Technical event production is a big job that requires a high-level of expertise. The best thing that you can do for yourself, your client, and your program is to hire a seasoned Technical Director to help you design and execute the technical plan. However, it is good to understand the technical needs of your program so that you can work alongside your TD to produce a flawless show. Here’s a few basic tips to tackling tech:
• CAD – The first step of technical production is obtaining an accurate, scaled drawing of your venue so that you can create a layout. CAD files commonly have .dwg or .dfx file extensions and you (or your TD) will need an AutoCAD program to open these files. The info contained in the CAD file will have all measurements of the room and should also include a rig plot, indicating any hang points in the ceiling. It is common for venues to submit PDF files in response to a CAD request so it is helpful to specify the file extension with your request.
• Technical Design – After you have gained an understanding of the space that you are working with and the hang point locations/loads, your TD can help to lay out the space, indicating placement of the stage, scenic, drape lines, screens, projectors, cameras, lights, speakers, FOH, backstage positions, truss grid, and cable runs. The technical design of the show should be carefully planned and the program flow should also be considered so that you have ample equipment and the correct boards and switchers to meet your needs. If you are planning on a headliner, remember that they generally have very specific equipment requests and backline needs. The more accurate that you can be with your design, the easier it will be to create a realistic budget, so include your TD early in the conversation!
• Content Management – Managing all of the content that will be utilized in show is best done by one individual to avoid confusion. Don’t underestimate the importance of this position; managing file versions, aspect ratios, file sizes, resolution, and file names is a big job when you have a show that is content-heavy. Two tips on content management:
o It is helpful to name your files consistent with their reference in show. Ie… A file named “marketing video” is confusing to playback when it is referred to as “Bob’s video” in the show flow.
o Avoid using the word “final” in your file names. You may find that you end up revising that file after you think it’s final. Version numbers in file names eliminate this confusion.
• Communication – The key to any successful program is communication and so it is imperative that the details of your program are distributed and discussed prior to your event. A few key documents to include with your emails are the following:
o Production schedule – Every detail of the program from load-in through strike, timed to the minute. All pertinent information should be discussed with technical leads prior to finalizing and remember to include things like call time, crew breaks, onsite meetings, rehearsals, etc..
o Show flow – The live portion of your event, timed to the second and including every detail and cue for staging, lighting, audio, video, and talent.
o Layout – The map to your event – it should include all tables, chairs, stages, camera positions, FOH position, anything on the floor and anything that is rigged. Don’t be afraid to include dimensions on those layouts for things like stages, walkways, egress, etc..– details benefit everybody involved!
o Stage Render – Artistic drawing of the stage scenic, indicating placement of all décor, screens, furniture, and podiums.
• Paper Tech – The “who/what/when/where/how” meeting onsite. Paper tech is dedicated time onsite with all team members involved with show. This meeting is led by your Show Director and the time is used walking through every cue of the show to discuss transitions, lighting, audio needs videos, camera shots, scenic movement, and backstage management. Scheduling ample time for your paper tech will save you time in rehearsals and will help your crew deliver a flawless show. The paper tech should be followed by a technical cue-to-cue, which is when the entire production team, including sound and lighting rehearse each technical cue, in order to fine tune the production prior to receiving clients for onsite rehearsals. Keeping everybody on the same page will help you deliver a tight show … Now, go break a leg!
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