Stories from tech 

Morning Announcements

This happened maybe 15 years ago, my first IT gig. I was a building-based tech for a middle school. Our technology teacher, who was not very tech savvy, was very ambitious, which can be trouble when you don't know the subject matter well.

The Technology teacher (TT) took on the responsibility of switching the morning announcements from audio to a CCTV broadcast. The school had recently been outfitted with that functionality, which worked just fine. We had the port in her room set up as an input.

The ambitious part, was she wanted it to have a higher production value than just a camera pointing at a bunch of middle schoolers. She wanted graphics and text and a green screen image, all that. So she spent a few seconds googling and sunk like $400 on this video EDITING software. She also picked up a USB video capture device. I was never consulted on any of this.

Two issues. 1.) This is post-production video software, not on-the-fly overlay software. 2.) She's trying to do this on a 4 year old 500MHz Celeron w/ 64MB RAM.

She called me down one day to set up this software and told me what she intended to do. I cut her off though, explaining that this software was for post-production and could be used for the announcements if she was ok pre-recording things the day before and having the kids edit the video afterwards, before it aired. That wasn't good enough. So after some frantic "OMG WHAT AM I GONNA DO" type exchange, she sent me off.

A few days later, she calls me down at once again just as I got in. I was confused by what I saw. The lights were off, there was a projector throwing an image of the school on a white wall, and there were two kids sitting at a table in front of that white wall, squinting as the light was shining in their face. TT is trying to use a cheap long throw projector to throw a background image behind the morning announcement speakers. The conversation went like this:

TT: "tendonut! Good, you're here. The light is in the kids eyes" Me: "Well yeah…you have a projector in front of them" TT: "Well, how can I stop that?" Me: "Don't put the kids in front of a projector. Maybe mount it on the ceiling?" TT: "We tried that, but it was still in their face" Me: "Uhh..well…there isn't much you can do about this" TT: "Well, can you get the light to just not shine in their face?" Me: "Um…well it's ugly, but you can put a tiny strip if paper in front of the lens to block the light from their face directly, but then you'll have a shadow behind them TT: "I don't want a shadow. Isn't there a way to get the light to wrap around them?" Me: "Not unless you have like a black hole or something" TT: "Can we get that?" Me: "uh…haha…do we need to bring (Science teacher) in here to explain this?" TT: "What if I asked (my boss), do you think he'd be able to do it?" Me: "No. Just…no"

Eventually, she gave up. But she made sure she kinda dragged my name through the mud for not being able to help her do what she envisioned. Physical impossibilities be damned.

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