Scenic Design

Empathy, Emotion and Technology with Purpose…For the Win!

By | Audience Engagement, Audience Response, Brand Experience, Breakout Sessions, Design Thinking, Education, Engagement, Event highlights, Event Trends, Exhibits, Expo, Freeman Face to Face blog, Hot Technology, News, Photos, Scenic Design, Video walls

A Look at the 2019 Edition of South by Southwest in Austin, Texas

When people hear South By Southwest mentioned, they typically think of the music festival founded in 1987, however over its 30+ years, it has grown to encompass many more attractions than just the grass-roots music festival that it was once intended to be. Also known as “South By,” SXSW now includes an interactive media conference, a huge variety of education sessions and music, gaming and film festivals. Lasting for almost 3 weeks, South By sees nearly 80,000 people attend the various conferences and festivals, also bringing nearly $350 million dollars of economic impact to Austin, Texas.

Several members of our Freeman AV Canada team traveled down to Austin, Texas in March to see what South By had to offer, and here are some key things that stood out!

Focused on Improving the Attendee Experience

As conventions and festivals grow in size they often develop a detached feeling for the individual attendee, and rightfully so; how do you create an individual and personal experience for each person when dealing with 80,000+ attendees?

South By has employed several empathy tactics to help connect with attendees on a personal level. Creating spaces such as a Wellness Areas, focusing on attendee’s safety through the use of holding graphics in sessions and implementing live breakout room capacity monitoring via public boards and the conference app are all fantastic ways to show your attendees that you really are thinking about their experience.

The Future Understands You 

Several major technology players including LG and Sony were showcasing futuristic concepts that can actually understand what you are feeling. Whether it is small robots that greet you while reading your facial expressions to understand your needs, or a mini robot dog that can really tug on our need for companionship and do it strategically 😉, it’s all exciting to us! Then we got thinking, and these questions arose:

  • What will this mean for events of the future?
  • Will we have event signage that customizes messages based on your feelings and needs?
  • Will we have event experiences that change based on the collective heart rate of the audience?
  • Can you imagine the possibilities?

Let us know how you see this fitting into your event!

Something For Everyone 

South By can certainly say they have something for everyone, with nearly 300 sessions per day, variety is in no short supply. Fortunately, the conference app allows you to search by things like interests to help focus on what applies directly to you. Smart event planning also meant that most sessions in the same track resided in the same or adjacent venues. This allowed you to maximize your time especially when sessions are held in basically every venue in the city. Some of the key tracks that our team focused on where: Cities, Government & Politics, Coding & Development, Design, Experiential Storytelling, Food, Game Design & Development, Intelligent Future, Social & Global Impact, Tech Industry & Enterprise, Touring & Live Experience and VR/AR/MR.

Standing Out – Brands Creating Their Own Spaces

Major brands are always looking for that way to make them stand out from the crowd. Over the last several years the tool for this has been activations, and South By was no exception to this. From shipping container structures, to bars completely transformed into a brand experience space – these installations truly do provide a unique personalized experience that focus directly on the brands defining traits and characteristics.

Some highlights for our team were the Dell installation at a bar across the street from the Austin Convention Centre, featuring an outdoor main stage and an indoor Dell feature tour showcasing some of their key technologies.

LG also made a big splash at South By, but perhaps we won’t see the ripple from the splash for a few years as their activation was VERY future focused. Robots that know your feelings, roll-up LED displays, ice cream/frozen yogurt capsule machines and even capsule based home breweries; LG certainly took us for a quick ride in a time machine to the maybe not so distant future. We even noticed several brands create impactful, personal activations right in the convention space and we see this as a great opportunity for a lot of our corporate clients looking to get a personalized message across to their attendees in a more personalized manner than typical plenary setups can offer.

DELL Technologies Activation

LG Electronics Activation

The common threads of Empathy, Emotion, Personalized Experience and Technology with a Purpose were evident in all aspects of this show. What can you do to create a more personalized experience within your next event? Understanding who comes to your event and why they are there are key factors to help you tailor your event to meet your attendees needs and wants. Taking the time to plan out the details, brainstorm them with your colleagues and/or industry partners will help you focus on what’s important. Creating those personalized experiences provides better value and meaningful interactions from live events for your attendees. So we ask you, “are you helping connect people in meaningful ways?”

Brian Johnston
Freeman Audio Visual Canada
National Director, Creative Innovation

7 Popular Event Trends We Saw This Summer

By | Audience Engagement, Brand Experience, Engagement, Event Trends, Freeman Audio Visual Employees, Industry News, LED Technology, Lighting, Live Social Media Wall, Media Event Staging, Meeting Planners, Meeting Professionals International, News, Quotes, Room Décor, Scenic Design, Social Media, Staging, Tools & Tips

One part of the hysteria surrounding summer is the excitement that comes with its sun-soaked events – low necklines and cold drinks, dancing outside, and enjoying the hazy days of summer with friends and family.

Everything is better in the summer heat, and every year, event planners aim to make their event the talk of the season. The summer represents a great opportunity to stage an event, with it being one of the most lucrative seasons for professional event planners.

Event attendees – especially those who are accustomed to high-budget corporate events – won’t be wooed by the same gimmicks as last year. It may come as a surprise to those who aren’t in the business of planning amazing events, but there are trends that are ushered in each summer that can take an event from same-old to never-be-the-same-again.

It’s all about differentiation and making your event stand out in the minds of your guests. It’s about finding ways to bring people together, fostering connections, and making everything a bit more efficient to set-up and tear down. Here are seven summer event trends we’ve seen this summer that take events to the next level and impress guests with thoughtful ingenuity.

  1. Technology (Apps, Live Streaming, Live SM Interaction)

It’s hardly news at this point; people are plugged in. Over 90% of North Americans own smartphones and are on them for multiple hours a day. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect with guests and have them put their cell phones to good use.

Specialized event apps are amazing for large events that span a day or more, especially when multiple locations, speakers, and itineraries are involved. For a sprawling corporate event with several types of speakers and seminars, it can help to have an app developed that is specific to your event for widespread download.

Encourage your guests to live tweet and post with personalized event hashtags. Modern weddings often combine the last names of the spouses-to-be, allowing everyone who posts to look up each other’s photos and moments easily. Live streaming your event will let those who couldn’t be there feel included. It’s an extension of hospitality that will truly add a caring and trendy touch.

  1. Drone Videos

We all know someone with a drone, and they’re amazing for capturing aerial video. If your summer event is being held in a beautiful outdoor space, capture its magnificence with drone video. You’ll get a beautiful perspective you never thought you’d see, and it makes for great content in a post-event video for attendees to look back on after your event is over.

  1. Non-Traditional Spaces

Barns, warehouses, factories; don’t limit yourself to traditional event venues. Non-traditional spaces offer different pricing than conference centres or banquet halls, have enormous capacity, and have interesting interior elements. Exposed bricks, metal beams, thirty-foot ceilings – your guests will be wowed by your event as soon as they arrive.

  1. Memorable Bars

One of the best parts of any event is the food and beverage. Go the extra mile and create a memorable bar setting. Great drinks are a given, but the bar area itself is a spot where people gather, laugh a little harder, and find the courage to connect with strangers. Up your hosting game from a traditional bar to make your guests feel like they’re at a truly all-out event.

  1. Food Trends on Point

Next to the drinks is the food. If you have mediocre food, often that’s what people will remember about your event. Amazing food will have your guests on cloud nine, pleasing their inner foodies and appreciating your attention to culinary detail.

Donut walls and live cooking are two food trends that are catching on. People also appreciate plant-based, healthy options as more and more folks develop open minds to different diet preferences.

  1. Bring the Dancers

It isn’t a party until there’s dancing! Exploring entertaining with acrobatic tricks and aerial arts, it’s like having a free show alongside your gathering. Your guests will feel so much more inspired to dance when they see the professionals joyously busting out their moves.

