NBA player Russell Westbrook says what JHE event planners think, “I'm never satisfied. I'm always trying to get better and learn from my mistakes.”
In a recent meeting with the client services team at the 28-year-old JHE Production Group, one seasoned event planner stated that at the end of the project or event, she rarely appreciates the final result. In large part, she is already looking at how to do it differently the next time. In her words, she is “never fully satisfied.”
Minus striving for perfection, what other challenges do JHE’s event planners face? The team outlined its top list of obstacles.
JHE has developed a reputation as the go-to source for producing events when it’s 1)hard or 2)on short notice. When either factor is in play, the timelines make event planning challenging. In addition, the pace is different per event and per client.
Unlike experiential activation, most special events don’t lend it to being set up in advance of being on site. The planner doesn’t see the finished product until it’s assembled at the final venue.
Which leads us to the next challenge … the planner must have a vision for the overall product and be able to “see” how the parts and pieces fit. Since no event is ever the same for JHE, the team of 37 years of combined experience often builds an event concept from the ground up, there is no standard or model to copy.
The last and likely most relevant challenge is despite the best of intentions, obstacles will occur. It’s imperative that an event planner remain exceptionally flexible and solution-minded.
While this year's contestants were all "goose bump" moments for our team, the JHE employees ultimately selected All-Star Driver Intros for the win during the annual "Dog & Pony Awards" Show. Take a look inside each of our top-4 contenders:
50 Plane PIR Flyby
As a way to celebrate Phoenix International Raceway's 50th anniversary, JHE coordinated a world record setting 50 plane flyby. It took a lot of planning with hotels, FAA and local airports plus coordination of 55 planes from 13 different states and a whole bunch of JHE teamwork to make it happen.
Richmond Pre- and Post-Race
Our team helped amp up the Richmond pre- and post-race show into essentially a miniature All-Star Race with a full blown post-race party. The fact that the show was created 100 percent in-house by JHE (audio, video, lighting, fabrication and team) was our biggest goose bump moment.
NASCAR After the Lap
The JHE in-house team produced and executed a seamless event for this year's annual ultimate driver tell-all event.
NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Driver Introductions
The only way to make driver introductions for this race any harder was to add a live musical component... so that is exactly what our team did. With no additional time allotment, we built off our 2013 stage concept and added the musical element of a Jake Owen concert to make the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race driver introductions one of the most talked about NASCAR moments of the year.
With 60 team members and 22 trucks deployed to execute events for seven clients, JHE finished the NASCAR season in style in Miami, Florida.
The week's events included production of the finale NASCAR Fuel for Business meeting for 2014; The Sprint Experience; opening and closing ceremonies including a concert by Jason Aldean; a midway concert; NASCAR Social Wall Powered by HP; the NASCAR Cabana; NASCAR hospitality; and Freightliner hospitality.
For the second year, Sprint hired JHE to create and manage its interactive fan display at NBA All-Star Jam Session, the five-day fan experience leading up to the All-Star Game. Brandon Stegall, director of operations and facilities, takes us behind the scenes to reveal five things you might not know about the experience:
The Sprint layout was designed to resemble a basketball court, complete with the wooden flooring and yellow touches, Sprint’s signature color.
A Skull Candy DJ will live in a 12-foot “crow’s nest” that replicates the appearance of the “top of the key.” The custom-built stage features Plexiglass, wooden flooring and Sprint branding.
It took two fabricators working eight hours a day for one full week to build the custom handrails and stage that will be a part of the display.
The planning for an inside event is much different than the outdoor NASCAR events that JHE produces for Sprint. The footprint is much more defined so JHE must work within stricter confines to produce the experience.
The Sprint display offers autograph sessions, a basketball court and a store displaying the brand’s newest innovations.
NBA All-Star Jam Session kicked off at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas on February 13.
Early December 2012, I was asked by Michael Verlatti to help design a custom system that would drop a curtain on cue during the unveiling of the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center. The room was unique in several ways; one of the most notable was that its walls consisted of thick glass panels from floor to ceiling.
We looked at pictures of the space and did a site visit to assess our options. We immediately figured out that typical Kabuki Solenoid systems were out of the question since there was nowhere to hang anything and adding structure would take away from the look of the room. Instead, we opted to use electromagnets to do the drop. The magnets would be turned on to hold the curtain up via a piece of metal attached to the fabric. When it was time for the reveal, the magnets would be turned off and the curtain would drop.
I then set out to design and implement the electromagnet system. I found a company in New Jersey that had what I was looking for and purchased four 12V magnets for a test run. The mock-up successfully dropped the fabric and I knew we had found what we needed for the reveal. I ordered twenty more magnets, each a little shorter and more powerful than the test ones.
