The past winter brought two exhibitions to England: the Event Show and the Live Show.
The former was held at the London Arena, in the business district at Canary Wharf--and in clear view of the now almost completed Millennium Dome, the focus of everyone's attention.
This year's Event Show, held January 19-21, was combined with ShowExpo, the annual exhibition, conference, and marketing showcase, a marriage of events that appeared entirely mutually beneficial. The show floor itself was much expanded--almost 70 exhibitors for ShowExpo, 150+ for Event, which practically filled the Arena floor and made the trip from central London a more worthwhile excursion. The extravagant parties certainly helped, too.
Of the service companies present, Screenco and CAV were typical. Europe's leading outdoor videoscreen specialist, Screenco has spent the last year investing heavily in new equipment. "We've purchased over 220 sq. m. of outdoor LED screen in 1998," says managing director Dave Crump. Sound and light suppliers CAV reported a similar investment: "Huge quantities of High End, Martin, and Clay Paky automated lighting," reported MD Hans Beier. "And at least eight new Avolites desks; another 26 stacks of Martin Wavefront 8; and both Yamaha and Soundcraft desks have all been added to our inventory."
Perhaps of most interest to the US reader was the expanded content of The White Book, the UK's most comprehensive reference guide for the show and event industry. Sarah Hutchinson of The White Book told how purchase of the guide includes free access to a dedicated website launched in February. The site includes its own custom search engine with such useful features as service provider searches by geographical area. White Book purchasers will be entitled to 500 free hits per year.
Seminars included pontification by two of the UK's leading promoters, Harvey Goldsmith and Tim Parsons, on how the concert industry might reclaim its share of the leisure pound. Arguably of most interest was a hugely well-attended talk by Joe Simpson, media and national program director of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), the controlling body not only for London's Millennium Dome, but all other Millennium events throughout the UK. Simpson presented a review of the impact of the UK's last comparable event, The Great Exhibition of 1951, which attracted eight million visitors to London that year. Simpson predicted an excess of 12 million for the Millennium, with an extra four million visitors from abroad.
The Live Show sailed in rough waters this season, amid a change in editors at Live, the magazine that hosts the program. But moving the show venue from the Roundhouse to Alexander Palace was most welcome, even if it did mean a 40-minute journey from the center of London. It was held February 10-11.
Fifty exhibitors took the stands this year, just a couple more than last, with audio taking the lion's share, followed by lighting, video, and "others." There is a growing emphasis on manufacturers, with fewer service companies exhibiting each year. Even so, this does not seem to diminish the show's attraction as a marketplace for the live industry professional. For exhibitors, this is a show for the thick-skinned; operators and technicians are nothing if not blunt in their appraisals of equipment, but judging by comments heard in the hall, all find the pain of criticism well worth the insight into their customer's needs.
Templine/Showpower chose the Live Show to announce the opening of a dedicated London office at the Three Mills Island facility in East London. Showpower also announced the addition of large-scale portable heating and air conditioning to its range of portable generators and mains distribution systems, and has developed its own diesel-fired units for portable heating, providing 2,100kW of heating for the recent residency of Stomp at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse.
Zero 88 chose Live to give a first UK airing to a new variant of the Contour 12 dimmer. An addition to the existing 16A and 25A versions, the 10A model comes with either individual fuses or breakers on each channel; can be powered from single-or three-phase (star or delta); and its auto-sensing power control will tolerate voltages from 90 to 270V, and cycle fluctuations from 45 to 75Hz.
Cerebrum Lighting, after a break of several years, is once again the sole distributor for MA Lighting products. The latest Grand MA lighting control desk hogged the limelight on Cerebrum's stand. Cerebrum also announced reductions in the price of MA dimmers, a factor indicative of the general weakness of the UK market.
Light & Sound Design sponsored the central bar of the Live Show yet again, and not without good reason. "It's the only seriously social meeting point of the year for leading service industry companies like ourselves," says managing director Dave Keighley. "This is where the key production people in the industry come." AC Lighting also values the Live Show for its social activity, and used the show as a vehicle for demonstrating the latest WYSIWYG 3D rendering software for the Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II.
On the sound front, Cadac showed its new M-Type console and the Cadac F-Type. Making its European debut was Cadac's Sound Automation Manager (SAM), a Windows-based software control package. Also new from Cadac was the recently launched Remote Microphone Amplifier/Splitter system, designed for all fields of pro-audio--touring, broadcast, and fixed installations.
Fuzion PLC was a first-time exhibitor, showing the Nexo Alpha series, now approaching its third year since service specialists SSE tried it out in Portugal. This PA figured significantly as the installed system for The World Cup in France last summer. Also new on the Fuzion stand was the Sabine GraphicQ, which combines four functions--graphic EQ, FBX feedback exterminator, parametric EQ, and compressor limiter--in one digital equalizer.
HW International showed the new QSC Audio Powerlight 9.0 amplifier, a 9,000W amp, the company's first power amp with power factor correction. Also on display was a new product from Shure, the UT UHF wireless microphone system (competitively priced ), and the KSM 32 large-diaphragm condenser mic.
