Chp. 6: Preparing the Bid Request(s)

Chapter 6 – Preparing the Bid Request(s)


You will likely have to send out a bid request for all or several parts of your project. This chapter contains tips and considerations about the bidding process and what to include in your requests.


General Advice


It is important to know what the layout of your theater will be after the conversion. Do you have an opto-mechanical projector in the middle of the room that you are planning to keep? Are you planning to acquire a new opto-mechanical projector? This may determine whether you project from the center of the room or from the cove. Several fulldome vendors employ theater designers who may visit your theater to make suggestions.   Ask about this!  No one wants to prepare a bid only to find that you have to do some major infrastructure work to your facility to make it operate. Projectors may need to be mounted on a very sturdy mount with appropriate ventilation.  Is the air flow around the projector sufficient or do exhausts need to be vented?  Will you need to provide the mounting apparatus? All of these items are considerations.


Each institution has its own policies – know them!  Where does the bid notice have to be published? Usually the local newspaper is used by law.   You will need to supply a list of vendors who should get the bid request. What information is needed? How detailed should the budget be? What are the bid limits? Many educational institutions (being state agencies) have a very specific process. Learn that process! How long do the bids have to be public? Where is the announcement advertised? Who receives the bids? Is it you or possibly the institution’s chief financial officer? Who approves the bids?


If you are not the person who is designated to open the bids, that designated person should provide you with a list of companies who submitted the bid and the price point they are proposing.  Find out who has to approve the bid.  If it is a board of directors (or the like), be sure to attend the board meeting when the bids are discussed, and be prepared to make a case for the system you desire.  If you skip the meeting, odds are the board will choose the system boasting the lowest installation cost.  Have a rationale for the system you desire.


It cannot be stressed enough to write the specifications of your bid with great care.  While we all support our local economy, do you want local companies (who may know very little about planetariums) involved with the project?  If not, you must include language that avoids this issue.  For example, “The successful company should have experience in installing planetarium sound systems,” etc.  If you have a board that approves the bid entries, a local company could submit a low bid and thus gain the approval of your board . . . . and compromise your project!  Be very specific! 


Specific Project Components


If you are replacing the sound system and lighting system, see if you can do these as separate bids. Some fulldome vendors can handle the entire conversion. You have to determine if this is something you want.  If you break them into separate bids and the expected bid is less than the bid limit for your institution, you may be able to just hire the company you desire and avoid the bid process all together. Remember, if you engage in the bid process, it is possible that someone else may be making the vendor decision for you!


When you're acquiring information for the bid, make sure the vendors know exactly what you want to do in your converted theater. If you are doing your own production work, do you need an off-line production system?  What projectors will you be using? Consider the maintenance on the projectors, especially the cost of the lightbulbs.  The vendors should provide you with the information you need for the bid, including an itemized budget.  They should be accustomed to doing this.


If, in attending conferences or by watching a vendor demo in your own theater, you have an idea of what system you desire, find out what makes this particular system unique, and put this information into your bid.  Once again, it cannot be stressed enough that your specifications must be just that:  specific!  In fact, you may end up writing several pages.


Include the cost of shows in your bid.  Fulldome shows can be expensive. Unless you have a huge budget, you may have to raise further funds just to get a show!  Include a couple in your initial project costs, and include them in your system bid request.