Boom first began working with Calgary Show Services (CSS) back in 2016, when they came alongside us as the audio visual partner for the Wyne & Godfrey Wedding. Besides helping us create a gorgeous, award-winning wedding experience, Kris Benoit and his team also showed us that they value partnership and collaboration above all else, something we repeatedly look for in suppliers. We recently sat down with Kris, the owner and production manager of CSS, to talk about his experience in the AV and lighting world, and what makes him tick.
Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Kris!
We’ve worked with your team on some great projects over the years, but we only connected in 2016. How old is Calgary Show Services?
Well, we’ve been around since 2009, so that would make us 9 years old.
Every time we chat it feels like you’re jumping into a new project. I know your team is really busy and working on lots of things, but I’m curious if there is a project in the last year or so that you felt particularly excited by?
That’s a hard one… I’m not sure if excited is the right word, but I think I’d say it was the celebration of life that we were asked to support on at the Boyce theatre. It was someone who wanted to honour their father and really tell the story of his life in a way that would do it justice. They wanted visuals, lighting, recording, streaming, multiple speakers, and a live band, so it was a pretty complex show. I felt a lot of pressure because I understood how meaningful this was and wanted it to go as perfectly as it could, so my team and I spent two nights at the venue, staying until 3 a.m. and then coming back first thing in the morning, running through and testing absolutely everything until we knew there wouldn’t be any hitches; we actually built the show in a custom-built computer, with a special software solution. It was a ton of work, but seeing it all come together and seeing the emotional impact it had on the audience was pretty meaningful for me.
You got to see your skillset tell the story of a life. That’s incredible.
It was. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
That kind of attention to detail and commitment to a client’s vision or story that you just talked about is what made you really stand out to us. I think a big part of why you can offer that amount of attention and care is because you’re a smaller agency. Would you agree?
Absolutely. I think because we’re smaller we notice the smaller details and are able to go above and beyond for our clients. It’s the little things… someone from our team finding and cuing up a jazz playlist on Spotify before the client has even realized their program had a moment of awkward silence, or even something simple like closing the door at the back of the venue because the kitchen staff are talking and there’s a presentation going; it feels like we’re an extension of the event production team in some ways. Our clients are our partners, and we operate as a team. The whole event has to succeed if we want to succeed.
The details matter.
Yes! And some things are so simple, but if you don’t have a technician on site they could get missed. Like, when guests see a windows media player on the projector screen- I don’t care how small or low-key your event is, I never want to see the desktop. It’s small, but this stuff matters, it affects the guest experience.
Working with professionals always means a better final product, in our experience.
Yes, and it’s sometimes worth it to bring in an agency even if your venue has in-house equipment. We usually have tighter equipment, smaller, less obstructive speakers, we can work off iPads… and in the end, it can be cheaper.
Your agency is a pro at providing those kind of seamless experiences; as you said, your company has been around for almost a decade now. You’ve obviously got your finger pretty well on the pulse of the audio visual world; how have you seen AV and lighting transition and change in the last few years?
There’s been a huge shift in the industry. I saw the transition from analog to digital, and things just got more and more portable, and wireless, and smaller from there; there’s a lot of simpler solutions now for things that used to take a lot of gear. These days, with an iPad you can be anywhere- stand with the audience, with the musicians, and adjust accordingly. We can be really responsive.
Lighting has gone from conventional Par Cans to LED, which require way less power, are less cumbersome, smaller, have less cable, and are wireless and battery-powered. And the spectrum has changed: amber, white, UV… now you can make it look like any kind of tone you want.
You could talk about this stuff for days!
You’re obviously very passionate. Why did you go into this business in the first place?
I started by playing music and mixing my own band, which led to an interest in manipulating audio. I started recording other bands, which led into live sound, and then I started to get kind of bored of sound so I started learning more about lighting. From there, I’ve gotten more and more interested in visuals: edge blending, projection mapping, live streaming, cameras… I just love learning about it. Whenever we’re setting up for an event, the entire time I’m thinking “When am I gonna get to play with this stuff?” In a lot of ways you feel like an artist. When you finish up testing and sit down and begin programming a show, working with the colour, the dynamics, you’re really helping create the experience. It’s funny, we’re the people hiding in the back of the room, people don’t even know we’re here, but we’re controlling everything they see.
The artistry of AV!
I love it. The transition from colour to colour, over the arch of a song… it invokes a feeling for guests. They don’t know where it’s coming from, it’s not exactly tangible, but it’s there. And we make it happen.
To learn more about Calgary Show Services, click here!