March, 2001 found me in San Diego on business. That's where I picked up Larry Lerner, a former Photon Franchisee. He and I talked for hours. He really has some of the best stories about starting and operating a laser tag unit. Of course, it was all new back then. He opened his first facility in Charlotte, North Carolina then moved the business to Wildwood, New Jersey.
By April, 2001 I was going back to Dallas on business. My project was going well, and I was happy about all the different directions I'd been pursuing. I took a chance and sent George Carter an email. He called me the same day and said he'd like to be interviewed. Not trying to press my luck, but out of pure curiosity I had to ask him ...why? He told me that he wanted to set some things straight regarding the history of laser tag. Photon was there first as a commercial venture, and some laser tag companies were making false claims about being first.
You'd think it'd be all downhill from there. My original plan was to do three or four shoots, take about six months, and then bring it into work and edit it at night. Easy! By this point, I had enough footage to begin culling and putting together a rough cut. I had decided to divide the project into three main sections and starting the edit now would allow me to figure out what I was missing.
When Apple came out with Final Cut Pro (a non-linear editing software package), I had to take a look. It is $999 for software that could run on the new G3's and essentially do what our $60,000 edit systems did and more. By the time I decided to purchase it for myself, Final Cut Pro 2 was out. I picked up a new unopened copy, a new unopened Macintosh PowerBook G4 / 500 and a BusLink firewire hard drive each separately on EBay. I was going to edit this monster at home on a lap top. This turned out to be an excellent way to go because I could edit at my leisure. Early on, I made the decision to shoot DV (Digial Video) for flexibility and ease of shooting. It also proved no trouble to load the footage via firewire onto the computer and edit.
I began editing in the Summer 2001 while setting up some more interviews for the fall. One of the hardest groups to schedule were the outdoor taggers. It seemed like I was always a few months too late for them. Almost all the groups I found on the east coast were already disbanded. I respect what the taggers in St. Louis, Seattle, Europe and Australia are doing, but I just couldn't get out there. (Maybe for the DVD! More on that later). Finally I found a group in New York. Laser's Edge New York out of Queens were eager to speak to me especially after their win at the 2001 East Coast Tag Con. Since I had never played or even seen laser tag outdoors, I was particularly looking forward to meeting them. They wanted me to tape a night game in addition to daytime. We had some great weather in early October, and I learned a lot from them.
West World in Frederick, Maryland had an interesting looking field. Though I didn't conduct any on-camera interviews there, I did get some great footage. Their field is set up like a wild west town with a bank facade, bar, and jail.
©2002 Yo Vinny! Productions