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Paring Production Costs

Asking smart questions upfront can keep tech costs down Although there's no pat formula, production costs for sound and lighting average about 30 percent of the total budget for events. Technical expert Ajay Patil of technical production company Current Events International gives a sampling of tips for cutting your production bill.

LABOR q Does the city or venue you are using require that you use union labor - and its higher cost?

q If union labor is required, can it be billed directly to your client, thus keeping your costs in line?

q Is your production company managing the unions on-site (e.g., number of hands, hours worked, breaks)?

q Are you familiar with union rules and regulations (e.g., meal penalties, minimums, scope of work, etc.)?

SCHEDULING q Do you have a reasonable amount of time to install your event?

q Have you weighed the cost benefit of renting the venue longer for your installation vs. having to hire more labor than usual?

q Have you allowed enough time for programming and focus of lighting, sound checks and rehearsals?

q Have you scheduled enough labor to avoid overtime and meal penalties?

q Have you considered bringing in meals for your crews, thus keeping them motivated and on the premises?

LIGHTING q Can moving/intelligent lighting fixtures be used instead of conventional instruments? This can cut down on the number of fixtures needed.

q Have you considered using brighter colors, which require fewer lighting instruments than darker colors require?

q Have you ordered your custom gobos early enough to avoid paying a rush charge?

AUDIO q Have you defined what your attendance will be and exactly what your audio needs are? A "band" can range from strolling strings to a dance band to an orchestra to a full-blown national act.

q Have you put your production company in touch with the entertainment act as quickly as possible to discuss rider requirements? Riders - contract attachments specifying everything from the number of mikes to catering - can be extensive and list more than is actually required.

q Will you have press in attendance? This changes your audio requirements.

q If you are using a local band, have you put your production company in touch with the band? The band might wind up using the sound and lighting capabilities you already have in place, saving money.

q Have you checked the venue's physical layout, from the loading dock all the way to the ballroom?

q Are there loading dock fees?

q Have you checked on power availability and power charges?

q Can your production company "fly" or hang equipment from the ceiling for additional power? Are there rigging fees? Bear in mind that most production companies do not absorb power, rigging or loading dock charges.

q Have you negotiated power, rigging and loading dock fees?

POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND 3 Ask all your questions upfront.

3 Establish what your priorities are. Is it your dance floor? Your stage? The unveiling of a corporate logo? Communicate these priorities to your production company.

3 Build strategic partnerships with your production companies. They are more likely to help you out of a bind if you have a long-lasting relationship with them.

3 Avoid companies that do not own their equipment; you will pay more through markups, and information can be lost or watered down.

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