If it's fall, it's one of the busiest times in the live events world. This autumn, it's not just the seasonal lift that comes as companies stage more year-end Award shows, corporate meetings, and Association events. It's a noticeable upsurge in business over the previous few calendar years, as the industry enjoys a return of bigger budgets.
As Tom Stimson points out in his article in this issue, AV providers should be seeing substantial growth for the foreseeable future, and convention bookings are up, hotels are experiencing high occupancy, and the stock market is reaching record highs. Part of the explanation is what economists call macroeconomic indicators: the rising tide of the economy lifts all boats, including the AV, rental, and staging boats. But part of this boom can only be explained by technology and marketing innovations unique to our industry.
On the marketing side, despite the universal litany of complaints about shrinking margins on gear and tougher customers, there is no denying that demand for more widescreen shows, more HD, more digital signage, and bigger/better trade show booths is increasing. It's the undeniable equation of supply and demand: as technology improves and comes down in price the end result will not be a shrinking of demand but a rise in demand as existing customers can afford more and a new class of customers enters the arena. Have falling prices for video projection led to a drop in business? Only if your company is not growing and is operating with last year's service mix. (Stimson has some good advice about re-positioning your company for growth in his article.)
This year what's also affecting the industry is the introduction of new classes of products that are changing the product/service mix that stagers can offer their clients. Robert Mokry explains in this issue that this year there's been more evolution in the lighting world than usual, with developments on many fronts. LEDs are "the biggest thing to happen in lighting since the Edison light bulb," and this new class of products is having a big impact on the staging world. Even as hi-res, super hi-brightness LED modules from Barco, Lighthouse, Daktronics, and others continue to make inroads on the stage and in trade show booths, there is a newer class of entertainment LED products that fall somewhere between illumination and video displays: low-res LED displays, mostly applied as scenic elements, from the likes of Element Labs, Main Light, Komaden, and others. And LED-based conventional and automated luminaires are also on the rise.
Another trend: video folks are warming up to DMX-controlled digital media servers that have been brought to the stage from the lighting side (with new products from High End, PRG/VLPS, Martin, Green Hippo, MA Lighting, Diagonal Research, aKaos.) While this trend does not mean that show control in general will fall under the domain of DMX, it does point to more blurring of lines between lighting and video. A blurring that will be good for the industry, as it's going to increase the demand for video across the board. (And when the size and budget of the show increases, as it must, the video stagers, with their Vista, Barco, and other big-gun controllers will be called in.)
Speaking of big guns, this year has seen a bumper crop of hi-lumen, hi-res video projectors. And it's not just about 1080P (stagers have been achieving that and more for years, one way or another). 1080P is a good thing, something even shoppers at Best Buy now understand. It's also about better packaging of features, in smaller and more affordable super hi-lumen projectors. Alan Brawn updates us in this issue on the latest in big-gun projectors.