PLASA is a yearly trade show for lighting, sound, rigging, and staging professionals looking to spend four days having a good drool over the latest hardware and software for their respective industries. The two floors of Earl’s Court exhibition centre are rammed full of high power, high tech equipment, and men in t-shirts sipping beer and trading stories. Trebuchet was there to twiddle some knobs and gain the insight on what developments we might be seeing on stage in the future.
It’s quite a sight: stage fog drifts lazily over the carpet towards the cafeteria, jets of smoke blast like a ships horn sending the fifteen foot inflatable stick people into a low dive for cover. Bursts of music drown the vicinity for another demonstration of high power frequency response, and everywhere are people, screens, cables, company logos, and noise. Only just bearable is the heat from gigawatts of lights, humming boxes, and stand workers getting their sell on.
These are the people who do the big shows. For sheer scale and impact of presentation it’s hard to find a better example than ETC UK who rack up giant cannon shaped slide projectors to throw high resolution images over large public buildings – they plastered Buckingham Palace with patriotic visuals for the Golden Jubilee in 2002 – and use heavy duty video projectors for events such as the MTV awards.
Nestling amongst other, more traditional lighting companies, and indeed among their own tropical foliage decked stand, Green Hippo were giving their first public demonstration of the latest Hippotizer media server that is able to mix three layers of High Definition video in real-time with a mind bending array of visual effects and combinations. R Systems’ ‘Track the Actors’ technology outfits up to sixty-four people on stage with a small radio transmitter that tracks their position in 3D space and can then be used to precisely control the amplification of the actors voice as they move around.
Coolux had a real-time polarised stereoscopic projection, requiring the use of a pair of glasses, while PSCO were showing off the Dynascan 360 degree projection unit, and had a rather pleasing interactive fog screen system that looks like a slow motion waterfall of vapour allowing different images to be projected on both sides.
PLASA is all about the technology. If you’re looking to deck out your venue with gobo lights or curtain raising winches, you can spend many happy hours pouring over the promotional material and chatting with the sales guys. Want to get your hands on the latest DMX lighting controller desks and multi screen projection systems, this is the place, they have it all.
Four days of flashing lights, lasers, large display screens and audio intensity, compounded with a late night after show party at the Dali Universe exhibition on the South Bank after the second day, and it’s time to go and lie down in a dark, quiet cave for a little while.