As a professor in design and technology, itʼs the question I get asked more than just about any other: “What equipment or systems do I need to keep up with the industry? What console/media server/software do I need to know how to use to get a job?” I get it from my students at ASU, and I get it from attendees at the LDI Institute, and I hear it from working professionals who are being tossed new responsibilities for the first time. Especially when it comes to media technology,this is the question on everyoneʼs lips.

Itʼs both an easy and a hard question to answer. The easy version goes like this: “Keep your mind open and show an eagerness to learn - opportunities will carry their own education with them. Good employers will value “attitude over aptitude” (a quote from Cirque du Soleil) and provide you with the training that you need on the job.”

In a lot of ways, the easy answer is true. But we all know that it isnʼt the whole answer. If you are a hiring manager looking at two candidates who are both intelligent and personable as far as you can tell from a 30 minute interview and only one of them knows the system you are already running, which one would you hire?

So, the hard answer is well…harder. For projection technology it starts like this: “Make sure you are conversant with both Mac and PC systems - and I mean really conversant. Know how to program a tracking console. Learn to work with layers, timelines, keyframes, and alpha channels. Know the difference between raster and vector and enough about how compressors work to figure out if the botteneck is at your disk or processor or memory or video card. Know how to use a lens calculator, and get used to the fact that manufacturer supplied lumen counts are a rough indicator…” It goes on for quite a bit, but it still isnʼt enough if it doesnʼt include specific technologies.

But the industry moves fast, and the standard when you are a junior could be obsolete by the time you graduate. Iʼve got my own ideas and prognostications about which products and technologies are going to stick around for a while and drive new innovation, but now I want to hear what your ideas are. What consoles, media servers, software and systems do you think are going to shape the industry the most for the longest? What would you pay to take a class to learn? What skills do you want a new employee to have?
Contact me at jake.pinholster@gmail.com to let me know.

Jake Pinholster is a professor of design at the Arizona State University Herberger College School of Theatre and Film and the Director of the 2009 LDInstitute.