What to Expect at a Live Filming of BattleBots
In 2019 I attended all filming sessions with my husband, and we were 2 of the 4-5 people that were there every single day (shout-out to Barbara & Kirk!). Warning: it’s a lot! Even just attending one session can be daunting, let alone both in one day. While it’s absolutely exhilarating, it’s also exhausting. But I can promise you this: it’s wonderful and you’re gonna love it!
The first thing I did in 2019 was buy my tickets. Facebook supporters have early access to the tickets for around two weeks before they’re open to the public. Unfortunately, there’s not a particularly easy way to buy multiple sessions if you don’t go the VIP route, which includes all of them. I know it’s a bit of a pain to battle the ticketing system, but once you’ve done that, you’re set. Yay!
The gates to the parking lot of the filming location open exactly 90 minutes before filming begins. This may be adjusted with pit tours being available beforehand, but I’m not sure. Check your ticket! A line will start forming about 30 minutes before the parking lot opens; expect delays and be patient. Parking staff is amazing and will direct you on where to go.
After you park, you’ll walk to a table where they’ll give you a wristband, then you’ll be in an area with food trucks, lines of people, and a tent with sign-making materials beneath it. Don’t get directly into line! Go to that tent and look at the tables; you’ll find a list of what teams are competing that session. I hope your favorite bot is on the list!
Protip: screenshot the list with your phone so you can keep track while the session goes.
After you’ve seen the list, either go and put away signs for teams not fighting that day, get some food, or find your line. The gates will open around one hour before filming, and your line will be escorted to the filming location. Enjoy the walk! You might pass teams who are arriving late. Say hi to them! Tell them they’re amazing. Shout that you love them!
Maybe that’s just what I do...
Anyway, once you get to the building, you’ll be told to not take pictures of the arena. You’ll be told that you can’t eat inside at your seat. You’ll be shown where the bathrooms are (yes, they’re outside!). You’ll be told that you can only have water in the stands. You’ll be handed a merchandise catalog that you can use to buy some sweet souvenirs. But really you’ll just be antsy to get inside.
Some PAs will tell you no food or drink in the stands. However, the official rule is that you can have water at your seat. Don’t let a PA discourage you from water, it is 100% allowed at your seat. Some PAs will let you take a soda from the vending machine to your seat as well, but some will stop you. Godspeed.
Say goodbye to your internet upon entering the building! I think some carriers may be able to get reception but I could never get anything to work. If you have children and want them to be entertained between matches, or you want to be entertained between matches, you’ll need to avoid internet-related distractions. This is kinda nice because it discourages you from posting any kind of spoilers after a really great match, but it can also be a bummer if you get bored easily.
Inside, you’ll be led to the arena, past the merchandise area. There are some neat surprises on the way. The merch area is the only area inside where you can take photos! And there will absolutely be photo opportunities along the way with some really amazing robots on display.
Protip: The PAs (production assistants) are generally lenient enough to allow you to take photos before things begin, while people are being seated. But don’t abuse their generosity to look the other way while you snap a selfie. As soon as things begin they will be watching for cameras while you’re in the stands. It’s their job to stop you from ruining things for others!
Back to the merch area! You’re free to leave your line to go buy merch immediately, but I would recommend you go get your seat first. When you enter the building, a PA will hand you a merch catalogue to look at, too! It’ll even have an order form you can fill out and deposit in some boxes scattered around the arena. If you do this, your order will be ready for you after the session so you can easily pick it up. How nice!
Along the way to your seat, a PA will offer you ear protection. Some of the robots are loud! I never found robot noise to warrant ear protection, though. Your mileage will obviously vary! Crowd noise can be a bit much, and sometimes the DJ really cranks the volume. My husband resorted to ear protection simply because of the DJ! I would definitely recommend it for kids, though. I saw a lot more children bothered by it than adults.
When you finally get to the arena for the first time and see the set and the BattleBox, you’ll experience the first moment you definitely won’t forget. It’s an amazing moment seeing it all for the first time. Please try not to hold up the line snapping photos! I think that’s the only thing that’ll make a PA snap at you.
Now: where do I sit??
