Rollout to be One for the ages

If God is considering a Second Coming soon, maybe she should tune in to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner rollout ceremony to borrow a few ideas about staging, drama and worldwide impact. Indeed, short of an 8.0 earthquake, an eruption of Mount Rainier or...


Not only is the 787 the first commercial aircraft largely built of composite material, it's also the first commercial aircraft that relies heavily on Boeing's partners around the world to design and build large pieces of the aircraft. Under Boeing's new plan, the company handles the overall conception and integration of the design, as well as marketing the aircraft. But Boeing's partners, including Spirit in Wichita; Vought in Charleston, S.C.; Alenia in Italy; and Fuji, Mitsubishi and Suzuki in Japan, bear a large share of the design and financial responsibility for their parts of the plane.

Boeing wanted the ceremony to accurately reflect the contributions that Boeing workers and its partners around the globe made in producing the first plane, Leach said.

In midsummer last year, Boeing sought proposals from multimedia production companies to help stage and distribute the event. Fremont's TPN emerged the winner in that competition. TPN is an 18-year-old, 80-employee company that specializes in producing big corporate events. TPN has worked with Boeing for 14 years staging big events, including rollouts of derivative models of the 777 and 737 and big gatherings in which Boeing announced new models. Other TPN clients include Microsoft, Amazon and JCB.

TPN had worked with Boeing on the 787 from the beginning and produced a worldwide 787 roadshow that took the 787 story to 20 countries around the world.

While aircraft technology has advanced greatly since the 777 debuted in 1994, so have presentation and communication capabilities, Leach said. The debut will spotlight both those advanced capabilities.

TPN CEO John Vadino said the roadshow experience affirmed TPN's belief that the 787 debut had to be carefully scripted, directed and produced to appeal to audiences in other countries.

"We have a truly global audience. We found that the presentation will be much more appealing if we customize it to local tastes," Vadino said.

As a result, the ceremonies will be broadcast and narrated in nine languages. The video from the 10 cameras covering the event will be fed to nine directors stationed outside the Everett plant who each will produce native language coverage for worldwide distribution.

Vadino said TPN is bringing in those directors from outside the U.S. because it believes the ceremonies will get the widest audience if they're presented in each area's native tongue and put together in familiar styles by directors accustomed to the conventions of video production in other areas of the world.

The different versions will be available on the Web and through a constellation of satellites throughout the world.

The ceremony will include remote live feeds from other 787 gatherings around the world to include workers in other countries who've contributed to the 787 project.

In a traditional rollout, the finale comes when the doors of the plant rumble aside, and the new plane inside rolls out for public viewing. Boeing abandoned that model years ago, putting the audience inside the plant and opening the plant doors to reveal the plane outside. The Northwest's unpredictable weather and the need for a controlled environment to show the videos and play the theme music make holding the ceremony inside a virtual necessity.

As lighting, video and production technology have advanced, so has the quality of the rollout ceremonies. The 787 rollout will feature huge video screens, some mounted on the inside of the hangar doors, extensive rock show-style lighting and innovations such as small remote projectors that can literally paint the stage and walls with images.

And for the first time, all of the 15,000 guests will be seated in the last two production positions in the vast 787 production hall. In traditional Boeing events, a cadre of customers, suppliers and Boeing executives are seated with Boeing workers standing behind.

Though Leach and Vadino won't reveal the exact details of the presentation, if it follows the pattern of most Boeing presentations, it will be heavily weighted toward workers, with videos of engineers, technicians and machinists from around the world talking about their roles in the project. Of course, the plane and its customers will play a role, with video presentations featuring airline executives and crew members and ultimately the 787 itself.

The whole event will get a dress rehearsal the day before, with the participants and speakers timing their presentations and directors and technical people testing the lighting, sound and satellite connections.

Don't expect any surprise celebrity appearances, Leach said. On 7-8-07, the 787 will be the star.

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