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MASTERS OF CEREMONY

Architect of the Oscars

Tad Scripter, who advised on the Kodak Theatre design, makes things run smoothly.

February 28, 2006|Mary McNamara | Times Staff Writer

"At the Shrine it was a mess," he says. "Like broadcasting from the middle of a Kansas wheat field. There were cables and cable bridges everywhere."

But the Kodak has its own challenges. "From an engineering standpoint, the show takes place over two square blocks," he says, unscrolling a blueprint of the theater and its environments. "I mean, we're doing the show from a shopping mall, essentially. You've got the press room in the Renaissance [Hollywood Hotel] and the international and domestic down here but I have to make it all seem like it's adjacent."

In addition to the two production trucks, there is a playback trailer, a screen trailer, a technical power distribution system center, a Teleco transmission facility, a prompter trailer, an orchestra audio mixing truck, and a truck that generates all the graphic content -- the words or images that appear on the screen during the show.

All of which must fit in the motor court off Orange Drive or in the loading dock. And all of which Scripter loosely oversees.

"The truck drivers hate me," he says with no small amount of pride. "Because I will say to them, 'No, I need you to move it over an inch.' "

He points to a strip of space between the side of one trailer and a post on the motor court that is perhaps the width of a butterfly's wing.

"Couldn't get any closer than that," he says.

For Scripter, the Oscar broadcast is an exercise in engineering ingenuity, about systems and equipment that work and when they don't, about the backup that does. And when the last award has been handed out and much of the production staff either heads out to parties or home, Scripter is far from done. "The responsibility doesn't end. First there's load out," he says, referring to the removal of engineering hardware, or at least that which isn't going to be reconfigured for the show he will work on next. "Oprah shoots here at 10 in the morning and her crew arrives at midnight."

Like many of the production crew, Scripter takes a room at the Renaissance, so when Oprah's post-Oscar broadcast is over, he doesn't head home. Though only half an hour away, home is too far when you've been awake that long. He goes to the hotel, and then he goes to sleep.

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