PSSL Podcast Episode 2: Truss Talk with Donald Hauger from Global Truss
Welcome to the pssl.com; Prosound and Stage Lighting Podcast, where we invite an industry expert to explore the latest innovations and trends in professional audio and entertainment lighting while reminiscing the rich history of our exciting field. Be sure to subscribe to this podcast for future episodes. For more information on today's topic, visit pssl.com. Where you can access the product specs, peer reviews and real-time inventory.
Brent: Welcome everybody to the PSSL.com Podcast. My name is Brent Young. I'm the Vice President here at Prosound and Stage Lighting and today I'm really excited. We have a dear friend of mine, a longtime associate and personal friend Donald Hauger from Global Truss here in front of these mics. Say hello, Donald.
Donald: Hi, how are you guys doing?
Brent: Good. So I'm super excited to have you here today, mostly because of your journey throughout this exciting industry of professional sound and lighting that we're here to talk about. And so why don't we start off today by you letting us know a little bit about your journey, kind of from the beginning. And I'll just kind of let everybody know upfront, Donald has a unique position in that he has been a manager at Prosound and Stage Lighting and he is also currently a manufacturer representative. So Donald why don't you take us from the beginning of how you first got involved in the professional sound and lighting industry.
Donald: All right, appreciate it. First of all, thanks for having me here. Yeah, so it was you know back in, you know, I remember 1989-ish, I was a junior in high school. And, you know, Radio Shacks were popular and I got my first set of turntables and mixer.
And went out there and you know, practice mixing and offered my services to people when it was actually surprising to them that you would actually bring your gear to their backyard parties and you know, things like that. And I made an okay living you know, DJing and stuff like that. That was my start you know, being a disc jockey back in 1989, 1990 high school parties and things like that.
Brent: Now, were you lugging records around? Or tell us just a little bit about how that's changed just real quick.
Donald: Man, you know you're talking on average, every gig is probably about four or five creative records.
Brent: Oh my gosh.
Donald: Yeah. So I put my back into the work, I really did you know. You know a really quick thing was, I remember my father and I making this DJ stand together out of particle board and it weighed probably about, you know, 60 pounds each and, you know, maybe a little more than that. Yeah, some good memories.
But, you know, I remember having this conversation with my sister. She said when I was a senior in high school, she says, so what are you gonna grow up to be, you know, what do DJs become as they get older? What's the next step? And she mentioned, you know, recording engineering, you know, people have to record artists.
Donald: Yeah, I went out there and I took a three-month course in an LA recording workshop in Hollywood. And, you know, was a runner for some studios in Hollywood and had some great experiences. I met a lot of really famous people, one of my idols Quincy Jones and, you know, those types of people; Randy Newman and Chaka Khan and Babyface.
And, you know, did a lot of good things there and quickly found out I wasn't bred for that kind of scene you know. So after being a runner for a few years and in the recording industry, I transitioned. It was a nice little pivot to the movie industry and became a Foley Recordist.
Brent: Nice. Now for those who don't know, what is a Foley Recordist?
Donald: So a Foley Recordist is someone who records Foley artists who create these natural sounds for movies, you know the crackling of chairs and you know sometimes you're adding stuff, you know, nuances to explosions. You know things falling on, let's say a plane crashes in the ground and you know you have debris that's falling on the metal and things like that. So you do those type of things but you know, for the most part, it's all the natural sounds and --
Brent: Like people getting punched?
Donald: Right, people getting punched, yeah.
Brent: What is that sound made out of? Isn't that like celery wrapped in a chamois or something like that?
Donald: Well, that's probably, yeah, that's more like bones cracking. Yeah, that would be one. There are some really creative things that these Foley artists do. They're really artists when it comes down to it. But yeah, I had some great stories, great experiences in the movie industry. You know, did a few films and just, you know, enjoyed that journey. But, you know, soon after a couple of years of that, I was 29.
