Everything You Need to Know About Cue-To-Cue

You know your talent needs to rehearse before the event goes live, but did you know that your AV team also needs to rehearse? We, in the AV industry, call it cue-to-cue. In the same way that performers and presenters need to practice, your AV team wants to be sure that all the lights, sound, visuals — and, yes, the talent — are poised to do their thing at exactly the right time.

After all, your AV team wants your show flow — the end-to-end production — to be flawless. And they know you do, too.

Cue-to-Cue Is a Team Meeting

It’s led by the show caller, the person who will lead the team during the event. Think of an orchestra conductor, only giving verbal cues instead of using a baton. During the cue-to-cue meeting, all the team members are on headsets, just as they will be during the show. Everyone is quiet, waiting for their cues.

The show caller will say things such as, “ready camera 1” or “send to talent” to deliver lighting cues, camera cues, video cues. When to bring stage lights up, or bring up the music. When to cue the talent to start. There’s a cadence to it. A good show caller is very calm, patient, and keeps things moving smoothly.

Sometimes, things change, especially when you’re working with talent. They decide they want to stand somewhere else, or grab a wireless mic and venture out into the audience. If that happens during rehearsal, your AV team can revise their plan accordingly and re-do the cue-to-cue sequence. As the cue-to-cue meeting progresses, they may also note changes they want to make in the lighting, etc. The purpose is to perfect the program.

However, if something changes during the show itself, the show caller has to smoothly adjust the cues on the fly — and, at the same time, keep everyone on headsets informed of any revised instructions. For example, if the speaker suddenly heads into the audience, the show caller may have to cue a camera to follow or switch to a different camera.

During the meeting, the AV team will go through the entire production several times, so every team member gets a good sense of the flow and is listening for their own parts. The team is focused on the technical aspects of the show, not content, so once a video or talent is cued, they can fast-forward to the next cue rather than watching the video or sitting through the entire presentation. The point is to get the start of each new aspect of the show smoothly synced up, so the audience experiences a seamless flow.

For Small Events, Cue-to-Cue Can Be Less Formal

Obviously, the bigger and more complex the show, the more critical cue-to-cue becomes. But, even very small events require rehearsal. You may have only a couple of cameras and a producer, but your AV team will still sit around a table and go through the event, cue by cue to ensure there are no glitches.

When Does Cue-to-Cue Take Place?

Typically, a cue-to-cue meeting occurs the day before the event, or in the morning if the program is scheduled for later in the day. You typically want it to happen as close to the doors opening as possible, so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. If there are a lot of presenters, they do a walk-through first. Then they can leave, and the cue-to-cue gets started.

Event planners typically listen in during the live show, because timing is everything. If the show is running long or short, compared to what was planned, this can create problems with the venue regarding breaks, meal service, transportation, etc. So, the planner may have to adjust on the fly, too. If they have to make a change — reducing a break from 15 minutes to 5 or 10, for instance — they need to communicate that to the show caller.

Without Cue-to-Cue, You’re Winging It

That’s an invitation for problems once you’re live during the event. People will be guessing, sending cues when they think something should happen instead of at precisely the right time. That can be chaotic. So, your AV team should never skip cue-to-cue without some kind of plan. That way, even if things get weird with presenters changing plans on stage, etc., the show caller can do a great job calling the show. With a confident team, you always pull it back together.