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Worldcon Day 2: Universal Studios

A most fantastic day at Universal, largely because I spent beaucoup bucks on the VIP tour passes. When we got off the bus, I asked a Universal employee where to check in, and instead of pointing it out, he led us over to our private registration desk. Next up an elevator to the VIP tour waiting room--a large, elegantly-decorated suite of rooms with food and water bottles for us to take. Our tour guide, Mark, was inventive and encouraging. We did the backstage tram tour first--but not the standard one, VIP tours get their own special, smaller buses that go places the standard tram tour doesn't, including inside sound stages. We saw the outside of the stage where they're filming interiors for Pirates 3 (and other movies not quite so interesting), and spend about an hour touring the Crossing Jordan sets. I didn't get much out of that, both because I don't watch that show and because close examination of the detailed mannequins they use for dead bodies (including ones that you can perform autopsies on) grosses me out. sinanju, who does watch the show and doesn't gross out as easily, loved it, and retracted his criticism of spending so much for the VIP tour on the spot.

We also went into the sound building and into a couple of different sound rooms full of equipment, including a mixing room where there are three levels of seating (desks, sound equipment, and comfy chairs) and a hundred or more speakers, each of which adds one kind of sound. There's also a basketball hoop and a pingpong table. We asked what they were for and Mark explained as follows: The highest desks are for the producers. The middle set, with the actual equipment, are for the sound engineers. The comfy chairs are for the director (and whoever the director brings). While the producers and the director argue about the sound track (which can take hours) the engineers run down and play basketball or ping pong.

Then Mark brought us to a dedicated service spot in one of the restaurants for a quick lunch--we were served and *done* eating before people who got in line when we came in were at the order desk. Next we went on some shows and rides, including Shrek 3D and Terminator 2 (which had a cool and scary mix of filmed and live-action effects, as well as live actors on stage for parts of the show). We both enjoyed the Back to the Future ride, then left the tour so we could shop before getting on the bus back to the hotel. We had an early dinner and I went to sleep early, as well.

I really recommend spending the extra money for the VIP tour at Universal; we saved at least 3 hours of waiting-in-line. At rides we went to a special gate and got in next instead of at the end of the line, and at the shows we had reserved waiting areas close to the doors so we could get in the best seats. The tour pass (on a lanyard) also acts as a front-of-the-line pass for the rest of the day, once your tour is over.

It was a great day; we had a wonderful time.