One of the World's First 360º Drive-In Stages
Guest Feature: Matt Mudde
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Matt Mudde is an event professional who has been working in live events for 14 years, specializing in Production and Operations Management. This week he sat down and shared how he played a part in creating Canada's first 360-degree drive-in stage.
Matt Mudde started his career like many individuals in this industry…doing something completely different. With his education originally focused on science, he quickly learned that music pulled his interest in ways environmental engineering could not. After this realization, he began working his way up from a “flyer boy” to a Production and Operations Management Specialist. With 14 years of experience under his belt, his career has allowed him the opportunity to wear many hats.
Starting in venues, he was quickly able to move to tour managing and production, and is currently working in site operations. His favorite opportunity thus far? Serving as the Operations Manager for the Rolling Stones' only Canadian Tour stop in 2019 at Burls Creek Event Grounds. Today, Matt is based out of Barre, Canada just north of Toronto. He and his amazing team recently created a 360-degree stage that is catching the eye of event professionals everywhere. Let’s dive in!
Matt was brought on to to serve as the Production Manager, and was connected to the project through Aaqil Seven with Envy Productions, the talent booker of the event. Aaqil deploys teams at all of his events, which creates partnerships between professionals. This project was built on 15 years of mutual connections which made for a strong team able to create incredible results in short turnaround times, like they were tasked with for the 360-degree stage. The team included Lawrence “Junior” Panzini (Jamco), Peter Gismondi (Superior Events), Mike Kerwin (Frontier Light and Sound), and James Spillsbury (Lighting & Video Director), and Alex Hollinger (Sound Engineer).
Matt was originally given a 3-D rendering of the stage itself and the core structure of the deck with overhead only 15 days before show day. The first question was how the team would make a stationary experience dynamic. Since this was a DJ-based show where the artist (Adventure Club) is standing in one position and facing one direction, the goal was to allow fans to experience this through three additional angles. “That’s where it got interesting,” says Matt.” Figuring out our head heights; if we could get a riser on the stage with the DJ setup; how we are going to get production from inside the stage structure itself and past the screens that are hanging as a header; is there a way that we can position our hangs to maximize our cohesion? We got in-depth. You are building a 360-degree stage in general terms, but each of those four views has 180-degrees that you need to bring into context. So if you want to build the stage on 90-degrees per side you are missing another 90-degrees of production value.” So the 360-degree stage turns into a 720-degree stage. Still with us? Have we made your brain hurt yet?
To create an immersive experience, cohesion needed to happen around all corners. This was a challenge the team spent a lot of time on. Currently missing from drive-ins is the ability for fan-artist interaction. Yet, their expertise and creativity led to an innovative model that allowed more fans the ability to interact with the artist in close proximity to the stage than ever before. The super bowl performance and other 360-degree style stages have been created on a larger scale, but this was one of the first drive-in models. “We took simple, basic things and made it work together. This is just a modified front of house deck.” Matt and his team proved that with the right group, and eager workers, anything is possible.
As a first attempt and with improvement always top of mind, there are a few changes Matt suggests making to the design. Some of these include:
Header video change configuration.
Creating a front-facing edge with an opening to enhance production value.
Double stacking video screens on the back to make images clearer on the front and maximize shots.
A drum and bass-heavy show made it essential to nail down the audio of the event. Alex Hollinger was the Sound Engineer behind it all! A combination of low-frequency FM and space stacks with tops was the ticket to battle the audio struggles that come along with a drive-in show. FM concentration in Canada is less interfered with compared to the U.S, another factor to consider while producing a drive-in event. Drive-ins need to follow guidelines in utilizing the FM single. Just one more permit to remember!
Drive-ins are no stranger when it comes to outdoor show risks of weather. Wind plays a big role and is something to note when it comes to this style of setup since the entire stage is wide open with only a roof. Haze replacement is major; Matt lost a side of his stage because of wind, an oversight he plans to fix next time he produces a similar event.
Canadian drive-in events to date have been averaging 250 fans. This new stage style made it possible for 400 people to attend with a similar viewing experience. Don’t let the audience size fool you though. The production was a smaller build, but scalable enough to appeal to acts of all sizes. You might be surprised, but the biggest cost of this drive-in concert was video.
What does the future hold for this stage? It is currently scheduled for two more shows, likely at the end of October. Matt believes this new drive-in model will be more practical for markets where there aren’t many options for other venue types.
Matt loves to connect and share experiences with up and coming event professionals. "There is a misconception of how to build a network. It’s not just people, it’s valuable people." Entertainment won’t go away. It’s in our blood. There are always going to be opportunities, they are more than just the marquee opportunities, there’s always something else out there. Keep expanding your knowledge, building your network. He’s gotten many opportunities and keeps those connections alive. Stay connected.
In addition to his projects within the industry, Matt also has another exciting project going on during quarantine. He adopted a puppy (Atlas!). He's currently training the pup on emergency response and emotional support, so Atlas can go to work with Matt.