  1. Bold Yet Classic Colours

2018 has been a year of experimentation as well as a year of returning to traditional roots, and colour and design schemes are reflecting this. The need to be modern has fallen away and classically beautiful colour combinations are proving to be classics for a reason. It’s always a good thing to give your colour scheme a slight edge, a personal touch that reflects you.

Summer Filippopoulos
Freeman Audio Visual Canada, Sales Manager

The Leacock Foundation’s 16th Annual Great Fundraising Debate

By | Event highlights, Scenic Design, Staging

*La version française suit le message anglais.

Founded by Peter Oliver, a partner of Oliver & Bonacini Events, The Leacock Foundation works to inspire and empower youth in need through literacy and leadership opportunities. The Carlu Event Theatre, a historic event space described as one of Toronto’s best examples of Art Moderne architecture, played host to the 16th Annual Leacock Debate, a witty and humourous fundraising gala moderated by American journalist, humorist and novelist Calvin Trillin. Four-hundred guests watched as Globe & Mail columnist Tabatha Southey and Conrad Black debated lawyer William McDowell and former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie on this topic: “Be it resolved that the cream always rises to the top.”

Oliver’s vision for the event was an intimate, refined stage setting that enhanced the elegance of the venue and had the look and feel of a contemporary-home living room. As The Carlu is a classic art-deco designed space, Freeman Audio Visual Canada deliberately selected the set’s colour tones, accent lighting and artwork décor to complement the original scheme of the room. Little touches, like art deco window glass designs and custom art deco lectern inserts, were also designed to emulate details found in the event space.

The set was designed to sit on the stage at a 30-degree angle with an elevated back-entrance “hallway” for grand walk-ons. Freeman covered the stage entirely with broad-loomed carpet for a luxurious, homey feel. The original wooden and aluminum front stage grating was concealed by Freeman with a custom-designed wooden frame panel covered in black fabric. This black base gave the illusion that the entire set was floating from the audience’s standpoint, which helped to immerse them further in the scene.

A sponsor loop and video playback content were displayed on a flown 9’x16’ projection screen and two 50” monitors built into the side walls. All three display surfaces were surrounded with custom-molded silver picture frames to match the elegant set. Finishing touches, like borrowing a 1940’s antique wooden radio from an employee’s family member, were noticed by the client and staff of the venue.

“Working with Freeman was a pleasure. They listened closely to what we wanted to achieve and executed our vision accurately,” said Oliver. “Creating the right atmosphere for the evening contributed greatly to our overall fundraising goals. They are real pros.”


Le 16e Grand Débat annuel de financement de la Leacock Foundation

Créée par Peter Oliver, un associé d’Oliver & Bonacini Events, la Leacock Foundation vise à inspirer les jeunes et à les rendre autonomes par la littératie et des occasions de montrer leur leadership. C’est au Carlu Event Theatre, une salle patrimoniale considérée comme l’un des plus beaux exemples d’architecture Art moderne à Toronto, que s’est tenu le 16e débat annuel de la fondation. Ce gala spirituel et humoristique était animé par Calvin Trillin, un journaliste, humoriste et écrivain américain. Quelque 400 invités ont assisté au débat de la chroniqueuse Tabatha Southey du Globe & Mail et Conrad Black avec l’avocat William McDowell et l’ancien juge de la Cour Suprême Ian Binnie, sur le thème « il est résolu que la crème monte toujours sur le dessus ».

M. Oliver avait imaginé pour cet événement une ambiance intime dans un décor raffiné qui faisait écho à l’élégance de l’endroit tout en ayant l’allure d’un salon dans une résidence contemporaine. Le Carlu Event Theatre étant une salle art déco des plus classiques, Freeman audiovisuel Canada a consciemment choisi des couleurs, un éclairage d’accentuation et un décor qui s’harmonisait à cet environnement original. De petites touches comme des vitraux art déco et des éléments art déco faits sur mesure pour les lutrins rappelaient les détails décoratifs de la salle.

