Article, July 2009
The Deals Column
By Bob Click, The Deals Making Man
Attendees walk into a trade show and the glitter and glitz greets them, but they have no inkling as to what goes into setting up an impressive show floor. My wife and I worked the SAP/ASUG Sapphire show http://www.sap.com/community/events/sapphire_online_2009/index.epx, and it was the most impressive set-up with respect to just the suspended trusses with attached equipment. There were fourteen JLG High lift platform machines working from 8am to 10pm for 9 days, along with 10 battery operated hydraulic scissor high-lift platforms, all needed to assemble and raise the many trusses, signs, lighting and necessary equipment high above the 1.1 million sq. ft. of show floor in the Orange County Convention Center building in Orlando.
You've seen those so-called cherry pickers on four wheels, and the larger ones are hybrid types with a propane gas engine to drive a generator and hydraulic pump. The body can rotate on its mobile frame and the platform's high-lift boom extends in sections that can be manipulated to a great extent. They're completely controlled by the operator using a control panel located on the platform railing, including driving it around, even fully extended. Per OSHA rules, an operator must be properly licensed to operate a boom-lift or scissors-lift.
These trusses aren't the triangular type supporting a home's roof, but are square frame structures made of tubular aluminum for mounting all kinds of necessary paraphernalia used above booths, and other areas above the show floor. Equipment attached to the trusses might be lighting, including computerized lighting (sometimes very elaborate), projection systems and other electronic gadgetry, drapery and drapery traverse rods, among other things.
Most suspended trusses in this show were heavier (20" square), but some were 12" square. They mostly come in 10' lengths and bolt together end to end, although there are also corner, curved, and angled pieces, depending on the configuration they want. There was almost FOUR MILES of truss suspended in the Sapphire show, and there were over 1,000 1/2 ton electric winches attached to raise and suspend them. The winches to put them up there are interesting because when the workmen get the trusses and equipment assembled, there will be multiple winches attached to each one.
While it's called a winch, a better term would be 'chain lift' because there's no cable and drum to wind it around. When lifting, a chain runs through the winch, but then falls over the side into a cloth storage bag until the winch is reversed. These were three-phase (electrically) and are mounted according to whether the winch has to lift itself, or something else. On each truss assembly, every winch's power-cord is connected to a master control panel so that when an assembly is elevated from the assembled position on the floor, the control panel operator simply presses one button and the entire truss assembly, no matter how large, immediately rises in unison retaining the established level position to the required height. Each winch can also be operated individually if needed to adjust individual truss heights.
One I noticed began with a 125' long 20' truss with seven winches attached to the top of it (each winch will pull itself and its attached truss up). The winch's hoisting chains were attached to the roof structure. Then seven more winches were assembled to the bottom of that truss to raise and suspend another truss; and hanging drapery was attached on each side of the top truss. It was raised to the desired height. Then another truss 8" wide by 12" high, and 125' long was attached to the lower winches' chains and a heavy-duty traverse rod was attached to the bottom of that truss to operate a lengthy 8' high drape for the attendee entrance.
Suspended drapery cordoned off a stage and projection screen 70' long by 20' high. Several trusses above the stage held lighting equipment. This screen used four projectors behind it in two stacks of two. The top ones were backups (there's always a backup projector). Smaller projection screens were on each side of the large one, with rear projection, and four more screens and projectors were hung back above the seating area, along with speaker systems.
Entering the show floor from the lobby, attendees saw two giant projection screens showing SAP hype (positioned in a V shape) that were each 30' high and 60' wide. Their projectors were mounted on a truss, in this case, in front of the screens, and there were four projectors (two stacks of two) for each screen, each one producing 30,000 lumens of light. The bottom projector in the stack is the main one and the top one is for backup. If a projector goes out, the backup takes over and you would hardly know anything went wrong. Each projector costs roughly $100,000.
Some assembled trusses above the show floor were 200' long holding special lighting and drapery to cordon off areas. There were about 50 riggers (workman who work high up) hurrying to accomplish just this work, not the actual show floor exhibits, which were assembled by 200 other workers. The stage area was the most complicated with its lighting, sound and projectors; and most of these productions use about a million dollars worth of equipment that usually takes two eighteen wheelers to transport. In this show, it took three trucks to bring in just the necessary truss sections.
The exhibitor area uses smaller ones, but most other projectors used in this show ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 lumens of light output. They were water-cooled and used three-phase power (if you know electricity); and they use from 30 to 50 amps. The lenses alone can cost $10,000. The makes were mostly Barco, but some were Christie, a more expensive brand. I was told resolution was 2200 x 1480. They had to change a few of the Christies to something else on hand, because those particular Christies didn't deliver the desired resolution. There was seating for 9,000 attendees. The production folks don't install the elevated projectors and lighting because of the installation height. I'll put some pictures of the trusses, and audio/video production equipment and consoles on my Web site if you would like to see them. http://www.dealsguy.com Don Henley was the featured entertainer on the last evening of the show.
Bob Elgines, President and Editor of Colorado River Computer Club, writes an interesting monthly column that is carried by many editors in their newsletters. I loved his comment about the $29.97 he paid for 1.42 ounces of black ink. He says that in comparison to gas, it works out to $2700 per gallon and that perhaps somebody should start drilling for ink. If that wasn't in your newsletter, now you know about a possible new business venture. With this economy, I'd try anything.
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That's it for this month. I'll have some more new product announcements on my
Web site that didn't offer discounts. Meet me here again next month if your
editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of
special offers or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not
be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any products, no
matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click