LDI 2009--Show Control Day

As I wrote this on the plane back from Orlando and LDI, I realized that I've been to every LDI conference  since 1990, which is kind of scary. And while I'm pretty sick of both Orlando and Vegas (between which LDI alternates), it's still worth it for me to go to these shows to see what's new, hang out with industry friends, and catch up with old and new connections. With the strangeness of the economy, the show felt a little weird, but there seemed to be plenty of people on the floor and most of the manufacturers I talked to seemed to be doing OK.

Thursday morning, I went to the ESTA Control Protocol Working Group meeting. I hadn't been to this meeting in a year (with Eddie Kramer, I co-represent Local 1 IATSE to the group), so it was good to see everyone and catch up, and also hear about the status of ACN from the people on the front lines. The show floor didn't open until Friday, so friends met me after the meeting, and we went on a nice hike of the Little Big Econ river where I just missed seeing a big alligator.  After BBQ for dinner, we went bowling (photos here).

Friday, we took a quick pass through the floor and then in the afternoon I moderated a panel called, "Beyond DMX, Peering Into the Crystal Ball" featuring Scott Fisher, Philip Nye, and Steve Terry, with us all discussing the future of lighting control.  This was a lot of fun, prognosticating on the future of lighting controls with a group of people whose predictions should be as good as anyone's. Our big message, of course: ACN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  There were probably 30 or 40 people in the audience (which isn't bad since people have to pay for these sessions), and I heard afterward that people enjoyed this session, which is always gratifying.  I hope we can do a session like this again, although perhaps the meeting rooms could be a bit closer to the floor:

Saturday was "Show Control Day", which I co-presented with Jim Janninck. 

This was probably the 15th or so time I've done some sort of show control workshop at LDI, and I think we came up with a pretty good structure this year. I started off talking to 27 attendees about where modern show control is today, and where it's going, and then we threw a quick show control design challenge at the group--design a system to connect up Cirque du Soleil's Ka (article here on how Cirque solved this problem).  The attendees did really well on this project, and in the second part of the session, we teamed them up in small groups with volunteer experts: Alan Anderson, Scott Arnold, Dave Christoffers, Jason Pontius, and Stephane Villet all graciously volunteered their time to help the attendees.


After lunch, we moved onto the case study sessions, which is always fun for me, and we had some great presentations.  Scott and Jason of ShowSys started with a nice presentation on a system they built for the Force attraction at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

This looked cool and I'll definitely check it out if I get to...Alabama (one of the 10 or so states I haven't visited yet, so it's a possibility). 

Next up was Alan Anderson from Smart Monkeys talking about the amazing Comcast Experience in Philadelphia.  I've been to see this and have written it up here with lots of photos and videos; but Alan explained a bunch of the technical details I didn't know about, which was great.

After a break, Jason Goldenberg and Chris Wessels from Fisher Technical (FTSI) talked about the incredible City of Dreams Bubble Theatre show down in Macau.

I guess I need to get down to Macau to see all the stuff going on down there--this show looks unbelievable.  

We closed out the day with Dave Christoffers talking about his show control system for an amazing automated high-definition video production at the American Idol Experience show. 

Back in June, Dave gave a nice backstage tour of this show to Jim (whose company, Timberspring, developed the voting system for the show) and me; writeup here.

Over the years, we have tried all different kinds of approaches to this show control session, from connecting up tons of hardware to simple talking head panels, but I think was was one of the best ones we've done yet, and I hope we continue to get to do this kind of thing in the future. 

It's also interesting to me how doing really incredibly high-tech shows these days is almost routine.  Thinking back to the mid-1990's, when a show like Buccaneer Bay (writeup with my photos here) literally bankrupted companies, it's great to see how far the industry has come.

More on my trip in Part II.