Faced with tight budgets, tough rooms and tricky design challenges, smart event experts solve big decor problems without breaking the bank. Here's how.
THE DECOR: KABUKI DROP
THE JOB: It's one thing to conceal a car or even a boat at a launch event or on a trade show floor. It's quite another to cover up the world's largest U.S.-built commercial aircraft in a working hangar. But that's exactly what Boeing Co. asked Chicago-based AgencyEA to do for the unveiling of its new 747-8 Intercontinental in February. To conceal the massive aircraft — which spans 250 feet in length and seats 467 passengers — EA turned to a tried-and-true technology — the versatile, scalable kabuki drop.
EA senior production manager David St. Martin says that based on the size of the Seattle factory hangar and the size of the reveal, the kabuki was the most cost-effective alternative to simply opening the hangar doors to show off the plane — a technique used before but risky in February's temperamental weather.
THE CHALLENGE: While the kabuki drop (in which a massive fabric panel is quickly dropped to reveal whatever's behind it) was the best decor bet, it wasn't without its own production challenges. The biggest of these, St. Martin says, was the massive wind-tunnel effect created by the opening of the hangar doors, which spanned about three football fields across in size — not what you want when you've got a 225-by-62-foot curtain hanging overhead. “We had to work out a very good load-in schedule,” he says, noting that once the drop was up, those doors had to stay shut tight — or else.
THE DECOR: FLOOR FILM AND LIQUID FUSION FLOORING
THE JOB: Bar mitzvahs, weddings, fundraisers, corporate dinners — pretty much any type of event that involves people walking, dancing or moving can benefit from flooring products from Holo-Walls of Westlake Village, Calif. Just ask celeb event planners Mindy Weiss, David Tutera, Preston Bailey and Colin Cowie, who all regularly tap the company for its unique floor decor products.
The company's Kevin McCarthy notes that Floor Film is a particularly hot seller for events where dancing takes center stage. The self-adhesive, removable film is ideal for transforming dull wood or white dance floors — which, after all, “take up a lot of real estate in the room,” McCarthy notes — into exciting holographic focal points. Once the party's over, simply peel off the recyclable film.
Taking floor decor one step further, Holo-Walls' Liquid Fusion flooring adds interactivity to the mix. Liquid Fusion interlocking floor panels feature a nontoxic, environmentally friendly, gel-like solution, in different colors, sealed into each panel. When guests step, stomp or sashay on a panel, the impact of their feet causes the colors to swirl and change.
THE CHALLENGE: Weight. While Floor Film is super-light and transportable, Liquid Fusion floor panels are heavy, making them much less budget-friendly for out-of-town events. Fortunately, Holo-Walls' next generation of Liquid Fusion flooring — a black liquid design that is the company's answer to traditional black-and-white-checkered dance floors — features a new plastic interlocking frame system that's “incredibly lightweight, easy to ship and requires no tools,” McCarthy says.
THE DECOR: VIDEO BACKDROP
THE JOB: High-tech doesn't necessarily mean higher price point, especially when it comes to backdrop decor. That's why Karen Shackman, president of New York-based DMC Shackman Associates, used video-wall technology to create a stage backdrop at a corporate event for 350 Australian attendees at the USS Intrepid. Shackman placed the 24-foot-long screen onstage, where it displayed waving Australian and American flags and New York city scenes during dinner.
When the USO-themed evening's entertainment took to the stage, the imagery switched to shots of iconic entertainers including Tina Turner, Liza Minelli and Cher, while look-alike performers did their thing in front of their doppelgangers' images.
THE CHALLENGE: While the allure of video is undeniable, it can be a distraction rather than a delight. Shackman headed off that potential problem by projecting dynamic video footage only during dinner, when guests were focused on each other and on their meals. Once attendees' attention turned toward the staged entertainment, only still images appeared on the wall.
While installation labor costs can add up, especially in a union venue, video screen rental generally comes at a very nice price. Add to that the decor's bang-for-your-buck versatility — displaying company logos, brand messaging, thematic imagery, the event palette and action-packed footage, all in one place — and it's clear why the video backdrop is one of the Shackman's favorite low-cost stage decor tools.