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December 02, 2012

Welcome to the Future:

Tech Trends in Live Event Staging

There's a quiet revolution taking place behind the scenes of live productions these days. And while planners may not understand all the technical details and jargon, they are bound to feel the benefits of the industry's shift to smarter, more accessible technology--tools and techniques that used to be out of reach for most event planners.

"There is better technology available in more places at lower cost," says Donald Guzauckas, president of the Rental and Staging Network (RSN), a consortium of 22 geographically-diverse live event and staging companies, and general manager of Connecticut-based HB Group.

The RSN recently released its pick for the top five live event staging trends for 2013 and beyond--changes that are sure to quietly make an impression on planners and their audiences.

More sophisticated software.
Nonlinear, 2D, 3D, real-time editing, playback and control software is becoming more available. "These tools allow for smoother show-flow, a more professional experience and the possibility of cost savings," Guzauckas says.
One type of playback software allows technicians to more accurately manage digital media playback during an event. The cost savings become apparent in the number of hours used in managing the media, Guzauckas explains. Other software allows 2D and 3D projection or video to be played across multiple devices, making the initial investment smaller.

The migration to digital signal flow.
"By changing signals to all digital, we can run them further with less interference or signal degradation," Guzaickas says. He adds that some of these systems allow the staging company to combine multiple signals into one wire, thereby reducing the amount of time required to put into the show. Other benefits include easier signal routing, better picture quality and more robust image scaling.

More 4k-resolution video being introduced and developed.
RSN members see 4K resolution video becoming a required premium product within the next 18 months and a standard offering within three years.

Cross-over to new product lines.
Vendors you previously associated with one type of product or service may be branching out into new territories. "More companies are going to become A/V staging generalists and offer a wider array of services," says Guzaickas. "In some cases this will result in cost savings or better service. In other cases, providers may be getting into some areas where they have little experience."

Increased mainstream usage.
Digital mapping, for example, is not necessarily new, but RSN members see it becoming more a part of "main street meetings" than ever before. Digital lighting is also becoming more diverse and affordable with new products being released on the market every day.
The bottom line: Planners can finally feel free to embrace new technologies without breaking the bank. And it will just get better.

Move Over Letterman:

Talk-Show Sets Inspire Awards Show
How do you create an intimate setting for a large audience without blowing your budget through the ceiling? Toronto-based Mediaco faced that challenge when concepting the staging for the Gemini Awards, which recognizes excellence in Canadian English language television.
"We wanted to echo the look and feel of in-studio talk shows and panel discussions, to make the audience feel like it was an in-studio experience," says Simon Hancock, national director of marketing for Mediaco. Multiple 50-inch video screens were suspended on raw aluminum pipes against a glass bead and pewter fabric backdrop, making the monitors appear to float over the stage. The overall effect was the glitter and glamour of an awards show, which was reinforced by the actual Gemini awards displayed on clear plexus glass shelves below the monitors.
"A traditional single large screen image can be very flat and without depth," says Hancock. "This staging created layers of visual interest and provided a background that highlighted the speakers by allowing them to stand out without being overly distracting."
The floating monitors were used for visual interest, while four larger video screens provided speaker support. "This was also a cost-effective solution," says Hancock. "A giant video wall could cost in the range of $10-15,000 plus labor depending on the exact technology used. With efficient use of materials and the "design-to-reality" approach, this look was a fraction of this cost."

U.N. Assembly Hall Transformed:

Into Stage with Rose Brand's Help
The United Nations General Assembly Hall was intended to be a place of discussion and debate among world leaders, not a theater for world-class entertainers like Beyoncé;. However, in August, this august chamber was the site of a concert celebrating World Humanitarian Day.
At the request of the SuperUber Design Company, Rose Brand created the projection screen for the event, the largest compound curved indoor screen ever constructed.
The 1,000-lb., 46-foot-high by 224-feet-wide screen was pieced together in Rose Brand's New Jersey warehouse by a team who worked around the clock for two days due to the tight deadline. Once hung, the screen molded to the unique architecture of the hall.
According to Rose Brand, the choice of screen fabric was particularly important because the room was not designed for theatrical lighting projections. The client selected white on white blackout lining after testing a number of fabrics. Its opaque characteristics ensured that light would not transmit behind the screen, creating a flawless projection surface.
Installing the screen was another challenge for the Rose Brand team and local stagehands. Because the hall has no rigging points, permanent steel plates had to be welded into the existing structure to support the weight of the 6,000-lb. supergrid system. Once installed, the screen was comprised of 10 synchronized and mapped projections that created one giant image, surrounding the audience with a 240-degree immersive projection.

Case Study:

The Great Divide
Event: A new product kick-off at a national sales meeting for 275 attendees.
Staging Company: Showcore, an event production and services company based in Eagan, MN

Design Challenges:
> Turn one general session room with full staging, A/V, lighting and rear projection elements into two environments with the same capabilities.
> All room design changes and technical equipment change-outs had to be completed in 15 minutes.
> All design elements had to conform to the low ceiling height of the space.
> Compressed timeline of three weeks to design and execute total event production.

> A 16:9 screen configuration maximized the height of the stage so audience sightlines were unobstructed.
> Custom-built rigging addressed limited lighting capabilities.
> Rear projection designed into all event spaces.
> Custom-built aluminum stage elements to provide visual texture.
> The ability to deploy air walls within minutes.
> Two separate technical stations.

"The customer was ecstatic that they saved money by not having to rent separate event space and the associated costs of A/V support. The customer also noted that presenters were happy because they had full presentation staging for their breakouts including access to interactive elements.
Best of all, the client rebooked
with Showcore for their
next corporate sales event."
-- Josh Wirtz, operations manager, Showcore

Big Ideas:

On a Budget
We've all been there--a client suddenly needs an eye-popping stage for a meeting, but you have to squint to see the budget. Stefanie Lerner and her team at Arizona-based Encore Creative kick into action when they get calls like this.
Encore has a full-fabrication facility in-house, including CAD capabilities, graphic design, carpentry, welding, painting, textiles and a print shop. "Having all these departments under one roof allows us to deliver custom, creative solutions on time and on budget," Lerner says.
Their first task is to understand the client's theme, vision or concept, then translate it into budget-friendly reality by modifying and combining existing inventory with custom fabrication.
The Encore team begins the design process by defining a focal point for the stage, centered behind the speakers. "It needs to be bold, but not busy," Lerner says.
"The scale needs to be impactful,
but not overpowering or
Next, they dress out the rest of the stage from the audience's perspective, using drape or other
backdrops to complete the look.
"We can design to any budget," Lerner says. And happy clients keep returning for more.

Event Solutions magazine
Winter 2012 Issue
by Ann Turner, Editor

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