Mesney Keynote Presentation Speech

at Dataton Watchout™ Launch Show

March 3, 2000

(adapted from speech & slide show notes)

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It’s a real honor to be here today to help Dataton open a new chapter in the history of entertainment technology. Let’s just check the alignment… one thing I really like about digital projection… there’s never any dust. Anyway…

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About 10 years ago I made the controversial prediction that… Slides are dead.

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Some people thought I was nuts, and I’ll admit that I hoped I was wrong… because slides were my life… and for me a 30-projector show was nothing unusual. But… I wasn’t wrong. And as I watched in sadness the world of slides fell apart… with amazing speed.

Just four years after that advertisement the show was over for my once famous multi-image production company… and the infrastructure that had once supported…

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An industry of thousands and thousands of professionals was fading.
One by one the great slide houses closed up shop…
The association for multi-image lowered its flag for the last time…

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Even the late and great audio visual laboratories… the company that started it all… completed their last production run.

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Was it fade to black? Mazel-tov multi-image?

Conventional wisdom would say that multi-image was officially pronounced dead.

But, according to the theories of…

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Circular reasoning, what goes around always comes around… So, I was honored when Dataton asked me to be here today.

Why are we here?

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Dataton’s going to launch something new, something big… But there’s more to it than that. We are here because…

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One is the loneliest number.

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There’s not much you can do with just one... Projector.

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And we’re also here today because people have had their heads in the box way too long.

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It all started with George Eastman…

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His invention of the Kodak camera and roll film laid the foundations for the multi-image industry.

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Talk about visionary…

He knew that someday people would need…

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Things to put into their slide projectors.

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When I was a kid the only place you ever saw slides was at the local cinema.

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But slides soon took on a larger, more important role in politics and entertainment…

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General Charles de Gaulle was one of the first… he used slides to polish his image during the French elections in the 195o’s.

However…

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Nikita Khrushchev swore that slides were invented by a Russian shoemaker… you remember that incident at the United Nations?

 

Or the Cuban missile crisis… ?   I’ll tell you what really happened.

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Castro’s guys got ahold of a Kodak slide viewer that was confiscated from US troops during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

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Kennedy was so embarrassed about the incident that he never used a slide viewer at a press conference ever again after that…

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In New York, where I grew up, there was a shortage of slides and people got really pissed off about the fact that the Cubans now had American slide technology.

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Martin Luther King… god rest his soul…
Few know that he invented the so-called “black slide.”

protest

Slides almost changed the history of Hollywood, too…

Peter sellers signed a big deal to star in a slide show… something about a panther… the slide show was so successful they decided to make it into a movie…
and then a video.

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And the Beatles… here they are the night of their American television debut. They were originally going to do a slide show…

 

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But as you can see, somebody forgot to edit the film and mount the slides… so they sang a song instead… and the rest is history.

So suddenly it hit me like a jolt… multi-image would be my life

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And that’s why I am here today…

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 To tell you a little about our multi-image roots…

About why I abandoned…

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A budding career as a successful young advertising account executive and traded job security for…

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The vagabond life of a slide junkie.

 Anyway… the development of multi-image didn’t come easily… it was evolution, not revolution.

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Here, for example, we have the first tray-less slide projector… designed for single-slide productions….

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This is the first projector leveling device… a very hot item once
upon a time…

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And the first projector alignment stand, in a two projector version… later upgraded to a…

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Three-projector model…

These stands were way ahead of their time, being totally bio-degradable, even before forest preservation became politically correct.

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And this is the first slide dissolver, with infinitely variable dissolve speeds and total manual control.

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Here’s the first multi-projector control device.

You could use any number of projectors with total control over  forward and reverse.

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This is a slightly later version… a desk-console model which featured

In-line control keys… an early prototype of the now ubiquitous computer keyboard.

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These devices worked perfectly… unless you made a mistake or forgot a cue… because they had zero ram… the  only memory was…

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Dahhhh… your's!

Needless to say, the design of shows in this era was… well, “creative”... and every performance was an “original” because there was only a 20% that your show would get to the end successfully.

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The first memory system was punch  tape… the same kind that drove teletype machines. It was pretty tedious work… some cues required 8 holes… each individually punched by hand.

