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Category: Logistics

The AV Logistics Checklist


Here it is – the down and dirty, no-frills check list for dealing with AV logistics for your event.

Contactsevent planning

Have a list of those people you will be dealing with on site and have their phone numbers. Make sure those people know how to contact you or those working for you. Also, make it clear to everyone involved who is in charge and who has authority over what.

Schedule

Make sure your audio visual provider has a detailed schedule, including start and end times of each session, times when door are open for the audience, rehearsals and walk-throughs, meetings, and any other times that AV crew or equipment will be needed. Also helpful are schedules of other vendors or crews that might cause any conflicts.

Load In and Load Out

Conditions for loading in and out are important, especially when it comes to dock space and traffic. Too many companies on the dock at one time is a recipe for chaos. Also, room availability, amount of time required for set-up and strike, and the availability of in-house personnel such as electricians and technical people are important considerations in event planning.

Room Dimensions & Details

Make sure the room where your event is going to be held is big enough for the attendees AND all the equipment. AV equipment takes up space, not just on the floor but in the air as well. Make sure you account for ceiling obstructions such as chandeliers, ceiling coves, air ducts, and so on. How and where the audience is seated will also make a difference in what kind of AV equipment should be used.

Power

Check to see if arrangements have been made for needed power drops and electrical service, keeping in mind that they are rarely free.

Internet

Now days many presenters need access to the internet for their presentations. You should plan on proving a wired internet connection with a QOS (quality of service) setting. Also, internet is rarely free.

Facility Requirements

Many facilities and venues have special requirements, such a putting covering over carpets, use of hallways and elevators, or hiring security personnel. Ask a venue specifically if they have any such requirements and get them in writing. Facilities often have a packet listing all of the rules and requirements.

Union Requirements

Find out if your event is in a union contracted facility. If so, take time to know the rules and budget accordingly

Speaker and Talent Requirements

Ask talent and presenters for their needs and requirements well in advance. This may include things such as internet accessibility, specific types of microphones to use, someone to operate a PowerPoint presentation, and so on. Oh, and pass that information along to your audio visual provider. If you have talent that has a rider (the part of their contract that lists their technical requirements) make sure you send a copy to your audio visual team.

Changes & Add-Ons

Changes and add-ons are inevitable. Keep a detailed record and, if possible, get sign-off when it comes to changes. Confusion later just costs money and causes headaches.

Contract & Payment

This may sound trivial, but make sure you have a contract, that you know what the payment terms are, and that you understand what is included and what is NOT included. Ask questions and get answers BEFORE your event or production begins.

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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?”

Perhaps.

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.

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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.

Bill-Backs

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.

Reputation

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.

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Clever Uses for Video Displays


We’ve all seen the events that have the big screens showing images from cameras, videos, and PowerPoint presentations. But frankly, why limit yourself to just that?

Here are some uses for video displays that can add functionality and a little “coolness” factor to your audio visual show.

It’s not just for audiences!

A lot of time and effort is spent on what video the audience sees. What about everyone else?

Video monitors aimed at the stage for presenters and talent (sometimes called confidencvideoe or prompt monitors) are almost an event production necessity these days. They are able to show people on stage what THEY need to see. Sometimes they need to see what is on the main screens, sometimes their presentation, and yes, even a countdown clock or message to wrap up!

Performers may need to see song lyrics or background videos. The setup for these monitors can be as simple as a single LCD monitor, multiple monitors to provide countdown and presentations at the same time, and even large screens hanging out in the house that only people on stage can see.

Monitors can also be set up back stage and in green-room areas for people who are not on stage and not in the audience.

Scenery

Putting a screen with images behind the stage is a simple way to create scenery that can be easily changed. This can be as simple as having a single image, to complex and expense giant screen technology with high-end graphics.

Beware though, the images have to be bright enough to not get washed out by stage lights, and items on stage will block parts of the image. So it takes planning.

But done right it can add a great effect.

Graphics & Presentations

Presenters sometime cram their slides with a ton of information, sometimes just bullet points. It can be a tough call whether to show their presentations or the camera feed of the presenter (also known as Image Magnification or I-Mag).

Consider having both I-Mag screens and graphics screens if your event has a lot of PowerPoint or other graphics. That way, people in the audience can see the presenter on screen and their presentations at the same time.

Delay Screens

For a production with a really big audience you should consider having additional screens out in the audience for those people farther away from the stage and main screens. In general, people should not be seated away from the screens more than 8 times the height of the screen.

videoSo, if a screen it 10 feet tall, try to have people seated no farther than 80 feet away, and even closer if screens will have small text or detailed graphics. Also consider adding screens to lobby areas and overflow rooms.

 

As always, it’s never quite as easy as it sounds. So make sure you discuss displays and content thoroughly with your audio visual provider.

