May 14, 2015

This year, JHE was asked to build a new stage for both NASCAR and IndyCar opening ceremonies. While the stages are very different, they share similarities – ease of operation and ability to maneuver quickly. The in-house experts explain the process it took to brainstorm, design and create each stage.

About the Experts:

Ryan Baxter has been a part of the JHE team since 2003 and currently serves as chief operating officer at JHE. He was an integral part of the return of IndyCar as a  JHE client in 2014.

Greg Smith has been a part of the JHE team since 2007 and currently serves as senior manager of product development.

James Raven has been a part of the JHE team since 2007 and currently serves as senior designer.

Derek Lane has been a part of the JHE team since 2012 and currently serves as a senior designer.


NASCAR Sprint Cup Stage Q&A:

Q: What was the planning process like for this stage?

Smith: It was the “big bang” of minds. We had 25 people with stage experience in a conference room, and we pulled from everyone’s knowledge. The two main goals everyone agreed on was to simplify the build process and to develop one stage that could have multiple purposes and designs.

Q: What was your inspiration behind this stage?

Smith: With our two goals in mind, we wanted to build a “transformer” stage that was a blank canvas for each track with the ability to change it for their needs.

Q: What was the process for actually designing and building this stage?

Smith: We built this stage first so it was new ground for us. We had to work through the logistics of adding hydraulics to an already crammed trailer as well as internal engineering logistics to support any possible “props” that would be added to the stage at a later date.

Raven: For this stage, Jay had something in his mind from the very beginning: easy to operate. My role in the process was to take what the team members described and make a visual representation of it. Once the concept drawing was created, everyone could get on the same page on what the vision was and how to adjust it to better suit our needs. Several meetings took place where the form and function were nailed down. From there, we did some comps on how the stage would be dressed to present to tracks (a graphics package). This whole process went very smoothly and everyone involved seemed to have a positive influence in the final product.

Q: What were the biggest challenges in the process?

Smith: Developing the internal workings of the stage was the biggest obstacle. We had to account for anything a client might want to add to the top of our adjustable stage years down the road and build the structure strong enough to support it. On the same note, we didn’t want to over spend on internal workings that weren’t necessary.

Raven: For my part of the process the biggest challenge was timing, specifically from when the stage arrived to when it had to be dressed for use at the Rolex 24. Several processes needed to take place in this time including measuring, creating templates, designing, fitting, production and shipping. Everyone pitched in to help from the great internal support to our vendors. I thought that though out the process we were in good shape and the final product looked amazing.



IndyCar Stage Q&A:

Q: What was the planning process like for this stage?

Baxter: It all started with a phone conversation with our IndyCar client. They gave us words that they wanted the stage to look like – clean, crisp and classy – and then we brainstormed several options as a starting point.

Smith:  We started with a blank piece of paper and our ideas grew from there.

Q: What was your inspiration behind this stage?

Baxter: We wanted to create something that took inspiration from the sport’s cars. IndyCar is clean and fast with sharp edges. And that is what we created, a sleek stage with finished edges. We also drew inspiration from the way the sport is changing the opening ceremony format to be more about story telling. The layout of the stage will allow for interviews and other opportunities that didn’t exist before.

Smith: We took a lot of inspiration from the Formula 1 opening ceremonies which include a lot of pomp and circumstance. IndyCar wanted to emulate that show while remaining true to their brand. We were encouraged to create a stage that was both functional and aesthetically unique. We also wanted to be able to create the ambiance of IndyCar no matter where the stage traveled.

Lane: We wanted to build something that was very functional yet dynamic.

Q: What was the process for actually designing and building this stage?

Baxter: It involved our team all sitting down together and brainstorming. We had multiple meetings and revisions to get it where it is today. We all brought a lot to the table because of our knowledge on what we liked and what worked (or didn’t work) in past iterations of stages.

Smith: I wanted to implement hydraulics which would make the stage easier to maneuver and more functional than ever before. Using this feedback, our partners at Craftsman Industries began the actual build while I oversaw every engineer draft and step. Based on our final design, we can easily build and break down the stage in our hour on each end.

Lane: It was mostly designing from thoughts and sketches then tweaking the design as we went.

Q: What were the biggest challenges in the process?

Baxter: The finishings and engineering. Since this stage was so different than anything else we have ever designed, we had to get creative on getting what we wanted within budget.

Smith: I think it’s the same challenge that we face on so many of our projects: turning a concept into a 3D object. But we pulled through and made that vision a reality. We were able to add some unique attributes that made everything easy to work like enabling the “fins” at the top of the stage to fold inward for easy transportation from city to city.

Lane: We were lucky in that there weren’t that many challenges. The design of the stage went relatively smoothly from the creative end; a few back and forth tweaks with IndyCar on the graphics but overall easy breezy.

Q: How do these two projects showcase JHE’s expertise?

Baxter: I think they both showcase JHE’s creativity. Also, our ability to take a client’s idea, translate that to paper and then a final product.

Smith: To me, both stages show JHE’s growth. Our end product continues to look more professional, sleek and smooth with every project we set out to accomplish.

Lane: I think the company, having built numerous stages in the past, knows the process well at this point and knows who fits which role perfectly to take a rough concept and transform it into an amazing stage design.

Raven: We do a lot under one roof. I think this is an example of having the right people at the right time to the produce the right product.

IndyCar, NASCAR, staging, truss, live shows, experiential activation, touring