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Once I did a show with more than 3000 cues… about 20,000 little holes.
But it was well worth the effort because once punched…

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The control of the tape system gave your show a 50-50 chance of running correctly.

That's because the little holes remembered what you wanted the projectors to do…

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With punch tape you could hold the cues in your hand… stare at them… measure them… change them… and that kind of control was a real confidence builder.

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The punch-tape system also introduced the concept of leisure-time programming – as compared to “real-time" -- you could program it now, play it back later.

Nonetheless… control was improving and
this was the machine that created the multi-image industry back in the 1970’s…

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The AVL Show Pro… a programmer with an electronic tape puncher that eliminated the need to punch all the little holes by hand.

The show pro was connected to… mark-4 dissolvers, each of which controlled two projectors.  Notice the switch position called “fail safe?”  This was before truth in advertising laws was written.

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Oh well… 50-50 were way better chances than ever before so the slide show business started taking off big time…

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As good as the equipment was becoming we still had to tackle all the little problems by ourselves…

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Notice the home made tape dispenser…

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…and the stop watch.  We might have had some control over the projectors, but there was no time control, no time line, no synchronization.

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In its earliest days, the slide show was usually a single screen presentation.

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Sometimes the screen was divided in grid style with a combination of projectors aimed at it.

One very popular technique pioneered in  New York by The Motiva Company was the so-called “slide cube.”

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It was a projector in a rear-screen box. You could stack as many as you wanted – the direct ancestor of the video-wall.

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The grid-style show worked ok when you projected a montage of different images…

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But single images split up over a big grid suffered, as you can see.

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One thing has never changed in this business… the need for large-sized beautiful images… as simple as that… big beautiful images.

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So another popular way to create big pictures was the three-screen format…

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...with three slides butted together side-by-side to create a panoramic design.

Ultimately, the 3-screen format became almost universal. Why? Probably because most hotel ballrooms have such low ceilings. Anyway…

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Here we are setting up a burger king show back in the early 70’s…

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I actually got to meet the king… well, one of them…

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As I was saying… the three-screen format became almost universal. Here’s a Yamaha Motorcycle show in 1983…

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And an Apple Computer launch in ’84.

Throughout this period there was a constant urge to make shows bigger.

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When the lord god said to mankind… “go forth and multiply” it was a pregnant idea… and she surely had multi-image in mind. Anyway… what started with a single projector in the 50’s became…

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a 2-projector dissolve in the 60’s…

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And in the 70’s more and more fire-power was aimed at the screens. The only limit was the ability to control it all…

To take the medium to the next level needed more control than punch-tape, and, even before we paid off the bank loans for our punch-tape programmers…

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The microprocessor entered the scene.

At the time it seemed impossible that…

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 each little microchip contained more capability than a whole big punch tape machine.

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Nonetheless, the march of progress was relentless and in the late 70’s the first digital programmer hit the market…

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The Spinder And Saupe Director 24.

The capabilities of the D-24 were awesome
And the machine struck right to the core of AVL’s market…

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So AVL rushed the Show Pro 5 to market and with the advanced capabilities of the two machines the stage was set for a quantum leap in the multi-image industry.

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Now the odds of a show getting from the beginning to the end without a glitch jumped from 50% to, maybe, 75%…

And producers suddenly had controls that would allow them to use more projectors than ever before.

Using more fire power, they could produce more…

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Magic...

And easily synchronize visuals with music and sound effects.

Finally… slides were not just speaker support…

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They were shows… features… the business entertainment version of Hollywood movies.

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People were growing tired of the grid look so it went out of fashion, and any black lines separating screens weren’t stylish.

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Here you can see their attempt to hide the screen divisions with white tape.

Only a year after the show pro 5, the first real computer for multi-image computer was launched…

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It was called the eagle and it offered even more control in the form of something called “positrack” …a feature that allowed the computer to keep track of the projectors and correct any projector errors… which increased the odds of a show’s success from 75% to 95%...