Le décor a été planté sur la scène à un angle de 30 degrés avec une entrée surélevée à l’arrière créant un « corridor » donnant beaucoup d’effet à l’arrivée des débatteurs. Freeman a couvert toute la scène d’une luxueuse moquette pour renforcer l’impression de confort chaleureux. La grille d’origine en bois et en aluminium à l’avant de la scène a été dissimulée avec un panneau à cadre de bois recouvert d’un tissu noir. Du point de vue de l’assistance, cette base noire créait l’illusion que tout le décor flottait, ce qui favorisait encore plus l’immersion dans le débat.

Du contenu vidéo et du matériel promotionnel du commanditaire étaient diffusés sur un écran de projection de 9 pi sur 16 pi surmontant la scène ainsi que sur deux moniteurs de 50 po insérés sur les côtés. Des cadres en argent faits sur mesure entouraient ces trois écrans pour les intégrer de manière élégante au style de l’endroit. D’autres petites touches finales, comme la présence d’un antique meuble radio en bois emprunté à la famille d’un employé, ont été appréciées par le client et le personnel de l’établissement.

« Ç’a été un plaisir de travailler avec Freeman. Ils ont bien compris ce que nous voulions faire et ils ont parfaitement exécuté notre vision », mentionne M. Oliver. « Le fait de créer la bonne atmosphère pour la soirée a grandement contribué à ce que nous atteignions nos objectifs de financement. Ce sont de véritables professionnels. »

Event Staging: Friends of We Care Vintage Circus

By | Event highlights, Lighting, Scenic Design, Staging

 *La version française suit le message anglais. 

The Friends of We Care organization relies on events as major fundraising tools. Throughout the year, the organization works with countless volunteers to bring the foodservice and hospitality industry together with the goal of raising funds to send kids with disabilities to summer camp. When asked to produce a Vintage Circus-themed event for their annual gala, Freeman solutionists’ imaginations went wild with décor possibilities.

Hall 1 of the International Centre was divided into two separate rooms, with completely different purposes. As guests entered the venue, the entrance to the first room was decorated with a red and white custom tent rooftop archway to make the attendees feel as though they were entering the Big Top for a night at the circus.

Once inside, the room was laid out in a carnival setting with gaming stations, a tented silent auction area and various theme-branded stages for entertainment acts. Freeman Audio Visual custom painted the front of the stages with a faux-antique coating using the colours and imagery found on Friends of We Care’s event invitation.

Red and white polysilk fabric swags were draped onto twin 32’ diameter truss circles on the ceiling, creating the peaks of an indoor tent. These configurations were perfectly positioned to hang various lighting fixtures, including sixteen 48’ long festoon light strings which helped to create that old school vintage circus vibe.

At the appropriate hour, a traveler curtain to the left of the main entertainment stage opened revealing the dining space. Dim lighting, hanging silk and crystal curtains helped to create an intimate dining environment. For visuals and speaker IMAG, a central 12’x36’ screen was positioned above the main stage and flanked by 9’x16’ screens on either side, while matching 9’x16’ screens hung at the back of the room.

The silent auction was facilitated by a Daana System which connected the bids from iPads to the main screen.

“The incredible experience and expertise of the entire Freeman Audio Visual team made our event an overwhelming success,” said Kevin J. Collins, Executive Director, Friends of We Care. “From start to finish, they were amazing to work with.”


Mise en scène d’événements :

Un cirque d’antan pour Friends of We Care

Le principal moyen de financement de l’organisme Friends of We Care, ce sont des événements. Toute l’année, l’organisme travaille avec d’innombrables bénévoles pour convaincre l’industrie de l’hébergement et de la restauration d’amasser de l’argent pour permettre à des jeunes ayant un handicap d’aller dans un camp de vacances. Lorsque les solutionnistes de Freeman se sont fait demander de produire un événement sur le thème d’un cirque traditionnel pour le gala annuel, leur imagination s’est envolée.

La salle no 1 de l’International Centre a été séparée en deux sections aux vocations complètement distinctes. L’entrée principale, par laquelle les participants accédaient à la première section, imitait un toit de tente rouge et blanc afin que les invités aient l’impression d’entrer dans le chapiteau d’un cirque.

