Show Control from Hell….

I couldn’t help it….

A colleague of mine, John Huntington, over at writes an excellent blog on show control and I immediately thought of him after seeing this. We’ve seen a fair amount of tragedy occur in the Biz this last year, mostly from stupid human error, and I’m glad this one only ended up with a lot of people saying “Wha-fu?….”. But it begs to question the scenario- SOMEONE in control of a decent amount of explosives had something go terribly wrong. Bad button push? Lackluster programming? Less-than-capable understanding of electricity? Granted- the pyro people are a different breed. Talk to anyone who has blown stuff up for a living and you’ll quickly sense a different vibe from the rest of us. But they are, in large part, very methodical people….so that leaves control.

We push a lot of buttons in our industry. Those buttons do things. In video, it can be a simple trigger to fire a video at the right time, or a soft-key that fires a bunch of other things into motion. The EDM artist DeadMau5 recently lambasted the whole perception of DJ-ing in an article in Rolling Stone. “I’m not going to let it go thinking that people assume theres a guy on a laptop up there producing new original tracks on the fly. Because none of the ‘top DJs in the world’ to my knowledge have. Myself included.” John’s got a post on it over at Controlgeek.

We all hit play. Those are some truthful words from a guy who hits ‘play’ for a living. But when that ‘play’ button has a bunch of stuff strung to it, and other events occur, it’s a little-bit bigger deal. In this case, there was enough explosives to do some serious damage. To be fair, he folks over at Garden State Fireworks aren’t amateurs. The Santore Bros. have been setting off fireworks since 1890, so it’s not like they just sent the ‘B’ crew and let it ride. I’d love to see the inner workings of the control system however……..

Anyway- back to the point……John has written a book called “Show Networks and Control Systems” (formerly known as ‘Control Systems for Live Entertainment’) which has been the de-facto standard for this realm since 1994. Show control encompasses a lot of things and in the entertainment world, it can be everything from DMX to ACN to Ethernet to MIDI (SMPTE comes to mind) or a whole host of other languages that our machines speak. The book is available as of TODAY. Give it a whirl and see what the control people do for a living. There’s also going to be a chance to win a copy here on Projectionfreak real soon so stay tuned!

I’m thinking Garden State Fireworks, the company who provided the display, had a major malfunction at some point. What that is I have no idea, but you can bet that the after-action-review was intense. Maybe they should brush up on Chapter 9 of John’s book…..

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