For such an inanimate object, The Entertainment Technology Show-LDI sure generates a lot of emotion. Hundreds, if not thousands of us, seem to plan our entire social lives around the event, as it's the one place in the industry where everyone can get together in the States during the course of the year. For a core group of attendees, walking onto the show floor that first day is like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, breathless with anticipation for the toys on display. This year's event, to be held October 22-24, should be no different.
Indeed, for many who have been involved with the show since that first LDI in Dallas back in 1988, there is almost a sense of ownership to the event. They feel — rightly so in my opinion — that LDI is something they helped create, and they tend to react emotionally when they see something they don't like. Lately, I've heard from some of those original lighting vets, who say they're not entirely happy with some of the changes that have occurred with the show in recent years, the attempt to broaden the show beyond its lighting roots being the number one focus of criticism. It's a lighting show, they say; why do we need to confuse the issue by calling it The Entertainment Technology Show? I see their point — it's understandable that lighting manufacturers and dealers might be concerned about diluting the attendance with folks not necessarily involved in lighting.
But there are several things about their complaints I find puzzling, too. First and most obvious, there is no single entertainment lighting show on the planet. At every major trade show around the world — from PLASA to Pro Light & Sound to SIB — lighting companies stand alongside audio, projection, rigging, and soft goods companies. Even smaller boutique shows like USITT and ABTT reflect the true diversity of entertainment technology. All of the exhibitors and attendees play well together; each group attracts its own, and everyone seems happy.
Besides, what the hell is a lighting designer these days anyway? Every third LD I speak to is obsessed with video, and this year's watchword, “convergence,” is becoming so overused I think I heard my oldest daughter say it to my youngest the other day. The notion that a strict lighting show could adequately serve the entertainment technology market is no longer a valid concept, I'm afraid. There may well be this spectacular melding of lighting, set, and projection disciplines in the coming decades, so even though the name tag of that person walking onto your booth might say set designer, he or she may one day be sitting at some sort of control console in 2014 and be in charge of the entire production, lights included.
I wasn't at that first LDI, which was held Nov. 18-20 in Dallas (I'm so young and spry, after all). So I can't comment firsthand on the show, the attendees, or how it's changed in the last 16 years. But just out of curiosity I decided go through the files and check out the literature from that first year. The list of exhibitors included several familiar names (High End Systems, ETC, Great American Market, Avolites, Clay Paky, Lycian, Rosco, Strong), more than a few long forgotten companies (Dyna-Might, Science Faction, Summa Technologies, Sunn), and — surprise, surprise — a healthy slice of non-lighting companies (AMX, Formula Sound, Wembley Loudspeakers, Imetch International, Page-Com).
But the most telling of all to me was something that caught my eye on a promotional brochure for the event. Right there, in bold white letters, just under the snazzy, late-80s LDI logo, where these words: The Entertainment Technology Show.
See you on the show floor of this year's Entertainment Technology Show, where I expect to get some emotional reactions to this column.