Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 New York Comic Con - Start to Finish

2013 New York Comic Con - Behind-The-Scenes Video

NYCC Video of Oct. 8-11 2013:

2013 New York Comic Con - Start to Finish
Booth before set up

Booth Up-And-Running
I met Tramp Daly through a childhood friend Quanzilla (A.Waymaker, Saddler Ward) Tilman. Tramp and Quan are both expert artist with strong hip hop influences. It is the summer of 2013 and Tramp has a dream and a partial vision for exposing Sureshot, his company, at a booth inside 2013 NY Comic Con. Sureshot is a hip hop inspired company producing art pieces, graphic novels and television cartoons; all hip hop influenced. Based on my audio visual experience and owning A. V. Rental Services, Inc., my Philadelphia based audio visual equipment rental company, Tramp enlisted me for scheduling, booking, planning, assistance in booth design, AV, Stage and Lighting equipment rental and equipment set up & breakdown.
Quanzilla w/ Inspector Gadget

From the start it was made clear, the scope of my work was everything non creative. This was to be the case right up until day 1 of set up. Up front it was a good feeling to be solely responsible of the entire logistical planning of the 2013 New York Comic Con booth. When it comes to Comic Con planning and booth rental experience however, I had none. My first order of business was contacting the Comic Con Organization and becoming acclimated with doing business as well as working within the Jacob Javits Center. 
The event budget was never revealed to me. I thought it would be necessary, at the least helpful to have this information. In retrospect, it would only have been important if the budget was unrealistic, which it obviously was not because there was little quibbling over pricing. A welcomed change in my line of work. Bear in mind the invoice was HEAVILY discounted based on my personal vested interest and friendships involved. In addition, I planned to throw in extra equipment and my personal on-site tech services, at no extra charge.

Tramp, DMC & Bruce Johnson
The New York Comic Con, if not all of the Comic Cons, is ran by the ReedPop Supply Company. In reference to my email correspondence with ReedPop, email responses from ReedPop staff was horribly slow and obtaining Comic Con booth, floor maps proved to be challenging. Tramp and The Sureshot Company pockets were deep enough to secure an ample sized corner, peninsula booth; which was unexpected and indeed impressive. Unexpected because Sureshot's primary focus was showing and bringing awareness to the hip hop inspired artwork and television shows, which alternatively positioned selling Sureshot merchandise as the secondary focus.

Creating a scratch design drawing of our awesome booth was the next item on the menu. This included determining how and where we would highlight Tramps artwork, which equipment we would use to draw attention to our booth, and which back line equipment we would use for the rotating disc jockeys. In detail this included L.E.D. lighting, pipe and drape, lighting truss, two 60 inch television, sound system, turntables, microphones and a stage. I mocked up a CAD drawing for visualizing our booth and to help with any wanted changes of adding or taking away equipment.

Our numerous design meetings resulted in decisions on artwork placement and adding couches, carpet, tables, bookshelves and merchandise cabinets to our booth vision. This highlighted my next duty which was securing a furniture rental company. The merchandise cabinet was a must but furniture rental would take us over budget due to the added union labor charge we would incur after the furniture reached the Javits loading dock.
The carpet was later cut for the same reason, in addition to even higher charges to have the carpet installed within the booth. In the end we brought our own inflatable couch, area rug and custom Sureshot logo, vinyl floor covering.
With a soft booth design complete it was time to attack union scheduling. This meant determining which unions we required (Shipping and Receiving, Carpenters, Electricians, etc.) and estimating the hours needed for the union to build our booth. We teetered with the idea of having an analog telephone (for credit card transactions) and/or hard wired internet at the booth. Both were subsequently nixed based on budget. 
The first union to tap our wallets would be the labor department. Their overpaid duties would be unloading our van. I was mentally preparing my verbal delivery, to Tramp, of inflated quotes for union labor we were sure to receive. Little did I know Tramp obviously heard similar rumors and was expecting high numbers from the unions. However, in addition to rumors, Tramp also heard stories of being able to sneak/load equipment in the front door, bypassing the union shipping and receiving charges. This is where Tramp and I had our first disagreement. Minor in retrospect, but a disagreement all the same. Tramp wanted to sneak all of our equipment in the front door. Lighting truss, 60 inch television cases and all. My concern was angering the union and ruining a relationship with the Javits center I was developing since starting the booth planning. When I possibly return to the Javits center for future rental jobs, I want to return to smiles and a pleasant atmosphere. Moreover, my company had to increase our insurance to satisfy the Javits center's insurance requirements. This added insurance cost has to stay on our policy for 1 year. I would like to have more than 1 invoice carrying this insurance increase. Finally we decided to play it by ear, using the union for big equipment cases and loading in smaller items through the front door. I must say Tramp was correct, we probably could have loaded everything in through the front door. I say this is the case because at the end of Comic Con we loaded everything 'out' through the front door. Having so said, we pissed the union off in doing so.

