TOBY ALINGTON: Palm Expo ? India hosts world class trade show

An in-depth report on this year's Mumbai-based trade show, where Alington was guest speaker.
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Last year, I was invited by PLASA to speak at both the Leeds and London events on the subject of broadcasting live music shows.

While PLASA primarily focuses on the staging of live events, they felt their audience would be interested in my perspective of taking it to the wider audience. The talks were well received, even if the target audience was there more out of curiosity than it being directly on topic for their area of expertise.

At these PLASA talks, I met the delightful Elton Noronha, conference director of the Palm Expo in Mumbai, India. He kindly invited me to speak in Mumbai last month, so I prepared three talks on the subjects of live music broadcast, sound design for animation, and producing DVD and Cinema output from live music events, and on May 29th I climbed aboard British Airways’ flight 139 to Mumbai.

The main conference centre in Mumbai is the Bombay Exhibition Centre in Goregaon (the name Bombay persists in certain circles, although the official name has been Mumbai since 1996; if in doubt, use the new name). The Conference Centre is just five miles from the airport, which in Mumbai terms entails a journey of somewhere between twenty minutes and an hour. The constant racket of car and truck horns, the hazy pollution, people going about every type of business on every corner, the smells, colours and vibrancy of Mumbai all hit you the moment you arrive. It’s an incredible, diverse city, India’s largest with 13 million inhabitants. Set against a backdrop of extreme poverty, Mumbai is one of the leading economies in Asia, with some of the most expensive real estate in the world down in the South of the city.

Having worked on music television shows some years back in Mumbai, I was uncertain what to expect of a 'Pro Audio Lighting Music Expo' in this bustling metropolis. When I last looked at the option of setting up a recording mobile there in 1998, the import of equipment was subject to such hideous duties it was simply not viable. I was intrigued to find out what had changed, who would be exhibiting, and above all who would be my audience.

Elton Noronha was reassuringly relaxed in his answers to my questions, and in the end I just got on with imagining an inquisitive and lively professional audience – a known quantity.

Arriving at the Expo was like walking into another world, or rather like walking into an expo in Europe or America with a certain added flair. The delightfully air-conditioned main hall was filled with exhibitors from major international manufacturers to local PA suppliers. Vast arrays of lighting and sound filled the venue with an audio-visual chaos, and all around were thousands of people from the professional AV industries of India looking, learning, buying and discussing.

Smaller halls around the site specialised in niche sectors of the industry, and the Conference Session hall with my name emblazoned on large boards outside was to host various talks on topics ranging from video mapping to live music recording. I joined the likes of Bart Kresa, Fredrik Svahnberg, Ranjit Singh, Bishwadeep Chatterjee, Warren Dsouza, Sunil Karanjikar and Ashish Manchanda in attempting to entertain, enlighten and engage our audiences.

The only real gauge of a seminar audience is the question and answer session. Sure, they can laugh at the jokes and appear to be listening intently, but you only really know what they’re thinking and how your information got across when you start interacting with them. And how lovely were the audiences in Mumbai? They were interested, articulate, querulous, intrigued, but above all enthusiastic and full of energy for wanting to achieve success in their industry.

Steinberg kindly sponsored my sessions, as I had mentioned to Timo Wildenhain – product marketing manager at Steinberg – that I would be highlighting my implementation of Nuendo, especially in the session on sound design for animation. The Nuage collaboration between Yamaha and Steinberg was attracting a great deal of interest in the main hall, and Nuendo users were very interested in my Yamaha DM2000/Nuendo setup here in London.

Back to the conference, and after the long but successful first day’s session, I finally escaped the post-session questions and enjoyed some excellent Indian cuisine at the ITC Maratha hotel near the airport (highly recommended).

Speaking to some of the exhibitors, they were having a very good conference with serious buying interest from a diverse client base. The one thing everyone agreed on was the energy level in India, and a common theme was how ready the industry was – from professionals to trainees – to be involved in anything they could. A number of new skills-training centres are opening up, and, despite the huge inertia involved, funding is now becoming available from international manufacturers to train the media workforces of the future. It’s an exciting place to be, and the unstoppable forward motion is tangible.

With the Indian Recording Arts Awards (IRAA) in its seventh year, and the Sound and Light Awards in its third year at the Palm Expo, the end of each conference day had something for everyone by way of entertainment and accolades. Over 16,000 visitors attended this 13th Palm Expo, with 130 exhibitors and plenty for everyone to do and see. It was interesting to note that social media doesn’t yet play a major part in this event, but I’m sure that by next year this will have changed.

Other features of the Expo included the Spotlight Booth, which housed 20 of the most impressive products to come out in the previous year, and two new features for 2013 in the form of the Integration for Entertainment demo (involving video mapping technologies from brands such as Christie, Dataton and Bose), and a live demonstration of Rigging and Trussing Experience given by Prolyte, the first of its kind in the world.

So next May/June, especially if you haven’t been to Mumbai before, go and check out one of the most advanced Expos in the world and explore this bustling city. It’s quite an experience in all directions. My sincere thanks to Elton, Steinberg and Diversified Communications for involving me in a very memorable few days.

More information on the 2014 event is available at www.palmexpo.in.

Twitter: @tobyalington
Website: tobyalington.com

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