Innovation to the fore

One of the major highlights of this year's PLASA07 industry convention in London was the Awards for Innovation programme, which recognised some of the best new products to hit the market over the past 12 months.
Analysis, Broadcast Business
Analysis, Broadcast Business


This year's PLASA Awards for Innovation attracted 65 product entries from manufacturers based in 10 countries, covering the full spectrum of entertainment technology.

"The degree of technical innovation showcased at PLASA is tribute to the creative talent lurking within our industry," says PLASA CEO Matthew Griffiths. "This talent is what the awards programme recognises and celebrates."

Led by chairman James Eade, this year's judging panel comprised theatre and staging consultants Andy Hayles, Charlie Kail, lighting designers Andy Voller and Mike Le Fevre, UK professional audio industry identities Roland Hemming, Bryan Grant and Richard Northwood, AV experts Blue Leach and John Hooker, and PLASA technical resources manager Ron Bonner.

Eight awards were presented, each recognising a product or technology released over the past 12 months that was deemed to have contributed significantly to the overall development of the entertainment technology industry.

The winners were:

Beyerdynamic - Headzone

Beyerdynamic was recognised for its Headzone headphone monitoring system, which is the first professional 5.1-surround sound headphone technology featuring ultrasonic headtracking and binaural acoustic modelling. The headphones are designed specifically for in-studio monitoring systems.

Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) - Eos

Eos is ETC's most advanced lighting control system, designed to handle complex, multimedia-filled lighting rigs. It allows multiple programmers to work on the same show file, and is supplied with up to 8,000 outputs, providing an ideal user interface for programmers and designers.

Fuzion - Coemar Infinity Wash XL

Coemar's latest moving-head is an extremely bright, automated washlight with an innovative colour mixing system, impressive zoom range and an integrated effects wheel. Output ranges from 800W to 1400W via DMX.

Litec - EXE-Lodestar 650C1 + Datalogge

The EXE-Lodestar electric chain hoist range, conceived in association with Columbus McKinnon, boasts independent on-board intelligence that governs and controls operation and safety functions. Litec claims the software's inherent capabilities makes control via external console units redundant.

Marquee Audio - Revolabs Solo Executive

The Revolabs Solo Executive wireless microphone system is a boardroom-friendly, flexible cost-effective solution to audio conferencing. Available in four- or eight-channel configurations, Solo Executive is designed to connect seamlessly to a telephone system and other AV conferencing equipment and can also be controlled from remote sources.

Protonic Software Corp - easyjob 4.0

Protonic's Easyjob software is designed primarily for staging and rental companies looking to manage their stock inventory and client database. The software is based on the latest Microsoft .NET technology, ensuring a simplified user interface for users and built-in integration with Microsoft Office programmes.

Unusual Rigging company - The Revolution Winch

The Revolution Winch is designed for use with standard 52cm x 52cm trusses and can be stored and transported using a conventional flightcase. A comprehensive accessories and diverter kit enables the winch to be used with truss runs, mothergrids and truss legs.

Its design allows for single or multiple use within truss runs at 3m per second with a 300kg safe working load.

Vertigo Rigging Ltd - Vertex

Billed as a 'simple to operate, joystick-operated 3D flying system' Vertex is designed to propel all manner of objects across a trussing network without the need for complicated programming using a PC-based software application.

The PLASA07 Awards for Innovation were capped by the inaugural Gottelier Award, which was introduced to this year's programme in memory of leading British lighting designer Tony Gottelier, who passed away in 2006.

The award, which recognises the significant contribution of an individual or organisation to the advancement of entertainment technology, received dozens of nominations, which were eventually narrowed down to four contenders: Tony Andrews, a highly regarded expert in the development of point-source PA systems and founder of loudspeaker manufacturer Turbosound; Richard Belliveau, lighting industry legend and High End Systems company founder; leading authority on DMX and ETC luminary Adam Bennette; and Wayne Howell, the founder of lighting control specialist Artistic Licence.

Ultimately, Turbosound's Andrews snared the award, with the PLASA judging panel citing the crucial role he played in the development of the hugely successful Flashlight and Floodlight PA systems and more recently, the Funktion One Resolution Series point-source array speaker system.

While presenting Andrews with his award, PLASA's Griffiths paid tribute to the standard of excellence demonstrated by this year's awards winners.

"It's fitting that in the year we inaugurate a special award in honour of one of the industry's best-known innovators, there's an abundance of fresh ideas that are also recognised, which reflect the industry's cutting-edge approach to technical innovation," he says.


PLASA takes aim at technical skills shortage

Heavily promoted at PLASA07 by the event's organising body, the National Skills Academy (NSA) aims to bring a new degree of professionalism to the technical support sector of the live entertainment production industries in the UK.

The academy aims to address current shortages in offstage and technical skills for the live music and performing arts industries in the UK.

As a key member of the NSA's Project Steering Group, PLASA will work behind the scenes to develop training programmes and rally potential investors to the cause.

PLASA will lead a drive to raise capital and in-kind support from its members for development of the Academy.

Almost US$6 million of the estimated $20 million start-up costs must be raised from within the industry with the balance provided by the UK government on final approval of the project plans.

PLASA CEO Matthew Griffiths says the NSA aligns to one of PLASA's core objectives, namely to guarantee technical assessment and vocational qualifications through industry consensus.

"We have a lot of talented people in our industry, and to safeguard its future we need to consolidate our position and attract further skilled individuals to the sector," he adds.

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