Monday, June 6, 2011

Well, I Know The Male End Connects To A Female End, But...

Yeeeeaah... It doesn't work that way.

One of the things I don't like about my job as a film electrician are those times when set dressing blankets the set with a bunch of practicals. Whether it be an ungodly number of table lamps and cabinet lights in a living room set; desk lamps, florescent fixtures and computers in a cubicle farm set; or the most dreaded of all, the Christmas sets where every piece of furniture has a string of lights on it, wiring up all that shit kind of sucks.

It usually involves a lot of tedious work and paying special attention to the details. It means doing math and counting on your fingers as you try to figure out how many things you can gang up together onto one circuit (how many amps does a tiny Christmas light pull anyway?). It also means crawling around a lot on the floor and squeezing into dusty corners to reach the plugs that the art department (usually) forgets to leave in a convenient place for you. But worst of all, it's a headache to try to hide the few dozen or so cables you'll be using so the camera doesn't see them when they face every which way. (And don't even get me started on what kind of wire you may or may not be allowed to use.)

Which is why I groaned when I found out we were setting up for an outdoor party scene at night and stepped into the yard to find that the art department had basically bathed the entire location in novelty string lights and paper lanterns. Ugh.

But like most seemingly overwhelming tasks, the trick to this one was to tackle things one by one. Which meant first things first: find the male connectors. With any luck, a few of them will be within reach of each other and I'd just be a simple cube tap away from lighting them up. I did a quick visual sweep of the yard, attempting to make note of where strands of lights ended and others began so I could mentally begin to map it all out and form a game plan.

Only, to my dismay, I didn't notice any.

I did another walk around, this time a little slower, my eyes quickly scanning any of the usual hiding places art department uses for the tail ends. Corners of the roof, in tree branches, edges of the fence, behind a bush.... Nothing.

Okay. Attempt number three. This time, I picked a strand and carefully walked its path, never taking my eyes off it. I was determined to find out where this sucker ended. Victory was going to be mine.

Eventually, I found the end... It was plugged into another strand. I followed that one. It was plugged into another one.

Now, I was getting somewhere and was getting excited. I began to move faster, no longer carefully following each inch of each strand now that I was onto their little game. But alas, I had circled the whole yard without finding what was now expected to be the lone male end. The part that would (in theory) power them all.

In my excitement, I had somehow carelessly missed it. Damn.

So I sighed deeply, cursed myself for not taking my time like I should have, and started all over again.

I picked a strand. Slowly and carefully, I traced it to the next one. And I followed that one to the next one after that. And the next one after that. And... the next one after that.

I followed string after string of lights, my eyes never wavering from its path. I followed it through bushes, climbed over dirty looking yard furniture and almost stepped in dog shit, all while tracing this seemingly never ending trail.

Eventually, I found myself staring at the chili-pepper themed strand that I had started out with, with no dangling male end around for me to plug into.

And that's when I realized it. There was no open male end for me to find because whoever was hanging all these lights and plugging one into another, had plugged the first strand of lights into the last strand, creating a continuous loop of lights without an end.


Dear Art Department,

Electricity doesn't work that way.


John the Scientist said...

Friends don't let frinds get liberal arts degrees with no technical electives. :D

Nathan said...

I love that so much!


Niall said...

The divine comedy:Inferno:Kanto 26 Electritcus.

There were no outlet to speak of but they toiled away searching for eternity. Loaded down with producers, actors, craft service, camera and production department; riding them like the beast of burden they were in life.

The male plug burned as bright as the sun but they cold never let go,

Michael Taylor said...

Classic -- that's why they dress the set and we power it, I guess. Maybe these set dressers were just ahead of their time -- when Cold Fusion and room-temperature superconductivity have been perfected, such a closed-circuit loop just might work...

At least it was an outdoor night scene -- darkness hides a multitude of cabling sins. The ones I really hate are daytime office scenes that feature lots of desks/workstations, each with a computer and table lamp to be powered. This means endless down-on-all-fours crawling under those desks to drill mouseholes and run the zip cord -- or worse, actual stingers.

Always a colossal pain in the ass...

Ed (sloweddi) said...

Next time, give the art dept a crayon drawing of stick figures and a house. Like a 5 yr old did it. And tell them,with a smile on your face, "see, I can do your job too"

And I am stealing that picture. Too funny.

My favorite has always been the person who "helped" you by putting in a larger fuse so we would not have to keep changing out blow ones.

A.J. said...

Ed - Or taking the GFCI out of the line because "it kept tripping."

JD said...

Head to tail all the way around? Probably got done that way because the Art Department had one of their PA's hang the strings of lights with explicit instructions to connect all of them, head to tail.
The Art departments version of the "Ring of Fire".

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .