With Comic-Con just around the corner, it’s time to do some serious schedule planning. If you are new to SDCC, one of the most common questions I get in these final days is in regards to when to line up for panels. With all this talk of getting in line hours before or even camping out overnight, it’s pretty overwhelming to visualize if you have never been before. Lining up for a panel is a tricky thing- and is more of an art than a science. So as you review the programming over the next few days, here are some priorities to consider while planning your schedule- then I will breakdown each main rooms.
- For each day, pick ONE panel that is a MUST see for you. Prioritize your number one choice and plan your day around it.
- The main rooms like Ballroom 20 and Hall H have image magnification so it’s less important where you sit than actually getting into the room.
- Rooms are not cleared between panels so once you are in, you can stay there the whole day.
- A bathroom pass is given out that expires at the start of the next panel. This gives you a short time to not only relieve yourself but pick up a snack at a nearby food cart.
- Best case scenario is that there are multiple complementary panels in that same room as your #1 panel- before and after.
- Worst case scenario is that there is nothing of interest surrounding your #1 panel. Which if that is the case, you will have to tough it out. On the bright side, I’ve talk to a number of people who became fans of something after being forced to sit through a panel.
- Don’t be over ambitious and attempt to go from Hall H to Ballroom 20 in the same day. A workout is all you will get.
- Often times the panel and autograph sessions are scheduled against each other- again, not advisable to try to attempt both without serious help.
- Trying to decide what you are going to see when you arrive onsite is about the worst thing you can do. Whenever I hear of a noobie doing this, a little piece of my soul dies and goes to Phantom Zone 😦 Have a plan A, B, and C.
If you want to experience the mother of all panel rooms, then Hall H should be the top of you list. This cavernous beast holds 6,500+ victims in her belly making it the largest comic convention panel in the galaxy! In recent years, it’s become part of the con culture to camp at ungodly hours of the night. It was just announced that the ‘Wristband System’ will be back for Hall H which you can read about in on the Toucan Blog. Like previous years, Comic-Con is instructing to line up right after the last panel of the previous day- but lines have been forming much earlier than that. It’s a domino effect and it’s hard to predict. On average, the early bird fans have been forming lines as early as the morning to get wristbands by that night. Wristband groupings will be divided in A-D sections for the first people in line. At the show, I would encourage you to stay tied in to Twitter for line updates from fellow fans. The wristbands are just for getting into the first panel for the next day. Saturday will be the most competitive day this year but fortunately it has strong competition from CW Ballroom 20 line up. If this is your first time to Comic-Con and you just want to say you were inside, check the lines on Thursday or Sunday after a big panel gets out. Sometimes you will find a brief window where you can just walk in! Patience and low expectations are the name of the game with Hall H.
While not as daunting as Hall H, B20 is a formable adversary as well. Hosting most of the larger TV show panels, the camping culture is starting to affect this space as well. Called the ‘Everything Else Line’, B20 will start outside in the front of the convention center and will span across to Hall H. In the early morning, maybe around 7-8, the line will be allowed to enter then will be divided into different lines for Exclusives, Autographs and B20. This line is harder to gauge since it starts inside near the room, goes outside under the tents, then wraps around the backside of the building. With a room capacity of 4,000+, it’s difficult to gauge just how far back you can go in line to make it in. Last year, they started using section cards to help manage expectations. For at least this year, getting in line (outside) by no later than 5:00 should get you into the first panel of the day depending on what is scheduled. Give yourself about a 6 hour head start on your target panel. B20 also has some unexpected pockets of the day when you can just walk in. Keep up on Twitter to catch those moments.
6 BCF, Indigo Ballroom (Hilton Bayfront), and others…
These are the next two largest spaces holding 2.1k and 2.5k each. Because 6BCF is in the heart of Programming, it stays consistently full because of overflow from other panel rooms. Lines are long (and hard to gauge because of line breaks) with wait times being a few hours. The Indigo Ballroom has been one of my favorite experiences in recent years and has hosted some big panels too (check out John Barrowman on Thursday). Since you have to leave the convention center and go over to the Hilton Bayfront, it attracts less traffic . Room 6A holds about 1k then all the rest are under that. The rest of the panel rooms 4-11 will stay filled consistently. Gone are the days of being able to walk in and out of these smaller panels. If your target panel is in one of these rooms, expect to get there an hour or two before to be safe.
Pair up in order to achieve your goal. Panel hopping in pairs is so much easier because someone can sit in line while another can explore the options. Two can wait in two different lines then decide who has the better chance of getting in as you approach the start time. Plus, it’s much easier to make food runs with a partner. I know there is a lot of people going solo out there but partner up if you can. If you can’t partner up, then I would suggest you take a more conservative approach and stay in a room instead of panel hopping.
It’s Larger on the Inside
Room capacities play a big part in the feasibility of getting into a room. Back in 2006, you were able to walk into most of the smaller rooms- that is no longer the case. Every room is now pretty much filled to capacity hours to minutes before start time. Here are approximate numbers for some of the rooms:
- Hall H: 6,500
- Ballroom 20: 4,500
- Indigo Ballroom: 2,600
- Room 6BCF: 2,100
- Room 6A: 1,000
- Room 6DE: 850
- Room 11AB: 500
- Room 5AB: 500
- Room 25ABC: 475
- Room 7AB: 475
- Room 24ABC: 420
- Room 23ABC: 400
- Room 32AB: 350
- Room 26AB: 350
- Room 8: 350
- Room 2: 350
- Neil Morgan Library Auditorium: 300
- Room 28DE: 300
- Lyceum (Horton Plaza): 300
- Room 9: 280
- Room 4: 280
- Grand Horton Theater: 240
- Room 14A: 230
- Room 18: 84
- Room 19: 72
Oh, Don’t be a cosplay hottie…
Looking hot in cosplay is one thing, being hot is another. Which panels you should attend might be affected by if you are going in cosplay or not. A lot of Hall H waiting is not conducive to hardcore cosplay. If it’s a particularly hot Comic-Con (looking pretty fair so far), Hall H can cook you faster than Kal-El’s heat vision. There’s nothing worst than a Wookie with heatstroke. So if you say yes to insulated cosplay, so no to Hall H.
There you have it. With a little pre-planning and a lot of patience, you will have good chances of getting into some awesome panels at Comic-Con. For you con veterans, leave a comment with some of your suggestions and tips. Thanks and happy hunting!