Stage Light Rental -vs- Corporate Event Light Rental
5 Differences You Need to Know Before You Rent Professional Lighting
Whenever I explain to someone outside of our industry just what it is that we do at Zenith Lighting, I tend to get the same questions: “Do you work with anyone famous?” (Yes). Do you make lasers/flashlights/parking lot lights? (No). “Do you guys do the lighting at the trade show my company attends?” (sometimes), and of course, “What’s the difference between stage lighting and event lighting?”. The funny thing is that there are a lot people IN the industry that don’t really seem to know the nuances that make the difference between a stage light rental and a corporate event light rental. Let’s see if we can flush a few of those differences out!
A Stage Light Rental Needs to Be Packed with Speed In Mind…
One of the biggest differences between a rig sent to a stage/concert/theater performance and one going to a corporate event is evident before you even open the first case- Stage light rentals should be packed in such a way as to minimize the amount of time it takes to get the rig out of the truck and into place on stage.
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Anyone who has worked a stage gig can tell you that nothing sets a poor tone quicker than a randomly packed truck pulling in to the dock… where cases are haphazardly thrown about and are unmarked, and where the fixtures themselves have been ill-protected. Many times the stagehands that are supplied are new to the industry and aren’t properly equipped to deal with anything out of the ordinary so it’s our job to set them up for success. Anything that takes away from their ability to quickly unpack the truck, move the cases to where they need be, and to swiftly get the lights hung and cabled is going to cost time, energy, and usually money. It’s mandatory that speed and ease be taken into account before your stage lighting rental leaves the shop.
Corporate Events Often Have More Hidden Costs…
While there are exceptions to nearly every rule, it should come as no surprise to find out that corporate events tend to have more financial “gotcha’s” than your typical stage/theater project. While a concert or theater production is generally staffed by people who make their money by making a performance a reality, many/most corporate events are staffed by a more diverse array of stakeholders and most of them have very different financial incentives. Electricians are often required to handle bringing the power from the venue to the rig and they charge by the quarter-hour and may require multiple electricians to be present an on your clock for safety or Union reasons. More often than not if your event is at a large hotel, convention center, or meeting venue, you will be required to use Union members contracted by the venue or the association to unload your gear from your truck and move those items to and from the staging area at a cost ranging from dozens to hundreds of dollars per one hundred pounds. If you need your cases to remain accessible throughout the event, you will usually be required a special on-site accessible storage fee. You will pay a premium for each power drop that you require, and will be charged more if you need any of that power to remain on past 8-12 hours a day.
The smartest way to combat inflated invoices at a corporate event is to understand your options and to plan ahead. If you are sending truss, fixtures, and cable to a show, it usually saves you money to have a fixed price prep-day before the shipment leaves the shop where you can have your lights pre-addressed and hung in a pre-rig truss like Tyler-GT, and then have your cables run from fixture to fixture at the same time. This will save you a small (or sometimes large) fortune on electricians fees and stagehand costs, and work to cut down on your shipping and material handling costs as well since the lights and the cable will ship directly in the truss rather than everything shipping in separate heavy cases.
Not All Fixtures Translate Well From Stage to Events…
While a top-notch LD can make the most of nearly anything they are given, there are still going to be limits to everything, and not all fixtures are created equal. Corporate events tend to be very heavy on conventional lighting, LED, and specific wash fixtures with moving spots, hybrid lights, and beams thrown in strategically to highlight and catch the eye. Stage and theater rigs tend to be much more “flashy”, often with faster (and more) movement, a greater emphasis on showy effects, and a focus on being the show rather than enhancing an environment.
Most every stage lighting rental company knows the popular fixtures for each industry and can make recommendations based on your usage, and some fixtures (such as the GLP X4 Bar 20, the SGM Q7 , or the Martin MAC Aura) translate seamlessly from use to use. Still, it’s good to know the limitations and the proper use of any fixture you use (or at least to hire a designer who knows this) as there are potential pitfalls you may not be thinking of. For instance, did you know that there are some spot fixtures that are so powerful that they can start a fire if they are shuttered down on a small area for too long? This may be an extreme example, but the point remains- it’s always better to know the limits and the gear you are using before you even start looking at where to rent lights.
The Logistics are Different…
As we already mentioned, the packing of stage lighting and event lighting have different priorities, but as far as logistics go, it doesn’t end there. Corporate events usually require you to have a dedicated onsite area to store your cases and your tools. Cable is more likely to be run where public foot traffic is present and that means you need to take measures to minimize trip hazards with things like cable ramps. Usually, you will be sharing a loading dock with other companies who will be delivering and picking up at the same time your truck (or trucks) is scheduled so there will be a good amount balancing schedules. More often than not, your delivery window is much more narrow and you will face stiff financial penalties for not strictly adhering to the schedule, and you have very limited access to the majority of the facility.
Meanwhile, stage/concert/theater shows have their own logistical landmines to avoid: Usually they have very limited docks (or no dock at all), and expect you and your crew to handle the delivery and pick up on your own with limited support offered. Quite often the loading areas are in much more high traffic public areas which can make the process daunting and even dangerous, and once your truck is unloaded, you may be faced with the added challenge of finding a place for the truck to safely park until the event ends.
Cost Structures are Different…
Before I came to Zenith, I spent 15 years in the Special/Corporate Events Industry. My stage experience was limited to my time playing in regional bands and supporting touring artists that we had partnered with during my time in Major Market Radio, so I came aboard much more familiar with the corporate event way of thinking. I quickly discovered that cost structures for corporate events are definitely priced much differently than stage/concert/theater events, and that reaches from the transportation costs to the labor budgets and all the way into your stage light rental invoice.
Usually, Audio/Video/Lighting rentals tend to be priced by the week. This is the industry standard and it does not come as a surprise to most people in the stage world. Most people in the corporate world are unaccustomed to the One-Week-Cost-Structure though. For most other rental items in the Corporate world, By-The-Day or By-The-Event pricing is the standard. For instance, if you ask the venue to rent a 50″ flat screen on a stand, they are going to give you a quote per day. If you rent an exhibit for a trade show, they are going to give you a quote for the entire span of the show (including the shipping time). If you rent lighting in orlando for instance, you are most likely going to receive a quote by the week, regardless of if the show is 1 day or 10 days. This is a good thing though generally- most lighting rental companies are structured so that you are really paying for that first day, and getting the rest of the week thrown in as a bonus!
It’s important to know how your rental costs are structured before you move forward. Make sure how your lighting provider is quoting- the last thing you want is to find out that you budgeted for a weekly rental only to end up with 7 separate 1-day-rentals!
Stage events lighting and corporate event lighting: two opposite sides of the same coin, but knowing the differences and understanding how they affect your budget, your schedule, and your end goals will help to ensure you have one less thing you need to keep an eye on during your event!
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