The prestigious PLASA Awards for Innovation received a record number of nominations this year, with more than 65 products entered for the category, all of which were showcased in the new PLASA Innovation Gallery at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre during the event.
The annual Innovation Awards highlight both the forward and lateral thinking involved in developing new technologies. Again this year, the key event attracted a diverse range of product nominations, ranging from major lighting, audio and video showstoppers to the less glamorous, but equally essential tools of the trade.
To spur on the growing momentum of the Innovation Awards, this year saw the introduction of Gold and Silver Awards - the Silver aims to recognise products that deliver a major improvement over existing technologies, while the Gold is awarded to technologies that deliver a fresh element to the industry.
The CEO of PLASA, Matthew Griffiths, said "The PLASA Awards are the industry's touchstone for creativity and innovation - the qualities on which our industry was founded and continues to thrive - and we are delighted to give real focus to the impressive range of new technologies coming to the market."
Roland Hemming, a highly respected audio consultant and member of the PLASA Awards for Innovation judging panel said PLASA was keen to support innovation and was looking for products which advanced the industry.
"As judges, we often see products that innovate in terms of developing the existing technologies, however, we occasionally see something truly ground-breaking - a product which stands head and shoulders above the others, and the Gold Award will be a very fitting way of recognising this," Hemming stated.
During the awards ceremony, which was held in the PLASA bar on September 8, the PLASA chairman Rob Lingfield presented the awards to:
Goboland for its Black Steel Gobo.
The judges said the product would enhance an established technology and allow designers a greater range of creative possibilities.
Neutrik for its convertCON.
With convertCON, judges said Neutrik had demonstrated the possibility of increasing the innovation within existing defined standards. They praised the elegance of the product's ability to slip from one 'sex' to another in a single twist.
Display LED Screens for its digiFLEX.
The judges were impressed by the world's first flexible LED display solution. They said the clever rubberised design lent itself to new applications and added a fresh dimension to display technologies.
Clay Paky for its Alpha Beam 300.
The judges were taken aback by the amalgamation of existing technologies, which has created a new tool for lighting designers, offering greater versatility and flexibility.
JB-lighting Lichtanlagentechnik for its VaryLED A7 Zoom.
The new luminaire found favour with the judges as the first moving LED fixture with a zoom function entered into the awards, heralding a new era that has added depth to LED functionality.
Eilon Engineering for its Ron StageMaster.
Using the company's proven wireless load cell technology; judges said the new software application had allowed the rigging industry to enhance safety and to remotely monitor changes to the loading on structures.
Global Design Solutions for its MOBAL 19 Pin Pro tester.
Over the years socapex testers have come and gone, but judges said this new development by Global Design Solutions looked set to become an industry standard. They found the product simple to use and particularly liked its informative LED display.
The first ever Gold Innovation Award went to the Royal Shakespeare Company for its RSC LightLock.
Borne out of a necessity to reduce time and labour during lighting set-up, it is a product that the judges felt demonstrated true innovation in removing the oscillation of truss sections or other lightweight suspension points caused by the rotation of moving lights.
With sustainability issues rising up the industry's agenda, the importance of this year's Environmental Award became increasingly significant.
Designed to pay tribute to products or companies that have taken significant steps to minimise the environmental impact of their activities/processes and made pathways for essential environmental gains - through manufacturing processes, energy efficiency or end-of-life advantages - the award also aims to inspire the industry's next generation of designers and developers.
Griffiths said: "The issue of sustainability is central to the future of our industry and PLASA08 is the perfect platform from which to highlight this.
The development of new tools which lessen our negative impact on the environment are imperative and ultimately will ensure we become a more efficient and effective industry.
When companies make a difference, it should be recognised and celebrated - and that's what the PLASA Awards for Innovation are all about."
Proteus Display was awarded the PLASA08 Environmental Award for its new reflective LCD Screen.
Judges described the product as an interesting new development of existing technologies, which gave designers a new tool packaged in an elegant manner. In a climate of increasing energy costs, they said this was an important carbon offsetting initiative that enabled users to buy a carbon neutral product.
The awards ceremony also gave profile to PLASA's strengthening industry skills initiatives and featured a brief presentation from Live Nation's CEO Paul Latham, the newly-appointed chair of the National Skills Academy, who encouraged the industry to support this major new project.
He then presented the money raised from the awards nomination fees to this year's specially chosen charities - the National Student Drama Festival, an annual event held in Scarborough, and SABA UK, an arts charity that provides performance and educational opportunities for young people in the live music and performing arts industries.