The Convention usually starts on Saturday morning, but the work for the AV Team starts months earlier, with site visits (for new and untried venues), discussions with the Convention organisers, planning equipment needs and schedules, liaison with suppliers and the logistics of gathering the team members together. For the majority of the 1990s the event has been held at the Hotel Leofric in Coventry which is so familiar to us, it is now rather like coming home.
The team will usually begin to gather on Thursday evening or Friday morning, in order to have all the AV equipment installed (and working!) by Friday evening. It has not always been plain sailing. In addition to setting up video recording and playback equipment, we have to install vision mixers, cameras, lighting rigs, sound mixers, speakers and microphones, and huge lengths of cable! Over the years the technical requirements have improved considerably and, for the last few years, recordings have been of broadcastable quality. Although recording is considered important (not least as some guests have subsequently died, leaving our tapes as records of their memories) the "live" presentation for the audience in the hall is also considered, with a high quality projection TV showing the camera/vision mixer output.
During the Convention we make sure tapes are played in at the appropriate times, operate the cameras and mixers, mic up the guests (quite a popular job in certain cases!) and generally make sure the event runs smoothly from a technical point of view.
One moment of excitement and trepidation for the team is the Opening Title Sequence. This has been produced since 1990 by Paul Vanezis and is always a highlight enjoyed by attendees; clips from Doctor Who are edited and blended together over a suitably impressive music track to introduce the convention. It has become something of a tradition for something to go wrong during the title sequence in the past - sometimes obviously (as in 1993), sometimes a little niggle only known to ourselves!!
On the Saturday night, it has become traditional for humorous videos and compilations to pop music to be played. There are usually requests for copies to be made available, but, to be honest, if this were to happen, people would realise how roughly produced some of these are, and the "magic" of watching them with friends, at a Convention, slightly drunk, would be lost. And what would Panopticon be without "definitely the last ever public screening" of "A Day in the Life of a Doctor Who Fan"?
We're usually in the bar into the wee hours of Sunday morning, hoping people will buy us drinks. Sometimes they do.
On Sunday, it's more of the same till the end of the ceremony - then we work quickly to dismantle the equipment as much as possible before the traditional Balti and a good wind-down in the bar. Occasionally we have been joined by VIPs - Sylvester McCoy greatly impressed us by polishing off a very hot Chilli Chicken Balti in 1996!
On Monday we finish off packing the equipment for return to the hire company and head off back to our day jobs - till the next year.
© Peter Finklestone, 1999
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