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Meal Break

Meal Break -A required break, usually one hour, for workers to eat. Usually, a meal break is required after every 5 hours of work. If a worker is required to work longer than that before getting a meal break there will most likely be overtime charges involved.

Rigging Safety is Deadly Serious

I have a reputation for being a giant pain in the backside when it comes to safety, especially with rigging.

I make it a habit to look things over and point out things that I think might be unsafe or not done correctly. Sometimes I get a blank stare that says “Really? Aren’t you being a little bit picky here?”


Sunday morning I woke up to news footage of the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Terrifying! Then I remembered a YouTube video I watched of a similar collapse back in July at the Ottawa Blues Fest. As I looked through more YouTube videos I saw structure collapses in Concho, OK in July, 2010, at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI in June 2010, Alberta, Canada in 2009, the Rocklahoma concert 2008, and even the collapse of a concert rig for Christina Aguilera & Justin Timberlake in Atlantic City back in 2003. While outdoor events carry some risk because of weather, other collapses (like the one inside Silverdome) had nothing to do with high wind or bad weather.

So I’ll get to the point. Rigging is deadly serious business. If something goes wrong people can get hurt or killed. It’s as simple as that. Rigging is not as simple as just hanging something from the ceiling or cranking stuff up in the air on ground supported stands. There are rules. Important rules (see the article on “Rigging 101”).

So take these things into consideration…

First thing you need to know is that tolerances for rigging are intended for ideal conditions. It’s like driving a car, the speed limit is set for driving in ideal conditions. If it happens to be raining or snowing, or if there a lot of traffic, that changes things. I’m sure the rig at the Indiana State Fair was well within tolerances, for a wind free day. However, the canopy and side panels on the structure essentially acted as giant sails pulling the structure in directions that it was not intended to endure. It was designed for loads pulling down and probably had sufficient side to side rating for modest wind. The winds I saw on the news reports had to have been in excess of 40 or 50 mph, definitely out of the tolerance range for the structure. I believe that a structure of that size outdoors must be completely evacuated if there’s any sign of bad weather. Somebody made the decision to go on despite deteriorating conditions. As a result 5 people died.

The next thing you need to know is that you should use experienced companies qualified in rigging for any event you do. A lot of facilities now require the use of in-house certified riggers and sometimes the use of their motors and other rigging supplies. Many AV production companies are well prepared for rigging and know what they’re doing, and charge accordingly. This can be expensive for sure. But it’s far better to plan for the cost and be safe than to have an accident. I have seen some clients bring in members of their organization to do rigging because they can do it cheap.

I’ve seen clients switch to using AV providers who are really cheap, but whom I feel don’t have good safety practices let alone liability insurance. This is an enormously bad idea.

Again, bad rigging accounts for as many accidents as bad weather.

Last, don’t be afraid to say something if things don’t seems right. Be more afraid of an accident. If you see a truss that is smiling or frowning (meaning it has a bow to it rather than being straight), leaning, dangling items, or anything else that gives you pause, do something. Lack of action could end up with someone getting hurt or killed.

Take it seriously.

Follow Spot

Follow Spot – A powerful lighting instrument that is mounted on a stand and can be pointed in any direction by an operator to “follow” a person or object. Follow spots can be focused to have a sharp edge, or unfocused to have a soft edge. The beam of light can also be made smaller or larger (to a certain degree) and most follow spots have several color filters to change color.


SDI – High Definition Serial Digital Interface (see also “SDI”) – A professional type of video transport that sends uncompressed HD digital video information down a single cable, usually a BNC cable. SDI and HDSDI are the same except for the amount of information per second that can be transported. SDI is also a generic term referring the type of interface, whereas HDSDI refers to an SDI interface that carries HD video signals.

Tech Head Note – These days SDI is generally labeled by the bit rate of the interface (the amount of digital information transported per second). The original SDI interface transferred video signals at 270Mbps (megabits per second). HDSDI transferres video signals at 1.5 Gbps (gigabits per second). Now terms such as 3G, 6G, and 12G are used (note, this has NOTHING to do with cell phone carriers 3G & 4G). HD video using 1080P resolution uses 3G SDI. Ultra HD (also known as 4K) uses 6G and 12G SDI. Also, the higher the bit rate, the shorter the distance in can travel down a cable and longer runs may require conversion to a fiber-optic cable.

I-Mag, More Than Meets the Eye!

If you’ve been around AV for any period of time you’ve undoubtedly heard the term I-Mag. I–Mag is a short lingo term for Image Magnification.

While that term can encompass many things, it is generally used to describe putting live images captured from a video camera onto a large screen.

OK, simple enough, right? As with most AV equipment, there’s more to visual

First, let’s consider what I-Mag is not.