I remember I said you know, I got to start taking life a little more serious you know, get more into a nine to five. I wanted to have a family, you know, things like that. So, I thought to myself, how do you make a transition into sort of the corporate world you know, and not having to get too serious in the corporate world, right. So I thought, you know, recording gear, lighting gear and things like that so it brought me to Prosound.
Brent: Nice. And when was that? What year was that approximately?
Donald: That was right around, I want to say when was that? Man, you caught me off guard there.
Brent: So that was probably, the early 2000s? That sounds right?
Brent: Okay, yeah. So we met at that point I think and we hit it off immediately, had a lot in common and had some common mentors which, for those of you out there listening don't know. Prosound and Stage Lighting have a long history of really training people up to do exciting and great things, kind of like a launching pad for other things which is really exciting. And so for you, you got to manage a team of people, you are in charge of the retail store if I recall correctly for a bit.
Brent: And then also kind of in charge of a section of the call center here at Prosound and Stage Lighting which is where when you visit online and call or get a pack in from one of our boxes and call in, you talked to one of those great folks here. But you at a certain point in time you decided, hey, you know, I really want to be yet again, I want to kind of expand and go into a different side of this industry. So tell us how that happened and how you kind of the path to arriving at this strange thing of metal called Truss.
Donald: This strange thing, right, that's funny. So this industry, well, let me say this. Prosound was probably I got to say in my life, one of the best decisions I made to join the team, right. Not only that we have, you know, got to meet and became friends and stuff like that and I really enjoy our friendship and everything like that but I think there's a lot of life lessons and there's a lot of skills.
As you said we had some similar or, you know, we had the same mentors, right and they taught me a lot about this industry and just business in general, and your perspective and how to approach it and how to carry yourself, that posture and you know, things like that. So, you know, I started when the catalog first came out, you know, when it was made out of newspaper and the ink got on your fingers and you know, things like that.
So I remember those days. How it went from Prosound to go into the manufacturer that I think for the most part that seems to be more of a very natural progression, you know. You go from the sort of, you know, using a loosely retail level and go into the manufacturing. That transition is, you know, it's interesting because you come into a company like Prosound and you have thousands and thousands and thousands of skews, right.
And you're required to you know, if you're not a lighting person, you're learning lighting, if you're not a recording person you're learning recording, if you're not, you know, at some point it was, am I, right?
Brent: And it's so interesting the things that you find a passion for that you'd never imagine that you did. Like, I am blown away by how many people join the PSSL team and have some familiarity maybe with lightning and within a year, two, three, they're just passionate about lightning or in your case, Truss. I mean, everybody here at PSSL is well versed in Truss. And I gotta say, that's largely thanks to you, you've been the champion, you've been the one waving the flag. Tell me about how Global Truss products first came to be. Like what was revolutionary about Global Truss products?
Donald: Revolutionary, I think the courage to bring in that type of product into this country, right and already knowing what was already existing. So the idea of bringing in a new style of Truss, now this Truss you know when I say style, I'm talking about the speed and Truss, right.
Brent: And so spigot, let's talk about the two types of truss real quick and then get right back into that. So can you tell us the difference between the spigot and bolted or closed in?
Donald: Yeah, so, you know, the bolt-together truss is what's been, you know, going on for many years in this country, right. And I mean, you know, you can use that loosely, it is either, you know, conical, spigot, some manufacturers are very specific about the terminology. But you know, you are talking about conical coupling.
So the difference is that you have, you know, bolt-together end plated, you know, they're closed off at the end that's the American style Truss that's existed for many years, that's put together with bolts. And then you have the conical coupling, that's more of a female to male connection, right.
Brent: Which is very precise, right, the tolerances of those things having to fit together because it's essentially on a square piece of a Truss. It's four tubes that have to all line up correctly in order for them to carry on to create the next piece of Truss.