At this point in my life I had only heard rumors from non-union companies, of the nightmare of dealing with the unions in New York. The preconceived notion of future headaches were looming in the back of my mind. During the planning, my casual thoughts were full of vsions of union reps yelling at my guys for connecting a microphone or my workers being reprimanded for carrying a box. 
As October neared, my anxiety increased, which is normal for me with jobs of this size and larger. The same holds true for all jobs in which I have a personal vested interest, large or small. The equipment we would deliver from our Philadelphia location was finally written in stone. The equipment list/invoice ended up including some unorthodox items such as bookshelves (to be assembled on site) tables and custom artwork support clamps, designed by me. Most new items were never added to the invoice; they were thrown in at no extra charge.

Javit's Center Receiving
Alright so all the planning is in order and the time is HERE. It is 8am of October 8, 2013 and time to drive to New York and initiate booth assembly. There is no time for procrastinating and no time for altering the ultimate plan; only time to implement everything we strategize for the past 3 months. Thomas TJ Curry, one of my guys drives our van up the turnpike, northward; Philly to Manhattan. I follow close behind, anxious and eager to complete load in…anxious and eager to meet these union guys. I sent one guy from my staff based on the understanding everyone would be joining in for set up and breakdown. Teamwork makes the dreamwork! We are Family…like Sister Sledge said, right. Well folks, have no fear, it was that way. Thank goodness because my guys work for a living and TJ has no investment in what I have been doing for the past 3-4 months and nor do I require this of him. Anyway, we arrive at the Jacob Javits Center and I schedule a time with Freeman Labor to unload the van in the loading dock off 12th Ave. In the meantime Tramp and Quan are doing everything they can to start unloading through the front door on 11th Ave. We grind and hustle and manage to unload all of our equipment through the front door, except for the truss and large screen TV's. Freeman called once to let us know we were to approach the dock and unload. I told them my guys had a flat tire and would enter the dock when the van was operational; that is if we did not just change our minds and go home…a total lie. The second time they called we only had the truss, stage and TV's left in the van and we agreed to throw the union a bone and let them unload the remainder. Honestly, I feel we could have unloaded every damn thing through the front door but the dock appointment was scheduled with Freeman loading and I have a thing about honor. 
All of our equipment, at this time is in the building and we are prepared to commence setting up the booth. We are approached by the union numerous times during the set up process to be reminded of our  limitations in performing our own labor. I must say, while we were able to slip by the union bringing in equipment, performing manual labor of any seriousness (operating power tools, hanging TV's, climbing up and down trussing , etc.) was not going to happen. Often my anxiety is my driving force; wanting to be in the end zone pushes me to work fast most of the time. With that being said, the majority of our audio visual equipment was set up by the end of day, October 8th. Much to my surprise, we were even able to stand up the truss goal post. The remainder of the equipment; TV's hanging on truss, speakers hanging on truss an large banner sitting on top of the truss, we were being forced to hire the union to set up and hang; so my hands were tied. I clocked out around 8pm.