The Klark Teknik Group, which includes Midas and DDA, was exhibiting together. The UK launch of the Midas Heritage 3000 audio console--the first of three consoles in the range--was the most important launch of the show. The next, the 2000, was slated to be launched at Frankfurt. The 3000 was first shown at NAMM; 45 have already been sold since then.
LMC Audio is the exclusive distributor for Midas consoles in the UK, and as such was also heavily involved in the launch of the Midas Heritage 3000. Also on display was the new Martin WHC Wavefront long-throw box first seen at the Princess Diana memorial concert last summer.
Marquee Audio showed the new Soundcraft Spirit 328 console and, new from the US, the Mackie D8B digital console. The Mackie is digital in- and output, but the layout of the console resembles an analog board for users' familiarity. Marquee also featured the BSS Soundweb signal processor, which has been installed in many venues, including the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, and several football stadiums.
Soundcraft showed its Series 5 monitor console, which has been developed specifically for the live market, having many more outputs than normal, particularly for use with in-ear systems. The new digital Spirit 328 console, a 32-input, eight-group desk, was also shown. The 328 features the rather neat horizontal left-to-right "E Strip," which allows access to channel parameters without paging.
New from Turbosound was the TFM 230 wedge, aimed squarely at the corporate market and stylish in design and mirror-angled at the back for a quick flipover. Turbosound also demoed its new power amplifiers made by MC2, complete with remote control software.
Attracting much interest on the XTA stand was the company's new DS800. A high specification audio signal splitter aimed directly at the TV market, the DS800 comes in a 2U package; eight in, four out, configurable (using multiple devices) up to a maximum one in, 32 out. Most prominently featured was the Array Control software designed to be used in conjunction with XTA Audiocore products. This is the first time this control package has been seen in the UK; it can handle up to 32 separate devices, configuring and routing devices and control parameters to up to 20 VCA outputs. The software is free and downloadable from XTA's website.
Also on display were the four models of the Beyer 90 series microphones, a competitively priced set each using the same cardioid-filled capsule but constructed to perform different roles. Likewise, Beyer had a range of its new line in cables on display, all high quality audio cable from simple twisted pair to 32-pair multicore.
At the BSS stand, the focus of attention was the EDDY Award-winning Soundweb, designed for building and controlling a matrix of audio control devices and now featuring a new addition. In response to user feedback, particularly from the installer side of the business, BSS produced the SW9010, a remote-access panel that can have simple level only or relatively complex function controls assigned to it. The Jellyfish (as the 9010 is more commonly known) features a compact front plate display and control surface just 3U high.
Outboard Electronics displayed the diversity of the company by showing both its established high tech audio control systems like TiMax and Octopus, and its more industrial-oriented power distribution systems. Of most interest to visitors was the Outboard off-the-shelf cable tester with full PAT compliance. Outboard products all come fully CE-approved, the company having its own EMC test room, an expensive feature that many service companies with their own self-built mains distros might want to consider as CE regulations become more rigorously enforced.
Sound Department, the UK's exclusive EAW dealer, chose Live to show off the latest KF700 series PA system. Launched last year to much acclaim at the AES show in US, the system has already been installed in a UK nightclub. The basic system is smaller and lighter than its previous version, the KF800 series, yet it contains one more driver. The boxes have a new ATM Flyware system, similar to that used on the compact X-Array and Nexo Alpha systems, allowing easy and precise hanging arrays. One leading EAW stockholder has already purchased an 80-box system; Sound Department was reluctant to say who the buyer was, though.
Sound Department also showcased the new EAW KF750 speaker, a three-way system based on a triaxial arrangement making it smaller (and, it's claimed, louder) than the KF850. These speakers were used for the Live Awards dinner, but the general hubbub was too great for this writer to offer any opinion. Sound Department also featured the JH15, a relatively new floor monitor developed by John Henry, which is low-profile but powerful and good for TV; the new KF400, the first of a new range of EAW powered boxes, and the new JF 200 and 500Z series from EAW, aimed at theatre, AV, and industrial applications.
Allen & Heath showed the GL4000, a desk aimed directly at the live touring market, and Icon DS1000, a digital mixer with easily understood operator interface and built-in 300W amplifier. This well specified kit includes dynamics and effects all built in (comps, gates, graphics, four-band para) and the amp for just 1,100 British pounds sterling.
Companies taking home gold awards this year included Martin Professional, for its Trackpod product; Clay Paky, for its Stageline fixtures; Avolites, for its Diamond III console; Bandit Lites, in the lighting production company of the year category; and VLPS, in the international production company of the year category. XTA's DP226 won gold in the audio product of the year category, while the Amek Recall RN was named front-of-house console of the year and Soundcraft's Series Five took top monitor honors. TheSpice Girls' Spiceworld claimed the gold as tour production of the year, as did its LD, Peter Barnes.