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Evolution Not Revolution. By Joel Rollins

  • Years come and go, at times seemingly as quickly as one-off corporate shows. As years in the commercial audio visual industry go, 2005 has been a pretty good year for most of us. I found myself wondering why, so I made a pot of hot chocolate, pulled my armchair up near the tree, and got out my pencil to begin making my list of who (and what) has been naughty or nice to the audio visual industry this year.
  • I couldn’t really find that much that set 2005 apart from other years. For me at least, business simply proceeded as usual all year long. While InfoComm, NAB and CEDIA all delivered good shows, and our manufacturers delivered good showings at them, there was nothing earth shaking about any of them. It was, technology-wise, a year of refinement rather than a year of startling new developments.
  • I can already hear many of you screaming. “line arrays!”, “moving lights with digital inputs!”, “seamless switching and blending systems!”, etc., but in my opinion those are all evolutionary, and all things we expected. None of them are of the level that changes the way business is done. So I don’t believe the fact that we had a fairly good year had much to do with new technology.
  • So that led me to look elsewhere. Could it have been due to economic factors? Partially, but 2005 has not been a banner economic year either. We saw a vast expansion of the national debt, numerous corporate failures and scandals, a giant trade imbalance with all the wrong people, and a tremendous confidence crisis. So I don’t believe economic factors were behind my good year.
  • 2005 has been a year without revolution. The 90’s, while go-go-go, were a time of great upheavals in our industry, where some of us did well and some did not. The attempts at massive consolidation in the industry, no matter how badly planned and executed (think MCSi) really screwed up distribution, pricing and client expectations. The early part of this decade was a disaster for our industry, as 9/11 produced major changes in corporate travel and security for shows. This year, while Hurricane Katrina took my favorite convention city out of play for a while, most of the country was business as usual. The New Orleans crisis is certainly going to have an effect on the industry (especially conventions and trade shows), but not of 9/11 proportions.
  • So I think the business did well because, in 2005, we got back to something approaching normal. For the most part, our clients weren’t in turmoil, and our technology wasn’t in upheaval. This year we were able to concentrate simply on doing business.
  • So what will 2006 bring?
  • Hopefully, some more of the same. While I fully expect to see great product brought to market in 2006, I don’t expect any of it will fundamentally change the operations of the rental industry, at least not in the way the introduction of extremely high-brightness video projectors did in the ‘90s, or in the terrible way that 9/11 did. Hopefully, we’ll get another good year to stabilize and regroup. I’d like to have another year to concentrate on technician training and business development, rather than coping with extreme change or crisis.
  • In the meantime, of course, there are things to watch that will (or could) affect the staging market soon. I continue to watch several things such as Sony’s work with SXRD, and Samsung’s early releases of flexible substrate LCDs. I’m also keeping a close eye on Congress’s potential re-allocation of wireless frequency space to improve first-responder communications, and whether or not it will change the use of our wireless devices.
  • I also think we’ll see an expansion of Bluetooth peripherals for staging this year (I’m looking for a small, non-directional handheld programmable remote with lots of available addresses). And I think this will be the year that somebody delivers a simple IP-based integrated show control system that is designed from the ground up for show control, rather than being adapted from integration systems. But I don’t see that any of these things will upset the apple cart too badly.
  • And speaking of the Apple cart, Santa, I’d really like an iPod Nano.