May 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2000 Current Issue
May 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




Read venue guidelines carefully; they can affect your equipment choices

Each venue has its idiosyncrasies, which often include rules on what planners can and cannot arrange for a function, especially regarding high-tech productions. These facility-use guidelines obtuse documents at best can impact a technical budget in ways that are not always obvious.

Many of the rules are based on safety concerns and are often the result of accidents or injuries. Some are based on the facility staff’s interpretation of government regulations. Ignorance of the guidelines can result in costly last-minute changes.

Rigging restrictions are complex. Many facilities prohibit rigging equipment not made in their country. This is based, in part, on the concern that if a foreign part fails, bringing legal action is difficult.

Rigging rules also determine who is allowed to attach equipment to ceilings. The rigging company will want a detailed floor plan of your event to match to accurate drawings of the rooms and details about weight limitations. For best results, get the computerized room drawings from the rigging company and then plan your event. These files come in several formats, but the best are in a drafting program format like AutoCAD and not in a graphics format like Photoshop. Drawings that come in sales kits rarely are detailed enough, and those small enough to be faxed are little better. Facility drawings done by hand are immediately suspect.


Fog and haze rules vary based both on the type of fire control equipment in a room and the quality of the carpet on the floor. There are several different types of theatrical haze. No one type is accepted in all areas. One way to control the expense of the fire watch frequently required when haze is in use is to have the cost applied to the lighting vendor’s fixed bid bill and not to the master account.

Lasers are subject to both federal and local regulations. Laser companies tend to be good about the federal regulations but might not know who to call about local ordinances. If lasers are part of the plan, large volume water sources, drains and ample power will be necessary in addition to special permits. Vehicles, forklifts and scissor lifts all present their own challenges. Availability, permissible types, certification of drivers and even restraint harnesses are all issues. Failure to abide by the guidelines can stop work in critical areas.

Labor rules are a special category. Some labor contracts extract penalties for schedules that include nights or weekends. In view of this, getting a room early, on a Sunday, could increase your labor budget instead of decreasing it.

Several unions may be involved in bringing a single piece of equipment from the truck into the venue.

Sometimes it is advantageous to feed the technical crew instead of having them break and go away for meals. However, some unions consider a cold buffet inadequate and may charge a meal penalty in spite of having been fed. Long rehearsals without breaks significantly increase labor costs due to meal penalties. The more technically challenging the event, the more likely union issues will be a concern, but do not assume a small event will have no issues. Ask questions and get the unions’ rule books.

Organize the detailed technical information needed to ensure a successful event into a single package that can be readily copied and distributed to all your vendors. Knowing what information you have provided them can be a great help when event-related challenges arise. You will be able to demonstrate that the errant vendor had the information. Questions asked early prevent costly changes later.

Bob Cherny is operations manager for Paradise Sound and Light, a production company in Orlando.

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