In this issue, Paul Dexter discusses with Ellen Lampert-Gréaux the all-important issue of keeping up — not just with industry trends but with all those changes in the world that inevitably affect what we do. Paul's excellent point is that, if you don't keep an eye on things, there's a good chance you'll be blindsided by some totally unforseen development.
Of course, he's right. And I try to keep up. I really do. But let's face it: we live in a world of information overload. For example, there's my email: I am the King of Spam. We'll draw a veil over those lovely offerings which promise to, er, extend my anatomy. But just yesterday, I got an invitation to join an African-American community of book lovers. (Do they now something about my family that I don't?) And here's my favorite spam headline: “You May Think You're an American Citizen.” What — I don't have enough problems?
For that matter, this industry's natural state is flux. My staff came back from the PLASA show in London, filled with little nuggets of information guaranteed to disorient. For example, ETC, the quintessential manufacturer of conventional theatrical lighting, has gone into the moving light business. High End Systems, the quintessential manufacturer of moving lights, is now making lights that don't move at all. And Wybron, the quintessential manufacturer of scroller technology, now has a color-mixing luminaire.
Is it any wonder I'm confused?
Fact is, nobody stays the same. Right now, many companies are testing their boundaries, floating new ideas. And that's to the good. In our world, you evolve or you die. ETC, High End, and Wybron are perfect examples of manufacturers whose enormous successes threaten to make them irrelevant. They all became dominant players by making products that everyone wanted. But once everyone has their Source Fours, their Wholehogs, or their Colorams, then what? Do you simply build more of them, making incremental changes or tweaking them for new markets? Or do you make a bold attempt at trying something really new?
The second choice is much riskier, but it's really the only one. If you just keep doing what you've always done, you face nothing but a future of diminishing returns. And, in fact, the world is changing too fast — 13 years ago, at my first LDI, the buzz was all about moving lights. This year at LDI, everyone will be talking about LEDs, digital media, previsualization — ideas that didn't even exist in 1990.
For example, consider this month's cover story, on the Radiohead tour. Andi Watson's design is boldly original, a classic example of fresh thinking: using a custom version of the High End Systems Catalyst to control the LED battens that give this tour it's biggest visual kick. It's another early preview of a trend that's going to happen more and more, in which all the technologies converge into a single control system. Someday, and it's coming sooner than you think, all live shows will be controlled by one console. One person will fire off cues for lighting, sound, staging, whatever. At that point, I guess we'll have to stop calling the magazine Lighting Dimensions.
Anyway, I expect this year's LDI to be typically filled with surprises — there will be plenty of new products, new business developments, and personal revelations that nobody could have predicted. Then again, that's why I got involved with this business. Keeping up is half the fun.
Here's another surprise: Sharon Stancavage, our own queen of concert coverage, has a secret life. She's now a published author of romance novels. Her first effort, Emily's Christmas Gift, is out and available on amazon.com, and she has a couple more in the pipeline. Given her busy life, working as a lighting tech in both television and live events (all in her home town of Detroit), not to mention her work for us, I have no idea when she has the time to be knocking off novels. Just thinking about it makes me feel idle and shiftless. But it just goes to prove Paul Dexter's point. Just when you think you know something (or, I might add, somebody) you don't know anything at all. Anyway, Sharon will be roaming the floor at LDI. Feel free to ask her about the life of a novelist; she'll be happy to answer your questions.