A Slick Operation | Sight & Sound Services

 Henry Norton likes things to be slick. That means Sight & Sound Services’ road cases need to not only fit good; they need to look good too.

The first road cases Henry Norton ever owned were made by his own hand. He had just started Sight & Sound Services and, in the cash-strapped context of a fledgling business, a do-it-yourself approach to road cases made perfect sense. Once the company was better established, Henry began purchasing road cases from various manufacturers. But the grab bag of cases—those homemade and those purchased—left him with a vexing problem. “We had a few other brands in stock and even over the space of purchases made six months apart there were variants in sizing: ten to twenty mils [millimetres], which is a pain to this day,” Henry explains, chuckling. “So we’re slowly phasing them out.”

This “phasing out” strategy is all part of Henry’s ongoing quest for greater efficiency. He runs Sight & Sound Services as a slick operation, founded alongside work at the opera house, progressing to a full-time operation when the venue closed for earthquake strengthening. After more than a decade, business is booming, the production company now a permanent feature of the events landscape in the region. “More recently there’s just no time to make anything,” says Henry. “It has to be bought.”

"There were variants in sizing [of non-Fiasco cases] . . . which is a pain to this day. So we’re slowly phasing them out.”


Mapping the Truck-Pack

It’s at this point that Fiasco enters the picture. Henry had tried several road case manufacturers but, as already noted, the inconsistent sizing was a headache. Henry says, “Moving forward, the consistent sizing was a key decider [for going with Fiasco].” He estimates that packing a truck with Fiasco cases is twice as fast as it is using non-standardized road cases. Sight & Sound Services uses a variety of Fiasco products. Aside from the standard road cases, there are the drape kits and various custom-built items. But no matter the product, everything is engineered to standardized dimensions. For that reason, Fiasco’s dimensions have become the benchmark against which everything else is compared. Henry explains, “We kind of have a thing now that anything we do make is made so that it works with Fiasco.”

This Fiasco-centric philosophy has allowed Henry to take efficiency to the next level, especially in terms of packing trucks: “The efficiency has improved hugely,” explains Henry. “It has changed our thinking about how we spec jobs too. Even at the start when speccing for various venues, we have in our mind how many cases we’ll need and how many are going to go in the truck and the weights and adjust accordingly.”

Laid out on the loading bay floor of his workshop are truck maps. “We lay [the road cases] out in the configuration and it just rolls into the truck from there. So we can prep our bigger jobs out of our holding areas.” It’s a very hands-on approach to preparing for big event, made possible by the Tetris-like way Fiasco cases fit together, a system Fiasco calls “Truck Packology”. “I’m a very visual kind of guy, as opposed to using big lists. Our jobs are prepped quite far in advance so we can handle multiple projects at once. The uniform sizing really helps me.”



Fits Good, Looks Good

There’s another benefit to Fiasco’s uniformity: it looks good. “I like things to be uniform and kind of smart.” This concern for looking sharp is evident in how Sight & Sound Services take care of their cases. Henry has a policy that whenever gear comes back into the workshop for de-prep, every surface is wiped down with Simple Green cleaner. It costs extra, he admits, and is going further than most companies would be willing to go. But, for Henry, looking slick goes hand-in-hand with running a slick operation. “Image is everything,” he adds.

"I like things to be uniform and kind of smart. Image is everything."

It’s a fitting mantra for a company whose business is all about putting on a spectacular show. And the general population seems to agree. According to Henry, Hawke’s Bay punters expect higher quality in their events now than ever before. That appetite for top-tier production means Sight & Sound Services won’t be short of work any time soon. “There’s always a new product and we’re always gearing ourselves towards what we’ve got booked in the next six to twelve months,” says Henry. “We’re looking forward to many more [Fiasco road cases] in the future.”