Theatre technology at warp speed

by Patrick McGowan | 1 January 2018

amazing examples of technology that continue to innovate and improve over time

When I was in school I dreamt of the days when we would have hoverboards, transformable fighter planes and starships that could warp across galaxies. While we haven’t quite achieved warp speed yet, looking back on advances in show technology in the past twenty years, the “digital revolution” is not just here to stay, it’s already long passed and now it’s evolving into something much greater.

Nowadays “analog vs digital” is an argument for the dinosaurs. As an audio engineer the debate I often find myself taking place in is: “Which digital protocol is the best?”. We live in the age of digital networks. Even our cars are communicating with computers and satellites through digital networks. While some of us fear that the machines will someday rise and kill us all, the intercommunication of equipment via networked commands and data transfer has enabled society to achieve a level of mechanical efficiency that is getting us that much closer to warp speed and these applications in theatre technology are just as exciting.

Professional audio and lighting systems have traditionally been isolated systems. Getting them to work together harmoniously usually involves teams of humans with a strong production lead who is capable of getting audio engineers and lighting engineers to operate their systems together under one director. In fact anyone who has worked in production will tell you that just getting these people to get along can be challenging. Video systems add a whole new element to theatre as well incorporating imagery such as video recordings, animations or any other artistic digital content into a show setting.

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