I cannot be the only event planner who watches big political events with my eyes tuned to the production values. And if that statement is true, then someone please explain to me how the Democratic National Convention nomination acceptance speech by President Barack Obama, held last night at Time Warner Cable Arena, could be punctuated by what should have been a glorious moment, but ended up a dinky little display, due to confetti cannon failure.
Yes, yes, I know all about the drama the Obama team and Democratic National Committee faced moving the event at the “last minute” from the 80,000-person Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the 15,000-seat arena—they had three full days' notice right? Obviously, the vote-grab technique of choosing the Dem-unfriendly state as a result was doomed to fail, but really, why could organizers not get the confetti cannon effect right?
Organizers announced in advance that it was too late to pull off a balloon drop, and they were right—it takes about a week of hanging nets to achieve the full-on effect we are used to.
Confetti cannons were a good backup choice, provided whoever was in charge knew what they were doing, which I propose was not the case here.
The secrets of confetti cannons (which I learned from working with Rudy Giuliani's team on the NYC 2000 program, which was designed to steal the millennium media thunder from Bill Clinton's New Year's Eve party on the National Mall, and in this biased observer's opinion did just that) are placement and rehearsal.
The minute I saw the Obama cannons go off, I knew they were placed too low on the ground and that they would never achieve the full-on floating-on-air sensation that a good burst provides. The bits and pieces just all shot into a ball over a small portion of the ground area. Have you ever seen a “bait ball” in one of those underwater nature shows, where all the little fish just swim crazily in a tight sphere? That is the immediate impression I got from this colossal technical error.
The camera operators, at least on the NBC channel that I watched, quickly cut to cameras near the cannon blast, shooting through the flurry to give the impression of a big blast. But all the shots of the stage made it clear that the president and his family were not being showered with confetti, and they could not hide that this was an epic event production failure.