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Cameras & computers

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“Digital cameras are indispensable in site evaluations,” says Scott Sutherland of Olympic Tent. “They give me the ability to tie photographs of the site to other paperwork for an event and make it readily accessible to anyone with a computer. I can take a picture of the measuring tape on the ground at the site to show not only length but also direction and angle for the installers to replicate. A picture really is worth a thousand words when conducting site evaluations.”

Matt Mutton of Bob Mutton Party Rental & Event Planning has been using CAD programs for a decade and Google Earth satellite images for about half that long. He typically visits a site with a satellite view of the property, on which he draws Xs, Os and boxes indicating where things are going to be placed. “That allows us to take specific measurements between items and put those in a CAD drawing,” he says. “You can enter the distance between two buildings and the CAD program will calculate the dimensions of everything else in the satellite image. It will size the tent to scale.”

Mutton even considers old technology—camera phones—“a blessing.” Because if a customer wants to add an element to their event, photographs will “refresh your memory,” he says. “And you can show them to your crew leaders so they have a visual of the site.”

A&A Tent Productions has been using Google Earth for five years, but, Howard Sater says, just using a computer for layout and keeping up with fire codes and city regulations has helped his company. “The more you can do to make sure you do everything right, the better off you are.”

“Google Earth is a wonderful tool if used properly,” Sutherland says. “However, using Google Earth for an initial evaluation is, in most cases, not really worth it. It doesn’t show what is below trees or the actual slope of the site. It might help you find your way to the property, but I never use it for details. Where Google Earth really shines is in doing a screen capture and importing an overhead picture into a CAD program for generating diagrams. Customers and code officials love seeing overhead imagery.”

Although Google Earth could make it possible for a tent rental company to never set foot on a property until installation day, says Donny Vasquez of Made in the Shade, “Nothing is as good as getting your feet on the ground.”

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