Acoustics and Rigging: How Important is My Venue’s Ceiling Height?

When you’re checking out venues for your next event, look up. Why? Because ceiling height matters, too.

You may be a pro at examining the room’s layout, walls, even the floor — mentally picturing how you might arrange the room. But are you forgetting the ceiling? Believe it or not, your venue’s ceiling height has a big impact on both the acoustics and rigging for your event.

How Ceiling Height Affects Rigging

While you’re thinking about where to put the components of your event, your AV company is thinking about making those components look and sound fantastic. Believe it or not, in the production world, AV companies need enough height above the stage to set up rigging and create a good angle to light the stage.

Typically, they need at least 10 feet (preferably more) above the stage. That’s because they hang rigging (trusses) from the ceiling, and then hang motors and the lights themselves from the rigging. All that takes up vertical space.

If the venue doesn’t provide enough ceiling height, your AV company has to put up lighting trees (stands) to light the stage from the back or sides of the room. These stands cause a less than ideal angle for lighting, and you run the risk of shining a light directly into your speaker’s eyes. The additional stands also take away space within your venue.

Pay extra close attention to what’s already hanging from the ceiling. Even if the ceiling is 10 feet or more above the stage, low hanging chandeliers or soffits can become obstacles for lighting or projection.

Occasionally, the ceiling is too high

Huge expo and convention centers can pose problems, too. A venue with extremely high ceilings is more likely to cause access problems. In these situations, it’s common for your AV company to need a lift to attach equipment, and even that may not be possible. An extreme example is US Bank Stadium here in Minneapolis. They wanted to do a special lighting effect in center field, but there’s only one lift in the entire country that can reach high enough to do that! Your event won’t be that tricky, but you can see the potential problem.

Where are the Rig Points?

AV equipment attached to the rigging can be very heavy, so it has to connect to the venue’s ceiling points. The venue sales staff may not know offhand where the rig points are located, but their facilities management or in-house AV folks will have a chart you and your AV company can use. This detail is critical because the rigging points dictate our AV production design. They help your team determine how to orient the room, where the stage should go, and how they can access the stage to create the best lighting.

Even though you have a floorplan of your room, you should measure the space exactly, especially where structures such as air wall pockets protrude into the room. A few inches can make a big difference for your AV team. And while you’re looking around, note whether there are any mirrors or similarly hard-surfaced walls, as these can cause both lighting and audio issues.

Ceiling Height Also Affects Acoustics

Your PA system has to match the space as well as the number of people in the room. In smaller rooms, your AV company can control the audio better. If the room is very cavernous or ceiling height is enormous, that can be a problem because your audio still has to cover the entire space. If the venue has concrete floors and a ceiling that is 20-30 feet high, that’s almost like setting up for an outdoor experience.

Savvy event planners know to look up when evaluating venues. When you do that, you’ll be able to make your AV team’s work easier and get the flawless results you envision.