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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!