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Animation on Display 2017 March 22, 2017

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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Animation on Display (AOD) is a weekend convention celebrating anime, video games, cartoons, and other fun and geeky stuff. AOD 2017 took place on March 18 & 19 at the Santa Clara Marriott.

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This was my 6th AOD, and the second year of staffing at this small animation convention. I could tell that this year’s con was going to be smaller than the previous year’s one, based on venue size from a previous staff meeting, so my expectations were low for it. It also didn’t help that one of the main guests of honor couldn’t make it at the very last minute. Anyways here’s my experience of AODSF 2017.

For all photos taken at Animation on Display 2017, please check out my album on my Flickr here.


Day 1 – March 18th

I woke up several minutes before 7AM, which made me scramble to just get ready to go and drive the approximately 45 minute commute as my shift started at 8AM. I had set my alarms to go off at 6:30AM, but I don’t remember hearing them go off. That or maybe I snoozed them and went back to sleep. Either way I didn’t have time to give myself time to get ready at my own pace. I did at least write up a list of things I needed to bring along with me the night before, so that I wouldn’t forget anything and make it easier to account for them too.

I arrived at the hotel just as the 8AM hour approached, luckily there was no traffic on the freeways. I grabbed my staff badge among other things and headed over to Registration to set up for the day. Unlike last year, the area we had for registration this year was better as it was a dedicated registration counter, complete with a back room for all our supplies and our own personal belongings. We wern’t sitting right next to sunny windows either so I didn’t have to worry about overheating.

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From 8AM to 2PM, it was working time at the Registration department where the lines would come and go but never reached overwhelming levels. I could understand the relatively smaller turnout, as there wasn’t many big events going on, especially with the cancellation of Lotus Juice due to Visa issues at the arriving airport the day before. That’s also why I decide to work this con because it makes it more worth it, financially and work experience wise.

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Continuing from my last point, I would not staff big cons or cons that have events or things I want to see, as I go into event photographer mode. I want to see everything and capture as much as I can with my camera and skills with it, as my goal has always been to use photos as a mosaic or pieces of a puzzle to create a big picture of the event to an outside audience, to give them a similar experience as what I felt. During my first six hour Registration shift, I watched as countless photo opportunities in the form of cosplayers pass by. I knew it would be harder to take cosplayer photos later because they may leave con, get tired and go on the side, get taken by other cosplay photographers, etc. The first opportunity is usually the best one for cosplay photography in my opinion. You just don’t know if you will see that cosplay/cosplayer again.

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I had a break between 2PM and 3PM, so I made most of my time by eating lunch I picked up earlier at the hotel lobby via staff food voucher, then going around to tour the con. While browsing the Dealers Hall, I bought a Pokeball cushion to add to my growing couch collection of pillow plushies. I also swung by the Console/Arcade Gaming room to get info and sign up for the Overwatch tournament, as it was the main event I was looking forward to for this year’s AOD. However what I didn’t know, was that this tournament was being played on PS4 rather than PC. In the program it didn’t mention what platform version was being used so I assumed PC, though the room is labeled “Console/Arcade Gaming” so maybe I should of figured it from that. I even brought my own gaming mouse for this event, similar to how people bring their own controllers for other games. I play Overwatch on PC only, so I felt that trying to play the PS4 version would not bode well for me. I would still have my game sense, but not my control sense. Playing FPS games on console is not my forte. I left the game room disappointed as I headed back to Registration for my 3PM to 5PM shift.

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As expected, my last shift of the day was fairly uneventful. During the periodic drought of customers, I hopped onto Fire Emblem Heroes and 3DS. At 5PM I anti-climatically said my farewells, grabbed my stuff in the back, and headed out to what was left of the con.

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I mostly wandered around after, seeing that most cosplayers were either resting on the side or were with other cosplay photographers. I tend to not want to be a bother to people who look busy or tired, so I resigned myself to take venue photos. I also checked out the Overwatch tournament a bit, as I was just curious how people played it on the PS4. AOD’s Overwatch Tournament was 3v3 on Ecopoint: Antarctica, single-elimination. The first game was pretty close, but the moments were definitely not on the scale as PC ones are (for obvious reasons).

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I left afterwards to grab dinner at the hotel lobby again, this time of a bento box as the main meal. I don’t know if I was just hungry or if the food was just really good, but it was a satisfying dinner at the very least. I stuck around a bit longer to see if there was anything I wanted to see/do last minute, but decided to call it a day and head home at around 7PM.

