We arrived at the studio in Long Beach, CA, two hours early, and the line to get in was already stretched across the parking lot. We were hungry after a long drive, so thankfully there was a food cart with hotdogs and bottles of water for folks waiting to get in. While in line for a hotdog, we met a father and daughter from New Jersey who were super-fans and had flown across the country to see the show!
The excitement to get in was palpable, and we could hear the sounds of metal crashing and grinding – pilots testing their bots and weapons before the big show. Groups of fans were wearing shirts and hats representing their favorite bots. When we hit the front of the line, we were escorted to the backstage workshop. It was massive! Each Battlebot team had its own small workstations with heaps of spare parts, banners, and lots of tools for repairs and on-the-fly adjustments. Some teams were working feverishly for an upcoming battle, others were resting after the “all-nighter” they just pulled to get fight-ready. Some teams were giving interviews to the roaming TV crews scattered throughout the hangar while others took a short break to eat some food. Right near the front, there was a cluster of 3D printers and CNC machines humming-away building parts for teams that needed to make spares or last-minute redesigns. The vibe was electric!
As we walked through different workstations, meeting some teams and striking up mind-blowing conversations about some of the Bots’ technologies, we heard a loud horn similar to that sound you hear at European Soccer games from the crowd. Next, a loud human voice: “SAWBLAZE versus ROTATOR!” Immediately, everyone in their workstations put down their tools, ended their interviews, but down their sandwiches and started to walk to the center of the huge workshop where a dozen black leather couches were set up facing two giant TVs. You could feel the tension in the air as teams sat down on the couches, and filled the previously empty space. It was standing room only as we prepared to watch the battle. You could hear loud conversations taking place about who had the better weapon, and who was the favorite in the match. The TV flickered, and then there was a closed caption feed from the battle cube piped directly to the TVs.
The battle started! The feed to these TVs was unique in that there was no audio from announcers or any music, just the microphones from inside the cube picking up the sounds of massive vertical spinners rotating and robots crashing into one another. With every hit there were low “ooohs” and “ahhhhs.” The loud talking before the battle now turned to hushed whispers between teams. There was more taking place here than just watching the match – teams were taking notes. Studying. Preparing. Trying to get to know their competition, since they may find themselves fighting against these bots themselves.
The match ended, and people just hung around for a little while. Talking about what they just saw and trying to digest every little detail. They knew they were going to be in that cube soon, and wanted to have every conceivable advantage when their time came. Eventually everyone got up from the couches and made their way back to their work stations and got back to work. The sound of impact drivers and angle grinders filled the air again, as there was much work to be done. Soon the sound of the loud horn returned, and teams made their way back to the black leather couches to watch the next match…