I've been hesitating to blog on this - but I think it is time. There are a couple of threads on this in the ETC forums.
In the near future ETC will have to cease making the Express consoles. These desks have been a mainstay of our console sales for over 10 years with over 14,000 units in the field. We have multiple problems with obsolete parts that we have been sourcing from unsavory characters for years. We are simply coming down the line toward extinction of the species.
When we developed the Ion desk as a derivative of Eos, and specifically with replacing the Express in mind also, we specifically determined that we were not going to support 2 scene operation. Why? Why would we abandon something as reliable as 2 scene which has been a mainstay of our product line? We decided it was time to move on. I'm not going to argue whether the decision is right or wrong - I'll let others do that and welcome them to do so. But I will tell you why we made the choice.
There are many reasons. We decided that we had an opportunity and an obligation to help move the entire market forward. The very nature of the Move-fade and LTP operation of the Eos system made 2 scene difficult to wedge in. These two things just don't go together well. When you wedge things together you make compromises.
We determined that 2 scene was in fact far less reliable than a memory desk, especially when the number of faders exceed a 'reasonable amount" and when students were doing the presetting. We know from our own experience that some educators like to teach 2 scene operation to lighting students - but that most acknowledged it was only for teaching purposes - primarily historical. We provide 2 scene operation on the Smartfade console - so students can still see what it was like when "we had to work during shows."
A very typical High school system has 96 or more dimmers these days and managing that size system on 2 scene is not really recommended practice. One broadway lighting designer we know well insists that two-scene teaches nothing but bad lighting practice and begs us to please proliferate a proper movefade-LTP-tracking philosophy to everyone we can reach.
We had learned that while lots of faders made teachers comfortable at the high school level and beyond - that the students instantly moved on to programming sequences and that generally speaking they were ready for even more. We looked at where other industries were going - audio for instance - and clearly they had moved beyond manual control as their primary offerings. With digital memory systems becoming standard fare in audio we felt that it was also time for a lighting company to move forward.
We decided that we were that company. Now I am interested in your views on this - I just want to say our piece. You may have to put up with some of my pontification on the subject!
The fact is that we feel that moving the lighting art forward is one of our duties, goals and joys. We have observed all the signs that the user base (even the high schools) are prepared to move forward and we also know that we as a company are prepared to deliver the solutions that make that movement happen. One of the primary things holding them back is fear. Fear by teachers - fear by resellers that the teachers can't handle it - fear by manufacturers that they won't buy it.
When I look at the history of lighting control I can see the clear movements that make this progression natural and logical. That doesn't make it easy. We knew that the decision was risky. We knew that some people would disagree and that we might lose some business as a result of the decision. But we also looked back at companies that chose to cling to the "established tools" and ultimately suffered.
What does this have to do with drill bits?
Companies that sell drill bits don't actually sell drill bits. They sell holes. If people need large holes - they need new ways to provide them. If people need really accurate holes or lots of holes - they might find a bit less attractive. If a company introduces a laser hole maker - the market might flock to it. If the capability to solve real problems is at hand and the company does not deploy it - they risk the fact that someone else will. At the same time - they can choose to deploy the technology and help move the entire "hole" market to a new place. People will someday say - "remember when we used bits for every hole? Man, that was weird. I sure am glad Black and Decker invented these laser drills." Could this happen in lighting? It clearly has before. There are no more 5 scene presets, there are no more patch panels - dimmer per circuit is standard, even FOH patches are disappearing. So why is 2 scene a protected species?
This syndrome of "the technology is available but not being deployed" is apparent in Automobile gas efficiency. This was story with typewriters. Animation arts migrated to countries willing to deploy newer technology and Korea is now the home of animation.
And what about things that cannot be presetted?
I can't stand on a trade show floor without someone asking me "What about ETC and LED's?" We recognize that this is a technology that will eventually change the industry and our business model. Many strategic meetings at ETC involve a drawing that looks something like this on a whiteboard. It graphs the reduction of tungsten and the increase in "other." Along the tungsten line also falls dimming, Source Fours and other ETC mainstay products. Along the "other" line falls LED's, Automated lighting, video and things we haven't even thought of yet. Imagine the role of preset desks in this world! Presetting is a very dimmer centric philosophy. I'm not under-cutting the primary role of dimmers mind you. We sell lots and would like to keep doing it.
There are many other examples of technology leaps that were brought mainstream and benefitted the whole of people using them. High school students that learn tracking and LTP operation will be that much more ready for college. The large productions high schools are now doing will benefit from accurate cues and repeatable transitions. The deployment of products that handle movers and LED's will create larger markets for those products and proliferate them down into the high schools.
But enough from me. I think ETC's position is clear, whether it is right or wrong, I want to hear from you.
2 scene or not 2 scene? That is the question.