Thursday, March 27, 2014

FX and Events

An Interview with Kevin Bilida of TLC Creative

Kevin Bilida is the creator of the unique 360 video screen reveal and release that dramatically opens every Lakers game at Staples Center. He and his company have designed unforgettable moments for Superbowl Halftime shows and brought new and innovative interactive light technologies to engage audiences to create excitement for brands around the world.

EE caught up with Kevin in-between gigs to ask him to share ideas with us.

EE: Kevin, what are some cutting edge FX design ideas that event producers can use for corporate events?

Kevin: To help keep events fresh and exciting, corporate event producers should think out-of-the-box and include creative show moments and live special effects to wake up their crowd and get each person excited and motivated to see and hear every message being presented. Don't let a dull speaker ruin a great meeting. Include "larger than life" cues and music and video to keep energy levels up.

Creative ideas can connect meeting themes to a real effect; such as a meeting in hot Puerto Rico that said to the sales people assembled: "as a group we have a LOT of power, so much so that we can make it now in San Juan!" Suddenly, simulated snow falls, immersing the audience in the message of group power.

Revealing key speakers with exciting effects can add memorable energy to the event, and for the speaker a more receptive and motivated group. Themed video production can create a story that is concluded with the speaker's entrance, a set-up and execution that becomes entertaining and memorable.

Look at the powerful reveal cue for Justin Timberlake on the ESPYS at the right. It was a combination of fog effects and pyrotechnics, timed in such a way that large billowing plumes allowed the performer to enter the area hidden, and then dramatically be revealed as if he appeared from nowhere. This balance of effects used and the perfectly timed execution is how this reveal is a cutting-edge moment. Why not introduce a keynote speaker this way?

 Incorporate a 360-video cylinder, such as we did for the Lakers. Think about it. A show that suddenly appears in mid-air. The effect is thrilling in person. Think about how the Staples Center goes dark and a couple of seconds later a huge screen fills the arena for the pre-game show. It is a creative use of video projection and screens and has been performed live over 500 times to energize Lakers fans at every game. Why not bring such unique energy to corporate guests to create a rush like no other?

EE: What new "effects" do you see available in the future?

Kevin: Future effects are here TODAY. New LED lighting technologies are exploding with amazing effects and interactivity that are exciting people like nothing else. True interactive experiences and devices are available now.

Think about incorporating LED wristbands that not only light up, but pinpoint where guests are. They can network with each other or indicate how long an individual was at a stage or a bar or dancing. These can be utilized at meetings and conventions effectively.

In the photo below, technology created a spectacular half-time show for the NBA Detroit Pistons. Each fan in the stands had either a white or blue XyloBands LED wristband, while the performers wore red ones, connecting the fans AND the show with live controlled lighting effects in sync with the show, making the audience part of the show.

This technology and other new wireless remote controlled technologies provide significant impact at all types of special events.

Live controlled and wearable media are creating technology and fashion hybrids that are truly a new era. Radio-controlled lighting and remote devices, like flying miniature blimps or balls of light that glow and change colors on cue, are surprising people today. RFID and NFC ID chips have huge potential to transform events and shows in many ways, engaging fans with interactive content and providing producers with analytic data to see exactly how fans engaged with the event. What great immediate feedback for producers and clients alike!

EE: What is the best piece of advice you can offer planners on how best to work with designers of special effects?

Kevin: Be prepared to take calculated risks to get the greatest outcome. High risk, high reward is a formula that, put in professional hands, can create unforgettable results.

Kevin Bilida of TLC Creative / Xylo Bands USA has been an innovator in the world of high technology entertainment since 1974. Kevin loves the challenges inherent in critical work and has designed and technically directed thousands of live events and shows. He creates special effects for TV and Film, corporate events, concerts, and all types of events large and small. Live special effects, interactive light and laser entertainment and custom reveals are among the unique talents of his teams at TLC. For more information, please visit:;; and

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Value of Documentation

In a world that is so busy and where social media takes up much of the day, it is easy to let the details of your work slip by ... just being creative, spending time with clients and vendor partners, and then working on site long hours ... and, the documentation of each and every step of a production can easily be put on the back burner as "not AS important." But that's never the case.

We document absolutely everything at Extraordinary Events. I'm not just talking about event photos and videos and post assessments. We include all email trails, documentation from jobs dating back 20 years, vendor and client contracts, all banking backups, and employee and independent contractor agreements. It might be an annoyance to staff and those with whom we work, but it is critical to day-to-day operations in a company of our size.

Why Documentation Is a Good Practice

I find it to be best practice when we need information. You would be surprised at how the need for that information pops up at the least expected moments. I have talked with too many friends and colleagues who don't take the time to do this, and it ends up costing them in the end - either in time, resources and/or money. It is imperative to be able to recall the information that was (and still is) important in the internal functionality of your firm.

For example, we have a company policy to document every verbal conversation involving a program. If a client tells us on the phone to add another entertainer or piece of decor, or asks for a cost, we type up an email and send it to them to physically sign, acknowledge, and email back for our records. This came about because many years ago a client called and added some custom elements. Post event when it was time for billing, the client suddenly could not recall that conversation. After much discussion, we ended up not being able to collect that amount of money from the client. Now, we have proof of every change, addition, deletion or even creative understanding and keep records of it several years after reconciliation. Without that diligent effort to document, we would be putting ourselves in jeopardy. This would also apply to on-site change orders where the client has to sign off on everything they add on site.

Documenting Events

We photographically document all of our events - from the small, intimate decor installations to the larger spectacles. We use these photos to support our internal marketing needs to showcase the size and scope of our events and the different decor and entertainment components that we can utilize to show future prospects when trying to sell our capabilities and ideas.

We also photograph all venues prior to load-in and at load-out while on walk-throughs with the venue representatives. This documents the care we take with the venues and to prove we haven't caused any damage during our events (should that need arise).

And keeping today's social media activity in mind, this documentation even done on a Smart Phone or Tablet is a way to stay completely current and on trend. You can send photos of your events in real time from on-site and promote the company as you document the event.

We find videoing our events to be extremely valuable as well. Once a lengthy editing process, with today's technology and having talented editors on staff, we are able to update our list of videoed events on a weekly basis. We use these weekly updates to keep our company current with its marketing materials for presentations and on social media.

Post-Event Assessments

We conduct extensive post-event meetings to talk about every aspect of the event. Used as an on-going educational process, the producers of our various events walk the entire staff through recent events from a guest perspective so our entire team understands the EE process. Then we talk about the positives and negatives of every element and every vendor. Our goal is to learn from each and every event and make sure we have the ability to duplicate the successes and avoid any pitfalls of other elements. It is very important that our entire staff is educated on this front.

In addition, we examine data from the customer experience, documenting what they enjoyed as well as any issues they might have had. Again, this is a learning tool for us and holds great value for the future of our company.

Testimonials and Letters of Referrals

We make it a practice to collect thank you letters and testimonials from every client. What better way to sell our services than from the mouths of happy, excited and engaged clients? We ascertain if they are willing to speak to future prospects and endorse us if needed. This is a nice option for clients to speak with someone else who has been in their shoes and to get a true account of working with our organization. (And, it is a step that is often overlooked.)

Important Advice for Novice Event Producers

Use the best photographer and videographer. Case in point: We did an incentive program that could be an award winner, except the local, highly recommended photographer took horrible photos. The result? This event can never be featured in a magazine, on our Website, or entered for an award. The lesson? It is a mistake to go cheap.

Jon Michaels is the co-owner/Executive Vice President of Extraordinary Events. He may be reached via