Make an event sharper, brighter and louder with technical treats to awe and inspire. But heed the advice of these tech-support specialists to avoid miscommunication, frustration and blackouts.
BRING IN YOUR TEAM EARLY AND OFTEN.
Working closely with a technical partner creates a unified, successful event. “Involve technical production at the earliest stage possible,” says Tim Fothergill, creative director for Stansted, United Kingdom-based Creative Media Techniques.
Having a technical pro on the team is the best way for event producers to ensure an outcome that matches their initial vision. “Many event producers have these grand ideas,” MB Productions president Brian Brooks says. “But they don't partner up with a technical vendor early enough, and those ideas may not be realistic.” The Fairfield, N.J.-based company got into the act early for the 400-guest Ford Supermodel of the World competition in New York in January — and the event profited from the attention to technical detail. New York-based producers “Summit Productions wanted a very intricate plasma wall that would have photos of the models — the contestants, in this case — on it,” Brooks says. But using the six-screen plasma wall “was spending money where it didn't need to be spent,” he says. Instead, MB Productions suggested a projection system to cast images on the venue's 20-foot walls. The cost-effective solution ran about $3,000, according to Brooks, while the plasma wall would have carried a heftier price tag of $10,000.
HAVE FAITH IN YOUR TECH TEAM.
Use the expert's input. “Trust your technical partners,” Deb Miller of Las Vegas-based OSA International advises. Fothergill agrees — taking a technical partner's advice is paramount. “Consult, listen and trust,” he says. After all, the tech pros have probably come across similar situations in the past and learned from prior problems.
The NBA Jam Session, held in February at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, solved the problem of space constraints with technical know-how. Since the site of the NBA All-Star Game — the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas — was not large enough to accommodate all the fans, the NBA Events and Attractions team looked to OSA for game-day atmosphere in another venue. “We were involved from initial conceptualizations to completed load-out of the event,” Miller says. Thanks to OSA, the Jam Session simulcast the game at Mandalay Bay to 600 more fans on two 20-by-40 foot screens, with 3-D projection and surround sound. “It was like being courtside for the game,” Miller says.
BE AWARE OF BUDGET BUMMERS.
Technical elements cost money, but it doesn't pay to pinch your pennies. Tech experts unanimously agree that limited budgets present the biggest challenge to a successful event. “We're always trying to do things with less money,” Brooks says. “But sometimes cutting corners only compromises the entire production.” Miller cites growing expectations in the face of shrinking budgets as an obstacle to using new and innovative effects. Basically, “Scrimping leaves your show short of content,” Fothergill says.
In the face of such situations, put your money where it matters. “Spend money on great graphics,” Fothergill says. “It isn't the equipment; it's what goes on it.” CMT provided impressive images to light up the night for a charity dinner produced by London-based Starlight Design. In May, CMT accentuated the Absolute Return for Kids' 2007 Gala dinner at Marlborough House in London with — among other dazzling displays — a laser projecting the total amount of money raised by the 1,000-guest dinner and 48 plasma screens. “Our team is proud to be a part of [the ARK event],” Fothergill says. “They put in an incredible amount of work to make it happen in seemingly impossible time frames.”
MAKE TIME TO TALK.
Don't make the mistake of failing to communicate with your technical partner, especially in regard to last-minute tweaks and changes. “Communication is key,” says Robert Grater, production manager for MB Productions. Unexpected technical problems can pop up when even a seemingly unrelated element of the event changes. “We have had several occasions where the florist convinced the planner to add huge centerpieces,” Grater says. “This was devastating to the event — cameras had to be relocated and projection surfaces had to be moved.”
Eleventh-hour modifications are expected, of course. In such cases, “Complete information that includes exactly what needs to change and the reasons driving the change are essential to determining a course of action,” Miller says.
Experts share the newest trends in technology.
Brian Brooks, MB Productions: “High-definition video is everywhere right now — at the home and migrating into live events, slowly getting into the special events community.”
Deb Miller, OSA International: “[At the NBA Jam Session,] OSA provided specialized silver screens, audio design and equipment for the surround sound. The effect was truly amazing.”
Tim Fothergill, Creative Media Techniques: “Check the Aquagraphic screen at www.aquatique-show.com. It is incredible!”
Creative Media Techniques