Below is the complete article on Corporate A/V Touring as published in the Dec 07 - Jan 08 issue of Define Magazine, the official trade publication for MPI Ohio!

Corporate Audio/Visual Touring
Written By: Robert Chambers
Vice-President Platinum Video Systems with
Steven Steele, President Platinum Video Systems

As a full-service provider of audio/visual, lighting and staging since 1980, we have seen a number of changes in our industry over the years. How we learn from these changes and adapt to them plays an integral role in how our business operates. A large part of our business now involves corporate tours. Going from venue to venue several times a month, across the United States and Canada is a challenging task. The events that we are involved in are usually large, between 800 and 5000 people, and must be consistent for our client, as each location is unique. Through some trial and error and a lot of research and hard work, we have made the process very streamlined and efficient.

Many factors go into a touring show. Planning, logistics, transportation, event coordination and budget are just a few of the considerations. Specifically, the largest show we do for one of our clients is held once a year. It is in an exhibit hall setting and is a multi-day event for 5000 guests in Providence, RI. In the past we had used a trucking company to bring in the sound, video and lighting. This was increasingly cost prohibitive so our solution was to purchase a custom truck. It is large enough to accommodate the shows, but is also much easier to maneuver into loading docks, especially at downtown hotel properties. It also results in about a 40% reduction in fuel and travel expenses, so we call it the green machine! Our show producer, lighting director and the rest of our technical staff fly into the event to coordinate set-up and operation of the show. In most cases, the local stagehands union will assist us in the set-up and strike. Our client's staff also is on-site to assist in the operation of the event. Staff is also on hand for things like registration, V.I.P. considerations and speaker support. Like many large companies, their event department relies heavily on the expertise of their chosen vendors to make their event a success.

Each year, we take a fresh look at the project and make modifications. In 2005, a circle truss was used on stage for video and lighting projection. Last year, three screens across the back of the stage were used to create a huge video/data wall and an arena feel to the show. Platinum used a catalyst system which could call up thousands of different moving backgrounds. This year, modular staging will be used. Being a neutral gray color, the set is ideal for lighting accents and company logos to be projected. A center screen will be used to draw attention to the stage and the speaker and four other supplemental screens placed throughout the room will give all the guests an unobstructed view of the information that the speaker presents in PowerPoint format. We also provide all of the pipe and draping for the event. Our custom drape is thick, fireproof black velour, from 10 to 22 feet high and provides a very professional looking backdrop.

The overall look of the show is very important, but so is the actual equipment. After all, the set may be beautiful, but if your sound system fails, you've got a big problem on your hands. In working with this client over the years, we have custom designed the show as their needs have changed. We had the JBL custom shop in California design our flown speaker system. These speakers are small but very powerful and virtually disappear into the truss. For projection, we use Christie Digital projectors. Not only are they very bright and crisp, but they have dual lamps, a nice built-in backup feature. If one lamp fails the projector will keep working. They also are capable of being fitted with different lenses to accommodate virtually any projection distance. Our client's speakers also give us input on the show, particularly on the sound quality they would like to achieve. We give them the opportunity to choose what type of wireless mic they feel most comfortable with, either a lavalier, handheld or a Countryman headset. We prefer the headset mic for better sound quality and less chance of feedback when there are multiple mics open on stage.

Every client has particular needs and budgets that they work within. One of our jobs is to offer suggestions to improve the overall show in a cost effective manner. But for many, budget is not the only concern. The personal attention to detail and familiarity with their event is also important. That is why our business model is a project only company. That is, we do not have staff and/or resources at hotel properties for instance. This allows us to give the client the level of personal attention that they deserve. It also results in lower overhead for us, which ultimately translates into lower pricing for them. The client recognizes that our staff is committed to their event exclusively. When touring, we find it is a necessity that our hotel accommodations are on-site, and the client does also. We are on call for them should any last minute changes occur. If there is a technical problem, we can get there quickly, diagnose the problem and fix it before the show. Working with the same familiar staff gives the client a high level of comfort and allows them to focus on other things outside of A/V if they need to (which happens quite often).

Good planning, great equipment and logistics go a long way in making any show go smoothly, but there will always be a time when some little issue crops up. How we respond to it says a great deal about the professionalism of our company. Site surveys are always a great idea, but sometimes not always feasible for us or the client for a number of reasons. It is easier these days, with floor plans and such on the Internet, but you never quite know what the venue is like until you actually get there. Sometimes we can be pleasantly surprised, but most likely it's something like this..."Hmmm, those chandeliers weren't on the floor's a good thing there are different size screens on the truck"!

*Steve Steele is President of Platinum Video Systems which has been providing unique A/V services since 1980. Robert Chambers has been the Executive Vice President of Production for Platinum Video Systems since 1990.

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