The ABTT Product of the Year Awards were presented at the annual Awards Dinner held on Wednesday, June 16, 2004, at The Headquarters Club, Duke of York’s Headquarters in London, UK. The dinner took place during the 26th Annual ABTT Theatre Show that was staged in London’s Royal Horticultural Halls on June 16 & 17. The show was 15% larger than last year and for the first time filled three halls to capacity. Over 127 companies exhibited at this technical showcase for professionals involved in theatre and auditoria.

Product of the Year Awards are given for four categories: Lighting Product, Sound Product, Engineering/Rigging Product, and Widget.The Association also presents an Award for Best Stand at the Show and for Technician of the Year.

Each recipient received a handsome award in the form of a Chromium plated hook clamp mounted on an aluminium pulley engraved with the category of the award and the year of presentation. The manufacture of the awards was jointly sponsored by Andolite Limited, ETC Europe Limited and Triple E Limited. The Awards were introduced by Robin Townley, Honorary Secretary of the Association of British Theatre Technicians and presented by Anne Minors of the Society of Theatre Consultants.

Lighting Product of the Year: Source Four Revolution
This award was presented to ETC Europe Limited for the Source Four Revolution luminaire, and was accepted by Mark Vassallo of ETC, VP, world sales. The Source Four Revolution was commended to the judges for its versatility, flexibility and design excellence. It is the result of a significant development process which has been in progress for at least 5 years and which has involved comprehensive consultation with lighting professionals throughout the industry. The design philosophy was to start from the lamp out and close collaboration with lamp manufacturers Ushio lead to the development of the source employed. The product has been designed for ultimate ease of use despite its numerous features and it has been attempted to engineer maximum reliability into the unit.

Seen At ABTT: England's Prince Edward (left) with ABTT Chairman Mark White, with the award-winning ETC Source Four Revolution

Sound Product of the Year: Yamaha PM5D Digital Mixing Console
The award was presented to Orbital Sound for the Yamaha PM5D Digital Mixing Console. Orbital Sound is Yamaha Commercial Audio’s main dealer and were premiering the new PM5D compact digital desk at this year’s show. The desk introduces facilities associated with large-scale digital systems to the mid-scale range; it is based on well-conceived and ergonomically convenient control surfaces and provides comprehensive functionality in an intuitive and efficient fashion. The PM5D also manages to include a full specification and processing package in the single unit bringing amazing sophistication and functionality to the mid-scale mixing console user.

Engineering/Rigging Product of the Year: DGS Counterweight Drive system
The award was presented to Hall Stage for the DGS Counterweight Drive system, and accepted by Charles Haines, Director of Stage and AV Services. The DGS Counterweight Drive system is a solution to a longstanding real problem experienced by real workers in real theatres. It is a carefully designed solution to allow the removal of the hazardous manual handling tasks associated with counterweight flying systems. It is designed to motorise a counterweight flying set. This is achieved by the complimentary installation of a drive mechanism onto an existing flying frame. The advantages of the system is that it allows for the removal of the counterweight cradle and the necessity for the load it carries. In so doing the manual handling task of loading the cradle is removed. The product was made possible by the collaboration between Hall Stage and ASM Steuerungstechnik GmbH. This came about due to the mutual introduction of Charles Haines of Hall Stage and Maurycy Sowka of ASM at the ABTT Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference held in London in June 2002.

Widget of the Year: CADtag
The award was presented to Le Mark Group for the CADtag, and accepted by Stuart Gibbons, managing director.CADtag is a durable laminated label for flying bars combining statutory information and rigging design and CAD cross referencing in a simple but effective manner. The strength of this product is its creation as a response to an identified need and the collaboration between Le Mark and David Ripley, Academy Production Manager, and Steve Macluskie, Technical Stage Manager, both for Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. The product was commended to the judges as an invaluable aid to the integration of design, production and practice in rigging for theatre.

Stand of the Year: Audience Systems for the beautifully made double scale seat on display for the first time in the UK. Audience Systems designs, manufacturers and installs spectator seating for every type of performance venue.

Technician of the Year: Andy Voller
The award was presented to Andy Voller In his absence (as he was working abroad) the award was accepted on Andy’s behalf by Simon Roose, European sales manager for VLPS Lighting Services Limited. He outlined Andy’s career to date:

Andy Voller had his first taste of theatre at the age of 11 as a pirate in a production of Pirates of Penzance. He was fascinated by theatre as a child but particularly by the lighting desk and having learned all about it started to light school shows.

Gaining experience on amateur productions, Voller took a theatre electrician’s course at Paddington College, now City of Westminster College, in London. Through college placements he met LD Rick Fisher at the Royal Court and LD Andy Bridge in the West End. It was in the late 1980’s that he first came into contact with Vari*lites. Fascinated by the technology, Voller became a workshop technician at Vari*lite in 1988 spending his weekends programming shows for himself in the demo room. In 1990 he moved to Miss Saigon at Drury Lane, but in 1993 became training manager at Vari*lite.

At this time, Voller fell from a catwalk sustaining a shattered right shoulder, a broken left wrist and upper right arm, as well as head and face injuries. After a month-long stay in the hospital, it took a further six months before he returned to work full-time.

In defining the role of programmer, Voller has said, " a human interface between the designer and the desk. I think it is important to make a lighting designer’s task of using automated lighting as easy as possible, without having to worry about the mechanics of how to achieve a look or effect." He also noted, "So much of the skill of a programmer is communication, not necessarily how many buttons you can hit per second."

It is for Voller’s ability to so successfully and creatively be the human interface between designer and technology, and for not making LD’s wait too long, that he was presented with the Award for Technician of the Year.