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Ceiling Height: The Third Dimension


Usually a meeting space is measured by square footage, but don’t forget the third dimension… ceiling height.

Ceiling height, as a consideration for room size, is often underemphasized or completely overlooked in event production. Yet it determines, to a large extent, what is possible for audio visual in a room. Ceiling height determines the size screens you can use, the height of the stage, speaker placement, lighting placement, and more.

Once again, it’s time to get out our measuring tape. Let’s say we have a room with a 15 foot ceiling. We want the talent to be easily seen so we’ll put a two-foot tall stage in the room. Next we’re going to hang some lighting truss. The truss is at least one foot tall and the motors to raise it up will take up another foot and a half. Lights will hang down from the truss a foot or more. All together stuff will be hanging down three to four feet. Doing the math we find that the bottoms of the lights are only nine feet above the stage height, and the room is starting to feel a little cramped overhead.

Screen size will also be determined by ceiling height. Working with our same fifteen foot ceiling, if the screen is five feet off the floor (so everyone can see it) our maximum screen size will be nine feet tall (since most screens will have a border that adds another eight to ten inches of height), and that’s without a top valance drape.

Other items that are affected by ceiling height are scenery pieces, backdrops, banners, audio speakers, and so on. Ceilings are also littered with obstacles such as chandeliers, lighting fixtures, alcoves, air wall tracks, air ducts and vents, and much more, all of which can wreak havoc on an audio visual set-up.

So what does this mean for you, as an event coordinator? For most AV set-ups a ceiling height of at least eighteen to twenty feet is preferred. Some sets will need more, especially in spaces that have a lot of floor space since more people require larger screens and taller stages. Is it always necessary to have a tall ceiling? Of course not. But for purposes of AV it is important to consider a room from top to bottom as well as side to side.

Think in three dimensions.

Often times a venue facility will have a diagram of the room with dimensions, including ceiling height. Be skeptical! This measurement is often to the highest part of the ceiling and does not take into account the obstacles I listed above. Take pictures and make notes then discuss a potential room with your audio visual provider and get input early.

You’ll be glad you did!

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Rigging 101


The term “rigging” can mean a few things.

For our purposes here today we will discuss rigging as how stuff is suspended or hung overhead.

Any time an item is suspended over people’s heads the first priority is safety. So, our event planning checklist for rigging all starts with load ratings. This is how much weight something can safely support. Everything has a load rating, starting with the point that something will be hung from, called a rigging point or a hang point (often just referred to as a “point”).

riggingEvery facility is different when it comes to rigging points. Some facilities have predetermined rigging points, others have a variety of steel beams in the ceiling to hang from, some have very limited or no rigging options. How many points are available and how much weight they can support will often determine what is possible for a production. A rigging point may be rated at only 200 or 300 pounds, or might support over a ton. Even ground supported rigging has a load rating, which is usually no more than 500 pounds.

Once hang points and load ratings are determined there has to be a way of getting everything off the ground and into the air. The most common way is with chain motors. With a chain motor a chain is taken up and attached to a rigging point, usually with a wire rope called a “steel”. The motor then pulls itself and its cargo up the chain. Multiple motors can be hooked up to a single controller so they all go up at the same time. Chain motors have load ratings as well ranging from 300 – 2000 pounds.

The gear being hung has load ratings too, including truss. Truss comes in different shapes, sizes, and lengths. Truss is not only rated by how much weight it can support but how far it can span. Sections of truss can be bolted together for longer lengths. In general, the bigger the truss the more weight it can support. However, most truss is rated to span no more than 40 feet. That means no more than 40 feet between rig points (or grounds support points). So if you walk into a room and see a long stretch of truss in the air with a big smile shape to it (meaning that the middle is sagging), be afraid. Be very afraid.

How everything attaches to truss or to a motor is also rated. Ropes, steel wire, straps, and fasteners all have ratings. Lights attach to truss with clamps and usually have a safety wire attached (often just referred to as a “safety”). Speakers and projectors often have rigging hardware built in with sufficient rating. All cable must be tied off and secured as well.

So, let’s do a little exercise.

Let’s say we want to rig some truss with lighting to do a stage wash. We have a wide stage and will need 60 feet of truss. We can’t span more than 40 feet, so we will need at least three hang points and chain motors. We will need six 10’ sections of truss, the lights, lets say 12 ellipsoidals, and all the electrical cable to run to the lights. Now, let’s do the math. Chain motors weigh about 120 pounds each. The truss weighs 55 pounds each. The lights weigh 15 pounds each. The cable will be about another 150 pounds. Then we factor in another 250 pounds for odds and ends that might be added later. That all adds up to 1090 pounds. If we distribute that evenly between the rigging points (remember there are three, one for each chain motor) that’s about 365 pounds per point. Where we attach those chain motors to the ceiling must have a load rating of at least 365 pounds. But wait, that’s assuming an ideal setting and all things being perfectly weighed out. A safety margin needs to be thrown in. So we would round up to a load rating of 400-500 pounds. The facility needs to approve that rating. Coordination is a must.

