The annual convocation that is AES always brings with it a slew of new technologies, thousands of visitors, exciting panels and workshops, and more. This year, however, it also brings something else to the table: great expectations. After a few years of economic uncertainty, the pro audio industry has stabilized, so manufacturers and attendees alike are looking to the convention as a harbinger of good things to come. Fortunately, AES won’t disappoint.
We have 417 exhibitors this year, which means this is our biggest show since 1998, said Chris Plunkett, deputy director, convention management, AES. That year’s convention, fittingly enough, was also held here at the Moscone Convention Center. People love San Francisco, they really do, said Plunkett with a laugh, adding, I don’t know the exact count for our pre-registration number, but it was the biggest we’ve ever had in the history of the convention, so we’re thrilled.
Clearly a lot of attendees are going to be prowling the show floor, looking at the latest cutting-edge pro audio gear, but there’s going to be lots for them to check out around the showÑin fact, there’s more to do and see at AES than ever before.
The convention kicks off today with keynote speaker Ron Fair, six-time Grammy nominee and president of A&M Records. If one goes by Fair’s riveting turn as host of the Platinum Producers panel at last year’s AES, the keynote is certain to be a must-see event.
Technical tours are also a hot ticket here at AES, offering rare opportunities to go behind the scenes at George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound; video game giant Electronic Arts; Meyer Sound Labs; KQED; Fantasy Studios/Saul Zaentz Film Center; Dolby Labs; Ex’Pression College for Digital Arts and Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at UC Berkeley; and the truly unique multichannel sound experience, Audium.
The historical programs at AES are likewise fascinating, with in-depth explorations into topics as varied as how World War II allies broke the Enigma code; how Digidesign was founded; classic radio mics; Bay Area electronic music pioneers; and the forgotten birth of radio broadcasting in 1910.
Now if it’s special events you want, there’s a lot that qualifies as special here at AES. Focusing on video game audio, there’s both the gAmEShowcase and Game ON! Video Games: The Future of Music and Entertainment events to check out, while stalwart happenings like the Platinum Producers, Platinum Engineers and Road Warriors panels return as always. Likewise, the annual Heyser Memorial Lecture returns, given this year by Oscar-winning film sound editor, Walter Murch, who will discuss Edison’s First Sound Film and the Three Fathers of Cinema.
Any way you slice it, whether you’re here to see new audio equipment, see old industry pals or just soak in the atmosphere, there’s tons to do at AES.