Live event support

Live performance events including theater, music, dance, opera, use production equipment and services such as staging, scenery, mechanicals, sound, lighting, video, special effects, transport, packaging, communications, costume and makeup to convince live audience members that there is no better place that they could be at the moment. This article provides information about many of the possible production support tools and services and how they relate to each other.

Live performance events have a long history of visual scenery, lighting, costume amplification and a shorter history of visual projection and sound amplification reinforcement. This article describes the technologies that have been used to amplify and reinforce live events. The sections of this article together explain how the tools needed to stage, amplify and reinforce live events are interconnected.

Live event support overview

Visual support

Live event visual amplification


Live event visual amplification is the display of live and pre-recorded images as a part of a live stage event.

Visual amplification began when films, projected onto a stage, added characters or background information to a production. 35 mm motion picture projectors became available in 1910 - but which theatre or opera company first used a movie in a stage production is not known.

In 1935, less costly 16 mm film equipment allowed many other performance groups and school theaters to use motion pictures in productions.

In 1970, closed circuit video cameras and videocassette machines became available and Live Event Visual Amplification came of age. For the first time live closeups of stage performers could be displayed in real time. These systems also made it possible to show pre-recorded videos that added information & visual intensity to a live event.

One of the first video touring systems was created by video designer TJ McHose in 1975 for the rock band The Tubes using black and white television monitors.

Video amplification The Tubes
Touring black-and-white video system The Tubes 1975
Visual amplification in stadium
Touring color system Kool Jazz Festival 1978

In 1978, TJ McHose designed a touring color video system that enlarged performers at the Kool Jazz Festivals in sports stadiums across the United States.


  • 1910: 35 mm film projector
  • 1935: 16 mm Kodachrome film projectors
  • 1965: Sony Portapak 1/2" video tape system released
  • 1967: Joshua Light Show
  • 1967: Film Projector -motion picture effects
  • 1968: Ant Farm Founded in San Francisco
  • 1969: "TV Bra for Living Sculpture" Nam June Paik - Charlotte Moorman (2 TVs B&W)
  • 1969: Video Free America Founded in San Francisco by Art Ginsberg & Skip Sweeney
    • 1970: VFA -"The Continuing Story of Carol & Ferd" B&W Reality TV show display performance
      • (1/2" video tapes switched live to 12 TVs B&W) Skip Sweeney Video Performer
    • 1971: VFA -"All the Video You can Eat" display performance 12 TV monitor 4 input
      • (1/2" video tapes switched live to 12 TVs B&W) Skip Sweeney Video Performer
  • 1971: The Kitchen Founded in New York city by video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka
  • 1975: "Media Burn" Ant Farm (Car crashes through wall of TVs)
  • 1975: The Tubes - Live concert 6/1/75 Winterland San Francisco
    • (2 B&W TV 1 cam 1/2 " video tape) T.J. McHose Video artist
  • 1975: The Tubes - Boarding House SF (1 TV B&W) "Leroy's Wedding"
    • video recording of priest marries couple during stage show T.J. McHose Video artist
    • 1975: The Tubes - Bimbo's (4 TV B&W) T.J. McHose Video artist
  • 1975: Kool Jazz Festival -music concerts in sports stadiums
    • successfully attracts young African-American male audiences
  • 1976: Tubes Talent Hunt Boarding House San Francisco
  • 1978: Kool Jazz Festival video reinforcement at sports stadiuontent and use LED
    Visual amplification control center
    Video control center Kool Jazz Festival 1978
    • Orbec color video touring display system T.J. McHose Video designer
    • (3 live TV cameras on 4 CRT TV projectors Color) Mick Anger director
  • 1980: Record Factory In store video display (TJ McHose)
  • 1981: MTV begins cable broadcasting
  • 1982: The Who Farewell Tour Eidophor Video Projector on 22' x 30' screen
    • Nocturne Productions Video Truck - Paul Becher Director
      • Nocturne builds the first 2 "Broadcast" quality portable touring systems with Hitachi cameras (SK-91), Grass Valley 1600 switchers, and the GE "Talaria" projector, an idiosyncratic device which requires a board operator with a wizard's license to keep it running.
  • 1982: Nocturne systems go on the road with Journey (Becher Dir.) and The Police, (Mick Anger Dir.) using a single screen over the stage center.
  • 1983: David Bowie (Mick Anger Dir.) uses Nocturne video for the stadium dates on his "Serious Moonlight" tour.
    • This tour was the first time a "Diamond Vision" type (LED) screen is used on a scaffold behind and above the stage for some shows, and eidophor elsewhere.
  • 1984: Tasco builds a video system and begins to compete for the touring business with Nocturne
  • A TimeLine of Film and Video inventions is available at
Visual amplification control center
Video control center Kool Jazz Festival 1978

By 2000 many bands tour with LED as well as DLP projection and LED video walls

Live event visual reinforcement


Live event visual reinforcement is the addition of projected lighting effects and images onto any type of performance venue.

