As today’s booth and equipment morph into the electronic age, we need to be ready for the change. In the late 70’s I schlepped around the U.S. building tall grain elevators and my company vehicle was a vintage 1955 Ford pick-up truck. The engine compartment I could climb in and work on. I can still point out every part of the engine, transmission, electrical, and suspension and explain to anyone, with reasonable accuracy, what each part did and how it made the truck go. Today, I’d not even attempt an oil-change as I’d be sure to get it wrong – assuming, that is, I could even find the oil drain. No-one can work on their car today: it’s more complicated than the Millennium Falcon.
Today’s projection booth and what it takes to run a movie theater is similar to my vehicle, though the former has hung around longer than my trusty old Ford. I run three BX-80 Brenkerts which perform as well as they ever did, but the booth’s transformation is coming fast and that of the future will look more like an aircraft from The Matrix.
ShowEast 2007 was all about technology. There was one – count it, one – 35mm projector on the floor amid the dozens of digital and technology-based services, equipment and applications on display: sound, film and preshow projectors, web-based applications, 3-D, content providers, servers, security, and enough projection options to sink a Brenkert.
As I write, screens are now offering 3-D all over. We know people can have an incredible home theatre experience, but they sure can’t have 3-D yet. DigiScreen continues to add content and services and recently contracted for the live distribution of the Royal Scottish Opera; plus, the NY Metropolitan Opera keeps adding screens for its live shows. You won’t see live Opera in your home. Advertising and policies are completing the move over to video projectors with each passing day. Trailers are close behind. New digital screens go live every day.
And if you open it up it all looks like a dog’s breakfast: it works great when it works but is a total mystery as to what’s actually inside those black cases. Ever looked inside? Companies don’t spend much time with the covers off at trade shows. I mean, why bother? It’d be like dating someone from the Human Body Show giving us all way too much information about the 6,000,000 parts we have inside us – and how easily it can stop. The days of the good old-fashioned techie are coming to an end with the fading of the mechanical era – the guy who loves getting dirty messing with gears, rollers, pins, brass and machinedart. His replacement will be a PDA wearing company computer guy. And the bill? You’re gonna love it. The days of finding something – maybe a shear pin – had broken and someone triumphantly declaring, “Hey, I know what a shear pin is”, are almost over.
While surfing TV the other day I found a channel where something was wrong. A panel discussion was going on but the picture was broken up and jagged with little squares of computer glits and weird color combos and I sat watching it for a while. It was actually interesting and I found myself in a trance. I hope our audiences will be as patient. This is not to say the techno candy will be going to melt-down in all its fine, high-end digital hardware. But it will happen, and it will be more difficult to repair than the equipment of the mechanical era. The good news is that those failures will be a speed bump on the way forward to the new world of presentation as the transitions keep coming. First sound and ticketing, then advertising, now projection, and the pixels just keep coming. It’s a brave new microcircuit world.
So where’s my ‘55 Ford, you’re wondering? Gone to pick-up graveyard. Today I drive a full-size Chevy with push-button 4-wheel drive which cruises comfortably at 75 mph. It’s totally choked in electrojunk and I daren’t lay a finger on it. New world coming? Huh, it’s already here.