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WHETHER they're capturing events for posterity or taking their place on the party floor, new photo and video technologies play a major role in event creation. This month's “Tech Tips” column shines a spotlight on some of the image industry's brightest stars.

TIP: Provide instant gratification on-site.

In our age of “instant” this and “immediate” that, it's no surprise that the demand for on-demand everything extends to event images. Fortunately, in recent years, “The biggest change in photo technology has been the ability to print high-quality digital photos instantly at events,” says Todd Anderson of Maple Grove, Minn.-based online photography supplier Pakor.

The company makes the most of technological advances by making portable digital printers available to events from golf gatherings to social soirees. According to Anderson, Pakor's most popular product for events is the recently developed Sony SnapLab, “a self-contained unit with a built-in, user-friendly touch screen — no computer is necessary.”

With its ease of use and minimal equipment footprint, the SnapLab even slips into upscale event design layouts, making it a huge hit with weddings where “instant photos are priceless,” Anderson says. At corporate events and meetings, the SnapLab doesn't just entertain attendees but helps achieve business aims by allowing users to share product and information photos within seconds, he adds.

Then there's the thrill factor: “We have seen photos taken with attendees and celebrities or an honored person, then printed and signed by the celebrity seconds later,” Anderson recounts. “This creates a treasured memento of an event in just minutes.”

Soon, Anderson predicts, look to advances in instant photo technology paired with Internet access to allow for the creation of unique take-home gifts and favors, as well as “more photos uploaded, downloaded and printed instantly between meeting sites.” For venues and planners, such advances promise a new source of revenue, while they bring event guests, “more conversation, sharing and attendee satisfaction.”

TIP: Make the virtual a reality.

Dick Didow, head of Houston-based event-photo-entertainment company Catch the Moment, credits the past few years' huge innovations in digital photography equipment and software with enabling his company to “offer clients a larger portfolio of services to assist them in meeting their event marketing investment, and provide a greater source of ROI measurement.” Among the most promising of such innovations, he notes, is the pairing of digital photography with virtual backgrounds.

Using chroma-key or green-screen technologies, Catch the Moment can create a virtual background that ties an event theme or industry-related image into a photo. By doing so, Didow says, his company is able to provide guests with “a personalized marketing piece,” thereby significantly enhancing an event's impact after the fact.

On top of the image's take-home value, entertainment also factors into the virtual-background photo process. “Guests always enjoy watching and interacting with the technology” as they witness the transformation of the green screen into a thematic virtual background, Didow notes.

For corporate clients who continue to shift budget dollars toward event- and experiential-marketing programs, virtual background digital image-making is a natural choice thanks to its ability to “touch current customers, potential prospects or employees, and to further the company's message,” according to Didow. At the same time, event producers can demonstrate to clients that with its dual benefits of entertainment and take-home appeal, the single price of on-site virtual-background photography represents “an attractive value,” he adds.

TIP: Go big or go home.

While recent innovations in video cameras and video-editing tools are impressive, “Without question, the most significant event video technology in the past few years has been the advance of the actual video screen display itself,” Upstage Video's Doug Murray says. And the hottest of the latest in video display? “LED {light-emitting diode} technology,” Murray asserts.

Noting that “big events need big screens,” Murray says Exton, Pa.-based Upstage is filling a gap in the equipment rental market by marketing some of the largest LED screens available to events. Along with complete event video production, Upstage offers everything from 50-foot video walls and VIP-tent plasma screens to “the eight-camera-shoot and broadcast-quality graphics that make up the content on the screen.”

Among Upstage's hot products are truck/trailer-mounted systems and modular walls that can be built on-site to client specifications. New to the company's inventory is the Barco B10 — “a self-contained trailer with onboard generator, production room and 9-by-12-foot Barco S10 LED screen that extends from the roof of the trailer on a hydraulic lift,” explains Murray. Noting that the entire unit can be set up and broken down quickly, he adds, “They aren't cheap by any means, but when you absolutely have to have outdoor daytime video, we have a pair of these units that we can make available anywhere in the country.”

Murray recommends budgeting for big screens when high-impact branding and attendee engagement are top priorities. As an alternative to stock signage, LED screens offer “more exposure” to guests and “a more extravagant display” of branding, he says. For fundraisers, LED screens give organizations more impact when communicating a mission and a message of need to attendees, he suggests.

In any event, the inclusion of LED screens in the production design “allows a client to show a little creativity,” Murray adds. “With modular LED technology, we are no longer constrained by typical screen shapes. We can shape the video screen as far as your imagination can take it.”


Catch the Moment, 713/255-4500; Pakor, 763/551-8222; Upstage Video, 610/363-1699

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