Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities
Systems Engineer, ETC
No. 146 in a continuing series
Mike Lichter first got into theatre at the tender age of five, when his kindergarten group performed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Who would believe now that the gentle giant 6'6" (2m) tall Mike played one of the dwarfs?
"My next contact with stage technology," says Lichter, who is now a systems engineer at ETC in Germany, "was during high school. Being the bass player of the school band, my responsibility included taking care of the equipment during band gigs and other school events. I wrapped coloured paper around a floodlight for coloured light - it worked up to a point, then created a great pyro effect in the middle of the show!"
When lasers first became commercially available, Mike got hold of one and began experimenting. On one occasion, very late at night, Hamburg, his home city, experienced heavy fog and Mike wanted to see how the laser would look and how far it would be visible. Setting it up on the shore of the lake in the centre of Hamburg, it looked absolutely wonderful. And when he walked round to the other side of the lake, to find it looked even better from there. When he returned to the laser, however, he found his car circled by armed police, security guards and other state officials. He had failed to notice that not only was the laser pointing at a number of international embassies, but also at an official state guest house where a high powered Russian political delegation was staying. Mike had a fair amount of difficulty in convincing the police that he really only wanted to see how the laser looked in the fog! Since then (and after the trouble it caused), he has been hooked on lighting technology.
After high school, Mike went to study electrical engineering at university in Hamburg, during which time he took charge of organising band festivals, parties and events. At the same time, he worked at Procon, the German stage lighting rental company, setting up large productions and servicing moving lights.
Following university, he joined Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) in Madison, US, where he was part of the Obsession II lighting console R&D team, developing hardware and embedded software. He then relocated to ETC's London office, where he worked in technical support and complex trouble-shooting. He was also in charge of technical site management during the commissioning of several large projects, including at the Royal Opera House, London; Disney Studios Park, Paris; Warner Bros Park, Madrid; several cruise ships and many others.
Due to his extensive knowledge in networked systems, Mike also provided support to the sales and projects group in terms of system design.
After many worldwide technical support site visits, Mike is acknowledged as one of Europe's dimmer and power-systems experts and he has developed a very simple but extremely effective method to diagnose mains related problems by just listening to the power supply. "It's always so much fun to see peoples' faces when you plug your headset into the 400A dimmer feed, but the ear is a much better interface then the eye in terms of resolution and speed," he explains.
Mike was always involved in new product specifications and over the years managed to push more and more "European" features into the sometimes slightly US-biased new product specifications.
After his three years in London, Mike relocated back ‘home' to Germany, where he joined the newly acquired Transtechnik Lichtsysteme GmbH. He is now working again in R&D and technical product management where he can successfully use his extensive field experience to specify and design even better products. Some of the products he has recently been involved in designing are the SmartFade and Congo lighting consoles. And, of course, there are many more interesting ETC products up his sleeve.
He also teaches technical classes for staff, customers and external university courses. With his cheerful attitude he's always happy to share his extensive knowledge!
Mike is currently working on ‘Practical Ethernet', a title Entertainment Technology Press plan to launch at PLASA 2007.
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