The large quantity of magnets required a bigger power supply than we had in-house at JHE so I ordered some equipment to power the magnets and give us precise control to cut power. I built and wired up a control box that housed all the electronics then installed a large button to release the magnets and a safety switch to prevent an accidental drop.
Next, we ordered a somewhat translucent, neutral-colored, lightweight fabric and had it sewn into a drape that would fit the room’s dimensions. Small squares of steel were attached to the drape with buttons so we could place them where they needed to be on-site. I soldered and attached all the magnets to a cord, placing each one evenly apart yet close enough so the fabric wouldn’t sag. The process took quite a while; imagine putting together a strand of Christmas lights from scratch, where each light is the size of a hockey puck and weighs a little over a pound!
In order to attach the magnets to the glass, we wrapped the top six inches and glued the magnets to the wrap with superglue to keep them sturdily in place. The wrap enabled us to attach the magnets to something other than just the glass so when the event was over we could peel-off the wrap and magnets, leaving the glass clean and undisturbed.
After several test drops it was clear the system would work excellently. The day of the event, the team used a few tiny pieces of Velcro to keep the fabric tight around the room. With some other fancy set pieces and decals the room looked excellent and was ready for the big reveal.
The event started, people started filing in and I took my position at the control box. Verlatti was up front and cued me over radio when to drop the curtain. The time came and I “armed” the box and hit the button when I heard “drop, drop, drop.” I heard the sound of the curtain falling, immediately followed by people clapping and amazement with the engagement center. We had some people in place to pull the curtain away and out of sight quickly. Interestingly enough since I was always the person hitting the button, I never actually saw it happen first hand.
It all happened very fast but all that prep work paid off. The custom-made system designed exclusively for this event was just what the client had in mind.
As 2012 comes to an end, there is one last party to organize to celebrate an incredible year and kick off 2013 in style.
JHE asked Vice President of Special Events, Jacqueline Gafrarar, who always throws spectacular soirees to share her top-five tips to planning a memorable New Year’s Eve party:
1. Food, food, food
No party is complete without yummy food to eat! From dips to cheese to something sweet, you have to craft the right menu! Be sure to prepare in advance and consider how much time you will need to cook each item so everything is ready when your guests arrive.
2. Tasty cocktails
Whether your palate prefers beer, wine or a fancy mixed drink, there must be a plethora of options. If there is a mixologist at the party, taste test different shots. Some of my favorites include “tiny beers” and “choco shakes.” And don’t forget the champagne for the midnight toast!
3. Party favors
Everyone needs the right party favors to ring in the New Year. Stock up on fun accessories like party hats, horns and clappers to welcome in 2013.
4. Don’t forget the décor
When ringing in the New Year, balloons signifying 2013 are always a hit. I also like to incorporate clocks that are set to go off at midnight to ensure that New Year’s kiss with your significant other!
5. Be responsible
Last, but certainly not least, remember to be a responsible party host. If your guests have been drinking, offer for them to spend the night, call a cab or have a designated driver on hand to drive them home.
The 30th Olympic Games have begun and as always the opening ceremonies were a highlight for me. This event was different from what we experienced four years ago, but like Beijing, there were memorable moments that we won't soon forget.
When recounting the highlights of the four-hour long ceremony, it is hard to pick out my favorite moments especially when you had David Beckham, Paul McCartney, James Bond, Mr. Bean and a skydiving queen.
There have been remarkable advancements with integration of video product in live stadiums, but we have never seen them used in the grandstands before. The event producers took low resolution video tiles and broke them into squares mounted to the seats. By utilizing the screens this way, they were able to create a TV-friendly "card trick" that could happen as often as they liked and on cue. This was the first time I have seen video tiles used this way, but I guarantee it will not be the last.
As a behind-the-scenes guy, I was impressed at how the producers included the men and women that built the stadium into the show. This was a classy touch.
The set pieces that were integrated throughout the performance were a highlight for me. From the forging of the rings to the lighting of the torch, each of these elements started small but built into massive props that once illuminated were impressive and unforgettable.
Very few people in the world know how difficult it is to organize the thousands of cast members that participated in this production, but Danny Boyle should be proud of what he was able to accomplish. He did an excellent job of educating as well as entertaining the 80,000 in attendance and 40 million viewers watching from home as he paid tribute to his country’s rich history both past and a classy nod to the future.
We are pulling for the U.S. Olympic team and especially for our five Charlotte swimmers. Here is to bringing home the gold!
Before the NASCAR season gets underway, we took a few minutes to sit down with one of our Technical Production Coordinators, Clifton Hutchinson. Let's find out more about Clifton with our 10 Questions!