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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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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 consider.audio 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.

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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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Understanding Projection Lumens


If somebody came to you and said they had a hundred thousand dollars to spend on an event and then asked if that was enough you would likely respond by saying,

“Well, it depends on what you want to do!”

In some scenarios that would be more than enough and in others it would be grossly inadequate. The same holds true for projection lumens in an audio visual setting. If you see a 5000 lumen projector on a bid, is it enough? The answer is, “Well, it depends on what you want to do!”

Strictly defined a lumen is the amount of light that falls on an area of one square foot from one candle that is one foot away. When it comes to projection, however, “lumens” is a measure of how much lighting a projector puts out.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. A projector’s ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Lumens rating is much like the performance rating of an automobile. The measurement is made on a brand new machine under ideal conditions. The actual amount of lighting generated will vary depending on lamp life, projector age, and cleanliness of the optics. Most AV companies take pretty good care of their projectors, but not all. (More on that later.)

The first thing to consider is how big the screen setup is. So get out your calculators, it’s time to do some math…

Let’s say you have a screen that is 10 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall. That’s a total surface area of 75 square feet. So, if you have a screen that is twice as wide you would need a projector that’s twice as bright, right? Wrong! That would be a screen that is 20 feet wide and 15 feet tall with a surface area of 300 square feet, 4 times larger than the smaller screen. If you used the same projector on both size screens one would be four times brighter (or dimmer) than the other.

You may then ask how many lumens are needed for certain size screens. That brings up what is perhaps the most important factor in projection, and that is the ambient lighting environment.

Back in the old days of CRT projection (the big 3-gun projectors as they were called) you might get 200 – 250 lumens of light output. There was no choice but to have the area around the screens completely dark, and even then we had to double and sometimes triple stack projectors to get a respectable image.

Now, projectors can get up to 20,000 lumens and beyond making it much easier (albeit more expensive) to project in areas with a lot of ambient light.

So, in short, the more ambient lighting there will be around screens the brighter the projector setup needs to be.

Let’s look at some examples..

In Figure 1 we see a picture as it would look on a screen in a totally dark room. We can see white clouds in the sky and dark shadows from the trees.

In Figure 2 we see the same image in the same dark room only the image is half as bright. It still looks pretty good, it just doesn’t “pop” like the brighter image.

Then in Figure 3 we see what the image would look like in a room with a lot of ambient light. Even though the image is as bright as Figure 1, the dark areas of the screen are washed out and the image doesn’t look very appealing. That’s because the difference between white and black, or contrast, is not very good. Ambient light can also makes colors seem faded and grey. To make the contrast better when there is a lot of ambient light, the projector has to be brighter.

Figure 1:
audio visual

 

 

 

 

Figure 2:
audio visual

 

 

 

 

Figure 3:
figure3

 

 

 

 

So, what does this all mean for you and your production?

First, know what it is that is going to be displayed on the screens. Images with lots of white (such as spread sheets or diagrams) show up better than images with a lot of dark areas (such as videos or PowerPoint with dark backgrounds). Remember, ambient light washes out the dark areas of an image.

Next, plan on 35-40 lumens per square foot of screen area for a reasonable image in areas that don’t have a lot of ambient light. That’s about 10,000 – 12,000 lumens for a 15’ x 20’ screen, 2,500 – 3,000 lumens for a 7.5’ x 10’, and so on. This is just a guideline, of course. Projectors should be brighter for areas with more ambient light, or for situations where image quality is a must.

Also, controlling ambient light is important. Ambient light can come from room lights, windows, and stage lighting, to name a few. Proper placement and rigging are absolutely essential to clarity.

Finally, when using projection as a part of your audio visual production use a reputable company with good references. Just because somebody gives you a cheap bid on a projector with ”x” number of lumens doesn’t mean you’ll get a good image.

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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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