Day 2- March 19th

I woke up at around 6:30AM, this time being able to have some time to get ready instead of rushing. As my shift started at 8:30AM, I left around 7:30AM to head over to Santa Clara, stopping once to get some gas at a Costco on the way. I arrived on the dot for my first 3 1/2 hour shift for reg, where it was pretty much dead besides the occasional waves of people.

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During the down time at reg, I played Fire Emblem Heroes, Pokemon GO, and managed my 3DS Streetpasses. It was a good use of time as I used it to level up / do quests in Fire Emblem, catch some new 2nd gen Pokemon as I haven’t really played it in a while, and attempted to beat one of the requirements in one of the final racetracks in Slot Car Rivals.

At noon I had an hour break so I went around con to see what was going on, picked up some lunch, and also bought another pillow plush at the Dealers Hall, this time of a 1-up mushroom from the Mario series, something I’ve been looking for to match my super mushroom I bought at AOD last year.

Between 1PM and 3PM I worked at reg for my final shift of the con. It was as slow as ever so it was back to the mobile gaming grind for me.

At 3PM con work was finally over, but at the same time the con was almost over as well. I walked around con, but at this point I was unmotivated to pursue taking photos. Most cosplayers were not in (my opinion) ideal photo taking conditions (resting on the side, bad lighting, grouped up with others, etc.). I did stop by the gaming room and played some PS4 Overwatch for the first time, but of course I was having trouble with the controls. By 3:30PM I was already in my car thinking about if there was anything else I should do at con before leaving. While I came to the conclusion that there was nothing left that interested me here, I decided to at least use the restroom before commuting back home. As I started to walk back to the hotel from the parking garage, a guy ran out one of the side doors with some staff members on his tail yelling at him to stop. A nearby armored cosplayer who saw what was happening joined the chase, dropping pieces of his armor and belongings as he ran towards the runner, towards the parking garage. As I entered the hotel, I heard that he stole from the Dealers Hall. Whether or not he was caught I’m not sure. After using the restroom I went back to my car, again thinking about if there was anything more for me at con, which there really wasn’t at this point. I felt bad that I didn’t even attempt to take any pictures/video of the earlier incident, as a photographer that is. I left AOD at 4PM, with random thoughts swimming around my mind about this whole weekend.


Overall Thoughts

Thinking about my AOD weekend as a whole, I’m not too satisfied about it to be honest. While I was at con all weekend, part of the reason why I wasn’t happy was due to things at home.

Besides me missing opportunities for photos throughout the two days due to staffing, everything else about the con went smoothly for me; Con location was relatively easy to get to, the weather was nice, I found some things to buy at the Dealers Hall, free hotel food was good, and no problems with staffing at Reg.

Right before the con weekend started, a close relative of mine had to go to the hospital, and even during the weekend she was still there. The problems stemming from it weighed on my mind even though it was being taken care of, for the most part. This was probably the first time while I’ve been at a con that this situation has happened for me, and probably what affected my ability to try and enjoy the con when I could.

As for next year, I do plan to attend AOD again, and probably staff as well. My next con will be good old FanimeCon in May. I do have some new ideas I want to toy with for that con, such as making new business cards specifically for my photography and have some sort of custom laminated badge to wear and identify myself as a photographer.

Animation on Display 2016 February 17, 2016

Posted by coolmikeol in Events.
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Animation on Display (AOD) is a weekend convention celebrating anime, video games, cartoons, and other fun and geeky stuff. AOD 2016 took place on February 13 & 14 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

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I attended this year’s Animation on Display, and once again the con changed venue location, this time from the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, CA, to the Santa Clara Convention Center. What was also different was the fact that it also my first time staffing for a anime convention. I want to be more than just a attendee, I want to also be able to contribute towards an industry which I’d like to support more than just watching anime and buying merchandise, your typical consumer. By deciding to staff, I change my perspective a bit about how conventions work, and also gain more work experience, especially in customer service. A theme for myself I made this year was “change”, to try and experience new things, and to not be afraid of uncertainty. I’m leaving my comfort zone to help myself grow physically and mentally, and I feel that having multiple experiences will help me for my future, whatever that may lead to.

For all photos taken at Animation on Display 2016, please check out my album on my Flickr here.

