From Class to Crew: The Full Sail Show Production Student Experience
Show Production students get real-world crew experience by running multiple small events and a final large-scale concert.
To the untrained eye, a concert in the Full Sail Live venue looks effortless. Lighting cues change like clockwork for each song, video content streams smoothly to the wall behind the band, and crystal-clear audio grants the audience a polished sonic experience. But behind the scenes, a team of Full Sail’s Show Production students are working with video switchers, audio consoles, lighting controllers, and other industry-standard equipment to synchronize every aspect of the concert.
From pre-production planning to shutting down and storing equipment at the end of the concert, Show Production students run the entire event from start to finish. Here’s how their classes, labs, and extracurricular events prepare them for their final show in the 22,000-square-foot Full Sail Live venue.
Show Production students start preparing for their final show early in the program with setup labs, where they learn how to create small audio, video, and lighting setups for corporate environments. That means they’re figuring out how to assemble cameras and tackling basic lighting and sound concepts.
After a few more classes, they produce a small show in the Treehouse, Full Sail’s student-run live performance venue. They run lights, sound, and video feeds for acts like acoustic guitarists or DJs.
By the second half of the program, students are using more advanced gear in multiple Live Labs, which are larger productions in Full Sail’s Live 1 venue. The university’s Artist Relations Department books local bands to perform in the venue several times a month, giving students hands-on experiences in a range of production roles before their final show. Show Production students can also volunteer to help with extracurricular events – past opportunities have included concerts in the Winter Park bandshell; Songs of the Season, an annual holiday concert hosted in Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; a yearly cancer walk; and more.
In addition to familiarizing students with gear, the Show Production program has plenty of mentorship opportunities. Students who have just started their classes can volunteer as stagehands for Live Labs and meet senior-level students. Building connections with more experienced students and learning from them during events mimics the natural progression of learning from more experienced crew members in the event production industry. The relationships that new students develop with senior students as they’re working side-by-side can extend well past graduation.
The Live Labs help students acclimate to working with various lighting, sound, video, and broadcast technologies by assigning them real-world jobs at each event. By the time they’ve reached the end of the degree program, they’re more than ready to run a show in Full Sail Live – a venue with industry-standard equipment for concerts, television productions, conferences, and more.
The Final Show: Running a Large-Scale Production from Start to Finish
For their final project, Show Production students work behind the scenes for a concert. They take responsibility for every part of the event production process: booking performers; designing lighting, audio, and video setups; and running complex equipment in real time during the event.
Before the final show, students design the stage setup, create video content to play on the venue’s LED wall, and work with the band to determine the overall look and feel of the concert. For example, the Lighting Director determines the position of the lighting instruments, programs motorized lights, and selects color palettes. They also oversee any media content displayed on the stage’s wall during the show.
When the big day arrives, a student Production Manager makes sure that their fellow students are where they need to be to do their jobs. They also communicate with the band to ensure they have everything they need for the performance.
It takes several people to work the live show’s video components. The Video Director calls camera shots; they decide which camera’s display will go to the program (the final product that viewers at home would see during a live broadcast). They’re assisted by a Technical Director, who carries out the Video Director’s instructions and changes camera feeds as needed by operating a video switcher. Meanwhile, a Video Engineer (or Shader) works in a video suite to adjust the camera’s iris and help it pick up the proper images.
In terms of audio, students are responsible for what the audience hears as well as what the performers hear. A System Tech sets up and aligns the Live Venue’s PA system for flawless live sound. A student working as a Front-of-House Engineer works at an audio console and mixes the band’s tracks in real time for the audience, while the Monitor Engineer coordinates wireless microphones and their frequencies to ensure that the performers can hear what they need to hear during the show. If a singer only wants to hear the live guitar track and their own vocal track as they play, the Monitor Engineer will work on an audio console to send only those channels to the performer’s earpiece.
Although the concert doesn’t have a live broadcast, Show Production students still gain experience in that arena during their final show. A student Broadcast Engineer sits in a broadcast room and mixes simulated live broadcast audio. They receive audio feeds over a digital network and use a broadcast-style console to mix the live show’s final audio, which will be synced to the final video.
Ending on a High Note
By the time the performers have played their final song, Show Production students are ready to load out, close up the Live Venue, and celebrate their accomplishments with their classmates.
“The final show really is like a celebration,” says Dave Dean, the Program Manager for Show Production. “They get to do one big last hurrah. A lot of times, they're working with some students that are junior to them and next stop is graduation and the professional world. So really the sausage is made earlier in the Live Labs and in all the prerequisites they've done. [The final show] is the period on the sentence.”
Student-run events at Full Sail give Show Production students a chance to show off the technical and team-building skills they’ve developed during their education. Although the final show marks the end of their time at Full Sail, it’s just the beginning of their journey in the professional world of live events.
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