A decade of change

What's changed in the technology and techniques we use for conference production since the millennium?

In general our audiences and clients have expected more surpises, unpredictable content and more engaging evening entertainment. We've enjoyed the challenges! And behind the scenes much has changed:

Video has seen a huge change. From filiming on Betacam SP analogue tape and distribution on VHS to filming HD onto memory storage and playing out direct from computer or distributed via DVD and Bluray. screens have changed shape from 4:3 to 16:9 widescreen. Plasma and LCD TVs have changed how use screens for display, in exhibitions and on stage for presenter support. Over the last 14 years we have grown and developed our AVID edit suites first on Mac platform and for the last 7 years on PCs. In 2010 we will return to Mac again. The edit suites need for hardware for video capture has almost gone as has the need to work offline to save disk space. The speed of operation has increased tremendously in proportion to the amount of time we are allowed to make programmes.


The size, brightness and quality of data and video projectors means we are far more flexible with screen sizes and projection distances. In some cases the screen has taken over from he physical set entirely.


10 years ago almost all slide content was provided to us on paper and transformed into screen displays in Macromedia Director or early PowerPoint. Now most presentations arrive in PowerPoint and we tidy and improve them in PowerPoint and Keynote, with more and more being done onsite.


One of the biggest changes has been in lighting technology with the widespread use of LED lamps for stage washes, effects lighting and colour. The ability to subtly alter colour everywhere and anywhere has meant far better co-ordination between screen, set and lighting.


Affordable line array systems, where many smaller speakers direct sound to every area of the audience, have meant improved quality sound for everyone in the room.


Digital SLRs have enabled us to include photos from an event in the event.


Widespread access to the Internet has meant that two way communication with delegates and registration are now far simpler and quicker than ever before. The introduction of etickets has simplified delegate packs and we are now finalising everything later than ever.


The revolution in print technology has meant we are now printing brochures, badges, invitations, posters and everything else digitally with shorter lead times and less waste. Laser cutters mean we can create place settings and invitations in any shape.


Flying door to door is slower post 9/11 and more expensive due to fuel and tax prices. The demise of a number of airlines has made us more cautious when chartering large airliners. Trains are unreliable for delegate travel on a tight scehdule but improvements to the west coast mainline have reduced journey times by 30mins. The opening of the M6 Toll road has improved north south travel times.

We email updates to client. We email crew packs. We email delegates packs and questionnaires. We upload and dowload large files with clients, designers and printers. We upload videos for review by clients. We skype the kids when we are away. And of course we and our clients all have Blackberries and iPhones so we are working every waking minute now.


At the start of the decade the use of the traditional slide was coming to an end everywhere. New brighter video projection technology meant slides were no longer the only way to get a big pictures so slides got replaced: by Powerpoint for presentations, by interactive displays in museums and by digital projectors in cinemas. For the last 10 years we have stockpiled film and recycled slide mounts so that we could continue to maintain museum installations and this year we have prepared our last tray of slides and retired our 35mm Rostrum camera for good.

There has been a tremendous amount of change in the last 10 years and we have enjoyed trying to make the most of it. We can now look forward to what 3D, social networking and augmented reality will bring in the next 10.

Alan WightTechnology