I’ve worked as an event planner since the early 1990’s, producing fundraising, corporate and social events, but the technical production side has always been a mystery to me. When venues asked me about my a/v requirements, I never quite knew what I needed, and I definitely had no idea what those wizards in black in the tech booth were up to!
Since I’m always up to learn new things, I was thrilled when Heidi said I could listen in on comm at an awards dinner Technisch was producing with their partner, Zoom.7. I got there early to meet all the players so I could put a face with a voice at showtime. Keith was manning the audio backstage and showed me the Voice of God mic that the announcer uses to let everyone know what’s coming next. He had all the lavalier mics lined up and numbered so he’d be ready to get people mic’d up at the right time before they hit the stage.
Jim was in his usual position at the main sound board, playing peppy tunes to get everyone pumped up while the team put finishing touches on the setup. He explained how he mixes in the microphone audio with music to keep the show flowing. Under the direction of producer, Scott Thompson of Zoom.7, the team got to know the players pretty well, and matched music to fit their personalities.
Nancy Hart from Zoom.7 was calling the show on this night, which means she’s the big boss. All of the tech crew have headsets on, and she leads them through the show using a run of show document, which details every moment of the plan. This role takes lots of precision and calm, and intimate knowledge of each part of the process.
I watched as the team set up lights, cameras, microphones, and the row of sparkling trophies for the awards. Once everything in the room was in perfect order, Jim cued up the party music and the hotel team drew back the curtains to welcome the excited crowd, all decked in their finest and ready to celebrate. For the first hour, the tech crew’s job was just to keep the music playing and watch the progress of dinner, to determine if the timing would coincide with the awards ceremony plan. Nancy kept everyone apprised of the plan over comm, so the team was ready to go when the show began!
Nancy smoothly orchestrated each element of the awards. Even a relatively simple show like this required so many little details and instructions, and everyone had to be on point. Nancy told Keith when to have the announcer begin speaking, when to mic people up, and when to send people out onto the stage.
The video team got their cues to keep the slides moving, and they had to stay on the ball to make sure the right names came up on the screen for each award. Jim and Nancy worked together like a well-oiled machine, having rehearsed the show several times. Jim kept the music going, switching it up when he felt the room needed a bit more energy, and fading it out when people were talking.
My biggest takeaway from my first time on comm was how many details, technical elements and instructions go into what seems like a simple awards show. It was so evident that this team enjoyed working together, and the conversation on comm was friendly, fun and professional, but always focused on getting the job done right. Usually at an awards show, I’m only thinking about what people are wearing and who wins what award, and only give thought to the tech team when something goes wrong. Now that I know more about the extraordinarily complex dance that goes on behind the scenes, I’ll never watch the Gala Awards in the same way again!
Written by Sunshine Woodyard
Take a look at Technisch Creative in action at The Special Event Conference and Tradeshow. The Special Event (TSE) is an annual gathering of event planners, designers and producers from all over the world. We were privileged to lead the production for the Opening General Session, chaired by Nicole Bernardi and Brad Wilson, the Gala Awards, chaired by Scott Frankel, and Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List, chaired by our own Heidi Brumbach, CMP. The Technisch Creative team worked closely with the Informa staff to manage all the logistics of the production, in addition to providing the sound, lighting, and video equipment for the event.
Heidi Brumbach, CMP, CEO of Technisch Creative, has served five times as an Event Chair for the conference. She continued this role in 2018, as well as serving as the technical producer for the general sessions, bringing a crew of 20 Technisch Creative team members.
The presentation featured 3 large screens to span over 100′ and scenic pieces provided by Atomic Design, Inc., which became projection surfaces for 3D video mapping. We worked with content producers from Innovative Entertainment at the Opening General Session and Animatic Media for the Gala Awards (both pictured below) . We combined rear projection utilizing stacked Epson laser projectors for the main screens, and 20k Barco projectors on the front projection for the mapped content. The result was a bright, vibrant and sharp picture.
Our amazing video crew, lead by Robert Carson, integrated a 9th projector and 7 additional media sources for showcases during Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List, an annual feature that introduces top entertainment acts and products for events.
Overall, the sessions showcased the expertise of seasoned professionals from more than 40 sponsors under the direction of Technisch Creative. Over 2000 meeting and event industry professionals attended with a critical eye, collecting ideas for their own events. We were thrilled with the outcome and look forward to next year in San Diego!