The next morning I arrived to the TV's and speakers hung in their perfect position. The only thing left was hanging the humongous 'Badlands Movie' banner on top of the trussing. Guess why the banner was not set up…because the TV's and speakers were hung by the electricians and the banner had to be set up by Carpenters. Yes the vinyl banner, aluminum pipe and velour drape had to be set up by the masters of woodworking.
Now it all makes sense doesn't it?
I had to schedule an appointment with the Carpenters union to have this done. It was a speedy process thank goodness and they had the banner set up less than 3 hours later. I spent the entire day at the booth, setting up alone and hit 95 South about 5pm when all AV equipment was set and I could not find anything else I could do on my own. It was a load off my back having all of the AV equipment set up.
Day 1: October 10, 2013, of 2013 New York Comic Con is here and we are ready. With all of my AV duties completed and Comic Con doors opening at 3pm, I expected to slide in to town at my leisure...Oh I don't know, 1, 2, 3 O'Clock. Not a chance, my phone was ringing at 10am! No problem, fuck breakfast…my favorite meal of the day. New York here I come. I sure wish Tramp and I established a schedule during those August meetings. Then we would have known ahead of time, who would man the Comic Con booth each day and for how long. Take a note for next year.
With our second argument recorded in the history books, Day 1 started slightly rocky but it was surely sweet…not smooth, sweet sailing from there on. I say not smooth because this was our 1st Comic Con booth and hiccups and speed bumps were to be expected. One of the Day 1 speed bumps were a shortage of Comic Con badges for our guest DJ's to enter. Comic Con uses an efficient tracking system and is very strict about only allowing 1 person per badge. While I unsuccessfully tried to finesse and flirt with the ladies at the entrance to get our DJ's in; all hail the king Oose who bum rushed his way through the gates each day. Each day we had different DJ's and special guest appearing at our booth. On October 10th, Con Day One, Hot97 Radio DJ, DJ Enuff appeared and spun music for hours. We drew large crowds, Con goers danced in the aisles and DJ Enuff socialized with the audience. DJ Ignishun also spun and had the Cosplay crowd sweating in their costumes.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Free 'WOW' Factor Idea

"Wow" Factor Idea For Events

Oh the never ending quest for incorporating the WOW factor in your event!

This idea we explain here, we will call the Truss Spandex Splat. 
While it may appear difficult and/or expensive, it is not difficult to erect and should cost between $750 to $1500 to rent depending on the light types and quantities. 
par, par light, parnel, fastfold

Additionally, in this blog I will mention some vendors, in which you can buy or rent some of the items. All photos in this blog however, are from events in which A.V.Rental Services Inc. were the contracted vendor.
First of all, spandex or Lycra fabric may be used but I do recommend white when used along with lighting. I will explain how to build a system with 1 piece of fabric. For bigger events you can add more fabric, truss sticks and lighting.

We mostly use Tomcat 12" x 12" truss, 10ft long but 20" truss may be used as well. Two 10ft truss sticks must be bolted to a large truss base with 4 bolts, then stood upright making what we call simple truss towers. The fabric will be connected to the sides of each truss stick. 
If using lighting mounted directly to the truss connect the fabric to the back side pipe of the truss to allow room for light fixtures to be mounted to the front side. To connect the fabric to the truss you can buy fabrics from Rose Brand, located in NJ, CA and Canada; with built in fabric loops. Alternatively, you can tie good knots at each fabric and use zip ties to truss connection. There are splats with as little as 3 points and splats with 6 or more points. You will need a third stick of truss when using 6 point splats.
The third truss stick will go overhead; bolted to the two upright truss stick towers by way of truss corners; making what we call truss goalpost. (See Pic) =>
The 2 upright truss should be spaced apart far enough to stretch the fabric taut, eliminating all wrinkles. If you are building a truss goalpost your fabric must stretch to, and become taut at the width of the top truss stick. That is to say, if the top truss stick is 10 feet long then your fabric should reach maximum tightness and lose all wrinkles at 10 feet.

Once the truss and fabric portion is built you can add your lighting. You can use pars to shine a color on the fabric. We primarily use L.E.D. lighting due to all the available colors, the low electricity draw compared to conventional pars and L.E.D. pars have the ability to change automatically and fade between colors when set on auto. 

As I mentioned above, you can mount lighting directly on the truss with 'C' clamps or cheese borough clamps. (See Pic Above)

rentmyplasma Another light option is a gobo design with a Leko (ellipsoidal spotlight). This light system projects a gobo design, wedding party names or logo onto the fabric surface. This is a great personalization selling point for weddings.

Gobos can be purchased through A.V. Rental Services, Inc. but please allow at least a week for the manufacturer to custom build. Complete Leko & Gobo light systems can also be rented from A.V.Rental Services, Inc.

