ISE 2019: Mike Blackman interview

On the last day of our stay in Amsterdam we had the opportunity to meet Mike Blackman, Managing Director of ISE, and talk about this year’s edition of the show. The 2019 edition was an unprecedented success, in terms of both participation and contents. This is an event in perfect health in the true sense of the word, with halls packed with networking opportunities between professionals and companies. The environment is mature enough to expand its focus on new markets from entertainment technologies, with an increase in digital cinema technologies, passing through hospitality, video mapping and more.

With these bases, Blackman explains the reason for the transfer to Barcelona from 2021 and the importance of an ever larger and more spectacular ISE. This was reflected clearly by two defining moments: one during the opening speech by Bart Kresa, who recounted his personal approach to projection sculpture and created the magnificent mapping at the entrance C of the fair, and secondly during the closing keynote with Tupac Martir – visual artist and creative director of some of the world’s most important events on behalf of BMW, Ralph Lauren, Elton John, Beyoncé and the British Museum – who gave a demonstration of how the Satori Studio team uses technology to create spectacular live events.

Here is our exclusive interview with Mike Blackman:

LightSoundJournal: We are now at the final hours of this hugely successful show, something which is further confirmed by its growth. Let’s start with some reflections on the show?

Mike Blackman: Well, we can start with the numbers: this year there are 1304 exhibitors, on over 57,000 m2. We have used every space made available by the fair! Yes, ISE 2019 went very well, with a sharp increase in appointments such as the 10 conferences that were added to the rich calendar of training events organised by CEDIA and AVIXA. We have also covered the areas of audio technology, digital cinema, theme parks and more. So even more content available to the public, with a total of 44 leaders present in various events with about 1300 paying members.

LightSoundJournal: This year in particular, the entertainment industry was present in force. Will we see an ISE that shows more similarities with ProLight + Sound?

Mike Blackman: We realised that it is important to turn to the entertainment sector, particularly because most visitors expect to find many companies specialised in entertainment at ISE. With regards to ProLight + Sound, I can tell you that we are “frienemies” (Smile!). Michael Biwer and I meet regularly and we are both aware of the growth potential of this market. When we started out with ISE years ago, ProLight + Sound was very strong in the professional audio industry. On the other hand, over the years, ISE has attracted many companies, not to take them away from Frankfurt, but to give them a further opportunity. What has happened is that many companies were extremely satisfied with the number and quality of visitors present at ISE, and therefore moved part of their budget into this event. In conclusion, therefore, entertainment is a sector that we are developing more and more over the years.

Mike Blackman and Bart Kresa during the opening speech.

LightSoundJournal: This importance is clearly reflected in this year’s opening speech and closing event, which involved two leading figures in this sector. Can you elaborate on this for us?

Mike Blackman: This year we wanted to give a clear signal by entrusting the opening event to Bart Kresa. Personally I found this choice extremely fascinating and it was a real plus for ISE. Another aspect concerns the world of projection mapping, which is an added value for us. We have improved last year’s experience by involving many partners including Green Hippo, Panasonic and others, and I believe the industry has been represented at its best. The closing keynote will be also be extremely creative. Tupac Martir arrived with a precise idea, which consists in using the exhibitor technologies present in a different and interactive way. It is a key moment in which we will give us insight into the real situation and the potential of this sector at the moment, and this fascinates me enormously.

LightSoundJournal: What can we anticipate for the next edition of the show?

Mike Blackman: Our goal is to create a new edition in 2020, better in terms of size and effectiveness. So we have a lot to do in the meantime. My team will pause and relax, then we will meet again to start analysing the results of this year’s show. We will see what went well, what worked, what went wrong, how to fix it and we will evaluate whether to repeat some things again or not. We must devote ourselves to an in-depth analysis, and when we know what ISE 2019 was, we can start planning ISE 2020.

LightSoundJournal: Going forward of 2 years. What will you leave in Amsterdam and what will you find in Barcelona?

Mike Blackman: We will leave the cold weather! (Smile!). Jokes aside, Amsterdam was a fantastic city for us, and RAI staff contributed spectacularly to our success, helping us to create the biggest event dedicated to the world of AV. We greatly regret leaving this environment, but the space really is no longer big enough for us. They tried to find a remedy and examined all the possible solutions considering the expansion of the pavilions and the structures. From our point of view, looking at the growth of the next five years, we realised that any proposal for the next edition will not be satisfactory in the long term, and it is unfair on our part to require RAI to make changes just for us. It is sad to leave, but at the same time we know that we will move to a fantastic place, with double the available space and bigger halls. All this will give us the opportunity to rethink how ISE will be and how it will become the new layout.

Walter Lutzu
LightSOundJournal team

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