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While everyone else was using those controls to build multi-screen shows and grid-style productions, my company went in a different direction and aimed all our fire power at a single screen…

In 1979 we premiered this 15-projector show at the AMI Festival in Burbank, California… it took down the house and changed the course of multi-image history, perhaps not for the better…

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Alternative Video: WebM format

The 1979 show was a portfolio of our special effects slide work... this was the first time many of these special effects were ever seen.
The original show consisted of 15 slide projectors pointing at a single screen.
The above movie is a digitally reassembled VHS of the original slide show.

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Our marketing philosophy was simple… push new technology to its limit and show people something they haven’t seen before…

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Something they would remember.

In the 1980’s multi-image was to hit its stride.

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Soft-edge masking techniques allowed the creation of huge, seamless panoramic images… just what people wanted… so the soft-edged pan became the high style of multi-image.

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The average sized show jumped from 2 or 3 projectors in the late 60’s… to 6 or 9 in the mid 70’s… to 12 or 15 or more.

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Here’s a shot of our studio grid in Brussels in 1989… 80 projectors.

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Screen formats were getting bigger and more complicated, too… all because of the projection control provided by computers. Producers could do things they had only dreamed about a decade earlier.

And clients back then had the deep pockets needed to pay for it all.

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Here’s an Apple launch show in 1984… Check out all those screens.

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And here’s a meeting we staged in 1985… check out all those projectors.

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The market for multi-image productions was getting bigger and bigger…

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More and more people were watching multi-image productions…

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And the pressure was on to make bigger and better shows… with more and more fire power aimed at bigger and bigger screens.

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One thing multi-image does very well is produce big images… by dividing pictures into pieces and using many small projectors, you can create a huge effect.

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The only reason digital people never used multi-image solutions is because there was never enough… control...

This is a backstage view of an 80-projector rig used for the show that launched the Saab 9000CD...

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the screen was an 8 x 30 meter rear-projection grid…

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made up of 40 panels, each 2 x 3 meters...

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Here’s an examples of what you can do with 100 projectors, 21 screens and a client like Nike to pay for it all

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Here’s another Nike module using the projectors and screens as a backdrop for a theatrical dance fashion show.

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A troop of about 50 athletic dancers modelled Nike’s new line of sport fashions.

Well, you can see for yourself that some amazing things can be done using multi-image techniques…

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even if you’re only using slides...

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So it seems strange that while slide multi- Image was at its peak, that I should say…

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Slides were dead…

 

At a time when Dataton was already controlling the European multi-image market and leap-frogging ahead with a company mission statement to control multimedia… true multimedia… didn’t matter. The idea of multi-image had already gone out of style… people wanted something new. Why?

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Multi-image had become top heavy… out of balance, out of proportion… just too much.

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Too much time consuming hand work…to create the artwork...

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Expensive production equipment…to shoot the artwork into slides...

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Too many people because there were too many details (and we didn’t have so many computers)...

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Too many little bits of film…hundreds, even thousands of them for every show...

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Each one lovingly made by expensive human hands...

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Sky high staging costs…because of all the extra equipment needed for special effects...

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And way, way, way too much baggage…

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Taxis and truckers reported record earnings during the multi-image years...

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And airline stocks hit new record highs attributed to excess baggage revenues…

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Sometimes it seemed as though the airline porters were making more than we were!

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And our clients were more worried than they were impressed…they feared that multi-image had gotten way to complicated and started questioning its cost effectiveness.

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With all that equipment the risks seemed pretty high that something could go wrong.

All these extra compilations and costs created

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… doubts and fears…

…and those negative feelings conspired to make multi-image unfashionable.

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So slides were thrown on the trash heap of audio visual history...

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as video and computer multimedia became the media of choice for the 90's.


However, at the turn of the millennium… a mere 10 years after my controversial slide ad… today I say that analogue video is dead.

Ttoday, the presentation that's cool and stylish uses…

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… digital media

but while people are excited by digital…

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They are tired of the standard old 3:4 video ratio… and the boxy shape of computer multi-media and internet stuff.

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And they are tired of single screen… tired of I-mag… tired of power point...

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They are ready for something many of  them have never seen…

The digital solution to VLM -- Very Large Multimedia …
or as I prefer to call it: Megamedia.

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Whatever you call it, it will change multi-image forever.

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True multimedia has finally arrived…

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Fragment of Dataton Watchout Show: