My Perspective on Two Decades of LDI

by Vickie Claiborne
in Video Digerati
Vickie Claiborne's LDI badge collection
Vickie Claiborne's LDI badge collection

The annual LDI tradeshow, one of the largest lighting and production equipment conventions in North America, has become, for many of us in the lighting, video and production industries, a place to see old friends, make new friends, see new products and develop new business.

While the show has changed over the years as a result of the changes in our technology, the reasons we go to LDI have not. For this month’s column, I’ll be providing my perspective on this event, and noting a few of the ways LDI has been important to me.

Networking

My first LDI was back in 1993. Back then, the show name was an acronym for Lighting Dimensions International, the magazine that produced the event. At that time, I was the LD for country artist Kathy Mattea, and I was living in Nashville TN. Since I had never been to the show, I knew practically no one, so I decided to attend a morning event called “Women in Technology Breakfast.” As the universe had planned, I found myself sitting at the table with the editor of Lighting Dimensions at that time, Denise Tilles, among several other talented and well known lighting industry professionals. During the course of that breakfast, we each introduced ourselves and spoke about our current projects. After I spoke about working with Kathy Mattea, Denise asked for my contact information and spoke of arranging an interview with me for the magazine. That magazine interview was the catalyst that opened the door for me to land an interview with High End Systems, and less than a year later, I began programming for HES around the world.

Training

While working for HES, I moved into the role of Training Manager for consoles, and each year at LDI I taught lighting console programming classes for products including Status Cue, Hog2 and Hog3. In those days, console programming classes were not commonly held at LDI. But through the collaboration and coordination of these classes with LDI’s training and education director, Ellen Lampert-Greaux, each year, the seeds were planted for what today has evolved into the LDI Institute, where attendees can get hands on professional training with the gear directly from the manufacturer as well as professionals working with the gear in the field. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and to teach your peers at LDI is an honor and an experience I hope to have for many years to come.

Product Demos

Of course the biggest reason to attend LDI each year is to see the new technology and learn where our industry is headed. Over the years of working in tradeshow booths, I have seen many things, from prototypes that never made it to the real world to successful product launches where the demand for the product far outreached the supply well into the following year. What exactly appeals to each of us at LDI is highly subjective, but we all share that desire to be impressed and to see something we haven’t seen before. That’s a lot of pressure on manufacturers to hit a home run each year, but somehow, most do find something unique to reveal. And with the recent resurgence in big light shows in some of the booths again, the newer generations of lighting designers are being given the chance to experience the new technology in very creative applications, which is something a product cut sheet can’t achieve.

Career Marker

As this year marks the 23rd time I’ve attended this tradeshow, it’s become so much a part of my calendar that I have a hard time imagining not being there in some capacity. Over the years, I’ve taught hundreds of people how to program, spoken on a variety of panels ranging from specific projects to media server programming, been a presenter at the Parnelli Awards on several occasions, had a second interview in Live Design (formerly Lighting Dimensions), and even launched a book.. but there was always one thing that eluded me — that is, until this year. This year marked the first time I had the opportunity to design the tradeshow booth representing PRG at this convention. Working for PRG, to be given the trust and support of my colleagues is a huge honor. And for me personally, this was a goal I’ve had for a long time, so getting the opportunity is a very special career achievement.

As LDI continues, new waves of talented programmers and designers will attend, and hopefully in some way, LDI will help shape their careers as well. The point to writing this article is to share that LDI can be more than just a convention with shiny new gear. It can be a valuable networking, training and career-building tool if you want it to be. (And if you can stay away from the after party at the Hard Rock’s Circle Bar.)