Donald: Right, you know I like this analogy that when I'm doing the training and stuff like that, just to give people an idea of the different thought processes. So you have bolt-together where it's a much heavier, beefier, stronger, you know, metal, right and the connection points are always the weakest, right. And at the connection point with the end plated you have these bolts, right.
So that's been the traditional style Truss here. And then the other style is something that they've been using just as long in Europe. So and the European mentality is, why does the Truss itself the metal have to be so heavy? Why can't it be lighter? Why can't it hold 500 pounds less because the majority of people are only using 30% of the weight, right?
But let's make the weakest point, the strongest. So it's a 180-degree mentality on the design. So I like making the analogy that Europeans think this way and then Americans think this way. You know it's metric versus standard.
Donald: Right. So it's, you know, Fahrenheit, Celsius I mean, it's, you know, it's just different ways of thinking.
Donald: It's pretty fascinating when you think of it and approach it that way.
Brent: And so the Global Truss product is a spigot, conical connector, a European style Truss which is really cool, by the way. So that's revolutionary of it coming into this American market and changing people's thought processes about what Truss could be. What about; how expensive was Truss, how hard was it to get? Tell us a little bit about that, how Global Truss revolutionized that.
Donald: Yeah, right. So, you know, as I said Global taking the risk of and Global Truss is part of the American DJ group of companies, right. Just the, you know, the leadership there and the risk that was associated with changing that whole idea because the reality is back in those days, and when I say back in those days, you're talking about the early 2000s. Right.
You know I assume, I don't know if this is a correct statement or not but a lot of DJs and DJ companies, they want to grow up and become production companies. And so when you do that, you want to start owning things like Truss to build structures to add to your offerings. But it's just too expensive back in those days, right. You're talking about, you know, the way it was set up is the only way you were using Truss back in those days is these million dollars super large production companies owned millions of dollars worth of Truss. They use it for themselves, they rent them out to other people, you know, and --
Brent: They put them on tours.
Donald: They put them on tour, stuff like that. They get rid of it, a couple of years later, they just replenish their whole inventory. And that's kind of pretty much how it worked, DJs would never touch Truss back in those days, right. So when Global Truss came into the scene, it was perfect timing because the offering of Truss was at the right price point. It was lighter, so it made it easier to be mobile with it.
Brent: That's true.
Donald: And, you know, you could get a few pieces and not break the bank you know.
Brent: And it was readily available, which was a big part of this, is that Global Truss and the American DJ companies have been really brilliant at being able to stock items for immediate shipment. So tell us about how Truss was the custom aspect of it and then the retail aspect of it which just means ready to be purchased immediately, you know, stocking available.
Donald: Yeah. So without getting too long or anything like that. One of the things I remember clearly when I first started with the company in 2005, you know, because the idea was that the product needed to get through the retail, you know, distribution chain of things, right. It had to go from one hand to the next and in that process, you had to explain the value of it, right.
And one of the things, you know, I think I was like I do, you know, back in those days stay up till two o'clock in the morning thinking about, how do you get it into people's hands and how do they see the value of it, right? And a thought came up about Legos, right, the company Legos, right?
Donald: Because it's the same thing, right, we're talking about, you know, aluminum Truss and plastic pieces it's the same idea. But more so not just associating that was the idea that the Lego company, you know, they've been around I don't know what, from the 50s or something like that.
But their whole idea was, here you go, here are 5000 pieces, create anything you want. Don't let your imagination stop you from creating whatever you want, which is great for many years. But we got into this whole different generation of people who, I don't have that kind of time, maybe, you know.
So they did a great campaign of, hey, we're going to box it up for you, this is what it's going to look like. We're going to give you the instructions and it's packaged this way. You're not getting 5000 pieces, you're getting 265 pieces and every single one is going to be used to make this, you know, character or this ship or whatever port. Right.
Brent: Yeah, right. I remember having the airport lego and you're right, every single piece was used. And if you were missing one which you never were because they are such a perfectionist company. Yeah, it's exciting because you knew what the end product could be and would be, right?
