Recently, I was in Rimini, Italy, for the SIB trade show. I've always loved SIB, which focuses on the club market, because it was always the nuttiest show around, a Fellini-esque carnival populated by club kids, supermodel-wannabes, and all-around exhibitionists. I have fond memories of vats filled with soap suds (and naked people), laser strip shows, and something called a sex machine (don't ask). Believe me, LDI was never like this.

I'm sad to say that SIB has grown up somewhat, and this year lacked the frantic excitement of previous editions. On the other hand, I was impressed by the overall optimism expressed by the European companies that attended.

There's a catch, however. The first booth I stopped at had on display a new moving-yoke wash unit and a moving-yoke spot unit. A little later, I dropped in on another major company that had…a moving-yoke wash unit and a moving-yoke spot unit. Not long after that, I — well, you get the picture. It's Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, which isn't good for the industry.

Honestly, designers are not that interested in choosing among a dozen virtually identical products. More often, their decisions have to do with budget, familiarity, quality of service, or special needs. The last thing anyone wants to know about is yet another product that has one-eighth more punch or runs 5% more smoothly than Brand X. What they want to hear about is the next really big idea.

That's not to say that there aren't some big breakthroughs out there right now. High End Systems' Catalyst, with its video-streaming capabilities, is poised to make a big splash this summer. Vari-Lite is challenging conventional wisdom by offering a low-cost moving light in the VL1000. A number of theatre designers are high on the possibilities afforded by LED units. One long-awaited, much-delayed automated lighting unit is rumored to be going out on tour this summer — although I'll believe it when I see it.

But the real questions are these: What do designers want that they don't have? What should lights be doing that they don't already do? One thing everybody ought to be thinking about is noise. Designers are less and less satisfied with the noise emanating from automated units and scrollers. Some of them are getting pretty angry about it. As someone who often sits right under the balcony rail in the theatre (thanks to those lovely press agents) I can testify that the noise situation is not good. Seems to me that the first company to develop a truly quiet moving light will have a bonanza on its hands.

But whatever you do, don't stop there. Keep dreaming — an open mind is a terrible thing to waste.