Une fois à l’intérieur, la pièce présentait un décor de carnaval avec des kiosques de jeu, une tente abritant un encan silencieux et des plateaux thématiques où l’on donnait divers spectacles. Freeman audiovisuel avait donné un fini patiné au devant des scènes et y avait reproduit le graphisme de l’invitation dans les mêmes couleurs.

Des festons rouges et blancs en PolySilkMD étaient drapés sur deux treillis circulaires de 32 pi de diamètre afin de suggérer les sommets d’un chapiteau. Ces configurations étaient parfaitement placées pour y suspendre divers appareils d’éclairage, dont 16 guirlandes lumineuses de 48 pi de longueur qui contribuaient à créer une ambiance de cirque traditionnel.

À l’heure prévue, un rideau à la grecque s’est ouvert sur le côté gauche de la scène principale pour révéler une salle de banquet. Un éclairage tamisé de même que des rideaux de soie et de cristaux ont permis de créer une atmosphère de réception intime. Pour diffuser des photos et de l’imagerie, un écran central de 12 pi sur 36 pi était placé au-dessus de la scène principale et flanqué de deux écrans de 9 pi sur 16 pi, auxquels correspondaient deux autres écrans de 9 pi sur 16 pi suspendus au fond de la salle.

L’encan silencieux a été facilité par un système Daana qui transmettait les offres des iPad à l’écran principal.

« L’expérience et l’expertise incroyable de toute l’équipe de Freeman audiovisuel a fait de notre événement un énorme succès », explique Kevin J. Collins, directeur général de Friends of We Care. « Du début à la fin, ç’a été impressionnant de travailler avec eux. »

Event Staging: FRPO MAC Awards

By | Awards, Event highlights, Scenic Design, Staging

*La version française suit le message anglais.


Each year, the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) gives Freeman Audio Visual a theme to visually interpret for its MAC Awards ceremony which celebrates residential rental-housing industry leaders. Depicting this year’s theme, Climbing to New Heights, Freeman Audio Visual’s Set Shop crew carved and hand painted a hard-wall set piece into a rocky mountain range. Upstage of the mountain was a 24’Hx60’W cyclorama (white fabric) which was uplit with LEDs to change the colour of the sky throughout the event. On either side of the stage stood tree panels printed on black transparent mesh scrim which allowed the profile of the mountains to remain visible through the fabric. For presentations and IMAG, two 12’x16’ screens flanked the scenery, while FRPO’s custom logo was flown above for brand reinforcement. Freeman Audio Visual provided a custom-made podium for keynote speaker Former Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney.


Mise en scène d’événements : Prix MAC de la FRPO

Chaque année, la Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario (FRPO) donne à Freeman audiovisuel un thème à interpréter visuellement pour la cérémonie de remise de ses prix MAC aux chefs de file du secteur de la location résidentielle. Pour illustrer le thème de cette année (Atteindre de nouveaux sommets), l’équipe de l’atelier scénique de Freeman audiovisuel a sculpté et peint à la main un élément mural représentant les montagnes Rocheuses. À l’arrière-plan, un cyclorama (en tissu blanc) de 24 pi sur 60 pi était éclairé au moyen de DEL qui changeaient la couleur du ciel pendant le déroulement de la cérémonie. De chaque côté de la scène, trois panneaux de treillis noir translucides laissaient voir la silhouette des montagnes à travers l’image d’un arbre. Pour les présentations et la fonction IMAG, deux écrans de 12 pi sur 16 pi flanquaient la scène tandis que, pour renforcer la marque, le logo de la FRPO flottait au-dessus. Freeman audiovisuel a aussi fourni un podium spécialement conçu pour le conférencier d’honneur de l’événement et ancien premier ministre du Canada, M. Brian Mulroney.

Mobilier pour mise en scène : Nous pouvons transformer vos rêves scéniques en réalité!

By | Freeman Audio Visual Products & Services, Room Décor, Scenic Design, Staging, the Set Shop

Saviez-vous que Freeman audiovisuel peut vous fournir des meubles pour divers types de présentation? Nous disposons d’un large éventail de tables différentes pour des réunions annuelles, des présentations techniques ou des discussions autour d’une table ronde.