Brent: I love that.
Donald: Yeah. And that was the concept. That's what brought the whole birth of the totem.
Brent: So the totem, for those of us listening to that may not know is you can definitely check it out at PSSL.com but it's a piece of Truss that's vertically positioned on a baseplate, right. And it comes in various lengths which in this scenario translates into heights because it's sticking straight up. So imagine a totem pole, right but out of a piece of Truss, so, yeah. The totem was born with this man in the room right here, in front of the mics, Donald Hauger. So tell us about how that came to be.
Donald: So, you know, here's the, I really don't want to put that tag on it that you know I was the inventor of the totem or anything like that, you know, the concept and idea of the totem existed. I mean, people, you know, if you had to, like reach into your memory bank and think back, I'm sure there was a piece of Truss on a vertical plane, back in 1985 or whatever it was, right?
But I think it was just kind of maybe reinvented and then it was named which is basically what the Lego company did, right?
Brent: Yeah and at the same time, visual technologies were coming along with regards to displays from LCD. I mean, let's start plasma, LCD and now LED and you know, lightweight TVs, let's just say display panels that really are one of the big usages for totems, right, which also is able to happen as a result of the Global Truss TV mount that's available.
But you get a baseplate, you get a vertical piece of Truss, let's call it on average an 8.2 footer probably is the most popular and then a TV mount and then you're off to the races with your, whatever brand you prefer LCD TV and you're looking super pro at whatever event you're doing, right. So that spawns this whole new world of people that had been DJs that are now let's say, even graduating into this world of production.
So tell us about kind of the, what are the most common things that you get phone calls about? Specifically with regards to what I think a lot of our listeners will be in that kind of like either production or aspiring to production, as well as maybe even House of Worship. Can you kind of if you had to name what those phone calls are about because maybe we can tackle those right here now and for the benefit of our listeners?
Donald: Yeah, I think, you know, the most common question is always is it hard to put together, right, you know. Sometimes there might be a little bit I don't know if you want to call it fear but just, you know, not necessarily educated about trussing you know. But after you get past that first conversation and everybody's really comfortable and they do remember it being like Legos, right. They remember their childhood and stuff like that.
You know there are different parts of that question, right. I think the common thing is, you know, "help me design what I see in my head, how do I get there?" I think that's the common question. It's not a question but that seems to be the common communication, is, you know "I want this, how do I accomplish that," right. And so, you know we've talked about it before is that trussing has become a very hands-on type of thing you know.
That's why I've enjoyed so many years of like, you know, working with Prosound and the team here is because, you know, once you get them excited and let them know, you're becoming a designer. Because they're calling for, you know, you're a consultant, you're a designer, you know, all that kind of stuff. So, I guess to maybe answer that part of the question is that the common question or conversation is; how do I get where I want to get to? And sometimes it's, I have banners and I want to put them up so people can see them; how do I accomplish that?
Brent: Yeah and that's like a trade show company or people that are going to be exhibiting at a trade show will commonly need something like that. Marathon, endurance races, really common. You look at any of those and there's just Truss everywhere, right, all spartan races and things like that. Yeah, it's everywhere.
Donald: Yeah, you know trussing is the support you know, I mean not to, you know, be so corny about it. But that's what it is, it is the support to whatever else you're doing, right. Whether you're putting up lights or TVs or banners or need the surface for marketing reasons, you know, covering it up and there's a surface there for marketing, you know, space and retail.
So, yeah, I think when you talk about like maybe, you were talking about the Houses of Worship and that sort of thing, I think in the world of House of Worship I think it's going to be -- I'm trying to get my thoughts together here.
Brent: Yeah. Well, you mentioned the design element of this and I can testify that we probably one-third of our phone calls and inquiries here to our sales team are Truss related and they are design related. "I really want to do this, I want to make sure I have the right pieces or I don't know how to make this turn from here to there." And even this metric thing, I want to make sure that I get the right stuff. So that is very common.