1. For a slightly different look you can use white fabric truss covers. 
2. In addition you can put small par lights inside the truss (truss warmers) to color the truss cover fabric.
3. When buying fabrics, Rose Brand has multitude of fabrics, some with colored trim to keep with any event color schemes.
Send me your pics and let me know how you 'Wowed' your audience!

Bruce Johnson
A.V. Rental Services, Inc.
4039 Comly Street
Philadelphia, PA 19135
PH: 800-695-5943
FX: 215-904-8503

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Event Planning & Stage Design Advice

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Advice on Stage Design

As our company grows we are finding more and more clients, not only need to rent audio visual equipment, lighting and staging but also need assistance in the planning phase of their events. The knowledge we gain, performing and teching on a daily basis, as audio visual technicians, is invaluable to a client who may only plan 1 to 2 events per year.
The ideas we have in our heads have been attained just by being present and observant during the shows we work day-to-day. I implore event planners, wedding planners, trade show organizers and the like, to pick the brains of your AV suppliers. Oftentimes, the AV sales rep may not even know the knowledge they possess.

Here are some improvement tips and ideas for your room, stage and overall event:

1. Lighting - An easy, valuable addition to your event is the simple inclusion of a few parnel (par) lights, strategically placed on stage.
First of all, I highly recommend moving to L.E.D. lighting over traditional lighting.
Why?...L.E.D. Lighting is green.
( eg. Traditional Pars can consume up to 90 Watts, while L.E.D. Pars consume approx. 7-10 Watts of electricity )
Additionally, L.E.D. lighting offers a multitude of color options and color mixing, without the use of gels. Adding lighting to your stage is an attention getter; be it basic up lighting or lighting mounted on truss. It provides the necessary 'wow' factor to your show and adds some eye pleasing color for the audience, photographers and videographers.
See Pic (L.E.D. Pars used along with draping):
Going one step further can be including intelligent / moving head lighting. L.E.D. Moving Head lights are great for the same reasons stated above; however, the price difference between L.E.D. and traditional moving head lights does not yet warrant blindly going with L.E.D. What you need to know if you plan to use intelligent lighting order to get the full benefit, you will need a dedicated lighting engineer to set up and run the fixtures properly and efficiently.
Lastly, a major concern when using lighting is the available electricity in your event room. You should, when possible, consult the building engineer or put your AV and Lighting supplier in touch with the building engineer to ensure there are not any circuit breakers tripped or power outages during your show.

2. Trussing - Trussing is primarily used for mounting of lights, video screens (we will discuss later), speakers and adding fabric effects for lighting. The same lights discussed above can be alternately be mounted to truss towers. When deciding to use truss, or not, you must be aware of your available stage space and truss weight limitations. This is where you make your AV supplier earn his or her salary. With your supplier, you should be able to verbally explain your vision and have them execute the same vision, to your satisfaction.
For visual stage effects, using trussing and a few pieces of Spandex or Lycra fabric you can create a beautiful and professional looking stage
to serve as a dramatic backdrop during your show. When using truss for this stage effect be sure to use bases and/or enough trussing to ensure its sturdiness. the last thing you want is your trussing toppling over before or during your show.
See Pic (truss with fabric):
See Pic (extravagant truss set up with crane and hoist)
Comment - I really like working with trussing because in the long run it clears the stage by allowing us to truss mount almost anything.

3. Video - For the purposes of this blog, I have one idea and one word to add the 'wow' factor to your event; it is 'I-Mag'.
I-Magging is the act of shooting and broadcasting live video, simultaneously.
What Do I Need: You will need a video camera, LCD or DLP projector and projection screen.
What Do I Do: With the video camera, you will shoot the presenter, send the video output
to the LCD projector and project it on a projection screen,
most commonly placed behind the presenter. You can alternately route the video output to a plasma or LCD monitor(s). If you are using trussing you can easily mount a Da-Lite Fastfold screen to the trussing. If stage space is a concern, I recommend using a short throw projector to conserve. Lastly, be sure to use a projector with sufficient Lumens to not be effected or dulled by the nearby lighting.
See Pic ( Necessary Imag Rental Equipment):

If you are in the Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware area we would be ecstatic to quote and possibly be involved in your next event!

Bruce Johnson
A.V. Rental Services, Inc.
4039 Comly Street
Philadelphia, PA 19135