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Q&A Mike Fahl, Dataton Interacting with technology

quite an undertaking. I could see that computers would soon become powerful enough to do much more of the work; and they could be the delivery mechanism of the media.

The chief software architect of Watchout talks about more than 30 years of controlling multi-display presentations

How did Dataton come into being? I’ve been involved with the company since the 1970s. Originally we made a modular synthesiser system, which is where the name Dataton came from – computers and music in Swedish. It was at the same time as Moog synthesisers and those kinds of things. As an accessory we developed something to control slide projectors, because people wanted psychedelic visuals to go with their psychedelic music. Then we found out a lot more people were interested in that part of our product than the synthesisers. We drifted into what was then known as multi-image: using multiple slide projectors for large presentations – which is pretty much what we’re still doing, although the technology has changed dramatically.

So Watchout first came to the market in 1999?

Yes. We had expanded to work with all kinds of AV technology – LaserDisc players, Betacam decks, video switches, video effects units, controlling projectors – and although people could do great presentations with that it was hard work because of all the gear you had to manage. We were using computers – we had a product called TRAX, which was a way to orchestrate all this gear. People used that to make good presentations but because of all the equipment it was

That was the idea behind Watchout – how much can we take away between the creative idea and the results on the screen? It turned out that we could take away nearly all of it, apart from the computer and the display device.

How do you think the industry that Dataton supports has changed during the lifetime of Watchout? The timespan between something happening and getting it up on screen has shortened. That’s something you see not only in our part of the industry, but

‘The interaction between well- produced content and interactivity is what really excites me’

everywhere: something happens and it goes up on YouTube right away. So while you still have production times where you plan things out, you also have more of this kind of up-to-the-minute information finding its way into your presentation. It’s important to find a good mix between these things. When it’s done well… you can have properly produced presentations mixed with audience interaction, like the Ford auto show job. Audience members can take an active part in the presentation by pre-registering using an RFID card, they can identify themselves into the show, they get a camera on them, they get put on the screen with their name, and a pre- produced part – in this case a racing car going around them, that has been pre- captured – and that is bluescreened into the presentation. Then the end result goes up on YouTube so they can show their friends. The interaction between well-produced content and this kind of interactivity is what really excites me.

Do you have any thoughts as to what the next big thing will be in this area? I think I can see that there is more of a crossbreeding between what happens on the web and your presentation, your pre- produced content. That’s an area that excites me quite a lot. Another area where we have started to enhance the product is to try to move things off the wall, off the screen and into the room. We recently added support for 3D content to Watchout and stereoscopic displays, and that also allows you to bring visuals out into the room.

Where do you think is, or will be, the greatest demand for stereoscopic 3D? That’s hard to tell. I’m a bit sceptical about the idea of using it for TVs in a domestic setting... Before we used it in the Watchout 5 launch presentation last summer we had quite a bit of a discussion about whether it would work at a trade show – but it turned out it worked great.

I hope I will see more creative use of stereoscopic presentations – bringing things into the room, like a modern-day version of the Pepper’s Ghost effect, making things happen in places or in ways that surprise or excite you. IE

Mike Fahl was talking to Paddy Baker.


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. Mike Fahl discusses how Watchout has developed and how ideas for new features come about

An 1979 advertisement for the Dataton 3301 – a controller for synthesisers, slide projectors and, apparently, washing machines…

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Installation Europe is published 12 times a year by Intent Media London, 1st Floor, Suncourt House, 18-26 Essex Road, London N1 8LR, England Circulation and subscription enquiries Tel: +44 (0)1858 438786 Fax +44 (0)1858 434958 Intent Media 2012, Tower House, Lathkill Street, Market Harborough, Leics LE16 9EF, UK Editorial tel +44 (0)20 7226 7246 Sales tel +44 (0)20 7354 6000 Editor Paddy Baker Managing editor Joanne Ruddock Staff writerJames McGrath Head of design & productionAdam Butler Assistant graphic designer Nikki Thompson Sales manager Ian Graham Sales executive Les Wood US sales representative Michael Mitchell +1 631 673 3199 Production executive Florence Beaumont Digital content managerTim Frost Publisher Steve Connolly Managing director Stuart Dinsey ContributorsDavid Davies, Gez Kahan, Ian McMurray, Steve Montgomery Special thanks this issue Andrey Garkaviy, Helmut Seidl, Stanislav Serbin, Maksym Stoyko © Intent Media 2012. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owners. Printed by Pensord Press, Wales

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