It is that time of year again when thousands of industry professionals converge on London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre to view the latest technology on display at PLASA08. Kelly Lewis speaks with PLASA08 show director, Nicky Rowland, to gain an insight into what delegates can expect to discover at this year's event.
What new product releases will be on display at PLASA this year?
There'll be literally hundreds of new audio and AV products at PLASA08, ranging from cabling and connectors, through to high-end speaker systems, large screen displays and the latest digital lighting and sound consoles.
All the major manufacturers and brands will be represented and the majority are planning new product launches, so the show floor should be packed with many new technologies.
What new initiatives are you planning for this year's event?
One of our main objectives has been to ensure we expand the number of audio and AV exhibitors on the show floor, additionally that we give installers, system integrators and engineers compelling reasons to attend.
Trade buyers to the show will therefore find a much stronger focus on audio and AV developments and our seminar programme will reflect this too.
This year we are launching our first ever PLASA Masterclass, which will be presented by Funktion One co-founder Tony Andrews, who is a highly regarded audio designer and last year's winner of the first ever Gottelier Award.
Andrews will headline a growing programme of educational presentations at the show, which include a number of new initiatives and partnerships.
The Institute of Acoustics (IOA) will present sessions on the Noise at Work regulations and microphone performance, while audio consultant Peter Mapp, will deliver on the optimisation of sound system performance.
In addition to the seminar programme, we've also put further investment into several high-profile feature areas focusing on the best of the new products coming to market and the development of industry skills and qualifications.
Plus there's a number of networking bars, all of which will be major features of the show.
Another new addition to PLASA08 will be the introduction of a 'Dealer Lounge' in order to reflect the ever-growing interest in the event from the industry's dealers and distributors.
The show will also continue to build on our existing partnerships with other audio and AV industry bodies, in addition to which, we're also working on a major initiative in partnership with another leading industry organisation which we hope to announce shortly.
How have you planned for this year's event? Have you done anything differently to previous years?
Our main aim in the planning of PLASA08 has been to consolidate the success of last year's event.
One of the key things we've approached differently this year is our visitor campaign. We are looking to grow our visitor attendance by 10% attracting additional buyers and decision-makers.
We started a major visitor campaign in early January and have attracted almost 9000 sign-ups already and are currently working in partnership with a number of industry organisations to further boost this figure. As we announce further news and developments, we're confident we'll hit our highest ever pre-registration figures.
Last year the floorplan was changed into a two-hall, single level show. Will the same layout be used this year or will it be different?
The single-level layout was such a success last year that we have no plans to change it this year. However, we have improved some of the elements of the layout investing further in the feature areas and extending the space in Earls Court 2 to create additional room for new exhibitors.
Part of your key focus for PLASA08 was to attract a greater number of delegates from international markets. Are you confident of achieving this?
The show has a strong international attendance with more than 30% of visitors coming from overseas. This year we're working closely with a number of international partners to build that figure further.
The majority of international visitors come from Europe, but we are actively campaigning in the US and the Middle and Far East to attract international buyers.
The show is a real platform for new concepts, so audio and AV professionals worldwide will see things at PLASA08 that they cannot see anywhere else.
What technologies will be showcased at PLASA08 for the lighting, AV and pro audio industries?
It's difficult to know where to start on this one as every technology relevant to these industries will be showcased. I think the most important thing to say is that no matter what someone is looking for, be it lighting, audio, AV, staging, rigging or communications, they'll be able to see it all at PLASA08.
What are the key AV technologies generating the biggest buzz at the moment, and how are they impacting the industry overall?
Certainly recent developments have allowed designers to really take things to the next level. If you take a look at the recent Eurovision Song Contest for example, which has long been a byword for production experimentation, we saw soft-edging massive multiple projections using Catalyst systems; large-scale motion control using CyberHoist systems; use of the mighty Syncrolite B52 Xenon automated searchlight and the debut of the LED video screen as a flooring set element, in this instance from Barco - never since Night Fever has a dance floor been so influential.
The integration of video and lighting was partly kick-started by the team that developed the Catalyst/Razorhead system that also included renowned lighting designer/inventor Tony Gottelier, which the PLASA 'Lifetime Achievement' award is named after.
We're certain this trend will continue as display technologies diversify and embrace both the emerging flexible sheet-thin displays (LED), 3D stereoscopy and - more distantly - holography, especially now that PC/MAC power and that of dedicated media servers is sufficient to handle the massive levels of real time HD video processing required.
In the burgeoning AV market how will new imaging technologies be marketed and deployed?
Indeed, the general convergence of still imaging and video, where consumer giants, including Sony, Sanyo, Canon and Nikon flex their muscles and vast budgets, is certainly set to be the next consumer (and, by derivation) professional technology battleground.
Lightweight giant video displays have also transformed the landscape; Element Labs' Stealth screen made its debut at PLASA06 simultaneously with its first tour outing for Madonna.
Martin Professional's take on this is already enjoying success.
As new screen technologies roll out, the ability to coat virtually any surface, flat or shaped, with full motion video displays will be next. After showing a 3mm thick glass-mounted LED screen in Japan, Sony has already got this design down to 0.2mm simply by grinding the glass thinner. The next move will be to apply LEDs to flexible surfaces, a concept that is already in prototype form elsewhere.
In the competitive world of pro audio technology, what trends are recognised as being revolutionary?
In the audio world it's inevitably been the digital solutions; especially with AV/IT integration being the 'buzzword' that has grabbed the headlines.
Examples of genuine problem-solving recent technologies, include loudspeaker systems for previously difficult acoustic spaces, such as Renkus-Heinz Iconyx and Duran Audio's Intellivox; the ability to tailor a room's natural acoustics electronically (XLNT's Multi Channel Reverb); and TiMax's use of Haas-based psychoacoustics in new audio imaging solutions and real live surround sound.
It was the BRIT Awards that highlighted one of the key benefits of the digital revolution, replacing a swathe of analogue desks with a Yamaha PM1D, although digital boards are now so popular that this year's sound team were obliged to add DiGiCo and Digidesign to the desk line-up.
As the industry strives to bolster the production of more innovative products, are ethical matters, such as environmental issues, influencing the way products are designed?
There are encouraging signs that environmental issues are making their way up the R&D agenda. As festivals vie to be 'greener', the influence of last summer's minimal-power consumption Live Earth shows may yet be felt in this year's crop of PLASA Innovation Awards submissions.
PLASA07 also marked the introduction of the Gottelier Award. How much interest has the prestigious accolade attracted this year?
This year's Gottelier Award will feature as part of the PLASA Awards for Innovation and will be presented on September 7, at 6pm in the Central Bar.
Since the idea of the award is to recognise the remarkable people behind the products, we're hoping for the same levels of interest as last year when more than 30 people were nominated.
The entire industry is now being encouraged to nominate individuals for the award, and the short listed pioneers will then be voted for in an open vote prior to the show.
A raft of information, including registration details, seminar and conference schedules, exhibitor profiles and travel information is available on the show's website www.plasashow.com. S&S subscribers, who pre-register online are also eligible for an entry discount.