If you are a Production Manager, perhaps one of the most important documents you can create is an accurate and realistic rig schedule. This document details exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by in order to get fully show-ready. This is basically your plan of attack. As a Production Manager, you are responsible for getting all of the various departments, key tasks and moving parts to come together and work. The rig schedule is your plan of how you’re going to do it. Although a rig schedule is a fairly simple document to complete conceptually, often they are either unrealistic or lacking in detail and key information to make them useful. Here are some key things to consider when writing a rig schedule:
Under promise, over deliver
It usually takes longer than you think, and that assumes nothing goes wrong in the process. A good rig schedule will take into account not only the task in question, but also will allow for unforeseen circumstances, for hold-ups, or things that are not in your power to control. Depending on how many times you have used the venue and how many variables you have depends on the level of buffer you give tasks. For example, if you’re always in this arena and it has taken you 4hrs to get all the points in for the last 10 times you’ve been there, leaving 4.5hrs to put in the points seems reasonable. If however you’ve never been there before and you’re putting in a non-standard rig, you might want to consider putting in a larger buffer based on the increased level of unknowns. Think practically about how many people it requires to do each job and then look at your current proposed rig. If for example, you reckon it will take about 5-10mins for your riggers to put a point in and will take 3 people to put it in, you can quickly get a feel for how long your rigging will take with a team of 6 and 100 points.
Prioritise tasks that have knock-on effects
Some tasks will be able to be done as and when with no implications or knock-on effects to other areas. Other tasks, however, are needed to be done before others can even start to build their area. Rigging and power distribution are key tasks that need to be completed in order for other areas to set up and should be prioritised in your rig schedule. Building your stage is required before you put all your band and backline on it. There are some key tasks that have knock-on implications if they are not completed in a timely fashion. Your rigging truck, for example, should be the first truck in the loading dock. These tasks need to be prioritised both in your rig schedule but also in your focus on site. Make sure you are around when there are critical tasks being completed in case you need to answer any questions or rectify any issues. Being absent at these critical times can have drastic implications on your rig schedule.
Who needs to be there and when?
Calling everyone for first thing is often not helpful and can lead to waiting around and frustration on site. It can also actually slow things down with people getting in the way of each other. There is no point bringing the audio team in until their points are in. There is no point bringing in the backline techs in until there is a stage to put things on. The list goes on, but you get the point. Make sure you give people accurate call times so they don’t waste time on site. Ask them how much time they would like? If you cannot facilitate that, ask them how much they need. Asking for feedback from crew chiefs on timings is vital in getting a real-world accurate rig schedule.
Be on the lookout for ‘high traffic’ areas and times in a rig schedule that could potentially give rise to delays. If you have three different teams all working at the same time in the same part of the stage this could cause potential delays as they try and work around each other. Try and see if you can stagger them so you give people enough space to work. Keeping an eye on these key busy areas, keeping them clutter free and making sure no one is leaving empty flight cases there can limit potential bottlenecks and areas of friction between crews. Make sure each team understands the requirements of the whole area so they do not inadvertently put their equipment in the way of another team. Over-communicate if necessary to ensure people understand the overall goals.
Micro and Macro timings
It is helpful when thinking of timings to think in both the micro and also in the macro. When initially writing a rig schedule, I would plan in 15-minute increments. This allows me to really hone the rig and make it efficient. It forces me to put a lot of thought into the rig schedule, not just assigning random chunks of time to tasks but forcing me to break it down and think about how long tasks will actually take to complete. This micro timing is important to me and to my understanding of the rig and ultimately how realistic the timings are. Micro timings will flag whether I need more time in the venue, or whether I need to simplify the setup. It could also help me with the level of crewing I need. Micro timings are all about understanding the feasibility of the schedule and therefore the event.
I also use macro timings to get an idea of how the rig is doing as a whole. Writing down lunchtime goals and end of day goals for each area allows flexibility for each area but keeps people focused on the ultimate goals and what has to be achieved. It allows for easy communication of key priorities for each area and also allows for different workflows/issues encountered onsite. It also allows you to know when to break people for lunch and when you need to keep people a bit longer. Micro timings help you pull the whole event together and allows you to check the rig feasibility. Macro timings help you track if you’re on course or whether you need to step in and change some things.
Don’t put off making the right call
The event start time is not going to change. Making the right calls at the right time during the rig is key to delivering your event on time. Don’t put off making decisions unnecessarily. Indecision on site is often worse than making the wrong call. It is crippling to the crew and takes away all momentum from the build. If you need to change something, make the call as early as possible, don’t put it off. It will only get harder to do as the rig progresses.