And House of Worship is one of those places where you're seeing, as House of Worship becomes more experiential, more lighting, more immersive sound, that they do need that structure, that infrastructure that Truss provides to almost be a design element on stage even, right.
Even if it's not for the stage lighting, the key lighting, anything like that. So what would you say to that House of Worship that's like, just kind of kicking the tires on like, hey, I see other Houses of Worship using Truss and we're kind of looking into it. What do I need to know?
Donald: Yeah, I think the first thing is, I would definitely like for Houses of Worship to understand, you know, trussing, I said earlier that it helps support the other things that you're doing. And that's always been the idea and it's always in the background, you don't really see it a lot of times.
But don't limit yourself to that, Truss in itself you know whatever you create could be visual, you know, stand out of whatever you're doing. So don't limit yourself in that, that would be one is, you know, doesn't have to be in the ceiling hiding away and just hang your lights and that sort of thing. It can be on stage with you.
Brent: Yeah, it can be an appearance product at this point, right where you throw a cover on it; a white cover even and you put a wash light at the bottom of it and you, what we call 'up light it' or you can 'down light it' if it's tall and all of a sudden you've got this glowing color morphine, changing kind of presence, right, on stage and that's not just House of Worship. That's anywhere where you're looking for, like a cool factor, right.
Donald: That's true. I always said to people that you know, trussing is iconic. It's something that, you know, even when you talk to folks that are not even in this industry and you mentioned the word Truss, it may not be the type of trussing we're using in this industry, it might be the stuff they're using in residential and things like that but they understand what Truss is.
So the visual aspect of it is, you know, part of the reason why you know is part of the value really is part of what people gravitate towards. You know many times we design stuff, structures and things like that, that's not holding anything but banners. But whoever is designing the booth is the thinking of the fee, the idea that it's industrial, it's got that you know, beefy, industrial look, you know, metal, things like that it's garage, it's, you know, heavy metal that kind of thing, right? So there's that aspect to it too, right. So, you know it's been around for years, it just looks good.
Brent: Yeah, people kind of expect to see it involves these days. It's really cool. I know one of the questions that we get or one of the learning elements for our customers is the different series of Truss. And so they're really, there are two main types of Truss; square and triangle which we can talk about in a minute.
But then there are these different styles. One starts with a four, one starts with a three, one starts with the two. If you could just briefly describe what each of those mean and kind of what the ideal usages or maybe the way not to use that Truss if that's better. Because sometimes that's pretty easy, right?
Like, yeah, you definitely don't want to hang a lot of weight off of this style of Truss, right? So all of the Truss starts with the letter F and then it has a number next to that and then another number. So an example, let's start with, like, maybe the most common which would be F34. Can you just walk us through what that means? What does F34 mean? And then maybe we can go to the other styles.
Donald: Yeah, absolutely. So to be quite honest, some of those tags and stuff like that don't have a true meaning behind it. Like the three doesn't necessarily mean anything. I mean, we tried to think about and go, well, you know, the three that means three prongs and it's a triangle and you know this and that. But I just think they were just kind of names that came up.
Brent: Well, yeah and now they've taken root and it's kind of known that in the Global Truss line at least that a three if it's F and then a three; the three stands for 12 inch Truss, right?
Donald: Yeah, right. And in that sense, yeah. I mean, we have, you know, some rhyme or reason, right. But --
Brent: And so that 12 inches the signify the width of the Truss --
Donald: Yeah, from one chord to the next.
Brent: One chord to the next, yeah. So you've got 12-inch Truss which would be F3 and then a number after that. The number after that signifies what shape the Truss is. So an F34; the first three stands for 12 inches, the second number after that the 'four' stands for square, four sides, right? So if you saw an F33 Truss that would be --
Donald: The triangle.
Brent: 12-inch triangle, because it has three chords.