There are seats on 3 of the 4 sides of the box, but the two big areas are what you’ll be looking at filling (unless you’re a tunnel ticket). On the side where you enter, you’ll see three tables up against the box: one is for Chris & Kenny, one is for the judges, and one is for production. This is the side to sit on if you DO NOT want to be on camera (minus the first few rows behind Chris & Kenny). Why? They don’t allot as many cameras for this side of the arena (exceptions being directly behind Chris & Kenny or directly behind the judges, or directly next to the tunnel).
As you wrap around the Battle Box you’ll see the area where the teams stand during the battle, the buttons teams press for the hammers, and the tunnel entrance. You’ll be hurried past the BattleBots logo because they’ll be running camera lines through that area and thus want you to hurry past so they can work. You’re ultimately a set piece that is easily breakable and almost as expensive as those giant cameras, so they want to keep you both safe.
The other side of the box is where you sit if you DO want to be on camera. There are usually 4-6 cameras on that side. And they’re the only thing obstructing your view of the box! No judges or announcers or production, just you, your many friends, and the robots. There are even crew members whose job it is to thoroughly clean the panels of the BattleBox so you have the clearest view possible!
Around the top of the BattleBox are many large televisions that will show you footage from inside the box during the fights. Sometimes they’ll also show you old bot fights (if cleanup is taking a while), or Discovery commercials. Yes, there are commercials. No one likes them but Discovery pays the bills so we all have to bear with them.
Now where are you going to want to sit? Honestly that’s entirely up to your own preferences. There are no “bad” seats, and everywhere will have advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what I experienced:
Behind Chris and Kenny, you’ll get on camera more and get to hear what they’re saying, which will help you know what’s about to happen. You’ll also be asked to cheer more. They’ll ask your section to play along with what Chris and Kenny are talking about, so basically to laugh or clap or cheer. If you’re sitting here, be a good sport!
Behind the judges is a pretty decent view and you’ll get to see more of them. If you sit right behind them and there’s a judge’s decision you might get shown on TV, too. They’re also right in the middle of the arena so they have a nice clear view to everything.
Behind production you’ll have a good view of the arena, the teams and the tunnel. Teams will sometimes hand out stickers and other swag along the aisle that runs between the tunnel section and the production section. This is one of my favorite places to sit, on either side of the box! I love interacting with the teams—that’s my jam. You’ll have your own.
Now you’ll sit and wait for things to start. Just kidding, you’ll probably be anxious and unable to sit still. You’ll go to the bathroom, to the merch area, to snap a photo, any number of things.
Eventually you’ll hear production get on the intercom. Domo Arigatou Mr Roboto might play. That’ll mean it’s time to get in your seat! So go and get ready to see some robots fight!
Protip: the seats are thin bleachers, do your butt a favor and bring a small cushion if you’re attending more than one session. If you do more than a couple, invest in a thick foam pad, like the kind used to save your knees while you’re kneeling and gardening. Stadium chairs would also work but are generally larger than the bleachers, and no one wants your seat in their limited foot space.
Production will talk you through what’s going to happen and what’s expected of you as a videotaped audience member. Expect about one robot fight every 20 minutes. For one session, there’s generally 8-9 fights with one of them typically being a rumble. In 2020 they did away with rumbles so who knows what the future might bring.
Remember, there’s a lot to do between fights for the production team, and for you! Watching them clean is one of my favorite things because I’m weird, but also morbid, so I love to see the poor robot guts. But in the 20 minutes there’s also introducing the next team, setting up commentary with Chris and Kenny, going to the bathroom, buying merch, and so on.
During everything, you won’t be able to hear Chris and Kenny (because of something about audio feedback), so they’ll have a guy on a mic and a DJ try to lead you through what’s going on. If he says the next fight will be in X minutes, he usually means 2-3x that amount. Or at least that was our 2019 experience! They’ll also tell you when there’s just a few fights left.
After the last fight of the session, please don’t rush out of your seat. A PA will direct you on when it’s time to leave. Once a PA says it’s ok, THEN you’re good to go.
In 2019, they had teams come out after a session to do pictures and autographs with. Sometimes you’ll also get stickers or similar swag from those teams, too. Stop by and say hi! Or go buy/pick up your merch! Or proceed directly home. Either way, I hope you had fun.
If you attend both sessions in one day, there are typically food trucks where you can grab a quick lunch before having to check in and get in line. Also, plan on being there about 10-12 hours.
Of course, all of this is subject to change in the future, but now you hopefully have at least some idea of what to expect going forward. See you there!