 


Day 1 – February 13

I woke up at around 5AM to get ready for the day ahead. As staff of the registration department (people who gives badges to attendees/info desk), I was scheduled to start at 8AM. Because I live about an hour away from the convention center, I knew I had to leave no later than 6:30AM to make it on time for my shift, pending any delays on the road. For my own enjoyment, I prepared a anisong playlist on my iPod Touch for the long drives, which I blasted in the car to help me stay awake. I arrived at AOD at about 7:15AM with no issues with traffic or directions, and was able to find parking fairly easily in the convention center’s own parking complex. (Parking is free there!) I stayed in my car for a bit, preparing myself for a busy day, confident that my customer service experience working at a bookstore for a few years would help somewhat. During this time, other cars were arriving quite frequently into the parking lot, but the people coming out of these cars were definitely not anime con goers. They were clearly part of some sort of dance/gymnastics event that I figured was being held either at the convention center too or at a nearby hotel. It was a bit odd thinking that AOD was going to mix with non-anicon people, but I sort of expected this as I happened to look up the convention center’s events calendar on their website and saw some sort of other event being held at the convention center at he same time as AOD. (It was I think a body builders event? I don’t remember, I’m just recalling things. Didn’t see any of that throughout the entire weekend though.)

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Entering the convention center, the first thing I noticed was a bunch of people in a group clearly for the dance event in line for getting food and/or something else. This was right in front of AOD’s second floor area marked with a giant AOD banner. (I parked on the roof of the parking complex which enters into the second floor of the convention center.) I walked into this area and saw how small it was, which had all of AOD’s video rooms, panel rooms, maid cafe, and con operations rooms. Going down the escalators and walking a short distance forward is where the other main area of AOD was, containing the Registration, Dealers Hall, and Main and Music Stages. Since I was early for my shift I used the time to take some photos of the area before attendees arrived.

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At around 8AM we started to set up for registration. I felt a bit awkward during this set up time, because no one was really giving any specific instructions, but some people were helping out and doing things already knowing what to do. Eventually, after putting everything on the tables were ready to go, we were to choose to either work the side for at-con reg (paying for badge at con), or pre-reg (paying online). As I had no actual experience working with money for a job, I gravitated toward a seat on the pre-reg side. Learning the system (we were using Eventbrite and the app for it on iPads) for checking people in and giving them their badges took a little bit of time to learn, but it was easy in the long run. At 11AM, I had my first break so I went off to explore the con as much as I could within my hour break.

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Went back to staffing at 12PM and worked until 3PM where I went to grab some free lunch, paid for by staffing.

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After my shift for the day ended at 5PM, I hung around a bit more for a few photos and to check out the dealers hall a bit more.

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I also tried to video chat with a group of my friends back home to show them AOD. We couldn’t use Skype, so we ended up using Google Hangout. Apparently the video on their side was so pixelated that it was hard for them to see well. I was using 4G to stream it, which used about 100MB+ of my data. Not too bad in my mind as I usually don’t use too much data any other times, but my battery life was draining faster than anticipated, so the call was about maybe 45 minutes long at most. I left AOD right before 7PM, arriving at home about 50 minutes later. I was tired and had to return to AOD for a 9AM shift, so I fell asleep I think at least before midnight.

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Day 2 – February 14

I got back to the Santa Clara Convention Center just past 8AM. I wanted to come very early so I could take photos of the area around the convention center. Just across the street from the convention center was Great America, a theme park, and right next to that is Levi Stadium, where the San Francisco 49ers play and where the Super Bowl was held just one week ago.

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I returned to Registration at 9AM to start my 5 hour straight shift, the last of the con.

After my shift I did some last minute shopping at the Dealers Hall. I originally did not plan on buying anything, but a big Super Mushroom from the Super Mario series caught my attention. I also picked up a Gundam model kit as my friends were suggesting to me to get one for our model kit building day we were going to have in the future. After sitting in my car for a bit trying to make sure that there wasn’t anything else I wanted to see at AOD, I left the convention center at around 4PM for home.


Overall Thoughts

I think that this year’s AOD went smoothly, even if it felt less eventful than last year. I believe this is due to the venue change, as the Hyatt last year gave a better backdrop for cosplayer’s photoshoots and generally more open space to roam around. The advantage that the convention center has would of been space, though since it was being used by other events at the same time, the upstairs and downstairs portions felt separate from one another, as if you had to leave one building for another.

