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Navigating Your AV and Production Quote

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Do you find yourself lost at sea when looking at your AV/Production Quote?

How much trust are you putting in your AV/Production company?

Although it’s important to work with a credible, experienced AV/Production company, trust really should be at the forefront of your relationship with them.

Trust, but verify.

– RONALD REAGAN
40th President of the United States

On the flip-side, it’s also critical for you to be clear on what they’re including in their estimate.

The Content

It’s important to understand that your AV/Production quote will typically be a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the audiovisual and production sections of your event, and it may possibly also include media services – depending on your scope and the agency you’re working with.

The quote should list all the individual items or services that will be provided as part of the project and their associated costs.

Here are four key elements that you should look for when reading an AV/Production quote:

  1. Itemized list of services: The quote should provide a detailed breakdown of the services being offered. This may include equipment rental, setup and teardown, technical support, video editing, live streaming, or any other specific services required for your project or event.
  2. Equipment and Labor Costs: The quote should specify the cost of equipment rental, such as cameras, lighting, sound systems, projectors, screens, and any other AV equipment required. Additionally, it should outline the charges for labor, including technicians, camera operators, sound engineers, and other personnel involved in the production. It should list the rates for each item or service.
  3. Subtotals: The quote should provide subtotals for each section or category of services provided. This will help you understand where most of the costs are coming from.
  4. Total Cost: The quote should clearly state the total cost for the entire project. This will give you a clear picture of the overall cost and help you determine whether it fits within your budget.

Additional Charges: The quote should list any additional charges that may be incurred during the project, such as travel expenses, overtime charges, or other miscellaneous fees.

The Layout

Let’s take a high-level look at your quote. Do you understand the terminology? Is it summarized, or is it an exhaustive list of labor, media, and audio-visual equipment detail? Hopefully, it will present a balance of both. The quote should break down your costs for the AV, production, and media for your event in a way that provides details that ultimately draw the big picture.

Having a detailed breakdown is useful not only to assist with knowing your costs, but it will help prevent miscommunications during planning; you’ll understand the working parts that comprise the whole of the event. You’ll be clear on where your company’s money is going, having details available to you that might compel you to uncover vulnerabilities or crucial items that may have been overlooked.

The Site Visit

The Site Inspection, or Site Visit would be a good time to establish rapport, if you haven’t yet, with your AV and Production representatives as you walk the venue together and discuss the details. They will have a combination valuable input regarding the room/s you have selected such as the best screen position/type/size for your stage, rigging opportunities, load-in/load-out location, flow of attendee foot traffic during the event, ideal opportunities for branding, best location for the social portions of the event and the backstage equipment and staff setup. The Site Visit will likely also include travel, meals and hotel for the AV and production representatives.

Comparing Quotes

AV Quotes are, as Forrest Gump says, “…like a box of chocolates“.

Each AV/production company presents their own style in their quote – some add creativity and flair to the estimate so you can also get a taste of their creative talents, others just go by the numbers in plain black and white, and some will even provide a one-page write-up, describing a general, high-level scope with summarized totals.

Therefore, you can’t easily compare apples-to-apples when reviewing your quotes, as the details and layout will vary from quote to quote. There are just no industry standards with AV and production quotes.

As Forrest also said, “What’s normal, anyways?“.

Not to pile on, but…

Each AV/production company uses equipment they have selected as the best options for your event. It’s important for you to be sure the brand names for the equipment are included, as you want to make every effort to ensure the highest possible quality of technology being used.

“I Hate Surprises!”

In the case of your AV and Production quote, surprises should be avoided! For example, some AV and production companies will not include the power and rigging costs for your event, as the venue may require this to be done in-house. If this happens, you may be hit later with an unexpected bill from the venue! Prevent surprises of this nature by ensuring that the quote is 100% inclusive of all costs related to the event.

For details regarding the jargon for an event, see my blog “Foreign Language 101: AV & Production Vocabulary Words”.

I have provided a sampling below of categories you might run across when reading your AV and Production Quote:

Audio

Audio will include all sound equipment such as speakers, soundboards, amplifiers, equalizers, 2-way radios and microphones. This section may also include items such as the digital mixing console (for balancing sound), the audio playback/editing computer, loudspeakers and monitor kits to achieve pure, scalable sound, and a 2-way radio system for communication among the production and AV team before and during the event.

Visual

Visual will consist of all items related to video, cameras and projectors. In addition, it will include charges for video production, such as the pre-production, on-location production, post-production, equipment, casting, and location charges.

Visual items on your quote may include switchers to be used for directing multiple video input signals to a single output. When streaming events live, HDMI to SDI is common for uncompressed video and audio being sent from a video source. (For larger rooms, HDMI to SDI converters will usually need to be specified.)

Presenters may want to use Downstage Monitors (DSMs), useful for them to utilize for presentation view or teleprompting. The digital display timer is a programmable timekeeper that keeps the presenter on schedule (or at least aware that he is over or under the time specified for the presentation).

