Well, change continues apace. I am a bit late in getting this article to rAVe, mostly because I am involved in my first national show since the coronavirus crisis began. And, believe me, things have changed.
Now, a lot of people have predicted the decline of the rental and staging portion of the industry due to the accelerated pace of change brought on by the pandemic. The more I prepare for summer events, the more we realize that we are not an industry in decline, but an industry that is doing what we have done many times before. This is, namely, redefining ourselves and the technologies and processes we use. And many of us are coming to realize that just because people won’t be gathering in one place (at least for a time) doesn’t mean that they won’t be meeting — or that they won’t need the services of the rental and staging companies they have always trusted to pull their events off. In fact, they may need us more than ever to guide them through this process. This explains why there are seven of us in four cities at this moment, diligently working on a national sales meeting as our glasses fog up over our N95 masks.
So, in my opinion, we are an industry being forcibly redefined, which, as I said, has happened before. As evidence, I offer several industry terms whose definitions have been changed, some over time, and some now being radically changed overnight:
- Track — Once meant a physical strip on recorded magnetic tape, but is now used for both a single band of a digital recording (and for what Google and Facebook do to you constantly).
- Reel — Once a circular device around which tape or film was spooled, now this word describes what our industry is currently doing.
- Edit Suite — Once a place where film or video was edited, using playback decks, recording devices, and controllers. Now, it means a group of software programs bundled together so that you have to buy the ones you don’t want along with the ones you do.
- Tape — This word was once a noun, describing a strip of plastic or acetate coated with iron oxide, used for recording. It has transformed into a verb for recording and generates a puzzled look from newer techs who never used a tape of any kind. The last time I asked one of my juniors to tape something, he went out to the truck, coming back with a roll of gaffer tape rather than a camera.
- Loop — See loop (sorry, I couldn’t resist this classic).
- Timebase Corrector — Forget this one. It now is a term you hear only in Dr. Who reruns.
- Pickle — Once an industry term for a wired remote control, “pickle” now describes our business’s situation due to the plague.
- Cut — Once a command used to stop the action on stage, “cut” has been changed in usage. It now describes meeting budgets.
So, while such times of change are challenging, they have, in fact, happened before. As a very young kid, I was here when the film era changed to the video era for the AV industry, and again when the computer replaced most video. Both times, the previous generation at first predicted the changes would not happen because they were “technically impossible.” Both times, the massive changes happened anyway, because technology combined with circumstances to make them necessary. And that is what is happening now. Yes, we will have to struggle and cope with change. But our industry serves purposes beyond the current difficulties and will rebound.
Oh — and one more term:
“Break a leg” was once used as a phrase to wish a presenter luck as they took the stage. Now, it is just what I am afraid will happen to me if my glasses keep fogging up over my mask.
Keep calm and carry on.