Barco has bought High End Systems. (Press Release here). This is an interesting development, as it was rumoured that Jere Harris of PRG had visited the High End factory in recent months to investigate buying the company.
Belgium-based Barco has long been known as an innovative developer of projection and visual display technologies, and they showed their first moving head luminaire off site in a hotel room at LDI last year (called the DML-1200, although I didn't see it). (Barco has also long had a reputation for terrible customer service, although that's been getting better in recent years).
High End Systems was for a long time a very innovative company, going back to the Emulator, and through to products like the DL-1, one of the first moving head video projectors in commercial production (after PRG showed their single-chip DLP product, the name of which I am drawing a complete blank, probably because the product never made it to market). High End also hired my friend Richard Bleasedale to develop the original Catalyst media server to drive the DL-1 (Richard recently re-aquired the product). And then in recent years, with the debacle of the Hog III, and the entry of low-cost, off-shore competitors like Robe, High End seemed to lose their way. They weren't at LDI this year, for the first time, well, ever. (And I remember in the 1990's when I worked at Theatre Crafts and Lighting Dimensions they always had one of the biggest booths, and there was always some High End employee in a fight or something during the show.) After very few product introductions for a long time, they made a really big deal over the introduction of the Showgun, which, well, was REALLY BRIGHT AND VERY LARGE. And it had a ring of LED's around the front. LED's!!!!
Anyway, where am I going with all this? While I've followed High End for a long time, and I've always thought they "get it" in terms of optics (they were one of the first manufacturers in the US of dichroic filters for the entertainment market, etc), mechanics, and marketing, I have to say that I have almost always been disappointed with the way they approached control of their products. Why (this is all to the best of my recollection, please post a comment to correct me if I get this wrong)?
- In the 90's they developed a separate, proprietary protocol to control their products when they could have used DMX.
- They also are one of the parties responsible for putting DMX onto 3-pin XLRs, which was a stupid idea which led to confusion in the market that continues to this day.
- Scott Blair of High End was one of the primary developers of RDM, but to my knowledge, until the new Showpix, High End never used it. (And in any case, at best, I think that RDM is just an interim step to ACN (see my ACN articles here).
So, here's the question. Barco "gets it" regarding control. Their "Events Controller" software was developed by my friends at Medialon, and I've been twisting my friends' arms at Medialon for a long time to fully implement ACN.
Maybe now is the time for Barco/High-End to really get something out of their merger, and put full ACN in a bunch of new products? This could finally, after many many years, be the crack in the dam of conservatism that might truly lead us to some really, really cool new stuff (again, see my ACN article).