Visual Reinforcement began more than 2000 years ago. In China during the Han Dynasty, Shadow puppetry was invented to "bring back to life" Emperor Wu's favorite concubine. Mongolian troops spread Shadow play throughout Asia and the Middle East in the 13th century. Shadow puppetry reached Taiwan in 1650, and missionaries brought it to France in 1767.

The next major advance in Visual reinforcement for events was the magic lantern, first conceptualized by Giovanni Battista della Porta in his 1558 work Magiae naturalis. The Magic Lantern became practical by 1750 with the oil lamp and glass lenses. Special effect animation attachments were added in the 1830s. In 1854, the Ambrotype positive photographic process on glass made Magic lantern slide creation much less expensive.

Magic lanterns were greatly improved by the application of limelight to live stage production in 1837 at Covent Garden Theatre and improved again when electric arc lighting became available in 1880.

In 1910, Adolf Linnebach invented the Linnebach lantern, a lensless wide angle glass slide projector.

In 1933, the Gobo metal shadow pattern for the ellipsoidal spotlight allowed images to appear and disappear by dimmer control.

In 1935, 16 mm Kodachrome film projectors added the first fully animated visual reinforcement to live events.


Visual reinforcement magic lantern
Magic Lantern image projector

Audio support

Live event sound reinforcement


A sound reinforcement system is professional audio, was first developed for movie theatres in 1927 when the first ever talking picture was released, called The Jazz Singer. Movie theatre sound was greatly improved in 1937 when the Shearer Horn system debuted. One of the first large-scale outdoor public address systems was at 1939 New York World's Fair.

In the 1960s, rock and roll concerts promoted by Bill Graham at The Fillmore created a need for quickly changeable sound systems. In the early 1970s, Graham founded FM Productions to provide touring sound and light systems. By 1976 in San Francisco, the technical debate over infinite baffle vs horn-loaded enclosures, and line arrays vs distributed driver arrays, was ongoing at FM because of the proximity of The Grateful Dead and their scene Ultrasound, John Meyer, and others. But at that time there were parallel developments in other parts of the United States - Showco (Dallas) and Clair Bros (Philadelphia) had different approaches; Clair in particular was moving in the direction of modular full-range enclosures. They would rig as many as needed (or clients like Bruce Springsteen could afford) in whatever configuration they thought would cover a particular venue. Stanal Sound in southern California used fiberglass futuristic looking equipment for artists like Kenny Rogers.


Touring sound reinforcement system

Transportation support

Efficient and timely transportation is essential for live event productions. [3]

Touring packaging

Visual amplification schematic system
Touring video system schematic

Well designed touring systems unload from the truck gently, roll easily into their stage location, connect to each other quickly. A well designed system includes duplicates of critical components and "field-replaceable" items such as cables, switches and fuses. Every component should be protected by a well padded road case that has room for all connector cables and allows easy access to the components for fast cable re-patching to bypass a bad component and for repairs during a tour. The road cases need good ventilation and for outdoor use should be white to minimize solar heat buildup. Road case sizes should be modular to pack tightly together on the truck.

Packaging images

Visual amplification schematic system

Touring video system schematic

Visual amplification schematic cases

Touring cases schematic for Video display system Kool Jazz Festival 1978

Visual amplification projector case

Color video projector in road case -Kool Jazz Festival

See also


  1. ^ Burris-Meyer and Cole (1938). Scenery For The Theatre.Little, Brown and company pp 246-7 Projected Scenery Effects
  2. ^ Wilfred, Thomas (1965) Projected Scenery: A Technical Manual
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2009-05-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
Apparent source width

Apparent source width (ASW) is the audible impression of a spatially extended sound source. Physically, this psychoacoustic impressions results from sound radiation characteristics and room acoustical properties. Wide sources are desired by listeners of music. Apparent source width affects the perceived sound of unplugged concerts of art music, opera, classical music, historically informed performance and contemporary classical music, as well as concerts that use live event support, like live sound mixing, sound reinforcement systems or a public address system, like popular music, rock music, electronic music and musical theatre. Research concerning the ASW comes from the field of room acoustics, architectural acoustics and auralization as well as musical acoustics, psychoacoustics and systematic musicology.

