Creativity is something that runs in Scott “Scotty” Robinette’s family. Both his grandfather and dad were audio engineers. Although as Senior Field Specialist for Riverview, his work is vastly different from that of his father and grandfather, it is nonetheless intensely creative and crucially important to the success of the live events the company produces.
This month we spoke to Scotty about his work for Riverview, his career highlights and the ‘can do’ spirit he embodies that has proven essential to the long-term success of Team Blue.
Q. You’ve spent more than 20 years at Riverview yet your title seems to go beyond description. Can you talk about your longevity with the company and give us an overview of your role at Riverview?
Scotty: I’ve been at Riverview for 22 years. It’s one of the few things I can think of that I’ve done for this length of time. I love the people and the varied aspect of each project that continues to keep me motivated and able to constantly tackle new problems instead of the same ones over and over again.
My business card says “Senior Field Specialist,” which means I head the scenic department and act as the head carpenter and finishing guy for live event environments – everything from screen surrounds to full stage. This involves a bit of engineering meshed with creative problem solving to make a live event environment look the way our design team planned it as well as calls on skills ranging from basic measuring, sawing and hammering to video and monitor installation.
Q. You’ve said you were destined to work in the audio/visual industry. Who were your key inspirations?
Scotty: I feel very fortunate that both my grandfather and father worked professionally in the audio/visual industry and that’s what peaked my interest and inspired me. My grandfather was a sound engineer that actually did sound for The Beatles’ last concert in Candlestick Park in 1966; while my dad handled sound at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. In fact, he still has a reel-to-reel tape from the show that was digitized recently for a documentary that was made about the festival.
Early on, I worked with my father and grandfather and then gained further experience at various other A/V companies before coming to Riverview. From a technical standpoint, one of the great rewards of being the A/V guy is that everyone is always happy when you walk into the room and can fix all the problems to make sure an event looks and sounds great. I still try to learn something new every day. When I go see other people’s shows, I look at what they’re doing with an eye on the engineering setup.
Q. Tell us about your workflow: what is your creative process when translating the production design vision into an actual scenic design?
Scotty: For the most part, I am not involved in the preliminary “dream” aspect of our live events. My work begins when our production design and creative services team approach me with pictures, blueprints and plans. Then it’s up to me and my team to try and physically bring these ideas to life, which is the really fun part.
At an event site, my day usually starts with me unloading the truck and bringing in and organizing various staging elements. I also have a dependable carpentry crew that are all on top of their game. I will then direct them to make sure things like the trusses are where they need to be, draping hung correctly, breakout rooms equipped with proper A/V, and that type of thing.
Q. Tell us about a recent live event that challenged you to come up with a uniquely creative solution.
Scotty: Earlier this year at a national sales event for our client Stryker the design plan called for a series of LED tile segments that were hung at a 45-degree angle off of a curved truss with a mirror underneath each of them. This involved solving a number of mechanical details in order to construct and realize the vision. The most challenging aspect of the build was to figure out a way to fabricate all the hardware in order to mount the mirrors underneath each segment so that it would stay flat and rigid. I decided on a wooden build – frameless on the outside — to hold the mirror up flat without anyone being able to see the support frame. It was a huge success.
Q. Once on site at a live event, do you ever run into surprises? For example, do you ever realize the specs you were working with are different than what you’d anticipated?
Scotty: Rarely does that ever happen. We generally do not construct onsite unless the elements are larger than the truck transporting them. So, I typically walk into the live situation already knowing how the layout is supposed to go, with elements pre-built. Organization is the key to success.
Q. When working with the Team design and creative team, have they ever presented you with ideas that stumped or perplexed you?
Scotty: I’ve got to say no. For every idea the team comes to me with, I’ll rack my brain until I figure out a solution. God forbid the day I can’t do that anymore.
Q. What are the tools you go to that you can’t work without?
Scotty: For event builds, I’m pretty old-school. I rely on a pencil, ruler, tape measure, and an actual physical desktop – not a computer laptop – where I’ll draw rough sketches for concepts. Later I’ll come back and redefine these into full-scale digital drawings. That’s how I learned to do it and I have pretty much kept to that. At home, as a hobby, I play with CAD architectural software and design houses. But at Riverview, for most of the builds, I draw them out on the tabletop and work from there.
Q. On a personal note, what are you listening to?
Scotty: My iPod playlist is all over the place. I listen to everything from techno to country. I’m good as long as I have audio going on while I’m working so that I don’t hear the noise of the tools I’m working with.