I have fought it as long as I could. I never viewed myself as stodgy, unwilling to try new things, or fearful of technology, but something about this media server business planted my feet with determination not to embrace the dark side. Has creativity been reduced to a QuickTime preview pane? This summer, I found myself staring at a Martin Maxedia touchscreen (www.martin.com), wondering where it all went.

Much to my surprise and delight, I found that my world opened up. The thing I most feared, I now love. The media server has opened up tremendous doors of creativity: new directions, new opportunities, and limitless ability to create a visual picture to support the work. Instead of a flashy toy, I have a powerful new tool in the box.
Seth Jackson
Lighting designer
Visionering, Inc

The fifth generation Apple® iPod® (www.apple.com) now plays back video. It's officially become my favorite media server for small applications that just require looping playback of video content. We simply create a Playlist of video clips exactly as we would songs, set it up to repeat all of them, and walk away. With a 60GB hard drive capacity, you can cram a decent amount of eye-candy on it.
Patrick Dierson
Lighting designer/programmer
DiersonDesign/Idyll Hands Imagery

New technologies invade our world on a daily basis for better and for worse. We always feel compelled to “take advantage” of them, usually at great time-expense. One of my colleagues and I tend to remark, “Why do we need to live on the bleeding edge all the time? Can't I just do a show with gear that works!?”

That having been said, there is one technology, simple though it may be, that has indeed made my life better without all the bloodshed. It is software that exists in many forms, but its fundamental purpose is to create a virtual KVM switch (minus the “V,” for video). This allows the user to have multiple computers in use and switch between them simply by moving the mouse pointer to the edge of the screen. The pointer then moves over to the next computer. The brilliant part of all this is that it works between Macs and PCs, copies the clipboard between the computers on the network, and, of course, works wirelessly. The caveat, small as it may be, is that all computers must be on the same network — not a big deal at all.
Rodd McLaughlin
Prelite NY, LLC

In the last several months, I have been seeing more and more integration of video and media being played back over DMX-controlled LED fixtures. Many video servers such as High End Systems Catalyst V.4 (www.highend.com) and Martin Maxedia have started adding this as a native feature, and it seems to be becoming more standard on consoles as well, in limited varieties. My personal preference is the Pharos architectural controller (www.pharoscontrols.com), which is essentially an offline programming software with a stand-alone, solid-state playback device. It has fully integrated DMX-LED mapping ability, including pre-built 2D and 3D video effects and the ability to run video clips, as well as full control over moving lights. Its second strong point is its trigger functionality, which includes MIDI, SMPTE, RS232, as well as other architectural protocols, which allows it to act as a show control device. Another key feature is its remote connectivity over Ethernet, allowing it to be configured and updated remotely via a built-in web server. There are many situations where a full-scale console just isn't necessary, and most consoles just don't meet the kind of complex permanent installation requirements for which this box was specifically designed.
Cory FitzGerald
Programmer
Ignis Incorporated