Artist Growth

Artist Growth is a cloud-based touring and music business management application. Numerous artist managers, tour managers, and musicians use Artist Growth to boost team collaboration, simplify event logistics, track finances, automate ticket requests, quickly find files, and consolidate data. Customers of Artist Growth include artists such as Jason Aldean, Tiësto and Luke Combs, artist management companies such as Red Light and Vector, and major record labels.

Audio multicore cable

An audio multicore cable (often colloquially referred to as a multicore, snake cable or snake) is a thick cable which usually contains 4–64 individual audio cables inside a common, sturdy outer jacket. Audio multicore cables are used to convey many audio signals between two locations, such as in audio recording, sound reinforcement, PA systems and broadcasting. Multicores often route many signals from microphones or musical instruments to a mixing console, and can also carry signals from a mixing console back to speakers.

In audio engineering, the term multicore may refer to the several things:

an unterminated length of multicore cable intended for analog audio signals (a type of cable harness)

a terminated cable, with a multipin connector or many individual connectors

the entire assembly of a terminated multicore cable and stage box


A concert is a live music performance in front of an audience. The performance may be by a single musician, sometimes then called a recital, or by a musical ensemble, such as an orchestra, choir, or band. Concerts are held in a wide variety and size of settings, from private houses and small nightclubs, dedicated concert halls, arenas and parks to large multipurpose buildings, and even sports stadiums. Indoor concerts held in the largest venues are sometimes called arena concerts or amphitheatre concerts. Informal names for a concert include show and gig.

Regardless of the venue, musicians usually perform on a stage (if not actual then an area of the floor designated as such). Concerts often require live event support with professional audio equipment. Before recorded music, concerts provided the main opportunity to hear musicians play.

Live sound mixing

Live sound mixing is the blending of multiple sound sources by an audio engineer using a mixing console or software. Sounds that are mixed include those from instruments and voices which are picked up by microphones (for drum kit, lead vocals and acoustic instruments like piano or saxophone and pickups for instruments such as electric bass) and pre-recorded material, such as songs on CD or a digital audio player. Individual sources are typically equalised to adjust the bass and treble response and routed to effect processors to ultimately be amplified and reproduced via a loudspeaker system. The live sound engineer listens and balances the various audio sources in a way that best suits the needs of the event.


A microphone, colloquially named mic or mike (), is a device – a transducer – that converts sound into an electrical signal. Microphones are used in many applications such as telephones, hearing aids, public address systems for concert halls and public events, motion picture production, live and recorded audio engineering, sound recording, two-way radios, megaphones, radio and television broadcasting, and in computers for recording voice, speech recognition, VoIP, and for non-acoustic purposes such as ultrasonic sensors or knock sensors.

Several types of microphone are in use, which employ different methods to convert the air pressure variations of a sound wave to an electrical signal. The most common are the dynamic microphone, which uses a coil of wire suspended in a magnetic field; the condenser microphone, which uses the vibrating diaphragm as a capacitor plate; and the piezoelectric microphone, which uses a crystal of piezoelectric material. Microphones typically need to be connected to a preamplifier before the signal can be recorded or reproduced.

Missouri Baptist Convention

The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is the state convention of Southern Baptists in Missouri. Headquartered in Jefferson City, it operates as a network of nearly 1,800 independent Southern Baptist churches, which are divided into eight regions and 60 Baptist associations. Missouri Baptists elect an Executive Board that oversees the convention’s ministries, which in turn are carried out by the MBC staff.

Motion graphics

Motion graphics are pieces of animation or digital footage which create the illusion of motion or rotation, and are usually combined with audio for use in multimedia projects. Motion graphics are usually displayed via electronic media technology, but may also be displayed via manual powered technology (e.g. thaumatrope, phenakistoscope, stroboscope, zoetrope, praxinoscope, flip book). The term distinguishes still graphics from those with a transforming appearance over time, without over-specifying the form. While any form of experimental or abstract animation can be called motion graphics, the term typically more explicitly refers to the commercial application of animation and effects to video, film, TV, and interactive applications.

Professional audio

Professional audio, abbreviated as pro audio, refers to both an activity and a category of high quality, studio-grade audio equipment. Typically it encompasses sound recording, sound reinforcement system setup and audio mixing, and studio music production by trained sound engineers, audio engineers, record producers, and audio technicians who work in live event support and recording using audio mixers, recording equipment and sound reinforcement systems. The term "professional audio" is used to differentiate its associated industries and practices from that of consumer- or home-oriented audio, which are typically geared toward listening in a non-commercial environment.