Brent: So what about just real quickly if we do, if it goes F and then a two, what does that mean?
Donald: So that's the lighter duty Truss, right. So the lighter duty Truss you know, we just talked about it. We do the 12-inch square Truss which is the most popular. And then the F24, you're stepping down to the eight and a half inch Truss. And we're using, you know, the imperial, you know, but it's really in metric.
But just for the sake of conversation, F24, again, the four stands for the four chords, so it's square and then three is the three chords that are the outer tube when we say chords, that's the triangle. And then we also do the F32, which is going back up to the 12-inch but it's the flat Truss high beam which is two chords. Then we may even go down to what's called the F14, which is four chords because the four, it's a square but it's a four-inch by four-inch.
Brent: Super tiny. So we keep, as we reduce that number right after the F it's getting smaller in size. So this is almost decorative Truss, right, at this point?
Brent: It's not really meant to have any significant weight on it but then you go all the way up to F44. So you have a big four after that and that would be kind of what you see on tour pretty often which would be approximately 16-inch Truss, right?
Donald: Right. And that's the big boy. That's the stuff that, yeah, You'd use on tour and that sort of thing. And we also have some in-between things like the F34P which represents a thicker wall thickness. So you can have, right of the tube itself but it's still in that 12-inch frame and size.
So, you know, when you talk about the decorative Truss versus the big boy, yeah, there's a big difference there. But, you know, anywhere from the F14 to the F34 you know, plenty of times you have people on this end of the spectrum use an F34 to put up a banner, right?
But it's, what's also important to consider is that the footprint within a room makes a big difference. So you know, if you're using an F14 inside a big trade show and doing a goalpost that Truss goes away, right.
Brent: The look, it's the look.
Donald: The look too, right.
Brent: Nice. Well, as we're here in 2020 right now, what are some things that have you excited about trussing, the future of trusting right now? What's kind of cooking that we maybe know just a little bit about or maybe nothing at all about that you're excited about?
Donald: In general in the industry?
Donald: I think I'm mostly excited to see because there are a lot of Truss out there now. There's a lot of lego pieces out there now, what I'm excited to see is people get more educated about it; to understand what it's capable of, what it's not capable of. I'm also excited to see how this industry in this country starts to talk about how to standardize it, how to create standardization, how to put rules and regulations.
I know people don't like rules and regulations but it just makes it more clear how to use it, when to use it, where to use it. And when people get more educated, that's when they can go in and feed the creative side, right. It starts with creativity, then they get educated and they get more creative because they're comfortable that they can do these types of things, right.
So I'm excited about seeing this industry and designs with trussing, just the creation, the structures, you know, concepts, the ideas, you know. You know a lot of people will make squares and you know, things like that and boxes and stuff. But there's been a few projects I've shown you before, the crane, origami crane that they did in Coachella, you know things like that. Those type of projects when you talk about it --
Brent: That's a crane, that's like a bird crane not like a construction crane.
Brent: Which would be pretty fun to make too. But this was like a bird crane made out of Truss at Coachella which is really cool.
Donald: Right. So I'm excited about that. I'm excited about those minds and those people out there that want to build and they want to build but then again, they have just a little time, they need to get a little educated about it, feel comfortable with it and then create you know. And I like to see more of those cranes out there you know, things like that.
Brent: Well, I can personally attest that you have educated and excited a whole generation of people and then some. Donald's training is some of the best of all the manufacturers and vendors that come on site to PSSL.com to train our sales advisors to be Truss-fit is what we call it; hey, get Truss-fit, right.
So, Donald, you are awesome. I appreciate you so much. Thank you for being a champion in this industry and educating and exciting countless people, including our people that are listening to this today. So thank you.
Donald: I appreciate it, thanks for having me.
Brent: All right.
Thank you for listening. To explore this topic further and to send us your feedback on this podcast, please visit us at pssl.com where you can access product specs, peer reviews, and real-time inventory.