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A Chat With the People Behind the Biggest Holiday Events

Special Events talks with entertainment services company Production Resource Group (PRG)

Production Resource Group (PRG) is the global live innovation company that annually provides lighting, audio, video, rigging, and more for tentpole holiday events, helping create some of the boldest and brightest memories for families and loved ones each year. In 2023, the team at PRG helped bring to life the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Winter Skating Plaza, Christmas in Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park Winter Village, Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve, the National Christmas Tree Lighting, and more. 

Now that the holidays are over, let's look back on all the beloved events we witness each year. We at Special Events have asked the PRG team a few questions to get inside their minds:

1. How long has PRG been providing lighting, audio, video, rigging, and more for these specific events? 

We’ve been providing audio and crew services for the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center for 30 years and for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for over 10 years. For Bryant Park Winter Village, we’ve provided audio, lighting, rigging and crew for seven years. The ice rink at the Brooklyn Bridge was new this year—it’s never been done before but is intended to be a recurring holiday event. For that installation, we provided video projection and crew.  

(Bob Rendon, VP, Sales, PRG) 

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Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Photo courtesy PRG

2. These holiday events are huge cultural markers and are approached with great anticipation by the public, both those attending in-person and watching from TVs across the country. How do you approach working on these types of events so that the same level of holiday cheer translates across in-person and on screen? 

For events that are televised like the Macy’s Parade or the Rockefeller Center tree lighting, the approach is almost as if producing two events. The project has to be mapped out, moment to moment, for the in-person audience and for the at-home audience. Broadcast-specific (lighting, audio, cameras) equipment has to be added to the live event, and while the in-person experience is dependent on where the audience member is, the broadcast experience is curated for the TV audience by the director. Think of the parade—if you’re in person and the parade slows, you might be looking at the same marching band for a while, but for the at-home audience the director can switch to a different camera position along the parade route. 

(Anne Johnston, Vice President of Marketing & Product Strategy, PRG)  

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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Photo courtesy PRG

3. When do you begin planning holiday events? How long does setup take?  

For repeat projects like the tree lighting, the parade, and Winter Village, we need less time. We’ve worked with most of the teams before, so we understand the creative brief, the budgets, and are already familiar with the install challenges related to the venue (big trucks unloading in the middle of busy NYC streets!). For these, we typically begin pre-production two to three months ahead of the install. The overall installations are longer but for our services, it’s usually just a few days. Again, working in NYC where it’s difficult to shut down streets and access is challenging, means that on-site install time is limited, so we plan accordingly in pre-production.  

Our involvement with the Brooklyn Bridge Skating Plaza happened really fast. The project was well underway when at the last minute they decided to add projection to the event. For this project, we had less than a month for pre-production and the install was accomplished in two days. Although such a quick turnaround is not the standard recommendation, we take pride in successfully tackling the challenging task at hand. 

(Bob Rendon, VP, Sales, PRG) 

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National Christmas Tree Lighting. Photo courtesy PRG

4. How do you handle anything that doesn’t go as planned?  

First, you try to anticipate where problems might arise and plan accordingly. The value that we’re adding to the project is that, based on our experience, we can look at it from every aspect—logistics, scheduling, crew, technology—and we can advise the client where things need to be tweaked to avoid problems. 

But in live events, inevitably things don’t go as planned, and the most critical piece here is an experienced staff/crew that can improvise and adapt on the fly.  

(Chris Conti, Chief Innovation Officer, PRG) 

5. In your years of working on these types of events, what lessons have you learned?  

For us, the most important thing we’ve learned over the years is the importance of good communication and collaboration from day one. Inevitably, creatives will have to make some compromises; scheduling for one department impacts the work of other departments, and day-to-day adjustments have an impact on the budget. So keeping everyone on the same page will save costs and prevent frustration in the long-run.

(Chris Conti, Chief Innovation Officer, PRG) 

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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting. Photo courtesy PRG

6. What should event pros know about producing events of this size and cultural significance? 

Understand the client’s vision and goals. In our role as a technology partner, we’re filling the gap between the vision and the execution. It’s a delicate balance and understanding that will allow us to make the correct judgements, assessments, recommendations.  

It’s the job of the event pro to manage expectations re: costs, time, creative results—as painful as this might be sometimes. Be prepared: as relates back to questions 4 and 5, planning and communication are key to successful execution. 

(Chris Conti, Chief Innovation Officer, PRG) 

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