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Show control: combining resources

The show control industry inevitably benefits from – and is sometimes challenged by – developments in the wider audiovisual industry, as Fredrik Svahnberg, general manager, project sales division at Dataton notes.

“Show control isn’t just about the show control system,” he explains. “Today, show control is provided by a combination of resources with the logic engine and the control interface at the core, surrounded by a whole range of components such as the media servers, display technology and technology for interaction. The last couple of years have seen some big steps forward: for example, media servers have become more interactive. What’s more, everything can be done in real time now. This was just about possible two years ago, but certainly not to the same degree as it is today.”

“In more advanced applications,” he continues, “there are elements that can now realistically be achieved, such as motion tracking, dynamic edge blending and so on. All these technologies are becoming more accessible to a wider audience.”

Other wider developments – such as the growing BYOD trend in, for example, videoconferencing – represent an opportunity for shows, but can be challenging.

“With BYOD, it’s all about the flexibility of the show controller,” claims Scott Harkless, Alcorn McBride’s director of sales. “The majority of the time, the BYOD is a smartphone – so this means the ability to integrate with web services that allow guests to send messages or vote. The show control programming needs to be flexible enough to change the guest experience based on that information.”

“BYOD is picking up pace,” observes David Willrich, MD of DJ Willrich. “However, for some museums it presents a moral dilemma as not all visitors have or can afford the devices needed and would need to rent them for their visit.”

Harkless notes that increased user-friendliness in user interfaces is also helping show control systems appeal to a broader customer base previously intimidated by their complexity. Ease of use can also have other positive implications.

“Operators and integrators are both becoming more and more aware of total cost of ownership,” notes Tobias Stumpfl, commercial director at AV Stumpfl. “Compared to the costs arising from operation, maintenance and support, the initial investment costs are usually negligible. One can save a lot of money when looking at total costs of ownership/operation of the different solutions.”

Alex Carru, CEO of Medialon agrees. “Customers are concerned by price, of course,” he says, “but basically, in most installations, the price of the show control system is a fraction of the cost of the installation, and reliability and capability are more important than price. We’re not seeing any significant erosion in terms of pricing of our systems; what we’re doing, though, is offering increasing amounts of functionality for the same price.”

It is, then, not just about new technologies – it’s about existing technologies becoming more pervasive, more reliable, more cost-effective and easier to use. Of these, reliability is probably the most prized attribute – which can mean that show operators prefer to wait for new technologies to prove themselves. Manufacturers and integrators in the show control industry are acutely aware of this, and the role of technology.

“Regardless of what technologies are hot or upcoming, our customers tell us – time after time – that what is most important for them is that the technology they use is reliable and that the workflow is easy and cost-efficient,” says Svahnberg.

“Guests don’t go to theme parks, museums and so on for the purpose of seeing new technology,” smiles Harkless. “They go to have an experience that they can’t find anywhere else. When the technology within an attraction is implemented correctly, the guest shouldn’t even think about it because they should be wowed by the experience as a whole. The best way that show control can wow guests is by being reliable and performing the tasks that the creative designers of the attraction ask of it day after day.”

“The best technology cannot substitute a good story and its media production,” adds Stumpfl.

“Guests can be wowed by technology only once,” avers Henry Corrado, founder of Tejix. “What makes them return is meaningful experiences, not technology showcases.”