Le Set Shop (une division de charpenterie scénique de Freeman audiovisuel située à Toronto) a les compétences et le talent nécessaires pour fabriquer des tables et des lutrins sur mesure pour répondre à vos besoins précis. La plupart des modèles peuvent être personnalisés de façon économique, avec le logo de l’entreprise ou le thème de la conférence.

Vous avez besoin d’un lutrin doté d’un podium fait avec des tonneaux? Peut-être avez-vous besoin d’une table modulaire pour tenir des discussions dans le cadre d’une conférence? Ou vous faut-il un meuble d’une marque précise pour un disc-jockey?

Certaines tables de présentation possèdent des réglettes d’éclairage contrôlées à l’aide d’un DMX qui peuvent impressionner un auditoire avec leurs effets colorés. Les plus grandes tables sont fabriquées avec des composants modulaires afin qu’elles puissent être démontées pour faciliter le transport.


Les services du Set Shop sont offerts partout en Amérique du Nord, à des prix abordables. Freeman audiovisuel travaillera dans les limites de votre budget, que ce soit pour adapter des éléments existants à vos besoins précis ou pour concevoir un lutrin de présentation personnalisé compatible avec vos ordinateurs de présentation dans le cadre d’une tournée comprenant de nombreuses villes. Consultez le gestionnaire de comptes de Freeman audiovisuel de votre région ou cliquez ici pour savoir comment nous pouvons monter la scène idéale pour votre prochain événement.

Staging Furniture: If You Can Dream It, We Can Scene It!

By | Freeman Audio Visual Products & Services, Room Décor, Scenic Design, Staging

Did you know that Freeman Audio Visual can offer your meeting specialized furniture for various types of presentations? We offer a number of in-stock tables in a wide array of designs for annual meetings, technical presentations and round-table discussions.

The Set Shop—Freeman Audio Visual’s scenic carpentry division based in Toronto—has the skill and talent to construct custom tables and lecterns to your specific needs and designs. Most can be customized economically with corporate logos or conference themes.

Need a lectern with a wine barrel base? Perhaps, you can use a modular sectional table for conference discussions? Or maybe a brand-specific counter for a DJ is what you’re looking for?

Some presentation tables feature DMX-controlled lighting strips that can dazzle a crowd with colourful lighting effects. Larger tables are constructed with modular components so they can be disassembled for easier transport.


The Set Shop services are available throughout North America and completely affordable.  Freeman Audio Visual will work within your budget to adapt existing pieces to meet your specific needs, or build a customized presentation lectern configured with your presentation computers for a multi-city road tour. Consult your Freeman Audio Visual Account Executive or click here to find how we can set the perfect scene for your next event.

The Leacock Foundation’s Great Fundraising Debate

By | Event highlights, Room Décor, Scenic Design, Staging

Founded by Peter Oliver, a partner of Oliver & Bonacini Events, The Leacock Foundation works to inspire and empower youth in need through literacy and leadership opportunities. The 15th Annual Leacock Debate at Arcadian Court was a fundraising event in which The Honourable Bob Rae moderated a witty, humorous discussion between esteemed journalists/writers whose objevtive was to determine whether truth is stranger than fiction. Oliver’s vision for the event was an intimate, classy environment that drew the attendees’ attention to the stage. Freeman Audio Visual’s Set Shop designed a stage set that had the look and feel of a contemporary home living room.

Read more

Staging Furniture: If You Can Dream It, We Can Scene It!

By | Meeting Planners, Room Décor, Scenic Design, Staging

Did you know that AVW-TELAV can offer your meeting specialized furniture for various types of presentations? We offer a number of in-stock tables in a wide array of designs for annual meetings, technical presentations and round-table discussions.

The Set Shop—AVW-TELAV’s scenic carpentry division based in Toronto—has the skill and talent to construct custom tables and lecterns to your specific needs and designs. Most can be customized economically with corporate logos or conference themes.

Read more