Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Successful PowerPoint Presentation Integration in Conferences, Hotels, and Venues

Here are 8 tips to help when presenting to an audience using Keynote or PowerPoint.  Whether you are a professional speaker, or simply doing a presentation at your local real estate board or chamber of commerce one time.  These helpful points will reduce potential snags in your presentation integration.

We deal with a ton of presentations from guest speakers.  The typical scenario is one of the following:

A. Presenter brings their laptop, we connect to our projectors.
B. Presenter brings us a thumb drive about an hour before their presentation with the file on it.
C. Presenter emails us the file around midnight the night before because they were still up working on it.
D. Presenter brings an iPad in hopes that we have the proper connection to make it work.

All of these above scenarios are just recipes for failure.  Last week we received a call on our after hours line from a customer that was having issues with connecting a guest presenters laptop to their in-house video system.  This event sparked the thought process for this blog.  In this article, we give a few key suggestions and pointers on having a successful PowerPoint presentation.  One quick disclaimer though, if you are a presenter that brings their own laptop, with your own projector, with your own screen; YOU ARE GOOD TO GO!  You can skip reading this article.

To start, think back to your old school days.  If you wait until the night before a test to "cram", the outcome will most likely be bad.  Same goes to PowerPoint presentations.  If you wait until the night before to coordinate with the AV company, or even worse, a few hours before you presentation, the results will most likely (not always, but you have a higher chance) be bad.

Point #1 - Send your Files Early
We can not stress this enough!  Just like the example of waiting until the night before to "cram", if you wait until the night before to send the files to the AV company, there are so many things that can go wrong.  Remember this, if your presentation is at 8 am, that crew is probably arriving to do their final preparations at 5:30 or 6:30 a.m.  The odds that they have internet access and the time to download and check your presentation during this time are very slim.  If you are a good presenter, you will have your slides done well in advance.  So ... coordinate with the company, find out who you need to send your slides to, and do it early.  This gives that person plenty of time to download and check your presentation.

Point #2 - Things don't always look the same on different computers
How many times have you sent a file and opened it up on another computer only to find that the fonts, background images, slide elements' placement, etc. are completely different that on your home computer?  This is because fonts, layout, background images, etc. are native to the computer that created the content.  Different versions have different settings.  So how do you avoid this?  Most versions of PowerPoint and Keynote have a "bundle package" option for saving your presentation. This puts all elements (fonts, layout, images, video files, background images) within a folder.  Then, send THIS folder to the AV company.  Here's another vital hint.  With that folder, also send either a hard copy printout, or PDF printout, of what your slides are supposed to look like.  This will help the AV company spot any differences in the appearance of your presentation when they run it on their computer.

Point #3 - What do if you are wanting to use your computer
Our biggest advice here is KNOW YOUR TECHNOLOGY.  Know how to change the video settings on your computer.  Know how to differentiate and select between mirroring and extending the desktop.  Software changes rapidly.  System techs are becoming younger and younger, OR, older and older.  They may not know the version of your operating system.  Many people want to use their own computers because they claim that they know it will work.  Well, here's a little news for you, it's actually more difficult to make your computer work than providing the file in advance.  A standard corporate AV company will also provide you with a clicker to advance YOUR slides on THEIR computer.  Here's the hidden secret that you don't know.  There's a piece (which is pretty much a standard piece of equipment to own if you are in the AV industry) that is a long range slide advance tool.  It connects to the computer and works great.  It can also connect to two computers so if that company is running a backup, it can advance both computers and maintain a consistent backup source.  Furthermore, that piece has two big arrows on the front showing immediate response when you press the advance or back buttons.  If your computer drops the connection for some reason, a system tech can manually advance based on your input.  This also allows the company to "have your back" they are watching your clicks and making sure your slides are advancing properly.  These guys know what they are doing.  Do your best to help work out any bugs that you can.  Take the time to know this on your hardware so you're not relying on them to experiment and take potentially hours trying to figure it out.

