Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EPIC FAIL and Comedy of Errors.

Have you ever worked on a project for several months, had your deadline thrust upon you 24 hours from launch, just to have it all crash down upon you as over 800 people are watching?

Today I did.


In our district Televisions are becoming a thing of the past, and the district is no longer repairing/replacing them.  Every classroom has a projector hooked to the computer, which is hooked to the internet, and at our school about the only thing a TV is used for is (now was) the morning announcements.  The system we were using is old, everything still had to go through a VCR to make it out to the ancient system that sent it to the TVs in the classrooms.

About two months ago I heard that my old school was streaming their announcements over the network, the teachers just had to show it their computers on the screen at the front of the room.

Since nobody was really in charge of the morning announcements, a crew of students were running it pretty much on their own, I decided it would be fun to get it going right and oversee it.  I talked to the person who was officially in charge of it, but who didn’t want to be, and she was happy to let me take it over.  The principal liked the idea also, and was really happy that I was willing to oversee the switch over to streaming video.

I talked her into buying us some new equipment, giving us a spare classroom (it’s a really small one, because the elevator shaft is inside it) and letting us build an actual set.

The set was done, the equipment set up to do a basic show, we were going to take some mixing equipment from the old studio after we few trial runs, and we were working with some of the district IT people on making the streaming work.

MONDAY:  The district IT person shows up while my classes are taking their end of the year tests and he and the school IT person decide to bring the sound board up to the new studio and hook it up.  After school I join them, find this out and mention that we’re not ready for production and that I have no idea how it was set up in the old studio (well, closet).  “No problem”, the school IT person assures me, “the head tech student knows how it works.”  Ok, good.

TUESDAY: As soon as the announcements came on the old-old fashioned way, over the P.A. system, I knew things weren’t right.  Several minutes later I’m informed we’re going live from the new studio the next day.  My blood pressure would have rung the bell if I’d been hooked up.  So I spend that day running around making sure that it’s actually going to work, and by the time I leave it seems like it would.

WEDNESDAY (today): EPIC FAIL of the grandest proportions.  Everything was working great so we cued the intro video.  We switch from the intro video to the live camera and it freezes.  All anyone sees is a bright light beginning to white out the “NEWS” graphics.  Blood pressure spike again.  I close it out, restart it again.  Nada.  We finally get the video going, but there’s no sound.  I tell the anchors to start doing the announcements in sign language and start playing with the sound.  Someone had decided the microphone was plugged into the wrong place and had changed it.  I get things switched around and now we have sound, but the picture is out.  In the chaos someone had stepped on the power cord to the camera and it was off.  CRAP! Start the camera up again, then try rebooting the whole system.  Finally, we get everything going, or so we thought.  We go through the whole program, take a deep breath and relax, just to find out that all the lock-ups and restarts had crashed the whole system – every classroom froze up and all they saw was the two anchors frozen, staring at the camera.

The district IT person came out after school again today and he, the school IT person and I played with it until after 5:30.  Knock on wood – it’s all ready to go for tomorrow.  Fortunately the district IT guy offered to be there for tomorrow’s broadcast.  May not work, but my blood pressure may stay somewhat level.

Why do I keep offering to do these kinds of things?


Lisa Shafer said...

Because you're good at it.
I had no idea your new building even had those old TVs. Surely they're not old box sets like ours are! We had them put in as brand-spankin' new equipment, state-of-the art stuff, when we agreed to be one of the first schools ever to use Channel One.
Yeah, that was roughly 1990. And they're still the same TVs.
For awhile we had kids do the announcements, but you could never hear them. Now the announcements just run on a screen -- unless there's a taped interview from an adult. One of our English teachers does them.
Good luck with this. Your set looks really nice. Hope everything works for tomorrow. :)

Karen S. said...

Because you just love these kinds of battles! ...and your really a good guy! Good luck with tomorrow!

Max Sartin said...

Well, our building is now 7 or 8 years old, so even though we don't still have those original Channel One TVs, the ones we have are still the bulky, tube type. The broadcast system is the original Channel One system taken from the old building.
Thanks for the well wishes for today. Keep your fingers crossed for me.