TAIT has been the creative and technical force behind an array of innovative live-event equipment—from kinetic sculptures to a propeller platform designed for a Taylor Swift concert tour. In this documentary, learn about the people and processes that help to bring these experiences to life.
(light electronic music) - [Gemma] The experience once you see something you've developed come to life is absolutely amazing. - [Matt] Standing in the middle of a stadium and seeing 100,000 people going absolutely crazy about something that you were directly a part of. - [Jim] This is not a 9:00am - 5:00pm job.
This is lifestyle job. This something you have to invest your whole self in to create these things. - [Tyler] To explore these boundaries and these areas outside of the box so to speak, I think that's the thing that I love to come here every day and do. (light electronic music) (rock music) - TAIT was founded by Michael Tait in 1978 as a lighting business and over time the business transitioned from lighting, which really became commoditized, into scenic and staging.
What TAIT is really the best in the world at is taking super early creative conceptions, whether those come from artists or architects or show designers or lighting designers, all the way through to opening night or to an experience that makes somebody get out of their chair and scream or a child laugh. - Being on the cutting edge of entertainment nobody wants to do the thing that everybody saw last time. So even if the technical solution is similar, how do we make it look unique? Or often, how do we solve the unique challenge that this artist is bringing to us? - We're headquartered here in Lititz.
We have about 330 people full time with us and that includes everyone from designers and architects to welders, painters, carpenters, to a good portion of our senior leadership, but we have offices all over the world. - When I came here, people weren't talking about being innovative. They were being innovative and they were doing it. And that was something that really stuck out to me and drew me to the environment.
- A lot of these concert tours in the way that industry works now, happen on such a compressed time table that you really need to be able to work quick and make decisions and figure out how to make it work in the field. - If you can make one small change that makes everything better and more efficient and easier for the end user, which are roadies, who are very critical people, it's absolutely worth it.
- All of our equipment needs to be modular and it has to install very fast. So what you see here is we'll provide a layout exactly where every piece of equipment is labeled goes in the set up. So anybody anywhere can basically pick it up and go with it and it gives them a diagram of where it's at. What's really cool is when it comes back off the show you can see that it's colored white tape with the number 44, that's position in the semi trailer that it goes into so it can load in real fast and load back out real quick. - We put a lot of thought into the amount of work that it takes to unpack something from the back of a truck and turn it into something that the audience is going to be amazed by.
- [Eric] Sometime in the late 2000s the future of live entertainment was shifting so much towards experience and production values had gotten so much larger than they were historically that automation became critical. - Out of show development we made the Navigator software which helps us talk to all kinds of different systems. - [Sam H.] And it's very unique in the fact that it's one of the only sort of ground up motion control platforms written with entertainment in mind.
- Each winch, each point of control exists on its own. So it's completely scalable all the way up to giant shows like Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas or down to your smallest high school show. - It not only runs automation, flying performers, moving scenery, but it is also a show controller that can run every single part of your show. - [Sam H.] Controlling motors and pumps and fans and all sorts of stuff and doing that all safely.
- The natural progression was getting into different robotics systems. From robotics we then control different lighting effects, taking wind speeds, kind of augment different live shows, but we can also get into architecture. - The Omnia Nightclub was one of the very first examples of kinetic architecture project that we did here at TAIT. It was what actually kind of lead me to this thesis that there was more projects like this out there in the world that we could go after if we really focused on it.
- We take on the projects that others say, "No, we can't do that." And we say, "Sure, we can do that, we will figure it out." And folks in the industry understand when they come to TAIT what they're going to get and it's going to be a best in class experience. - So how do we go achieve their vision in the time we have with the tools that we have in front of us? That's one of the most rewarding parts of the job. (light electronic music) The TAIT Process breaks down pretty well into four phases: project management, design, fabrication, and integration.
- Once the project manager gets an idea from the artist or whatever company that is functioning as our client they sit down with design and figure out the parts that are entailed and what needs to happen to make that idea come to life. - A lot of the stuff we do have never been done before and is done from scratch. We do a great deal of prototyping. - You kind of get it out of the computer, you get it in your hands and people can talk about it. - [Jim] And then we kick it out to fabrication and they go build whatever the machine or the object is.
- We have the staging department or decking which builds the platform for the whole thing and then the custom group, we build everything that's on top of that. - At this point, the show has only been looked at as a series of components. It hasn't necessarily been considered as a show. So the integrators take all the individual components, all the individual machines and put them together to create a show. - With controls integration we're specifically looking at the electrical and the electrical mechanical elements to the show and the software used in the show and we want to make sure that all comes together into a nice package that is going to work for the artist and work for the show.
- And then integration finishes the process by labeling it all so we can put it back together after we take it apart. And they pack it up, we put it on trucks, and we take it to the client and hopefully they love everything that we did. - [Kevin] So on Phish, for instance, we knew that they wanted to have video screens floating in the middle of the air and then they wanted to dramatically open and provide this really neat kinetic look. - Every concept that we came up with for the first dozen, you saw the mechanism that was going to make it happen.
And so you're blowing the gag without even doing the gag. - [Sam H.] We had over 50 different motors and moving machines on that show between the video wall, the control for trusses and lighting and other pieces of structure. - In the end, the structure ended up actually becoming kind of an art piece. There was so much line and form when the thing was opening that they ended up lighting it, rather than hiding it, accentuating it.
I'll never forget being at rehearsals, standing there watching Trey Anastasio see it for the first time and be like, "Dude, did you see that thing that's happening right behind you on the video screen? It's amazing!" - I'm really proud of that. I think we knocked it out of the park and couldn't have asked for a better team on that. - Together you sort of get this skills matrix of people where people have all sorts of backgrounds and all sorts of technical abilities.
- Anybody from a well trained and academically trained engineer skillset to a somebody with a very elaborate theatrical background. - [Sam H.] And then we pair them up with projects that work to their strengths. - I think that's one of the key benefits that TAIT has always had, and probably the competitive advantage for us, is that diversity of those teams that we have. - Everyone's blending a little bit with their various talents and when they come together to make a show it's really remarkable.
- I spent a ton of time understanding what is the day today at TAIT? What motivates this group of people? Trying to build a company that would foster that. - I think one of the things that I found key so far is kind of being thrown into projects to learn and do things more hands-on. - We have so many really really clever, very experienced, very qualified people internally and actually just sitting down and asking for 30 minutes of their time to explain something is being really really helpful.
- I think just the fact that we don't really have cubicles makes it nice and easy to communicate and not as restricted as it might be in a regular office setting. - It's a very open environment in terms of design and the way that our floor looks but as well as people sharing their experiences and their lives together so does contribute to the level of work that we provide because it creates a bond. - And now we celebrate. - Now we celebrate.
- I don't come to work because it's a paycheck, I come to work because it's a lifestyle that I happen to be lucky enough to do and get paid for. - [Sam B.] At the end of the day you're providing a service that's even greater than the work that you're doing here to get your paycheck, it's actually contributing to people being able to escape reality. - And being able to build something like that that makes people happy, that motivates me extremely. - No where else that I've ever worked have I come across this type of facility with these types of machines, let alone the type of people standing next to me who come together as a team, get this amazing product out the door.
(electronic music) - [Eric] We're partners in growing this business and we're all really passionate about that. (electronic music) It's amazing what our people do. (electronic music) (crowd cheering)