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35mm Slides and Audio Visual Presentations

Before the early 1990's, almost all presentations were made using 35mm slides and one or more slide projectors (unless that is the presentation was being made using an overhead projector or a flip chart).

A Simple Presentation
Special people (like me) had to be commissioned to produce the artwork - sometimes by dry transfer lettering, other times by typesetting - and get it all shot under special 35mm rostrum cameras, using colour filters and effects before processing, mounting in special mounts and loading into the correct order in a circular slide tray. And that was just for a VERY simple presentation.

The Audio-Visual Experience
In the days before video stopped being a medium that only television companies and the very rich could afford, the big staged events with sound and synchronised imagery was all done with 35mm slides and often banks of a dozen or more slide projectors, controlled from a green screen computer with a DOS type interface, which itself was controlled by a ¼ inch multi-track tape recorder. This played the sound track and a control track which drove the computer and kept the sound and visuals in synchronisation.

The Visual Connection
The market for these, now almost dead services, was huge. There were many production companies making the programmes. The slides were shot using a series of registered multiple exposures on huge expensive rostrum cameras, like the ones built by Forox. Kodak were the leaders in making the special slide projectors needed to run the presentations and a company called Wess had the market share in making the special register slide mounts in all manor of types and shapes. Then there were specialist equipment manufacturers who developed many competing control systems for controlling all this stuff.

I worked in all these areas, but the most enjoyable part was putting it all together during the programming stage. There were many competing and incompatible computer control systems (see, nothing has changed!) for driving the slide projectors - in effect fading up or down the projector lamps at a specified rate stepping the projector forward, or backward to the next slide. Many systems from North America and across Europe were developed and most died by the wayside because the computer operating system it was based on - PCM, MS-DOS, Apple - was not up to the job or the programme was not flexible or too difficult to operate. Electrosonic in the UK, Dataton in Sweden and Audio Visual Laboratories (AVL) in the USA ended up being the leaders. AVL was probably the most popular, but only Dataton survives as a projection system today. Electosonic now specialise in other types of control systems.

AV History

In the early days the medium for conference presentations was, slide-tape - the synchronisation of one or more (usually very many more) 35mm slide projectors to a sound track - for presentation to all kinds of audiences. The high quality of 35mm (and sometimes large format) slides have never been surpassed, but with the arrival of the recession of the late 80s, followed by advent of Mr. Gate's stable Windows 3 (TM) operating system and his Office suite of software, it put basic creation media into the hands of the end users (and their secretaries).

Throughout the 1990s the vast improvements in data projection technology has made it the norm for business people around the world to turn up at a conference, plug in their laptop computer and present to large audience using Microsoft PowerPoint, or similar software.

The recovery of the economy also restored the work for us old creative and technical presentation technicians. Professional services are now used to create outstanding presentations and experienced presentation engineers are required for the seamless integration of large-screen, large audience multimedia business presentations.

Updated:
23 May, 2006

© Nigel Sadler 1995-2008

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Location: Forest Row, East Sussex, England

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