Unique venues are great to pique the interest of delegates and can offer creative opportunities to incorporate the venue into a theme or message relevant to your group. Unfortunately, those very same virtues can also create a host of audiovisual challenges.
Detailed site inspections are crucial, and plans need to include all aspects of the event. Site inspections are a key to any event but even more so with unique venues. No one involved wants any surprises.
By definition a unique venue is hard to categorize so it requires creative solutions. A unique venue can range from a historic building, a hockey arena, a beach on a lake, a field, an airport runway, the roof of a building, a boat or the middle of a bridge.
The availability and quality of power is often a key concern. Where is power located and how much of it is there? What else besides AV is going to require power? Are there enough circuits available so that any grounding issues can be resolved? A common grounding issue is when audio and lighting systems share the same electrical circuit. Everything can look and sound great until the lighting dimmers are adjusted and then a loud audio buzz ruins the ambiance. If power is an issue can temporary sources be brought on-site? If you are bringing a generator will it be quiet enough to not disrupt the event?
Delivering intelligible audio is almost always a challenge at a unique venue. How many delegates will attend and where will they be? The sound system needs to be designed to reach everyone.
Many historic buildings have wonderful grand foyers to hold an event. Often this means that there are very high ceilings and the walls, floors and ceilings are made of hard materials (think granite and marble). This means that sound waves are not absorbed by the building envelope and instead they bounce off the walls as reverberations. Too much reverb and the sound becomes muddy and rendered unintelligible. In this situation many small speakers should be placed as close to the audience as possible so they move the air as little as possible. Large speaker stacks at the side of the stage will send strong sound waves that bounce back and forth around the room. Many small speakers producing lower volumes will help control the sound waves.
The wind is always a variable at an outdoor event. A test on a calm evening won’t give you the sound you need if a 60 kilometer gusts starts blowing the set and sound away on the event night. Be prepared with more power than you think you’ll need. Wind also interferes with microphone performance so they should always sport a windscreen though it may not be enough depending on the strength and direction of the wind.
Wind also brings up safety concerns. AV equipment must be set up securely and plans should be in place for quick changes due to the weather. We often set up large projection screens outdoors and are always cognizant of any changes in the wind and will take down the screens before it becomes an issue.
Inland AV has provided AV support for the Mogathon marathon event in Saskatoon. One of the challenges of a marathon is that the participants are scattered over a large area. Wireless video broadcasting has given the marathon event a more personal feel. The crowds waiting at the finish line (this is a social event with 30 km, half marathon, 10 k, 5 km and No-Km Beer Run categories) see portions of the race as drama unfolds, not just the last 30 seconds of the event.
Video projection brings other challenges. Projection screens and some monitors do not work well in sunlight. The farther north you venture in the summer, the later the sun stays up. Many tents are translucent and projection will not work well. Many indoor venues also have large windows to let the natural sunlight come streaming in. Some can be easily covered but others may ruin the room ambience.
Infrared technology does not work in sunlight. If you are looking at using simultaneous interpretation for an outdoor daytime event, then FM transmission would be required. The same infrared issue can affect other wireless equipment such as monitor remotes and wireless laptop control of PowerPoint type presentations.
The unique venue can deliver a memorable event but you need to plan and consider the possible “what ifs” to ensure everything goes according to plan.
Ralph Niekamp, Inland AV Saskatoon general manager, addresses audiovisual considerations important to event planners. As a branch manager, Niekamp brings a unique perspective as he is involved in both permanent systems design and integration and AV rental applications.