Blog Posts

May 24, 2016

News for FanimeCon 2016:

If your costume contest is five hours long, you're doing it wrong

by Patrick Delahanty, Executive Producer, and

FanimeCon announced their schedule for their 2016 Masquerade Cosplay Contest on their web site. It's scheduled to start at 6pm and the award announcements will begin around 10:30pm. That means the entire event (not including seating) will last approximately five hours for just 55 entries.

Here's the program as posted:

5:30 p.m. - Doors open on Sunday May 29th at the San Jose Civic Auditorium
6:00 p.m. - Opening announcements and introductions
6:15 p.m. - Karaoke winner's star performance
6:20 p.m. - First half: entries 1-25
7:30 p.m. - Intermission: 15 minute break to get up, stretch your legs and get ready for the second half
7:45 p.m. - Second half: entries 26-55
9:00 p.m. - Exposition performances
9:30 p.m. - Extravaganza's game show

Why is the event so long? Let's take a look...

They've given themselves 30 minutes for seating. That's fine.

There's 15 minutes for opening announcements and introductions. That seems rather excessive. Five minutes should be more than enough time to welcome everyone, introduce the emcee, introduce a handful of judges, go over some rules, and get started. What's happening for the other 10 minutes? Is it extra padding in case seating takes longer or people aren't actually ready on time?

The karaoke winner gets 5 minutes to perform. That's a reasonable amount of time to sing a song, but why is this even here? Get the show started and have the karaoke winner perform later while judges are making their decisions.

The first 25 entries are scheduled for 70 minutes. That's 2.8 minutes per entry. Some of these will be "walk on" entries, meaning that they walk on the stage, strike a few poses, and walk off. These are easily under a minute each (although the rules state a limit of 90 seconds), leaving more time for skit entries. Skit entries are allowed up to 2.5 minutes each. Even if all 25 entries were skits and all of them ran the full 2.5 minutes, that would only occupy 62.5 minutes. Factoring in the emcee's introductions, it's mathematically possible this could run over 70 minutes, but extremely unlikely.

After a 15 minute intermission (because the show is so long), the second half has 75 minutes for 30 entries. That's an average of 2.5 minutes per entry. Worst case scenario, they're all skits that run the maximum time, this could run over when you factor in the emcee's introductions.

Of course, there are two very obvious choices that could be made to reduce the running time of the skits: cut down the number of skits and/or reduce the maximum time for each entry. Using the same worst-scenario time estimate, a reduction of skit entries to just 2 minutes each would save up to nearly half an hour. What story can you tell in 2.5 minutes that you can't tell in 2? Keep the performance times short to keep things moving. Nothing drags down the excitement of a costume contest like a poor skit that seems like it never ends.

Why do walk-ons get 90 seconds? Some costume contests even restrict skits to 60 seconds, so cutting back the walk-ons should be a no-brainer. They walk on, strike some poses, walk off. If someone's using up the full minute-and-a-half, they've never heard the saying "Always leave them wanting more."

After the entries have finished, there is 30 minutes of exposition performances planned. Yes, these can be amazing to watch because they're often professionals with incredible performances. 30 minutes seems rather excessive though. Still, that's 30 minutes that can be used by judges to make award decisions.

Following the exposition performances, there's "Extravaganza's game show" planned for an hour. This appears to be the biggest cause for the length of the contest. I don't know what this game show entails, but I have to wonder why it's here. It should be scheduled after the awards or at another time or in another location.

The event ends with the presentation of awards. The judges have an excessive 90 minutes to decide on 12 performance awards, 4 craftsmanship awards (which should have already been decided during pre-judging), and a judge's award from each judge. If these judges are keeping score and halfway decent notes during the competition, the decision making process should not last more than 30 minutes for these dozen performance awards.

Five hours is unbearably long for this event. Here's a proposed improved schedule (with the number of skits reduced to a nice round 50, walk-ons limited to 60 seconds, and skits limited to 2 minutes):

5:30 pm - Doors open for seating
6:00 pm - Opening announcements and introductions
6:05 pm - First half: entries 1-25
6:55 pm - Intermission: 15 minute break to get up, stretch your legs and get ready for the second half
7:10 pm - Second half: entries 26-50
8:00 pm - Exposition performances
8:30 pm - Karaoke winner's star performance
8:35 pm - Award Announcements
9:00 pm - END

By simply moving the game show, cutting out 5 skits, slightly reducing stage time, and cutting back on opening announcements, two hours have been trimmed! If we cut the skits back to a maximum of 1.5 minutes, we could probably do without the intermission and save another 40 minutes!

The point is that five hours is not necessary for a costume contest with this many entries. The contest was already excessively long last year thanks to countless technical delays. (FanimeCon 2015's masquerade was over 2 hours long just counting the competing entries and awards. Tadao, the emcee, admitted that he had stalled so much that he ran out of material!)

This 2016 schedule is quite worrisome. With the convention in less than a week, it's too late to make changes, but FanimeCon's Masquerade organizers should take a serious look at the costume contests of other large conventions to get some ideas to streamline the event for 2017. Five hours is crazy!