Point #4 - Have the right adapters
Here's a safe rule of thumb.  Always have the correct adapters to end up with a VGA output.  VGA has been a standard in the video world for a long time.  I think it would be safe to say that 95% of AV companies are going to have the capacity to accept a VGA input.  So if you are using your own laptop, make sure you have the correct adapters to convert to VGA.  If you are using tablet, do the same, make sure you have a VGA output at the end of your chain.  Also, TEST YOUR ADAPTERS!  We see many presenters show up with their laptop and a brand new adapter still in the packaging because "This is what the store told me I needed".  Well, Apple adapters aren't always compatible with non-Apple products.  Sometimes what you thought was a video output was really a video input for the computer (this was the case in my emergency phone call last week).  So, just be prepared, bring your own adapters and check them at home.  Almost any computer monitor will have a VGA input, and many TVs as well.  You can test your device using these at home.

Point #5 - Test it the Day Before
Whether you are bringing your own presentation source or sending files to the AV company in advance, TEST IT THE DAY BEFORE.  This is your presentation at hand.  Ask yourself this question: "Will my presentation still be effective if my PowerPoint does not work".  Is your answer "no"?  Then go the day before.  Don't risk it.  You are putting your whole presentation's integrity at risk if you don't.  I'll say it again, many times on the morning of your presentation the AV company has a whole world of things that they need to do: check microphones, re-set lighting looks, convert videos, etc.  Go ahead and get your vital part out of the way the day before when there's plenty of time to troubleshoot if needed.

Point #6 - Install "Caffeine"
There are many different locations within the settings on your computer to adjust energy saving shutdown, screensaver times, automatic logout, etc.  There's a great little program called "Caffeine" that can override these settings and causing your screen saver to start, or cause your computer to go into automatic sleep mode.

Disclaimer: We are not associated with these programs, We just use them and think they are handy.

PC Version: http://download.cnet.com/Caffeine/3000-2094_4-10914397.html

Mac Version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/caffeine/id411246225?mt=12

Download and install this software.  It's very handy.  It installs a little picture of a coffee cup in your toolbar.  All you have to do is click on that coffee cup so it appears to be full, and your computer will stay awake.  No screen saver, no automatic logoff, no auto sleep mode, etc.  Very handy tool for presenters.

Point #7 - Understand why "It worked fine at home" and now it doesn't
Relate to point #2 for a further explanation of this.  We hear this comment almost every single time a presentation doesn't work, or looks different on our screens at a major corporate convention.  Know and understand why it doesn't look the same and do your best to avoid a scenario where you would potentially say this.  One other key thing to keep in mind here is that there are two formats for screens: widescreen (16:9) and standard (4:3) video aspect ratios.  Think of it this way: widescreen is like your new age flat panel TV.  It is wider than it is tall.  Standard aspect ratio is more square like a old tube TV.  Many AV companies still use standard format for their screens due to cost.  So check with your AV company ahead of time.  Find out what aspect ratio the screen are.  Then, either create your presentation around that aspect ratio, or have both a widescreen and standard version of your presentation.  If you don't the company will have to "scale" your presentation and stretch things, to get your slides to fill the whole screen.  Chances are if you present a good bit, you will run across both formats.

Point #8 - Final Point - Leave it to the professionals
This is a quick sum up of all my points above.  When it comes to making your presentation appear and function correctly on screens, work with the professionals at your location.  Most hotels that provide projectors have an in-house service AV company.  Most corporate conferences have a AV company that they have hired for their event.  Touch base with that company early.  Know the questions to ask.  Be prepared.  Don't "cram' the night before and expect flawless results.  It didn't work in college, it probably won't work here.  A good AV company will even have two computers running with a quick switch option in case the computer locks up or crashes.  Don't risk compromising the entire integrity of your presentation when you can easily do a little prep work and have a flawless presentation.

