AV Technology Outlook: A Digital Boost for Events
New AV technology offers ways to make an impact within tight budgetsby Terah Shelton | Published in January 2010 Features | audio visual | technology
New AV technology offers ways to make an impact within tight budgets
When Samantha Swaim, a fundraising and event consultant for Samantha Swaim Fundraising, LLC, noticed her clients’ budgets tighten, she turned toward audiovisual technology as a way to cut budgets and still make a huge impact.
“In partnership with a number of production and AV companies, I started to see the impact that lighting could make to create a theme, set a mood or even control the crowd,” she says. “We began to use LED light boxes as an inexpensive way to up light the walls, highlight an area like bars or food tables, or even manage traffic flows by lighting pathways. With LED lights we have been able to create big impact with little money.”
Knowledge of audiovisual technology has become more critical in this age of computers, electronic equipment and social networking. With event attendance and budgets at all-time lows, event planners like Swaim are looking to the latest in audiovisual technology to fill the gaps.
According to Joe Shambro, audio engineer and music technology writer for About.com, the biggest benefit for an event planner who stays abreast of audiovisual technology are two things that are in short supply these days: time and money.
“Digital technologies are offering more bang for the buck than ever before, and they’re coming in smaller, cheaper packages,” he says. “If you’re going into the game with a set budget for audiovisual technology, you’ll be amazed at what you can buy, even on a modest budget.”
A/V challenged? Here’s what’s new in audiovisual technology for 2010.
Launched in November, Robo.to Maker is a new desktop application that allows event attendees to quickly post 4-second Robo.to video updates to their Robo.to profile as well as to their linked Robo.to Twitter feed and Facebook accounts.
“Robo.to Maker shows the outside world what’s going on inside the event in real time and is a new way to increase the brand value of an event,” says Ericson deJesus, founder and chief product officer. “It’s also a great, fun way to get attendees involved in the event and provides a record for event participants to revisit once the party’s over.”
Faith-Ann Young, vice president of content at Particle Inc., recently used Robo.to Maker for a Particle TV Mode Launch party and loved it. “Guests used Robo.to Maker to craft short 4-second videos, which we then streamed on projectors around the venue,” she says. “It’s a similar concept to having a photo booth at a party—except more high-tech and interactive.”
Robo.to Maker is easy to set up and use. Simply install the Maker application on a computer (with a webcam and internet access) and set up the computer in a comfortable spot for people to make mini-videos. Young says she put small Robo.to booths by the entrance, with an assortment of wacky props for attendees to use.
According to deJesus, Robo.to Maker can be used at any event, from small private parties to major conventions. However, most webcams require a certain amount of light for people to show up well in the video so planners need to make sure they set up a kiosk where there is adequate light.
“It’s an excellent way to enhance the brand and social media value of your events,” deJesus says. “The photo booth function of Maker is a great entertainment tool to have at any event. I would say narcissism and the desire to show off one’s creative side are pretty universal.”
Megan McKenna, vice-president of new business development for Total Media group says digital lighting has gone from a nice-to-have to a must-have for events. “Standard lighting offers you only as much as your lighting and gels will allow—combining primary colors as an artist would with paint to get the hue they desire,” she says. “The result is that we can’t always match a color 100 percent and we’re limited by space, quantity and budget. With digital lighting, we can actually color-match much closer so our corporate colors can be tweaked almost to perfection.”
Digital lighting has also allowed professionals to expand the lighting possibilities in many ways. McKenna says digital lighting has helped them to incorporate custom images—stills, 3D, even moving images, adding more variety and motion, which helps liven up the environment.
“With digital lighting, the instrument itself allows us to expand our lighting,” she says. “We can seamlessly switch from lighting to projection within the instrument and back again. Just like our video processors, it allows for more content and flexibility.”
Shambro says that transitioning to all-digital environments is necessary for several reasons: “Digital lighting allows much better automation, key if you’re using a non-technical workforce. It’s also easier to install, and easier to maintain in case of problems.”
Projector123, a premier online source for 2000- and 3000-lumen projector rentals starting at $99 per day, provides event planners and business travelers with a “Netflix-style” service for the latest technology in projectors.
“Projectors are expensive, difficult to travel with and sometimes outdated when you rent from hotels or venues,” says Garrett Harmola, business development associate for Projector123. “Projector123 offers the latest in projector technology. With this, planners save money on technology and can devote more time to other areas of their conventions, meetings or parties.”
All you need is a laptop computer, television, DVD player or any other electronic input device. Projector 123 provides the cables needed to connect the projector to a media device. Once you’ve connected Projector 123 to your laptop or DVD player, you’re ready to go. Projector 123 rentals come with an instructional insert and offer 24/7 technical support.
Using Fed-Ex shipping services, Projector123 delivers LCD Projectors anywhere in the United States within a 24-hour time frame. All projectors are tested and inspected before shipping out in protective electronic boxes with combination locks built in. For multiple orders, Projector123 also provides a back-up projector in case a projector bulb burns out or if there are issues that their technical support team cannot fix immediately.
“I was sort of in a pinch to get a projector for a very important event I was hosting,” says Annie Whalen, a campus events manager. “I looked around online and the prices for projectors were astronomical, not to mention I’d have to drive all over town to get it. Delivery was fast and just as promised. The instructions to use the projector were idiot-proof.”
Projector123 does not provide screens, but is in the process of developing a screen solution for renters.
PPT2DVD helps event professionals convert, carry and control large PowerPoint presentations, using a DVD player and television instead of a computer and projector. PPT2DVD offers a simple way to burn PPT files to DVD, with options for a true presentation experience using a DVD player.
“By burning PowerPoint onto a DVD disc, users can view PowerPoint presentations without the need of a MS PowerPoint-installed computer,” says Sabrina Fu, sales manager of Business Presentation Division. “PPT2DVD helps users crack the obstacle of transporting, playing and sharing PowerPoint files.”
No complex computing skills are required to use PPT2DVD; after a few clicks, the conversion process is finished automatically. According to Fu, PPT2DVD enables users to burn PowerPoint to a DVD movie or to convert PowerPoint to video files while maintaining excellent quality.
Fu says PPT2DVD may slow your computer while in use, but overall, the program is a benefit. “With PPT2DVD, you can share and view your PowerPoint files in more popular ways,” she says. “PPT2DVD is not only a presentation tool, but also a tool help you enjoy your life better and boom your business.”
For event planners interested in incorporating new audiovisual technology, McKenna advises planners to research, inquire and test, test, test. “Make sure you know your equipment and how to use it, before taking it out on a show,” she says.
Overall, Shambro recommends that event planners not be afraid of new audiovisual technology, but rather embrace the potential positive aspects to their business.
“A lot of people view digital technology as more difficult to learn than analog equipment,” he says. “That’s simply untrue. Most digital A/V equipment uses the same principles as their analog counterparts. “You’ll find that digital technology, especially the ability to store and recall settings, helps you concentrate more on making a great audio mix, higher quality video reproduction, and a great overall experience for your clients.”
Swaim suggests talking to experts and finding someone you trust who is staying on top of new technology: “Find a company that upgrades and updates its inventory often so you have the latest and greatest available and accessible to you. With some creative technology there are lots of great opportunities to add that wow factor.”