Just got done reading the anniversary issue. Man, what a confluence of amazing minds, opinions, recollections, prognostications, and predictions.
I think one of my favorite articles was the piece by Colin Lowry. I won't spend a bunch of time re-hashing (you should read the whole issue), but what struck me as super-cool is Colin's DIY approach. Only once does he refer to media servers. The rest of the time, Colin is stringing together DV decks, DVD players, small switchers, multi-head video adapters for laptops, and the phenomenal new (and FREE) software, Q-Lab. By leveraging what each of these straight forward things can do, he's solving real challenges like multiple signal paths, cue malleability, and total lack of $$. This kicks serious butt. Add in operators who are REALLY interested in engaging with the show, operating it artistically (i.e. NOT boiling it down to one button) and he's allowing theatrical productions to achieve amazingly advanced things. On the big shows, these challenges are most often met by turning on the money hose and soaking the problem with cash. Colin is implicitly rejecting this approach... And I think he's finding something more genuinely artistic and collaborative in the process.
Which is not to say it isn't happening on the big shows too. Colleen and I were staggered when Willie Williams told us he was using a Playstation controller to trigger and direct video cues on U2's latest tour. And Justin and the gang at Art Fag are taking a really advanced (but no less DIY) approach in their Control Freak endeavour... For all of these guys the priority is about finding exactly the right tool to do the job. Or even creating a brand new tool.
When we designed video for Barry Humphrey's (Dame Edna) Australian tour four years ago, we had no options like media servers. But we were creating a show for a comedian. Comedy is anything but predictable. What could we do ? We could have racks full of hard drive based decks, with a kinky show controller and tons of crap in between. This would have been major $$... Instead we explored solutions that aren't really 'made' to do what we needed, but still offered us flexibility in a total gorilla fashion. In that case it was a freakishly heavy gaming laptop equipped with Avid's brand new DV editing software, and a $1000 dollar DV to RGB signal converter. By putting different cues at different places on the timeline we could jump around at random. It required only a fraction of the cash we would otherwise have spent on the 'legit' system. It DID require an operator who was paying close attention and had little fear of tools he'd never seen. fortunately we had that. The audience never knew the difference.
SO the next time your project doesn't have the $$ to rent a media server, set aside the disappointment and start thinking way outside the box. You might find something even better.