It may sound like a lot, and it is. Rigging is serious business and one of the most critical elements of your event production.

One rigging mistake and people can get seriously hurt.

There’s a lot of liability in rigging. A lot of facilities require the use of in-house riggers. It is now common that AV companies must use in-house chain motors and rigging supplies as well. None of which are not free, mind you. In fact, it can be down right expensive.

Whatever you do, make sure the company you use is competent. Rigging is critical to safe event management should never be taken lightly… no pun intended.

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Presenter Requirement Checklist and Field Guide


When it comes to requirements from your presenters you must be proactive and learn their needs in advance.

plan4Don’t let them show up expecting something that you and your AV provider aren’t prepared for. Here’s a field guide checklist of things to ask presenters so that you and your AV team can prepare.

 

Ask Questions

Whether a presenter is giving a key note address in a general session or a lecture in a breakout room, make sure to ask these basic questions:

  • What types of media will they be using? PowerPoint? Keynote?
  • Will they be bringing any DVDs, BluRay Discs, or video files? If so, what? (Provide a list of acceptable formats obtained from you AV provider.)
  • Will their presentation have any embedded media such as videos or audio?
  • Will they be using their own computer or other device? If so, what kind of connection do they need and where are they going to operated it from?
  • Do they need audio out of their computer or any other device?
  • Do they need an internet connection?
  • Do they need a remote (or “clicker”) to advance their slides?
  • Do they need a graphics operator to advance their slides?
  • How long is their presentation and will they need a countdown clock or timer?
  • What kind of microphone do they prefer? (Common types are podium mics, lavalier mics, headset mics, & handheld mics)
  • Do they need a wireless mic?
  • Will they be having any Q&A with the audience?
  • Do they need a podium?
  • Do they need any tables or stands for their computer, papers, or other items?
  • Do they require any kind of chair or stool?
  • Do they have any ADA requirements for getting on and off the stage?
  • Will any part of their presentation be given from any place other than the stage or presenter area? (Such as in the house mingling with the audience)
  • Will they need water or any other refreshment?

Proactive Event Planning and Avoiding Calamities

When someone brings a presentation on a thumb drive just before they go on stage, they run the risk of their presentation not working properly. There are lots of reasons for this: their fonts might not be available, their audio or video clips may not be embedded correctly, the proper program or version might not be available, files could be corrupt, and so on. You, as the event coordinator, never know.

Even if a presenter is using their own computer, it is important to test connections and quality. That’s why it is an essential part of smart event production to get stuff in advance, preferably the day before. Then there is time to fix things if all doesn’t go as planned. field guideUltimately, problems that are discovered at the last minute simply make for a bad presentation or session. That’s not good for anyone.

To avoid this, plan time in the schedule for a tech run-through, especially if there will be multiple presenters. Schedule specific times for each presenter to test their presentation, giving them enough time for a quick run through. Bigger presentations may need a full rehearsal. At a minimum, presenters should review their presentations with the tech crew a day in advance. Why not an hour or two in advance? Because tech crews are often busy preparing other stuff for the next session and there may not be adequate time to fix any issues if they arise.

Approvals

An approval process may or may not be appropriate for your event. If there are time limits or content requirements it may be something to consider, not just for the benefit of the event but to be fair and equitable to all presenters. For this process, presentations are submitted in advance, reviewed, and either approved as is, or rejected with an explanation (such as being too long, inappropriate content, etc).

event planner

Who determines criteria and decides what is acceptable will obviously depend on the client and the event. Just do it far enough in advance so that presenters have enough time to edit and resubmit. This process will also fish out possible technical problems that can help you and your AV team better prepare.

Disclaimers

Let your client and presenters know that you want to be prepared for them using this event planning checklist. But also stipulate that there are no guarantees if they don’t get information to you in a timely manner. Have a cut-off date for requests (giving you time to prepare with your AV provider). After that they will have to use whatever is available. Also notify presenters that there are no guarantees for presentations that are not reviewed in advance of the session (preferably 24 hours) or for those who fail to show up for a tech run-through. Be prepared for resistance. But if you stand fast presenters will cooperate.

Confirmation

Too many times I’ve had a presenter show up

with big requests that no one knew about. The response is usually “I sent my request to so and so last month.” Usually what we find is that the presenter’s assistant was supposed to send a request but sent it to the wrong person or place, blah blah blah.

My point is this: have a well-defined process or use a reliable field guide. It can make all the difference.

Specify how requests are made along with deadlines. When a request is received send them a confirmation. field guide

Have an understanding up front: if they didn’t get a confirmation their request was not received.

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