It is not the same as video for broadcast (including internet streaming, which is becoming more popular), or for a recording, although many times what is going to I-Mag is also recorded. The difference is the audience and what is intended for them to see. For example, when you watch a TV broadcast of an event, say, the Academy Awards or even a football game, you will see lots of camera shots of the audience & spectators, the venue, background activity and so on. This is to give people a broader scope of what is going on. It adds a sense of being there, a feeling of excitement. The same is true for a recording. People want to have a sense of what else is going on.

For I-Mag the situation is different because people are already AT the event and seeing what’s going on around them. What they are interested in, most of the time, is what is happening on the stage, especially stuff they can’t see from where they are sitting. To show audience shots or other stuff on the screen could actually be distracting and, if overdone, irritating.

There are also things to be avoided with I-Mag. One of those things is what us AV guys refer to as De-Mag. That’s when something shown on screen is actually smaller than what people can see for themselves. Also, since big screens are, well, big, lots of rapid movement can be dizzying after a while.

So, what does all of this mean to you? If you’re doing an event that involves video cameras it is important to know what audience you are catering to: the audience at the event, an audience watching over a broadcast or stream, or an audience watching a recording of the event.

It will make a difference in every aspect of your production: directing style, the number of cameras needed and their placement, lighting, and sound.

You may be asking, “Is is possible to shoot for I-Mag and broadcast or recording at the same time?” Absolutely! There are a lot of options available, but at a price. The important thing is to know your priorities, and then make sure to discuss them with your audio visual production team in advance so they can give you options to for plan accordingly.

Interlaced Video

Interlaced Video (also see “Progressive Scan”) – A method of displaying a video or computer image where odd numbered rows of pixels (or “lines”) are drawn first then evens. A video image is made much like typing a page: one line is drawn from left to right and when it gets to the end of the line it goes back to the left to start a new line. When it gets to the bottom right corner the image is complete and the next page or “frame” is started in the top left. This happens several times per second. Interlace video, since it only makes half an image at a time (odd lines then evens), can make an image with half the information.

Understanding AV Bids

It happens all the time – I’ll get a call from a potential customer asking if I want to bid on an event. I say “Sure! What do you need?” The response– “Well, I’ll e-mail an equipment list.” The problem is this: you can achieve similar capabilities with a wide variety of equipment.

And, the level of quality can vary greatly. So how do you know what you’re looking at?

Any good bid starts with good communication.

First things first

Before moving on to the AV equipment list and price of any bid make sure the primary details are correct. I know it may sound simple but date, time, and location, as well as venue availability are critical since these can affebiddingct an AV company’s bid.

Are the capabilities clearly spelled out?

Equipment lists can be daunting to look at, especially for non-technical people. The main thing to determine is this: does the bid tell you what everything is for? Can you determine what the capabilities are? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the bid can’t be explained to your satisfaction as the event planner it’s time to look somewhere else.

What are the labor policies and do they match your schedule?

Make sure you have a good understanding of what the labor policies are! Most companies will charge minimum rates (usually day-rates) and significant overtime. Also, many companies have penalties for lack of meal breaks as well as schedules that start before 6:00 am or go past midnight. So, if you just gave the bidder a set of dates and do not include a detailed schedule don’t be surprised when you find out that labor is going to cost more. If you have a schedule that goes from morning until night be prepared for a hefty labor bill with lots of overtime.

Are union and facility charges included?

Many bids DO NOT include required union labor fees or facility charges. Union requirements vary greatly depending on city and facility. Venues usually charge for items such as electrical power, rigging points, storage, and parking (for tractor trailers and such), all of which can vary based on what the AV company is proposing. Don’t assume that an AV company’s bid includes these charges. If the bid doesn’t address these things you need to make a phone call.


The cost of transportation, lodging, and per-diems are not always included in the bid and are sometimes billed separately. Also, there may be surcharges in the event of high fuel prices or travel expenses. AV companies need to charge for these so that they don’t lose money. Just be aware of them so you can take them into account in your event planning checklist. Any good AV company should have a good idea of what these charges will be. But always plan high so you’re not surprised.


biddingPutting together proposals is an art form that many do quite well. That doesn’t always translate into a good experience for the customer. People doing the proposal are often not the same people providing the service.

Get references, ask around. A reputable company with a higher bid may just save you money and headache in the long run.

Review and review again

Perhaps the most important thing to do is read any bid all the way through a few times. Let others read it and see if they notice anything different.

AV can cost a lot, but surprises cost even more.

Mover/Intelligent Light

Mover/Intelligent Light – Also called “Intelligent Lights”: A lighting instrument that can move the direction of its light beam and also change colors and intensity. Many movers can also change patterns and size and can be fitted with “gobos” that can project specific images such as logos or pictures.