Blade Edge

Computer software | Video production | My life in general

Blade Edge grucci header

Taipei Day Nine

December 25th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Grucci

Translators Kris and Orophin helping me spread the holiday cheer.

It was another 6:45am morning today, the only difference was that here in Taiwan it was already Christmas Day!! So I was finally able to unpack my Santa hat from the suitcase and plop it on my head. Downstairs in the lobby on the way to breakfast I certainly got noticed, and everyone on the hotel staff I passed smiled and wished me a Merry Christmas 🙂 After breakfast one of our Captains, Chris Cope, came around with Santa hats he had purchased for everyone – what a thoughtful guy! I was just going to wear mine and make everyone else feel without 😉

No one could still decide whether I was going to Dajia or 101 this morning so when the bus went to leave I hopped on – then a few minutes into the ride the call came in that I was going to 101 – so they turned the bus around to drop me back off at the hotel. It was still dreary and drizzly outside so I knew it was going to be worse up on the building – luckily I had brought all my weather gear anyways so I hopped off the bus and into a cab and we all shot over to Taipei 101 and rode the elevators up to the 82nd floor.

We were up in the clouds all day today – yes I’m still wearing my Santa hat – but for good reason!

So today our job was to install 56 props on the east face of the building, which breaks down into 7 columns of 8 props each. So there were 9 Grucci techs up there including myself and two Captains, and the rest were Big Show people in charge of the rigging plus three translators spaced along the terrace. Each prop needed to be tested to ensure that everything was connected properly, then the riggers had to hoist the cable up from the 90th floor until the first back plate was lifted up to chest level, then a guide cable was attached, then I and my fellow 6 techs (1 for each column) had to install the prop on the back plate, then attach the firing cable from the last prop… I’m going to stop there – long story short it was a complex process. To put it nicely, this morning was a clusterfuck. A lot of delays got us off to a late start and by 1:30 we had barely gotten half of our props lifted and finally took a short break for lunch.

However just like anything you do for the first time, things get better with practice. After lunch we got back to work and despite some further delays with rigging and mistakenly-mounted props (including myself, doh!), things started moving along faster. I continue to really enjoy working with the Big Show people. They are very adept and quick to pick up on things and usually I can communicate to them through pantomiming and pointing, relying on a translator for only complex instructions. A lot of these guys really dig western movies and pick up a decent amount of English as well. They laugh a lot though when I try to make my meaning clear by doing things like making zeet!zeet! noises when I want the drill 😛 You tell/show them what to do once and they got it, so mainly any slow up comes with getting the translation across (which can sometimes be hard since you first have to make the interpreters understand) or any problems on their end with the rigging.

A bit of “clear skies” later in the day as the clouds broke up a bit. That didn’t last long!

Weather was another issue, since we were installing on the east face of the building, which is usually the face that is directly in the path of the wind. So not only were we being buffeted around by 10-12mph breezes gusting 15-18mph (pretty tame, actually) but being up in the cloud cover meant constant precipitation, although it wasn’t really raining most of the time – it was just moisture from the cloud making things wet. The times it was raining lightly were generally from the Rain Shadow effect – the building is so tall that updrafts cause moisture hitting it to condense and fall as rain – if you walked around to the leeward side of the building it was almost bone dry and about 5-10 degrees warmer! Also there was no rain at all on the lower levels. So eventually we were all pretty soaked, however my pants are thick on their own, I had my high-necked fleece, my jacket is practically waterproof and my Santa hat actually covers my ears very well, so I kept that on under my hard hat not just because I wear it all day every Christmas, but because it kept my ears cozy! Still, being wet and cold does not improve one’s mood, and you could tell it affected people’s tolerance for hold-ups and issues that cropped up during the install.

Speaking of moods, things are starting to get rough as we still attempt to catch up to our schedule and it’s taking a noticeable toll on the crew. My poor buddy Justin comes into work now with the mustachios curled (most of the time), but you can easily see how tired he is in his eyes. The troubles we’ve been having with delayed deliveries and logistical issues and such are really causing a lot of the more experienced technicians to become rather concerned. Having no previous show experience at this level, it’s very different for me since I can’t look back and say “oh man this sucks compared to this show” or “wow this show isn’t going as well as that other show.” I’m also very good at focusing on my responsibilities and my tasks and not worrying about The Big Picture. Obviously I am responsible, as any technician is at any level, to keep my wits about me and ask questions if I see something I think is wrong, but I’m not about to lament over whether something I’m doing is being done the best way or not based on what little experience I have. Plus practically everything I do here is a learning experience, so it’s not like anything I do is something I’ve done so many times before it’s like “man not this again…” Besides,  the stress and frayed emotions are typical to any group of people under pressure.

Hoisting up props (attached to the other side of the back plates shown here) on one of the seven columns along the face of 101. They face outwards in their final orientation of course.

Still, looking at the daunting task ahead of us you realize the amount of work we’ll be putting in over the next several days. We spent all day today putting up one face. One face out of four faces on one level out of eight levels. There are 6 days until showtime. Do the math. It remains to be seen, now that we have the process streamlined a little better, how much we can optimize the installation process and therefore how many faces/levels we can ultimately complete in one day. Don’t forget as well that these props are all being made over at Dajia, so they have to be made, checked, shipped, received, checked, transported to the floor, unpacked, checked, installed, checked, hoisted, and checked (repeat the last four and first two steps 56 times per face). Then there’s cakes being installed at 101 by a separate team, the tippy-top of 101 still needs to be done and Dajia still has dozens of cakes to deploy in the field and wire. Fortunately now that Christmas is over after tomorrow we will be getting another batch of Grucci crew over from the states. They sure will be hitting the ground running!!

Okay okay, sorry for such a doom and gloom blog post. Please understand that it’s nothing against what’s being done here or how things are being handled – it simply is what it is. Circumstances, including some that have been largely out of our control, have brought us to where we are now and (as far as I’m concerned) as professional pyrotechs we will be pulling the hours we need to pull to do what we need to do. We have a job assigned to us, we have the best people in the world working on it, and we’re going to get it done. I can’t imagine anyone on the crew refusing to work late because someone in charge of something screwed up, but if so I’ll probably feel like chucking them off the top of 101. Man the fuck up okay?

I’m going to miss this newbie energy when it’s all used up after this show 😉

Goodnight from the 42nd floor of Taipei 101, looking north toward the Dajia river site

Tags: ···

One Comment so far ↓

  • Annie

    Hello!! merry christmas!!! i’m Annie, one of the translaters LOL it’s so suprise finding your blog~~nice to meet you 🙂

Leave a Comment