Chinese children can do in their bassinets, but without the threat of 30 lashes and deportation to Tibet, Aussie ‘tin lids’ were finding the drill a real challenge.

But a couple of bad pixels in the synchronised card flipping was the least of the organisers’ problems. Plans started to go astray when the local council, only days before the event, condemned the only grandstand as too rickety to support a full house and banned its use completely. Suddenly no one was going to be seated high enough to witness the card-holding kids and the answer was to get all hands on deck in the construction of makeshift scaffold seating, including poaching any audio crew who paused even for a second to scratch an itch or suck on a Lan-Choo. Scaffolding was desperately sourced from everywhere, including stocks that clearly hadn’t been used in years. The running joke among everyone was to ask: “Have you got a ticket for this?”, referring to a scaffolder’s license. We put up tonnes of temporary seating and I doubt anybody actually had the appropriate qualifications, possibly making the whole thing more dangerous than the original dubious grandstand we were trying to replace.


There was another poorly-timed joke. It was Easter – usually a safe dry-weather bet, even in Queensland – and one of the games organisers was a woman renowned for her strong Christian beliefs; beliefs she regularly promoted on local radio. One of the production crew with an evil glint in his eye explained to her that Easter was actually a derivation of ‘Ester Fair’, a pagan ritual where whole villages shagged each other for days and chocolate was only used melted in various forms of foreplay. She wasn’t amused.

Apparently neither was God, who must have been listening, because He decided to make it rain – in fact, it bucketed down in biblical proportions. Then just as everyone figured it was ‘games over’, the deluge stopped, leaving us in bright sunshine as if nothing had happened – except we were all soaking wet, steaming and standing knee-deep in mud. More importantly, almost every cable was lying either in or under water. Nothing worked and suddenly time was seriously against us.

Before anyone attempted to pump any kind of electronic signal through the system, frantic attempts were made to isolate the more problematic areas. Work was punctuated by blasts of spectacular, loud buzzing. I watched a bunch of guys madly re-patching the mixing desk trying to find a clean line, while at the other end of the multicore another crew just as crazily tried re-patching the amplifier racks. One can only imagine what might have been achieved had they co-ordinated their efforts. Without a doubt, they only succeeded in re-patching each other’s problems back into the system. That damned buzz would not go away.


One chap did think outside the box. The AV hero of this story – let’s call him Mick, given that’s his name – had figured the buzz was coming from massive earthing problems thanks to the wet environment, and what had to done first above all else was get one, solid earth for the system.

I found Mick in the middle of the oval underneath the main stage, which was elevated by about three metres and supported by still more dodgy scaffolding. Mick had a sledge hammer in one hand and he was licking – yes, licking – the uprights of the steel supports. Periodically, looking dazed and a little cross-eyed, he’d bash the scaffolding with his hammer.

No drugs were involved. You see, Mick was testing whether that part of the staging was lacking in a good earth caused by heavy rust insulating where the older scaffolding locked together. By licking the steel, he was getting a fair old boot each time he found a section improperly earthed. Pounding the structure afterwards was dislodging the rust, fixing it. He reckoned that at times he was getting ‘about 40 Volts’, but it was hard to tell – his tongue was going numb.

That’s dedication for you.

Eventually the show did go on. A single microphone scratchily announced the games ‘officially open’. That said, no one was there. The kids were cancelled due to the rain, so thousands of parents and relatives didn’t turn up either. It was all rather an anti-climax.

The only person who did get a – I have to say it – buzz out of the whole thing was Mick. Drug free and one lick at a time.

Got your own tale of derring-do? Contact AV Editor Andy Ciddor.


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