As you've probably heard, we're up to our necks in anniversaries around here. Our trade show, LDI, is turning 15. Our sibling publication, Entertainment Design (previously known as Theatre Crafts and TCI), is 35. Right in the middle is Lighting Dimensions, which is now a ripe old (for magazines, anyway) 25. This is usually the point where Jackie Tien chimes in that I've recently turned 45 — but if that's her game, she can get her own column.
Normally, I'm the last person to think about the past but, surrounded as I am by all these milestones, it's hard not to look back a little bit. I freely admit I didn't know what I was getting into when I signed on 12 years ago as managing editor of what was then Theatre Crafts. How naïve was I? I'd only recently heard about moving lights (having written a freelance article about the national tour of Starlight Express) and I had only a vague notion of what a trade show was. I've learned plenty since the weekend at LDI 90 in Orlando. Now, I'm a kind of addict, endlessly fascinated by the industry, its technology, its artistry, and, most of all, the crazy, difficult, ingenious, hilarious people who populate it.
All this remembering raised a number of questions, so we talked to a number of industry types, asking them about the products that changed their lives (we chose to focus on the last 15 years, since the founding of LDI); we also asked them what they think the future holds. (Our technical editor, Michael Eddy, also nominates a number of products for posterity.) The obvious answers are there — yes, yes, the Source Four and the generic moving light changed the world — but there are a number of subtler, spikier observations as well. It's worth a look, especially at this exceptionally odd moment in our collective history.
Because, in truth, this is a strange time to be looking back. We're suffering from the hangover caused by the events of 9/11 and the stock market's constant travels down south. Many designers are finding the next job is harder to get. Manufacturers and distributors have laid off workers or, in some cases, filed for bankruptcy. Technologically, everybody is waiting for The Next Big Idea.
Then again, look how far we've come. In the last 15 years, moving light technology has grown infinitely more sophisticated. Huge strides have been made toward making lights more energy-efficient. There are exciting new developments in video and LED technology. And think of the sheer brilliance of so many lighting designers working today. As always, there's a feeling that good things could happen any minute now. Given the sheer concentration of talent, this industry's luck is bound to change, possibly sooner than later. Stay tuned. The future is only seconds away.