So there you have it.  Just a few tips on how to save yourself many headaches the day of your presentation.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Choosing the right lens for your ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal or Par

How to choose which lens to use for your application?  Here are two quick "Cheatsheets" that we made.  All measurements are in "feet".  Please keep in mind that these are close measurements, but not 100% exact.  The beam field size is the largest outer circle of the beam, and may change with lens tube focus.

Photometrics for ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal

Photometrics for ETC Source Four Par 
 *Please keep in mind that medium and wide lenses have different horizontal and vertical measurements*

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Steel versus Glass Gobos

Gobos are becoming more and more popular for corporate events, special events, weddings, trade shows, etc.   When ordering a custom gobo, there are several things you need to keep in mind.  You have four types of gobos (or custom monogrammed projections as some companies call it):

- Steel
- Glass
- 2 Color glass
- Full color glass

Of course, as you go down the list, you increase in price.  Here is standard MSRP pricing for each. 

- Steel ($89.00)
- Glass ($160.00)
- 2 Color glass ($355.00)
- Full color glass ($585.00)
**Plus shipping**

The reason the price increases so much from glass, and exponentially as you add colors, is that glass is a very intricate manufacturing process.  The logo is fused into a dichroic glass.  Especially when you get into the multi-color gobos, the process becomes more and more intricate.  With multi-color you have multiple dichroic glasses within a central glass structure.  Even though glass is more expensive, it has some significant advantages.  Here is a brief comparison of glass and steel custom gobos.

Image Sharpness
A glass gobo in a standard theatrical fixture is night and day difference when it comes to the projection sharpness.  Often a steel gobo has a "flaring" effect due to the optics of the fixture.  See how in the picture below the scrollwork on the left part of the "A" appears slightly blurry? When you use a steel gobo, you will have this effect, especially on the outer parts of the image, as those are out of the center of the optics on the fixture.  With a glass gobo, you won't experience that.  Many people will place a theatrical "donut" in the gel frame holder when using a steel gobo, which helps, but doesn't completely clear up the image.  The flaring is more noticeable on text in custom gobos.

Steel gobo in standard theatrical fixture

Theatrical "Donut"

Tabs, or Bridges

With a steel gobo, you have what is commonly known as "tabs" or "bridges".  Think of it this way ... you can't have any free floating items. The best way I can describe this is to think of the letter "O". If you think about this from a projected standpoint. The black portion would be cut out and be what is physically projected in light. That being said, the circle in the center would be blacked out by the steel. In order to do it in steel you have to have a connector point holding that piece. With glass you do not. Many companies are extremely picky about the appearance of their logo since it is their corporate identity so they often opt to go with glass, even though it is slightly more expensive.  The red circles on the image below illustrate the bridge/tab in steel versus glass.

Metal versus glass illustrating tab, or bridging

Multi-Color Capabilities

There is just something to be said about a multi-color gobo.  They are often very elegant and can be very impressive when used.  You can also maintain a companies' corporate identity by keep the same color placement, scheme, and appearance with the projected gobo.

One color design and two+ color design

Turnaround Time

Due to the extensive manufacturing process of glass, the turnaround time is longer than steel.  More importantly, the cost for last minute rush orders is much higher as well.  Rush cost on a steel is $65.00.  Rush cost on glass is $175.00.  Here is the general pricing breakdown for rush steel and glass gobos.  For the timeline below, pretend like you place the gobo order on Monday.  Timeline is for business days only.  So if you order on a Friday, don't pretend like Saturday is day 2, it is Monday since manufacturing does not take place on weekends.  You can still have it delivered on Saturday, you just incur another fee, Saturday delivery fee.

