I'm a pretty skeptical guy. It's a side effect of this job, as every day I hear about products, projects, or people who are for-sure-no-fooling-we-wouldn't-kid-you the next big thing. So, when I go to a trade show like LDI, I tend not to believe the hype surrounding each new product. They all sound fantastic, but there's really no way to tell for sure what's real and what isn't, what will matter and what won't. Only time ever tells.
This issue puts a spotlight on two new products that were launched last fall at LDI and PLASA and which are causing a lot of comment in the industry. I freely admit that when I first saw the Catalyst, from High End Systems, I thought it was nothing more than a gimmick. The Catalyst is an automated light that delivers video imagery — an interesting idea, but, I thought at the time, too weird, too fancy, too complicated. Apparently my crystal ball was cloudy, because the Catalyst is starting to get a lot of high-profile employment. This month's article on the Eurovision Song Contest is only the beginning; you'll be reading a lot more about it in the months to come. I still worry about visual overkill — LD Per Sundin's use of it in Eurovision was very exciting, creating vividly kinetic backdrops to the performers, but I can just imagine the aesthetic crimes the Catalyst is capable of in lesser hands. Still, there's no doubt that it is an exciting and possibly groundbreaking piece of gear. (As a side note, the Icon M, from PRG, a product that in many ways anticipated the Catalyst, is finally out on tour this summer. The Icon M made a splashy LDI debut a couple of years ago, then went into limbo. It will be interesting to see if it captures any buzz in our post-Catalyst world.)
The Catalyst is a High End piece of equipment in more ways than one — it's designed for ambitious LDs with big-ticket projects. At the opposite end of the scale is the VL1000 from Vari-Lite, which is also discussed in Michael Eddy's piece in this issue. The VL1000 takes moving light technology and attempts to put it into a new context, for smaller projects and budgets. For years, this has seemed to me to be the logical next step in moving light technology — to make it available for use in smaller theatres, schools, and elsewhere. Still, nobody has ever managed to completely do it, although the City Theatrical AutoYoke has won legions of admirers.
What fascinates me about having both these products in one issue is that one is aimed at the top end of the market and the other is designed to make moving lights more easily attainable. They're both smart ideas. Still, I wonder — it's another occupational hazard — which is smarter, in terms of our industry at this particularly confusing moment. But then, like I said, only time ever tells.