Staffing for a small con like AOD is a good start experience for staffing cons in general, as it’s not too overwhelming for someone new to doing it. If you didn’t know, AOD was the first anime convention I attended way back in 2011, and I’m glad that it was the first con I staffed too. I’m the kind of guy who gets sentimental, so it means a bit to me in that regard. Staffing registration was a good learning experience for me, as it was the first time working with money. I didn’t mention it during the Day 1 part of this post that when I got back for my 12PM shift, I started working the At-Con reg side. It wasn’t too different from the pre-reg side, but with the added element of handling money. Counting, giving change, etc., was part of the job, though I made a couple of mistakes, like taking my eyes off money that was on the table. In the end, I feel that I learned a bit about money handling, even if it wasn’t too much work. It’s more than I do at my usual job at least.

Photography wise, I knew that I would not have the time to wander around taking photos as I usually do. Normally I’d set a goal amount of photos to take, but for this year’s AOD that did not come to mind knowing that I was staffing. Part of the reason why I decide to staff is if I know that the con does not have much for me to see. If that wasn’t the case then I’d probably not staff and do my “job” as casual photographer/blogger.

Overall I enjoyed my time at AOD, both on and off the clock. Sure, there may have not been too much to see or do if I was a regular attendee, but with Staffing as part of my agenda, it balanced out well with the free time that I did have to check out the con. I would definitely consider staffing again for next year and beyond, though that will depend on my own personal agendas around those times. Staffing at cons won’t be limited to just AOD, as I think of this as a stepping stone towards other cons bigger than AOD. This will probably give me more of a reason to check out other cons not just in my backyard, but maybe all around the country. That is a nice thought, being able to travel and work in anime conventions, with the plus side of touring the cities that they are in. These new experiences are opening up new opportunities for me, ones that I feel help me regardless of the direction that I will ultimately go in towards the future.

Animation on Display 2015 February 8, 2015

Posted by coolmikeol in Events.
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I went to my “local” small con Animation on Display (AOD for short) this year with some friends, which took place on January 31st – February 1st. I didn’t go last year because it moved from its previous and much convenient location of being at Hotel Kabuki at San Francisco’s Japantown to the Hyatt Regency located near the San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, California. We went to Day 1 only, staying about a few hours before running off to do other errands. There wasn’t too much to do besides seeing the sights of cosplay or playing in the gaming room. Anyways I’ll leave the pictures to do the rest of the talking.

For all of my photos taken at Animation on Display 2015, here is the album on my Flickr.

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The dealers hall. Selection as typical as you can get.

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Demo for Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax. ” The game celebrates the 20th anniversary of ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki Bunko imprint, featuring various characters from light novels published under the imprint.” Basically its a fighting game featuring notable anime characters such as Kirito, Asuna, Shana, Taiga, Kirino, Misaka Mikoto, Satomi Rentaro, etc.

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Demos for 3DS games I guess.

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This Asuna cosplayer was giving away sweets for Valentine’s day already.

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I was thinking about buying that star, but it looked more green than golden yellow. It would have matched with my light up 1up mushroom.

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Eva itasha right outside the front of the hotel.

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The hotel/con from the front.

Overall, I felt that the con had a better venue spacewise, but it lacked in activity in more ways than one. Besides the dealers hall, panel rooms/video rooms/maid cafe, and gaming room, I felt that within an hour I saw everything that I could see. The only thing that would spontaneously change would be the cosplay which was for me few and far between. When I go to cons or events, I try to make a minimum quota of photos that I should take. In this case I aimed for 100 but was shy from that by more than 10, majority of those photos of the venue itself than the cosplay. Since I go for the overall approach when taking photos at events like this (photos of all major areas of the convention, events, cosplay), I was already reaching a photo drought by the 2PM hour. (We got to the con at about 10AM.) Though I will admit, it was because I had other people with me that I felt pressured to rush taking photos rather than being patient. I probably would of stayed around the con until around 5PM if that wasn’t the case. That’s why in some cases, I’d rather go to cons alone so that I don’t feel that I dragging around others. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that you can only enjoy with friends/acquaintances at cons, but the way I do things work better when I work alone doing photography. The next major anime convention I’ll be attending will be FanimeCon in San Jose, California once again. The thing is with that con is that it coincides with my graduation from college. How things will turn out then with both going on, I’m not quite sure, but I’ll make it work somehow as I always do.

Alright, peace out.