Ok, now down to what event planners really want to know, what does all this Power stuff mean to me? In Part 1 of the Power blog, we touched on three-phase power. I’m sure you’ve had people tell you “I need a 200 Amp, three-phase, 220 service.” This means you will need three hot conductors at 110 Volts, capable of carrying a maximum of 200 amps on each phase, or leg. (A phase is also referred to as a leg, which is a single hot conductor.) The electrician will run cables from the service panel on the back wall (the one with the big Frankenstein-looking lever), to the distro. The distro will have breakers with amperage values, normally 20 to 50 amps. We achieve the 220 Volts by adding two of the legs together. The plug we use will have two hot legs, a neutral, and a ground. Any higher voltage is beyond the scope of this article and will be ignored. Now all we have to do is make sure we’ve used the equation for power to calculate our load (in amps), and we can connect our gear with relative ease and piece of mind.
At this point, a demonstration of the power equation would probably be in order. Let’s look at the real world and do a calculation using an ordinary household light bulb.
Example: How much current (in amps) will a 120V 60W light bulb draw?
Using the power equation, we know that:
W = V x A where W = 60W
V = 120V
With simple algebra, solving for A becomes:
A = W ÷ V
A = 60 ÷ 120
A = .5 Amps
Our household light bulb draws half an amp.
This may seem like an oversimplification, but it really is that simple. All electrical and electronic gear will have at least two, if not all three of the necessary variables marked on its case to calculate the load for that piece of gear. Add all of your loads together, and that is the size of service you need to order. By the way, make sure you leave yourself at least twenty percent for headroom. If you have a 20 Amp breaker, don’t exceed a 16 Amp load. From our example above, that’s the equivalent of 32 bulbs.
By having a basic understanding of power, the event professional becomes something of a “power” as well. You will be able to speak with confidence and authority at your next pre-con. Who knows, you might even show up the tech geeks. Good luck and never be afraid to ask a qualified electrician or technician for help if you don’t understand any of the concepts we’ve covered today. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss this subject in more detail.
A guide to the proper care and feeding of your production team
From the Beauty:
Regardless of what you’re planning, it’s key to know your audience. Today we put a spotlight on the backbone of almost all productions: the production crew. These are the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs seamlessly from a production standpoint. Their hours are long, usually starting before the sun rises and finishing long after it sets. They often go unnoticed, but they should not be forgotten.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Have a food allergy list for your crew as well as your attendees.
- Set up a beverage station with hot and cold beverages that are refreshed throughout the day.
- Offer food selections that can be eaten hot or at room temperature. The crew may eat in shifts.
- Offer healthy options that keep energy levels consistent.
- Treat your crew as you would any valued attendee or staff member.
- Properly feeding the crew creates solid morale, which translates into more motivation to work hard.
From the Brain:
The production team is in the spotlight if a projector fails, sound quality is poor or if any number of other technical snafus occur, so you want the best of the best at the helm.
Dedicated crews arrive earlier than most and are often last to leave. Installation and tear down requires physical and mental energy and, while the show is running, these folks are the nerve center of your operation.
It’s ironic that people who are critical to successful content delivery are often overlooked, if not ignored. Here are a few ways to correct that while improving your show quality:
- Contract enough time for load-in and strike and avoid overnight load-ins. If something goes wrong during setup, there are few options for replacement equipment. Speakers likely won’t have time to rehearse and your program is at risk of starting late. Additionally, your cue-to-cue rehearsal may be cut, which means you have no dry run for your program.
- Overnight load-ins have the crew up all day, loading in overnight and likely working the next morning. Depriving the people responsible for key timing and execution of sleep is bad for everyone.
- If you have a 15-minute break, the crew has about eight minutes to hit the bathrooms and return. They rarely eat as they have neither the time nor the opportunity. Have catering bring food to the crew during breaks. It should be able to be eaten without a fork and only drinks with lids should be offered for equipment safety.
- Strongly encourage speakers to submit slides at least 24 hours before the event. Put them in a PowerPoint deck in presentation order and put them on a jump drive. Include title slides and walk-in/walk-out slides or still stores. Hand the drive to the production team so they can load the presentations into show computers. Make time to sit with the graphics op to make sure there are no unseen glitches. If you want walk-in/walk-out, play-on/play-off music, let them know that as well as what type of music you prefer.
- Provide the names and titles of speakers and a pronunciation guide for anyone who requires a VOG (voice of God) introduction to the stage.
Production teams work tirelessly to make your event run smoothly. Treat them with the kindness they deserve.
Want more tips on the proper care of your production partners? Email me at: Christy.email@example.com.
Until next time, remember that smart is beautiful!
Thank you to Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM of Strategic Meetings and Events for reprint permission.