Video Know-How for Shows: Is Video expensive to use in live performance?

Is Video expensive to use in live performance?


Given that expensive is a relative term and that Theatres tend not to have huge budgets, yes! A better question is: is it worth the expense and how can I get the best of the medium? Each show where video is considered as part of the toolkit has different demands on it. As I mentioned in the last Know-How, video is a very flexible tool.

On the whole, you will be looking at three areas of cost:

– The Video Designer’s fee (for concept, system design, team management and art direction of the content). This is akin to the fee that any other member of the creative team will expect.

– Content Production (animation, shoots, stock footage as required) and Visual Engineering (programming, rigging etc). Consider this similar to the set designer’s workshop budget.

– Kit hire (if it is not owned in house). This budget line would also apply to a lighting or sound designer.

Looking at the above, you will see the analogies I have used to try and make sense of the type of cost you are looking at and where it all the money goes. Since video can belong to any or all of the departments mentioned to a greater or lesser degree depending on the show, I believe it is a valid comparison.

Here are a couple of ways to get the best out of the video budget on your show*:

* see what I did there? You need a video budget. Even if you’ve spent all you money on the set. It doesn’t come for free.

1. Hire an experienced Video Designer

Video Design is a specialist skill and those who work successfully in the industry are well-connected to suppliers (both for kit and content production), often come with a library of pre-shot but as yet un-used stock material that can be tailored to the requirements of your show; they will know how to make best use of their rig to cover the requisite surfaces and most importantly they are familiar with the extreme and unforgiving timescales that you often need to work with. Regular video production for broadcast or film often doesn’t know the same budgetary and time constraints or requirements for live flexibility so hiring a straight filmmaker may not be that useful. If you get the right designer, they will be able to help you save money on the whole process.

2. Involve your video specialist early on in your production process

There are many reasons why you should do this, among which: if there are deals to be struck with kit suppliers, having time on your hands can help.

3. Make sure you discuss your requirements carefully with the designer and be flexible if possible.

As both a creative team member and a technician, they may have valuable input about how to create seemingly impossibly expensive ideas using alternative methods that won’t cost the earth. Remaining flexible and open to cost and time-saving ideas will help under time and budget constraints and invariably leas to the creation of something new and more unique than you might have imagined.

4. Don’t try and use video as a substitute for the real: you will be disappointed.

Use video for what it does best and you will be delighted. 

5. Be careful which corners you cut

You may end up with the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ ringing over in your ears if you sacrifice too much: dimmer or lower resolution projectors, slower connections or less flexible servers can all leave you feeling frustrated and crew with inadeuqate experience or lacking in numbers to share the load can be a big mistake too

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