We don’t normally geek out about technology & other productions too much, but this is about to be the exception because Rihanna. Wow!
She delivered the hits.
She served up flawless marshmallow couture.
She repped for mighty mamas everywhere.
She … gave the world a masterclass in advanced rigging, people management, and lawncare?
That was an unexpected plot twist – and no, we’re not kidding about the lawncare thing. We’ll get there.
You’ve heard us say that people are the powerhouse of production and we’re constantly telling folks to start the planning process as early as possible. With that in mind, the first thing we want you to know is that it took 800 people and almost a year of planning to make that half-time show happen.
Your event is probably not the Super Bowl, but there are tons of lessons we can learn from the spectacle we all just witnessed. Early planning and people power are just two.
According to the NFL, Rihanna’s performance was the most technically challenging show they’ve ever done. We weren’t kidding when we said this was a rigging masterclass.
Let’s do some math. (sorry!)
- Rihanna had seven LED platform stages, suspended from the ceiling by eight anchor points each. Those stages moved during the performance via a system of pulleys and motors automated by TAIT Navigation tech. That’s 54 moving cables just for the platforms.
- Now add the cables for performers’ safety harnessing (which were sewn into their costumes) and multiple sky-cams that run on, you guessed it, more cables!
- Then up the difficulty factor: the platforms went as high as six stories, and Rihanna’s rigging needed to be carefully adjusted to make sure it was baby-safe.
- That puts us well above 80 moving cables along with their pulleys and winches, etc. that all required different timing and choreography. Cableography? (probably not the technical term)
Some people struggle to manage headphone cables without tangles.
The Super Bowl team was out here basically doing yo-yo tricks with multiple sky-cams through a forest of cables while filming the most epic marshmallow dance battle the world has ever seen – and they made it look easy!
The lesson: Management & organization will get you everywhere… and once you’re there, make sure to get good shots!
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We’ve been talking about rigging and cable management, but just as impressive was the people management.
Production only had seven minutes and thirty seconds to bring out and set up that whole stage for the performance. They had even less time to strike it after.
The stage carts needed to be specially engineered for proper weight distribution, geometry, and rollability (again, probably not the technical term) so that teams could quickly move them in, lock them into place to be performed on, and then take them away again as smoothly as possible.
Wired shared a fantastic shot taken during rehearsal
To move those carts, hundreds of people needed to know exactly where to go, what to do, when to move, and have no questions when it came time to execute the plan.
Imagine working with hundreds of people all moving together towards a goal; everyone sure of their role. That’s people management done Super Bowl/RiRi style!
The effectiveness of people power is a lesson we can take into any event.
Another lesson: Rehearsals matter.
This had to be planned and rehearsed repeatedly to be sure it was just right. Yes, you need to rehearse. Yes, even if you know what you’re doing. If Rihanna and the Super Bowl production team need to do it, we all need to do it. Rehearse!
This timelapse of the performance – including setup and removal – showcases the kind of precision that only happens when you “workworkworkworkworkwork.”
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It’s time to circle back to that lawncare thing for our final bit of learning. (told you we’d get there!)
Another lesson we can all take from the Super Bowl and Half-Time show is the importance of being mindful of others and the space itself.
Did you know: Part of the reason Rihanna performed in the air was so the grass on the field wasn’t damaged?
State Farm Stadium is a natural grass stadium. The density of that grass is carefully tested and actively monitored to make sure it’s concussion-safe for players. A traditional stage setup risked leaving divots and hard spots on the grass. Those divots and hard spots would have increased the chances of injury for everyone on the field.
Lawncare, in this case, could literally be a matter of life and death.
This is one instance where you and your event ARE just like the Super Bowl. The safety of your team and attendees is closely tied to the arena you’re playing in. Sometimes it takes a technical eye to see potential pain points and engineer creative solutions.
Take your production team with you for venue walkthroughs. Talk through your exact plans from beginning to end.
What’s your capacity?
What will those people be doing?
If you need to park thousands of pounds above people’s heads, can you do that safely?
Can the structure withstand all the decibels you want to hit it with?
What about the stomping from marshmallow dance battles?
Whatever it is you plan on doing, keeping your AV and production teams in the loop from square one will help it go Seamlessly.
Let’s recap what we learned from Rigging with RiRi:
- Plan early
- People power gets it done – understaffing
- Stay organized & work neatly
- Function and fashion can co-exist
- Get good shots from multiple angles. Extra points for unique perspectives.
- Evaluate the venue with your production team & include them in the entire planning process.
One last lesson: improvement comes with experience.
There have been 57 Super Bowls now. Your event isn’t going to be glossy high tech pop culture perfection the first time you run it. Do it again. Production takes perseverance and iterations are important.
You don’t have to be the Super Bowl or work with a Super Budget to have a great event. Take these lessons along as you plan, and you’ll do just fine.