Stage Design for the Meetings, Events and Broadcast Industry

Press and News

Get More Bang for your Buck with Strategic Special Effects

Are you getting the most out of your special effects? Here’s how to ensure every dollar counts

by Rachel Globus | Published in April 2009, Event Solutions Magazine

For all the different tricks and technologies they use, special effects experts can agree on one thing: They don’t like the term “special effects.” And if there’s one thing planners should learn from them, it’s that.

Steven P. Simmons, a certified meeting professional and president and CEO of StagingOptics, prefers to talk about “moments of impact.”

It’s more than just a semantic shift, according to Simmons. “We don’t know what we want to do, but we want it to be cool” is usually how the discussion starts with new clients, he says. “They don’t know why, they just want it to be powerful.” But Simmons coaches planners to look at special effects in a different way: as moments of impact that support your core mission objectives. Then, the discussion about which effects to use and how can be framed in a more targeted fashion.

“If we spend a dollar and it gets us closer to achieving our core mission objectives, then it’s an investment,” he explains. “If it doesn’t get us closer, it’s an expense.”

Case Study: Can the Super Bowl Supplant the Olympics?

{the event} A Detroit Salute

{core mission objectives} The Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Committee had big goals in mind for its kick-off event. “The Salute was an opening ceremony for Super Bowl week, so we wanted an event that fit that week. When you say ‘opening ceremonies,’ there are distinct visuals that people think of, most likely aligned with the Olympics,” says Michele Lewis Watts, a host committee producer. “We wanted something very momentous that would be memorable.” As part of that goal, the committee wanted the audience to know who the sponsors were and for it to be seen by as many people as possible, adds Simmons, who provided the special effects.

{special effects’ role} “What Steve and his staff were able to do was create a moment that had never been created before, taking people through a visual driving experience and then switching it seamlessly to the [CEOs of the Big Three automakers] stepping out of the vehicles,” says Lewis Watts. “So it went from a virtual experience to a real-life experience.”

{analysis} Special effects supported the ultimate goal of making a strong statement with the opening ceremony and memorably integrating the sponsors. “It was very impactful and definitely achieved our objectives,” says Lewis Watts. “More importantly, they made it fit within our budget. When you think special effects, people think it’s really going to cost a lot. But there’s way to do it and make it an investment within your event.”