SXS Events

  • How to Produce a Live Show

How to Produce a Live Show

SXS are one of the UK's most experienced providers of design, technical, set and stage solutions to couture fashion shows.

In my 15+ years event production experience have worked on shows ranging from small presentations right up to large awards shows and multiple-performer ferstival stages. All to often I see the same mistakes again and again from producers, artist bookers and show callers alike. So I have written this page, along with some accompanying documentation to help avoid these issues.

Who is Who

First off, let's look at who does what in a typical show structure in a live event environment. Note that theatre, television and fashion may use the same names for different roles. If in doubt it is good to get clarity from your team as to what each role means. This list is the terminology we work to:

  • Show Director - This is the person who decides on and fully understands what the show is all about and how the audience need to experience it. This often means making creative decisions, choosing performers and making final decisions on many details. The Director has a lot of responsibility and a lot of people to deal with. Directors should be given all the information they need and resources should be made available wherver possible. Sometimes a director may be involved in other elements of an event so might not be fully hands-on with the show itself.
  • Show Producer - The producer is the person that leads the performers, presenters and crew for a show. On small to medium shows this person often takes the role of Director also. A producer will check scripts, check content, brief crew, brief the stage manager and usually have direct access to clients and stakeholders. The producer often does coaching of presenters to help build their confidence.
  • Production Manager - This person is in charge of the technical, staging and other physical matters. Their main role is to ensure that the show, the producer and all others have the technical items they need. The Production Manager will often be onsite very early with the crew and work late to do derigs. Often during a show a Production Manager may be doing little more than fixing faults and dealing with changes.
  • Stage Manager - The stage manager is in charge of what does on, comes off and happens on and around the performance area. This could involve greeting presenters, moving props, assisting with cues and being the "eyes and ears" for the rest of the crew on stage.
  • Assistant Stage Manager - This person is dedicated to the assistance of the Stage Manager in whatever way is needed.
  • Show Caller - When the show is taking place the caller has possibly the most important role of everyone - their job is to "call" (announce to all crew) what to do. This can includes stating when video cues, audio cues, lighting cues etc should take place. In some show teams a show caller does not need to call every element as the crew know the show well and only need minor direction.

Note that in many cases one person can take multiple roles of the above. For example at a small conference it is often the case that the same person acts as show caller, producer, stage manager and director. The above structure would apply to larger or more complex shows.

The Show Schedule

This document is the single most important document for the show. This document is where all the creative ideas, preparation and rehearsals boil down to what is actually going to happen during the show. The level of detail must be excellent. Essentially the show must be broken down into individual cues - each one relates to when on, or multiple things, happen on stage.

Follow these rules:

  • Do NOT use acronyms, abbreviations or otherwise
  • Do NOT write it in anything other than plain English
  • Do make sure any references to file names (video, audio, images, powerpoint etc) are written in exactly the same name as the file name including extension. For example "Play falling_stars.jpg" NOT "play stars". The latter will make little sense to a technical team as this could refer to a lighting effect, pyrotechnics or others
  • Do make sure file names relate to what they are. For example "falling_stars_video_effect.AVI" is good, whereas "asdbjasdfklg.avi" is not
  • Do use revision numbers. EVERY time you save the document add a revision number and comments. For examples: "Launch Event Show Schedule V1 - draft" then "Launch Event Show Schedule V2 - with video cues" then "Launch Event Show Schedule V3 - after desktop rehearsal" etc. Doing in this format avoids confusion
  • Do keep all content in a central folder; do not reference files in different placesSend files in "show ready" format. This means files we can put straight into our playback servers such as JPEG, GIF, AVI etc. It is best to avoid files such as EPS, AI, Final Cut and PDF as all of these require studio time to prepare before use which as a cost associated with it.
  • Avoid sending irrelevant content, such as a alternate logos, or logos in file formats that are not needed - this can add confusion at a later date.
  • Do be as detailed as possible in your cue descriptions
  • Do use cue numbers (this gives an easy way for communicating during a show which cue you are referring to)
  • Try to not use time, but instead time offset. For example writing cues with times like 12.01pm, 12.15pm means that all the information becomes incorrect if the show starts even one minute late, as is sometimes the case. Instead write +00.01, +00.15. For things that happen leading up to a show start time (like calling the guests through) specify minus times, such as -00.05, -00.27 etc.
  • Do remember that you have been living, eating, breathing and sleeping this show for weeks and therefore have an instinctive understanding of the show. Whereas a freelance camera operator will be completely relying on your schedule when she arrives to work.
  • Do set deadlines for changes - ideally one full week before the show. Although these are rarely met, a deadline is more likely to reduce late changes
  • Do collaborate - get others to look over your schedule to look for any errors or problems in advance.Call us now to discuss your next show.

Read the rest of Johnny Palmer's articles on the Google+ page here


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