ETC CUE: Create, Understand and
by Terena Wilkens, Gustavus Adolphus College Light/sound designer and Technical Director
On July 25 through the 27th, 183 lighting professionals (or soon to be professionals) descended on Madison, Wisconsin’s Monona Terrance Community and Convention Center for the first ever ETC CUE: End-Users Conference. CUE stands for: Create, Understand and Experience. The idea behind CUE is to bring together lighting designers, technicians, programmers, teachers and even students to network and learn from the people who actual make the products they use, and also to learn from each other.
The breakdown of attendees makes for a varied list of locations and professions. The group includes 13 different industries from six countries and 35 states. Approximately half of the attendees are students and professionals from colleges, universities, schools and youth-related venues. Those who work for performing arts centers, opera houses and theatres made up another 25%. Ten attendees listed their careers as freelance. Nine work at production companies/rental houses and nine are IATSE members. Also represented were broadcast, museums, cruise ships, industrial lighting and conference centers. People came from as far as São Paulo, Brazil, Sweden, Germany and Hungry and as close as, well, Madison (Wisconsin wins at 24).
Monday was considered Pre-Conference, but included hands-on console training on the Eos family as well as the Congo. Those who registered for the classes were split into groups by consoles (Eos family versus Congo) and skill level based on a questionnaire sent out. Each of the five rooms was filled with consoles and visualization software on PCs.
The beginning class followed the Foundations workbook and covered everything from the basic cue writing to patching multi-parameter fixtures. The intermediate class covered patching moving lights, Marks, Blocks and working with multiple cue lists.
The expert class, taught by Anne Valentino, ETC Eos Console Product Manager, and Nick Gonsman, ETC Field Project Coordinator – Northeast, was more of an open session that started with a list of topics people wanted to cover. This class flowed from topic to topic, but was always open to jumping into a new idea that came up in discussion. Many attendees also offered ideas they have discovered while programming productions on their console.
Monday night was the welcome reception for all attendees and the new product unveiling—the GIO console (pronounced Geo). Instead of telling us about the new product, or showing pictures, ETC wheeled out three ready-to-go consoles each with an expert to answer questions. The GIO is a mid-level console complete with two built-in multi-touch screens that can be adjusted for better angles and also supports up to three external displays. Some of the most talked-about features that evening included backlit keys, dual DMX ports and ETC Net3. GIO is expected to officially join the Eos Family in September and is geared towards smaller venues.
Tuesday started with a keynote speech by Co-founder and CEO of ETC, Fred Foster. Fred covered the interesting history of ETC and where they are now—all beginning with a dream to have a lighting system in the MET! Fred walked through the history of what it took to get ETC where it is today with over 700 employees all over the world. Fred looked a bit teary-eyed as he told of the moment he realized that so many depended on ETC to keep their families fed and mortgages paid. The family atmosphere of ETC was noticeable in everything he did and how the company is run.
At the end of the presentation questions were taken. When the question of ETC and the future of LED lights came up, everything changed. Fred said that “IF” ETC were ever to develop an LED Source Four, it would need shutters, color mixing, a smooth output and a “kick-ass-white.” As each item was mentioned, it appeared on the screen behind him in what, at first, appears to be a PowerPoint. As he continued, realization set in that this entire presentation was lit by four Source Four LED instruments hanging just overhead.
For those anxious to get their hands on these great new items, you’ll have to wait a bit longer; the release is about 9 months out at this time.
After the keynote, attendees began the two days of CUE workshop sessions with six classes offered in 4 time slots throughout each day. Most sessions were repeated at a later time to make scheduling easier. Topics covered everything from hybrid lighting, system trouble-shooting, maintaining equipment, funding, rigging, the DNA of Eos Family (why things do what they do) and "programming like a pro." The ETC Control Lab as well as the “Lucky” style Helpdesk were open each day for drop- in questions and time to experiment on the various consoles.
At lunch there was also a chance to hear from attendees who presented Pecha Kucha presentations. Pecha Kucha’s are presentations done in 20 slides, 20 seconds for each slide—a total of six minutes and 40 seconds! Topics covered included embracing legacy equipment, innovative ways to light unique venues and lighting a gymatorium!
Tuesday night CUE moved to Middleton, Wisconsin, for a picnic and factory tours. The picnic, held in the outdoor amphitheatre, included entertainment by ETC employee bands, great food and even ice-cold treats provided by Fred from his ice cream bike! The tours of the factory were led by various ETC employees and allowed for a chance to see where it all happens. From watching the metal faceplates being punched-out to seeing overnight testing of moving lights, LEDs and consoles, it was a site to see!
For those who have not visited ETC in Middleton, the experience of walking into the building will catch you off guard. The entire lobby (known as Town Square) is theatrically painted to look like a 1940’s town, including the Night Hawk’s café from the famous painting by Edward Hopper, which is really the reception desk. The area includes Century Theatre (a product demonstration area), A Haberdashery (ETC Store) and Kelly’s Insurance Agency (Human Resources) to name a few. Look closely and you will also find King Kong, a plane, a gnome and even a few rats!
Wednesday morning started with keynote speaker Jason Lyons (Broadway LD, Rock of Ages) and continued workshops and more Pecha Kuchas. Jason discussed his path to Broadway, working with assistant designers and programmers and what is takes to get a foot in the door on Broadway. Classes continued with more topics on tips, tricks and effects. Pecha Kucha topics included designing with shadows and technology on a budget.
For three very full days, those gathered filled their brains to capacity with new ideas, new software (1.9.8 was installed and coming soon to you) and met new friends and colleagues along the way. By keeping the number of people down, ETC allowed for a more intimate learning environment and more one-on-one time for each attendee to learn fist hand.
The big question now is… Will there be a CUE 2?