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ETC’s Alva Wong Discusses the Company’s Evolution and Future Prospects

Founded in 1975 by Fred Foster, his brother Bill Foster, and their friends James Bradley and Gary Bewick, Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) has grown into a global leader in lighting and rigging technology. As ETC approaches its 50th anniversary, it enters a new period of growth, building on its rich history and continued success. ETC begins the next chapter as a reformulated executive team just after the recent announcement that the company is now 100% employee owned. In 2025, ETC will enter its 50th year of business, a milestone that celebrates its past and instills confidence in its future. Entertainment Technology Asia (ETA) had the privilege of discussing ETC’s regional outlook and ambitions with Alva Wong, General Manager of ETC Asia, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ETC’s Performance in Asia
Alva Wong shared, “We primarily handle large-scale systems projects, some of which can take up to a decade to come to fruition. COVID-19 posed significant challenges, with many venues closing and staff shortages affecting equipment delivery. Initially, ETC managed well due to ample stockpiles, but parts shortages eventually impacted us. It took about a year to redesign our products using new chips after many older ones became obsolete. This redesign process, completed this year, has helped us recover lost ground.”

Alva noted that post-pandemic shifts in customer preferences necessitated product adaptations. “We’ve seen a move from traditional dimmers towards electronic fixture controls that manage lighting levels and colours. While we still offer dimmers, now termed as power controllers on our end, there’s a growing demand for LED fixtures over tungsten lamps. Despite delays, many customers chose to wait for original ETC products, a clear testament to their unwavering loyalty and our product quality, strengthening the bond between ETC and its clients.”

Innovative Solutions and Trends
Discussing the High End Systems (HES) brand, Alva highlighted the industry’s shift towards more efficient fixture control. “We offer seamless colour control from the console to the fixture, and I foresee a trend towards automated fixtures. Our HES products, including the Halcyon line and smaller fixtures like Lonestar, Hyperstar, and Ministar, meet a wide range of lighting needs.”

Enhancing the user experience is key to ETC’s products. “Our top-of-the-line Eos Apex consoles offer advanced features, such as the Apex 5, 10, and 20. We also cater to smaller venues with consoles like the Gio @5, Ion, and Element, ensuring we meet demands from large theatres to small schools.” Alva also emphasized innovations like tacit controls and high-resolution screens that enhance usability across ETC’s console range.

Goals for 2024
Looking ahead, Alva expressed optimism about returning to pre-COVID growth levels. “Projects planned before the pandemic are resuming, and while growth might not be as rapid as in the past decade, we anticipate steady progress. Our Asia office retained its staff during COVID, which positions us well for recovery.”

ETC focuses on markets in mainland China, Australia, Japan, and Korea, with strategic partnerships enhancing their presence in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. “Many venues require upgrades, providing significant opportunities for us. This year might not see many new theatres, but upgrades will keep us busy.”

Educational Initiatives in Asia
ETC strongly emphasizes education and believes in the power of face-to-face training. “We’re bringing more trainers in Asia and educating the entire ecosystem, from performing arts students to industry professionals. This year, we’re focusing on console training, particularly for our Apex line.”

ETC also conducts technical training for users on theatre lighting applications, targeting industry professionals, educational institutes, and newcomers.

Expanding Beyond Theatre Lighting
Beyond theatre solutions, ETC is making strides in the architectural lighting market. “We’re expanding our standard product line to meet architectural needs and slowly building a reputation in this space,” Alva said.

ETC also promotes its rigging products, often packaging them with lighting systems for comprehensive venue solutions. “We’re focusing on markets like Hong Kong, targeting universities and international schools with sizeable community halls that require rigging systems.”

ETC continues to innovate and adapt to changing market needs. With a strong focus on customer satisfaction and education and expanding into new markets, ETC is well-positioned to maintain its leadership in lighting and rigging technology.