Sunday, July 25, 2021

Putting a spotlight on themed environments

ETC establishes a presence in Orlando to better serve the attractions sector; InPark editor Judith Rubin interviews Scott O’Donnell, Themed Environment Specialist

Founded in 1975, ETC established itself as an innovator and leader in theatrical lighting and rigging equipment. In addition to performing arts venues, ETC equipment is often specified for visitor attractions such as 4D theaters and interactive exhibitions that integrate theatrical lighting. The company’s sophisticated, versatile control systems and consoles have also found applications in attractions.

Headquartered in Wisconsin, ETC has nearly 1,400 employees in 13 international offices, as well as some 300 authorized service centers spanning the globe. Dick Titus, President since 2002, became President/CEO in 2019, succeeding the late, celebrated company co-founder Fred Foster.

ETC is already well known to the lighting designers and other specialists who have served both the theater and themed entertainment sectors. The company has exhibited at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando for a number of years, and recently took additional steps into the attractions space by establishing Scott O’Donnell as Themed Environment Specialist.

Based in Orlando, O’Donnell works with themed attractions and hospitality spaces to ensure that the right ETC technology is applied to every project. InPark’s Judith Rubin asked Scott O’Donnell about the company’s commitment to this market, and how it complements adjacent verticals.

Scott O’Donnell

Why did ETC create the Themed Environments department?

ETC has a very long and successful history of working with themed environments. In December of 2018, ETC realized they could better serve these projects if a department were explicitly dedicated to theme park resorts, resort hotels, and cruise ships. This department would be a team of Specialists, Project Managers, and Field Service Engineers who have both experience and passion for working with themed environments.

What are some of the synergies between your department and the other areas of ETC?

The Themed Environments department includes individuals with vast backgrounds in management, sales, service, support, and design.  The variety of experience within our team enables us to work closely with the departments inside ETC and relate to the needs of the customers.

Themed Environment projects use a wide variety of products – everything from architectural controls and lighting to more theatrical fixtures and power distribution. Thankfully ETC’s product portfolio is equally as vast. It’s been invaluable to have smart, helpful people within the company willing and excited to help bring these – often unconventional – projects to reality.

In what ways is your department different than the other areas of ETC?

The Themed Environments department is like no other department at ETC.  Not only does this department have a wide variety of specialties within it, but this is the only departments at ETC that works with customers worldwide.  ETC has offices in a dozen countries around the world, offering sales and services locally, and the Themed Environments department assists every location with Themed Environment locations in their territory.

How has the company been handling the pandemic, particularly with live entertainment at a virtual standstill?

2020 was a challenging and trying year, without a doubt. However, the executives at ETC have worked extremely hard to monitor the situation and adjust accordingly. We are lucky to have the expansive product portfolio that we do. This variety in our offerings has enabled us to focus on parts of the market that are still running.

ETC also organized an extensive online portfolio of training classes and resources for those in our industry who wanted to improve their product knowledge, dedicate additional time to learning programming, or tune in for interviews with industry professionals. The support and dedication from our customers has been nothing short of amazing through all the uncertainty.

Tell us how you came to work for ETC.

After completing the Master of Fine Arts Degree with an emphasis in lighting design at San Diego State, I began working as a Sales Manager for Norcostco, a national supplier for the Performing Arts.  ETC was one of the lighting manufacturers that Norcostco represented.  Several years into this position, a good friend and mentor, Dave Johnson, encouraged me to become a Certified Technician for ETC. I spent the next nine-and-a-half years working as an ETC technician and selling ETC products. In 2007 a Field Service Engineer position became available at ETC and I was fortunate enough to be given that opportunity. In December of 2018, I accepted the role of the Themed Environment Specialist.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, publicist, strategist, blogger, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She excels at writing about all aspects of design and technical design, production and project management. Areas of special interest include AV integration and show control, lighting design and acoustics, specialty cinema, digital video and world’s fairs. Judith has ties to numerous industry organizations. From 2005-2020 she ran communications, publications and social media for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA, and co-chair of the 2014 IMERSA Summit. She was publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association in the 1990s, now part of the Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA) and has also contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Already making her mark as a magazine and book editor, Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. Launching as a freelancer in the mid 1990s she has contributed to dozens of publications and media outlets including Funworld, Lighting&Sound America, Sound & Communications, Urban Land, The Raconteur and The Planetarian. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. She has lived in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, and now makes her home in Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts and theater community.

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