Let’s hop into the Way Back Machine for a moment. Thirty years ago the technology used to produce live events was drastically different. The show environment was a mechanical world. Do you remember video tape and slide projectors? We were dropping physical slides into machines for screen projection, and “feathering” images prior the advent of blending. Many outside factors needed to be considered in order to be successful, such as room temperature. Slides needed to be warmed in a hot box to avoid condensation, and dealing with typos or content changes was a laborious undertaking. As we look at today’s digital world and the immense technological leap, so much has changed in terms of how we deliver live events, but the basics and our purpose remain the same.
The digital era has generated so many beneficial tools that have allowed producers and technology providers to accomplish truly unique and creative events in timeframes that were unthinkable in the past. Digital media allows providers to deliver content across the world almost instantly. Tools and techniques such as image warping, projection mapping, holographic displays, 3D, 4KUHD, surround sound, LED, and media servers are changing the nature of the live event industry for attendees, creating experiences that ignite all the senses. New exciting technology is coming on the market faster than ever before, and producers and planners have a range of choices for designs that can be almost overwhelming at times.
One of the concerns in this new digital age with such a range of choices, instant access, and automation is having technology take over too much of how we deliver shows. A comparison can be made to putting a plane on autopilot. Whether you use autopilot or not, you still need to learn and understand the basics of flying. With live events, you can have amazing shows with all the bells and whistle available today, and you can have great shows without the extras, using just the basics done right. Great technology does not equal a great show, and will not necessarily achieve the goals or produce a successful event on its own.
The goal of most events is a very basic concept: to successfully deliver a message to an audience. Technology should supplement that concept by acting as a method of delivery to enhance that message. With the range of options in our toolbox today to produce an event, the messaging can easily get lost or take a backseat to the technology. Using the latest advanced technology to hit the market is a great way to amaze an audience and produce a buzz about a product or message. But the goal is to have the audience absorb the message, not just see the technology.
I want to be clear that I love technology, and I love using cool technology on shows. It’s my passion. But as an event technology provider, we have a responsibility to be a part of the solution and assist event production teams in using technology to enhance the message, not hide it or act as a distraction. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of delivering new technology and immediately want to incorporate these tools into an event, without considering whether it makes sense or the potential risks.
Production teams should be able to rely on the event technology providers for assistance in making smart decisions regarding equipment specifications and media preparation in order to maximize production value using the latest tools. Here are a few items to consider and questions to ask when in the planning stages:
What is the goal? When considering incorporating the most recent technology to hit the market, consider the objectives of the event. Is the technology adding production value to the event, or is it being applied simply for the sake of using the latest and greatest tools. There are many options in this new digital age for conveying an event message or concept, whether it’s live social media feeds, webcasting, interactive digital signage, IPTV, 4K, HD, or a range of other solutions. The technology provider should be able to assist with recommending a technical solution that will assist in achieving the goals.
Will this be a distraction? Technology should augment the message, not distract from it. For example, extremely bright and high resolution LED could be a distraction if it’s only acting as eye candy. The equipment provider should work with you to discuss the appropriate applications for the latest technology tools.
What are the risks? When using any technology, whether new to the market or mainstream, any potential risks associated with its usage should be a point of major discussion. The event technology provider should communicate these risks clearly.
Consider the content. The media is a key factor in determining the appropriate technical solution, and needs to be produced to work with the specific technology. Discuss with the planned content and media with your event technology provider, and be sure to have guidelines on media production.
Ask for a demonstration. Seeing is believing. Particularly for large and highly technical events, a technology demonstration is a great way to gauge whether the messaging will come across in the intended usage. If feasible, an event technology provider should be able to provide a demonstration in advance of the event. Asking for photos and videos of the possible technology solutions can also assist with making smart choices.
In this new digital era, the live event industry is constantly evolving, and technology will continue to change at a rapid pace. The constant within this changing industry is the goal of communicating to an audience, and successfully executing on that mission is the highest priority. An experienced event technology provider can assist with deploying the best technology for the intended purpose to enhance the message and concept. Today’s technological advancements can be incorporated into events to engage audiences in ways that were not possible in the past. Event producers are using these tools to showcase messaging and content in truly creative and innovative ways. It’s an exciting time to be in the live event business, working with so many incredible technologies.
Les Goldberg is CEO of LMG, one of the world’s top AV staging companies.