Last week was the big InfoComm show. As I wandered the show floor, I kept having the same conversation with different guys I met up with. It went something like this:
Me: “Hey! How’s it going?”
Them: “Great! You?”
M: “Great! How’s the show? Seen anything exciting?”
T: “It’s a good show, some good stuff, nothing too thrilling.”
M: “Yeah, me too.”
I even took the conversation further and asked a few people why they thought it was we weren’t seeing anything too exciting. I wondered aloud if I was just getting old and cynical and nothing really excited me anymore, or if there really isn’t that much new and exciting coming out lately. My friend Mark Hanna summed it up well, “It’s a little bit of both, I think.”
In My Day…
I remember just a few years ago when Van and I started doing trade show videos, we would shoot 20-30 videos each show. And that was 3-4 shows a years. Imagine, there were at least two years when we shot a solid 75 new product videos! In the last five shows, I haven’t shot 20 videos total. Again, it’s hard to tell if there just isn’t much new or if I just don’t care as much anymore.
Part of it I’m sure is sitting through literally hundreds of dog and pony shows with manufacturers telling me how great, exciting and new their products are. Each new product promises better this and better that, and it will make my job easier than ever before. Problem is, I’m not sure it’s true.
Gear is Nice, but Give Me Skill
More and more, I am convinced—and I’ve written about this before—that it’s not about the gear. Thinking that some new console will finally make it easy for volunteers who have no prior mixing experience to mix like a pro is folly. To hope we’ve found a PA that is so good we don’t need to care about room acoustics is amusing. 4K video cameras and a switcher will not magically make your IMAG look as good as the Passion Conference.
The Last 10%
To some extent, I wonder if we’ve reached the last 10% of innovation in AVL systems. One of the guys I work with suggested that it seems we’re seeing more combining and re-packaging of technology. Take this thing, that other thing and some other thing over there and combine it into one and voila! It’s amazing! But really, we’ve had all that before, it’s just a re-packaging. And that’s fine, it’s just not groundbreaking.
To be sure, this happens in most mature product markets. Lately, as my love for coffee and espresso has become an obsession, I’ve been researching espresso machines. The machine I bought was released in the early 2000s. There have been no major advances in the art of espresso making in quite a while. Unless you count the little pod machines that don’t really make good espresso anyway. But when it comes to classic espresso—14 grams of finely ground coffee pressed to 30 pounds, extracted at 195 degrees between 8-10 bar for 25 seconds—there isn’t much new.
When I look at mixing consoles, video switchers and cameras, there’s not much “new.” There are refining of techniques, subtle enhancements and slightly better ways of doing things (and definitely lower costs), but few groundbreaking advances. Again, this is not a knock on our industry, it’s a sign it’s maturing.
Like I said, what we really need is a way to improve the skill set of our operators, not new equipment to operate. If we can figure out a way to package that and sell it for a lower price, we’re on to something.
What do you think? Are you gear fatigued? Or am I just old an cynical?