• Type: Whitepaper
  • Topics: Lighting; Live Events; Video; Audio;
  • Date: February 2015

By Dan Daley, Special to AVIXA

Nothing lasts forever, but the notion of the pop-up event has taken transience to a new level. Event locations, touting themselves as “venues” for abruptly-appearing, short-lived events, offer a growing number of possibilities. Pop Up Space NY, a side business started by a Manhattan real estate brokerage, lists over two dozen types of pop-up events it can find short-term locations for, including product launches, consumer research, art galleries, training sessions, and even gyms and yoga sessions. And the locations aren’t always (if ever) a nice ballroom, theater or other fixed location. Think streets, lots and vacant buildings.

That kind of impermanence has implications for audio, video and lighting (AVL) systems. Installed systems are designed to be just that — installed. They have specific requirements for such things as rigging points, and they typically require some degree of fine-tuning to maximize performance in a room. Touring systems share some characteristics with their installed brethren, but they, too, have their own inherent traits, such as light weight and flexible rigging configurations.

The pop-up event space often conflates requirements and technology traits. To support a pop-up event, AVL systems have to be quickly configurable (and strike-able), but also perform as reliably and predictably as an installed system. Fortunately, the trend toward quick-in-quick-out events has grown enough that event-production companies and AV vendors are able to foretell the challenges and pitfalls of the pop-up event. Here are few best practices that can make this challenging piece of AV business a bit easier to approach.

Don’t Space Out

Clients generally don’t understand that for every speaker or video screen they see at their event, there are four or five other large devices that need to function properly behind the scenes — but usually in the same general space as the pop-up event. These include amplifier racks, sound system processors and media players.

“Clients are paying for the space they want to use, not the space that AV integrators need,” says Josh Weisberg, president of WorldStage, a New York City-based live-event staging company that’s done pop-up work for the Super Bowl host committee and the launch of the Nokia Lumia phone in Times Square.

Weisberg says integrators need to plan for the space crunch by paring down their back-of-house complements as much as feasible. “If you’re doing camera switching, bring a smaller monitor and consider using automated switching,” he suggests. “It results in limited functionality, but it would take up far less space.”

Some of the equipment may have to be set up outdoors, so come with tents to protect your gear from the elements, plus bright yellow or orange oversteps for any cabling that crosses pedestrian lanes.

Avoid the Shakes

Pop-up events are tenuous by nature. But considering much of their infrastructure is also temporary, such as truss for lighting and speakers, things can get a bit shaky.

Mike Garrido, senior product manager at projector maker Christie, points out that projectors need to be on platforms or hangars that are as solid as possible under the circumstances. Keep in mind that depending on the hip location of your pop-up event, vibrations, such as from mass transit or freeway traffic, will be magnified on the screen. Similarly, projectors and sound systems — especially sound systems with subwoofers or an electrical generator — need to be mounted on separate platforms.

Invest in New Tools

Pop-ups can benefit greatly from the newest tools in an AV pro’s box. Neal Wallace, owner of Minneapolis-area Event Pro, says compact line arrays, such as the db Technologies DVA system that he fields, plus low-power LED lighting and wireless control, add functionality while reducing the amount of space the systems take up and the number of people needed to run them.

“It makes sense that you’d want to use equipment you already have, but if you’re doing a lot of one-off projects, like pop-ups, it also makes sense to invest in systems like LEDs and compact line arrays that are smaller and lighter but still give you the power and functionality you need,” Wallace explains.

An ideal package, he says, combines the compact line array, whose modules weigh about 30 pounds each, with their desktop Yamaha CL mixer, R Series I/O rack and a single-strand CAT-5 cable for a Dante-enabled audio network, topped off with LED lighting suspended from unobtrusive Applied Electronics lifts.

“And the sound and lights are run from respective apps on a WiFi-enabled iPad, so I can see how everything looks and sounds from any part of the room,” he adds, noting that remote operation not only lets him check AVL performance in all parts of the venue, but also allows the show’s operator to get out of the way in tight quarters while still maintaining close control of the systems. “For a short-duration installation, there are so many tools now that can make them much easier and more effective to do.”

Project on This

DWPProjection mapping, which came to the fore transforming entire buildings into huge abstractions, has been scaling itself to the smaller, more hectic environs of the pop-up event. Danny Whetstone, president of DWP Live in the Nashville area, says new media servers such as Coolux Media Systems’ Pandoras Box are driving such “downscaling”  by providing content and control from a single unit.

Furthermore, such system also offer pixel-mapping, permitting content to be delivered seamlessly across both projected surfaces and LCD displays. This adds a degree of immersiveness to even smaller environments, such as the multicity launch DWP did for a new Saucony shoe, which called for projection mapping colorful graphics on and around the new shoes (pictured).

“These servers can also be controlled remotely, so we can run the show from our offices in Nashville if we have to,” Whetstone says. “It’s another way we can be as unobtrusive as possible, to let the event be about what it’s about and not about the technology.”

Coordinate

A pop-up event poses some very fundamental questions for AVL technology, such as, “Where do I plug in my stuff?”

Remember that some of the more elaborate pop-ups, such as events for high-end fashion designers, tend to emphasize aesthetics over practicality. Depending on location, pop-up events that call for big sound systems and lots of LED lighting may overwhelm a site’s electrical capacity.

As with any AVL project, bring in AV integrators sooner rather than later because they will recognize the need for licensed electricians. To say nothing of the need to pull permits, plan for fire lanes and rights-of-way for cabling. Sure, the AV magic may last for only hours before it disappears without a trace, but the need for close coordination at pop-up events is the same as for any AV project.