When a presenter is on-stage, they have an option to control the presentation computer directly (if one is on-stage, for example, at the lectern) to advance their slides. Preferably, the presenter will instead agree to give cues to the projectionist via Cue Lights with Dual Receivers & Wireless Remotes (or clickers). Using clickers, the presenter is communicating to the projectionist backstage. This prevents accidentally advancing to the next or going back to the previous slide.

SDI/HDMI monitorsmay be needed by personnel for backstage show management and stage management.

MacPro Graphics computers may be specified for the graphics and editing team that will need substantial graphics performance on-site.

The supporting equipment to AV such as laptops, clickers, prompters (aka “confidence monitors”, and speaker timers are referred to as AV Support.

In the Lighting section of your quote, you’ll see the actual lights to be used such as spotlights, gobos and Lekos as well as truss, rigging equipment, special lenses, and lighting power distribution.

The Electrics section will include the overall power distribution and flow to be specified throughout the room/s as well as cables, connectors and adapters.

Stage design and fabrication, rental props, and stage setup are addressed in the Stage & General Session section of the quote.

If your event includes breakout sessions, there should be a Breakout Rooms section on the quote, specifying the room’s hi-tech equipment to be set up. Low-tech items such as lecterns, flip-charts and whiteboards are typically provided by the venue, but your AV production company may agree to provide them upon request.

Items such as hard drives, memory cards, batteries, packaging supplies, carpet remnants, and tape will fall under Consumables.

Various other deliverables and services may be available, depending on your AV and production company, that may fall under Miscellaneous, such as ideation for theme development, attendee morale boosters (such as pre-planned, entertaining or activity events among attendees), and special production administrative projects to be carried out prior to, during or after the event.

Show Management and Production is where your experienced production team is identified. Your project manager is the one you have been having regular meetings and check-ins as they work to execute your event within the budget you have approved. Other show production staff may include the executive producer, producer, event designer, live event director, production assistants, show runners, show flow/script writers, and a show caller.

Among  the various Labor, Management and Show Crew positions listed, this section may also include The Technical Director (TD). Sometimes the TD is listed under Show Management. A strong and composed Technical Director is crucial to the success of your event! Do not cut corners here when it comes to this key position.

This section might also include personnel for a pre-production team, load-in/load-out, and on-site event managers, photographers, cinematographers, riggers, AV technicians/engineers/designers/operators (i.e., audio, video, lighting, scenic), mic runners and stage managers.

How Do Labor & Production Rates Work?

In the film industry, a film crew typically works a twelve-hour day, with half-hour meal breaks on set after six hours. For budgeting purposes, this comprises what they refer to as their “Daily Rate”. AV and production companies have various similarities with the film industry, so the “Ten-Hour Day” was created, resulting in the AV/Production’s “Daily Rate”. By definition, a “Day” in AV and production for corporate events is ten hours, with half-hour meal breaks on-site after five hours. You could say the film industry is a second cousin to the corporate event industry. (Or maybe, more like the eccentric uncle…)

You’ll see Full-Day and Half-Day rates. With a Full Day, you’ll usually be billed the entire Full-Day Rate for any work that takes a minimum of six to a maximum of ten hours. For example, if all work needed for one day comes to around seven hours, you will be billed for the full day, or ten hours. If you’re billed a Half-Day rate, this is for five hours or less. If you’re paying a Half-Day Rate (therefore five hours), and your project takes 5 hours and 20 minutes, you’ll fall into the full-day rate. If the time extends beyond the ten hours, your production company will likely charge an amount equal to time and one-half (of the calculated hourly rate), and beyond 14 hours, they may increase the rate to double-time.

Production positions will fall under a flat fee for the entire show, or they may be quoted as a particular rate per day. These include positions such as project manager, executive producer, director of live events, show caller, runner, account manager, stage manager, and so on.

I Have to Feed the Crew? Wait…What?

Pretty much! Like I said, the AV & production industry’s uncle is the film industry – you’ve seen the on-set catering at one time or another for film crews, right? This will “eat up” some of your budget (yep, I went there), and it’s usually provided by the venue’s catering department. If your venue has foodservice, you likely won’t be allowed to order pizza or have lunch delivered from the local sandwich shop, as they’ll require in-house meals only, to be provided by their catering department. You may be quoted a per diem fee for the crews if there’s no kitchen on-site.

Travel & Expenses

Just what is included in the travel portion of a quote? Why not just hire some of these positions locally?

Hiring outside of your local market is common, and you’ll encounter this especially when you work for a company that insists that you select the best, most experienced team possible. It is vital for you to secure smooth sailing throughout all stages of your event. The quote might include transportation, a daily per diem, and equipment trucking, but the peace of mind and pats on the back you will probably receive may be well worth it.

in Conclusion

As you can see, there are so many unique items that could appear on your quote, so be sure to set aside plenty of time with your production company’s project manager to go through it, line-by-line.

Ask questions until you feel everything is well understood and clearly defined. If the total quoted price is a little lower than another quote from a company that you’re more comfortable with, communicate with the company you trust and prefer the most. Why not give them the opportunity to sharpen their pencils and win your business?