Articles from my Sabbatical Published!

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I spent my sabbatical last spring developing an idea I had long been kicking around--that we reached a technological maturity point in our industry sometime in the past decade or so. Of course there will always be innovation, but it occurred to me that most of the big problems we had encountered during my career had been pretty well sorted out, and things had settled down a bit. Gear, for example, is now starting to just wear out rather than go completely obsolete. We have 15-20 year old moving lights and powered speakers and other stuff at my school, for example, that--while of course needing replacement--are still working fine. And the new models don't really offer any significant new functionality.

I’ll write more on this topic later, but the articles are both now available online and I hope people will take a look.

I would read this Lighting & Sound America article first, titled Show Technology Comes of Age, which talks about the maturity of technology in our industry, and includes a detailed timeline (thumbnail above) of seminal shows and show technology developments. I then go onto talk about how this has impacted the way we do things, get reactions from industry leaders, and speculate on where we are going in the future. Link here (you have to create an free account to read) or direct PDF link here.

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Next I would recommend reading the article in the USITT journal TD&T, which discusses the impacts of this technological change on the way we teach and how things have changed since a 2002 article I wrote on the topic. It’s titled Bridging Art and State-of-the-Art and there is a link here.

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Dante Redundancy and Troubleshooting

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One of the greatest features of Dante audio networking is redundancy. If you use it, and something goes wrong on either network, the system will switch over and the change won’t likely even be audible.

If you mix the Primary and Secondary networks, though, you can get very chaotic behaviors that can be hard to troubleshoot. Working with students, who can find new and innovative ways to break nearly any system, I’ve encountered this problem in a way that i wouldn’t have anticipated, so I thought I’d post it here in case anyone else is searching for a solution to the same behavior.

Audinate recommends, wisely, that when using Dante in a redundant system, you should get the primary completely up and running, and then add in the secondary network. I generally do this myself, and a few times, when I went to connect the secondary system, I got all kinds of erratic behavior in Dante Controller and things would appear “offline” in the Yamaha console. The culprit? Unintentional mixing of the two networks.

How could this happen if you’re carefully managing your networks (I even like to use different colors). Well some Dante gear defaults to Daisy Chain mode, where the redundant feature is disabled and the Dante enabled device essentially becomes a two-port switch using the Primary and Secondary connectors. In this way, when you connect the secondary cable or network, the gear set to Daisy Chain mode now connects your two networks, causing all kinds of erratic problems.

So now, on my checklist, in addition to connecting only the Primary network first, I go to all connected gear and verify that it is in Redundant mode and not Daisy Chain mode.

A New Rack for the Gravesend Inn Animatronic Control System

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Summer is the time when I put all the new technology into the Gravesend Inn, so that we can test it and debug it all before the craziness starts (earlier I wrote about our new queue line displays) Last year we rolled out our new animatronic character; this summer, before reprogramming it, we moved, upgraded and consolidated the character’s control rack and wiring. I’ve had this in the works for several years, and this year a student Phoenix Neil took on some of the work for his senior culmination project.

The old system was just housed in a standard 19” rack; this lived out in the audience area in the old set up and was hidden onstage in the new setup.

To mount on the wall, we bought a Middle Atlantic swing frame rack. Our new location over the entry door meant that we had to extend the character control lines and this made for a lot of rewiring. This was a good thing because we were able to clean up a lot of the documentation and also the wiring itself.

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It came out great and of course we hope you don’t notice it when you go through the Gravesend Inn!

Aura at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal by Moment Factory

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While on a trip to Montreal with the TEA, we visited the really amazing “Aura” show at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal by Moment Factory. This great and amazing son et lumière is well worth a visit, and a quantum leap over the old show which I saw in 2002. Pictures and video weren’t allowed but here’s an official one from Moment Factory:

And here’s a behind the scenes video:

Quebec's Enchanted and Amazing Foresta Lumina by Moment Factory

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On a great TEA trip to Montreal in July, we visited the amazing Moment Factory. I’ve been a fan of Moment Factory’s work since I first became aware of them on the NIN tour in 2008 (writeup here) and have been following them since (other writeups here)..

During the tour, they mentioned a son et lumière (sound and light) show they had created in a forest two hours east of Montreal. I was intrigued because I have long loved this kind of show (and probably the first show I ever worked on was one in my home town) and so I extended my trip for a day and checked out this show; I’m very glad I did.

Foresta Lumina takes place in Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook, in Coaticook Quebec. It was created in 2014 when the local tourism agency wanted to promote the region, and contracted with Moment Factory. The result was this amazing night time experience, where the audience walks through this dark forest park, and throughout are greeted with lighting, video and truly immersive sound experiences telling the story of “the mythology of the Quebec forest”. The story that is told is not particularly scary, it’s more moody and mysterious. And there are some really well done video and lighting effects and one of the best truly immersive soundscapes I’ve heard.

There are things here that are part of the experience that are somewhat shocking to an American who lives here in the land of litigation and non-universal health care; often you are walking in near-complete darkness, and there are inclines along the path (well lit) that would never meet ADA requirements. But all that—with a really great design—works to create a really great and beautiful experience. I highly recommend seeing it!

Here’s a few photos taken hand held (a tripod is really needed to get really good pics) that can’t really capture the experience but can give you a sense of the place.