Professional audio can include, but is not limited to broadcast radio, audio mastering in a recording studio, television studio, and sound reinforcement such as a live concert, DJ performances, audio sampling, public address system set up, sound reinforcement in movie theatres, and design and setup of piped music in hotels and restaurants. Professional audio equipment is sold at professional audio stores and music stores.

Real-time computing

In computer science, real-time computing (RTC), or reactive computing describes hardware and software systems subject to a "real-time constraint", for example from event to system response. Real-time programs must guarantee response within specified time constraints, often referred to as "deadlines". The correctness of these types of systems depends on their temporal aspects as well as their functional aspects. Real-time responses are often understood to be in the order of milliseconds, and sometimes microseconds. A system not specified as operating in real time cannot usually guarantee a response within any timeframe, although typical or expected response times may be given.

A real-time system has been described as one which "controls an environment by receiving data, processing them, and returning the results sufficiently quickly to affect the environment at that time". The term "real-time" is also used in simulation to mean that the simulation's clock runs at the same speed as a real clock, and in process control and enterprise systems to mean "without significant delay".

Real-time software may use one or more of the following: synchronous programming languages, real-time operating systems, and real-time networks, each of which provide essential frameworks on which to build a real-time software application.

Systems used for many mission critical applications must be real-time, such as for control of fly-by-wire aircraft, or anti-lock brakes on a vehicle, which must produce maximum deceleration but intermittently stop braking to prevent skidding. Real-time processing fails if not completed within a specified deadline relative to an event; deadlines must always be met, regardless of system load.

Sound reinforcement system

A sound reinforcement system is the combination of microphones, signal processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers in enclosures all controlled by a mixing console that makes live or pre-recorded sounds louder and may also distribute those sounds to a larger or more distant audience. In many situations, a sound reinforcement system is also used to enhance or alter the sound of the sources on the stage, typically by using electronic effects, such as reverb, as opposed to simply amplifying the sources unaltered.

A sound reinforcement system for a rock concert in a stadium may be very complex, including hundreds of microphones, complex live sound mixing and signal processing systems, tens of thousands of watts of amplifier power, and multiple loudspeaker arrays, all overseen by a team of audio engineers and technicians. On the other hand, a sound reinforcement system can be as simple as a small public address (PA) system, consisting of, for example, a single microphone connected to a 100 watt amplified loudspeaker for a singer-guitarist playing in a small coffeehouse. In both cases, these systems reinforce sound to make it louder or distribute it to a wider audience.Some audio engineers and others in the professional audio industry disagree over whether these audio systems should be called sound reinforcement (SR) systems or PA systems. Distinguishing between the two terms by technology and capability is common, while others distinguish by intended use (e.g., SR systems are for live event support and PA systems are for reproduction of speech and recorded music in buildings and institutions). In some regions or markets, the distinction between the two terms is important, though the terms are considered interchangeable in many professional circles.

Video design

Video design or projection design is a creative field of stagecraft. It is concerned with the creation and integration of film, motion graphics and live camera feed into the fields of theatre, opera, dance, fashion shows, concerts and other live events. Video design has only recently gained recognition as a separate creative field. Prior to this, the responsibilities of video design would often be taken on by a scenic designer or lighting designer. A person who practices the art of video design is often known as a Video Designer. However, naming conventions vary around the world, and so practitioners may also be credited as Projection Designer, "Media Designer", Cinematographer or Video Director (amongst others). As a relatively new field of stagecraft, practitioners create their own definitions, rules and techniques.

Video projector

A video projector is an image projector that receives a video signal and projects the corresponding image on a projection screen using a lens system. All video projectors use a very bright ultra high pressure mercury lamp, LED or solid state blue or RGB laser to provide the illumination required to project the image, and most modern ones can correct any curves, blurriness, and other inconsistencies through manual settings. If a blue laser is used, a phosphor wheel is used to turn blue light into white light, which is also the case with white LEDs. (White LEDs do not use lasers.) A wheel is used in order to prolong the lifespan of the phosphor, as it is degraded by the heat generated by the laser diode.

Video projectors are used for many applications such as conference room presentations, classroom training, home cinema and concerts. In schools and other educational settings, they are sometimes connected to an interactive whiteboard. In the late 20th century they became commonplace in home cinema. Although large LCD television screens became quite popular, video projectors are still common among many home theater enthusiasts.

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