Monday - Place order with Sound Source.  Artwork provided or approved by 2 pm CST
Tuesday delivery - Gobo charge, rush charge, overnight shipping
Wednesday delivery - Gobo charge, overnight shipping
Thursday delivery - Gobo charge, two day shipping
Friday delivery - Gobo charge, 3 day shipping
After - Gobo charge, standard shipping

Monday - Place order with Sound Source.  Artwork provided or approved by 2 pm CST
Tuesday delivery - Not possible
Wednesday delivery - Rush charge, gobo charge, overnight shipping
Thursday delivery - Gobo charge - overnight shipping
Friday delivery - Gobo charge, 2 day shipping
Monday delivery - Gobo charge, 3 day shipping
After - Gobo charge, standard shipping

The beauty of gobo shipping is that they are small.  So shipping charges are minimal:
**All prices are approximate and may vary slightly at time of order**
First Overnight - by 8:30 am - $99.91
Priority Overnight - by 11:00 am - $43.35
Standard Overnight - by close of business - $40.35
2 day - $30.27
3 day - $24.83
Standard - $15.00

Well there you have it.  Just a little information and things to keep in mind when ordering a gobo.  Contact our sales team if you have any questions when ordering a gobo, or need advice.

Sound Source Productions
Voice: (256) 513-4739

Our sister company ... Elite Disc Jockey Services

We have recently had many questions about Elite Disc Jockey Services.  To clear the records, Elite and Sound Source are essentially two separate companies.  They are just held under the same parent company, a completely different company from both.  Now, here's the deal:

What is Elite?
Elite is a company that specializes in Disc Jockey Services, Creative Lighting, Drapery, Decor Items, Dance Floors, Custom Monogrammed Projections, and special event services.  The main focus of the company was founded on DJ services; however, other services have evolved out of need and desires from Elite's customer base.  These additional services are often needed in conjunction with Disc Jockey Services.

Why a separate company?
Sound Source and Elite are both VERY different companies.  Elite's focus is Disc Jockey Services, whereas, Sound Source focuses on production services, equipment rental, equipment and expendables sales, and full event production design / integration.  About 10 years ago we had to establish a difference between the two because even though they are in very similar industries, they are very different.  Even their customer base is vastly different.  So instead of trying to run both companies under the same corporate identity, we took a different approach and gave each their own corporate identity.  

Is it the same staff for both companies?
Yes and no.  Both are managed and marketed by the same staff, but Elite has it's own staff of Disc Jockey's and crew that make it's magic happen.  Now, yes, the equipment and preparation staff is the same.  This all falls under Sound Source's core operating structure and ensures that Elite has only the best, best maintained, highest quality, and exceptional equipment.  Both companies have their own full time staff that are trained in the respective markets.  

But both companies offer similar services for special events don't they?
Again, yes and no.  Sound Source produced events are typically on a much, MUCH, larger scale.  Elite's focus is really on the Wedding Industry.  Now that's not to say that Sound Source isn't focused on the same industry.  But typically Elite is centered around DJ services where Sound Source is not.  When Sound Source produces a wedding, it typically consists of large drapery needs and setup, extensive lighting, staging, band production, and much more.

Will I receive the same quality of service, customer service, and attention to detail from both companies?
ABSOLUTELY!  Both companies thrive and were founded upon these core principals.  That will never change and is still the primary focus of each companies operating procedures, mission statement, and staff focus.  To sum it all up, you WILL receive all of these items.  Each just has their own customer base and focus.

I hope this all makes sense.  In the grand scheme of things, the beauty of Elite being a sister company to Sound Source is that Elite has access to Sound Source's extensive production equipment inventory and corporate structure.  Both companies will always offer exceptional customer service, equipment, attention to detail, and so much more!

Be sure an check out both websites:

Sound Source:  www.s2pinc.com    Phone: (256) 513-4739

Elite:  www.theelitedjs.com   Phone: (256) 829-2277

**Picture is from the 2013 Summer WZYP Bridal Fair**
We are starting a new blog featuring posts about events, concepts, designs, and our business ventures in the lighting, audio, video, staging, special effects, and sales industries.  We hope you stop by and checkout out posts.  Many will be short, as we know most of you are reading on your phones and sometimes want just a little more info than a picture we shared on our website, Facebook, or Twitter pages.  So make sure to check us out often!