Profiles:

profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities

No. 41 in a continuing series

Caricatures by

David Lewis

Gary Pritchard

Technical Director, LSC Lighting Systems

From his childhood, Gary has been fascinated by aircraft and other airborne objects, and to this day he would rather be flying charter aircraft over the northern Australian islands and beaches. So, why LSC, and why the entertainment industry?

It all began in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, a sprawling metropolis in the fifties getting to grips with an influx of immigrants after the WW2. Gary's parents ran a small community corner store and if he wasn't caught with his hand in the till, he was learning the art of selling and doing business. As a virile young teenager in the sixties, he did as others around him, and took up a musical instrument to impress the chicks. After starting on guitar his co-musicians decided it would be better if he took hold of the drum sticks - and so, another drummer-done-good story is about to unfold.

Gary's first ‘real' job was an apprentice electronic technician with the Department of Civil Aviation. This was the ultimate job - aircraft, aircraft and other airborne objects. However, it involved a lot of school, fixing electronic ‘stuff' on the workbench and very little contact with actual aircraft. He also found out how expensive it was going to be to learn how to fly a plane. However, he finally became qualified as a technician in 1974 and decided to look for excitement elsewhere.

His part-time band was gaining more work (yes, there was a severe lack of talent on the Australian music seen in the early seventies) and they all hit the road in a three-ton truck to entertain the masses in far away places in outback Australia. Home made pyrotechnics was the order of the day, and when one went horribly wrong and scorched the lead singer's face and hair (remember, this was before Michael Jackson's Pepsi commercial) and burnt the ceiling of a venue in Perth, they were sent packing back to Melbourne to re-think their careers.

Gary decided to get a job that could earn him enough money to pay for flying lessons. After two weeks of searching he gave up and went back to school to become an engineer (apparently he was misinformed that engineers can earn a lot of money), and the band graciously promoted him from drummer to roadie to fit in with his studies. He gained his Bachelor of Engineering in Electronic Communications in 1978 and departed for greener pastures in the UK with long time friends Patrick Base and Ray Vickery. Again, aeroplanes attracted Gary and they all set up house in sunny Hounslow, directly under the flight path for Heathrow. After a short stint in Blighty, the lack of money was the governing factor in exiting the country quickly and he headed back home. Ray Vickery decided to set-up a lighting rental company for emerging bands in Melbourne, whilst Pat and Gary headed off into the burgeoning electronics industry.

It wasn't long before Ray was at Gary and Pat's doorstep with a wish list of products he wanted developed for his rental business. The year was 1979 and the LSC name was born with dimmers and analog manual control desks being designed and built in Gary's bedroom. Working for various companies designing Mining Ore Sorting machines, large scale microprocessor controlled Uninteruptable Power Suppies, telecommunications equipment and even electronic gaming machines, then working at night designing and building lighting control equipment, soon took its toll. Something had to give! So LSC Electronics was formalised into an incorporated entity in January 1984 and a full-scale onslaught was launched onto the Australian entertainment market with revolutionary microprocessor based lighting consoles - the Precept range. Well, not quite an onslaught as it required a lot of money to market, however the product did establish the LSC name firmly in Australia and the consoles became a favourite of many a lighting operator.

The move out of the bedroom into the company's own dwellings enabled extra staff to be employed to manufacture and distribute the products whilst Gary and Pat designed new pre-DMX512 digital desks and dimmers. Exploring the possibility of taking the products beyond Australia, Gary attended the USITT tradeshow and conference held in Oakland, USA in 1986. Whilst there, he was seconded onto what has become the legendary USITT Engineering Committee to establish the DMX512 digital protocol for lighting equipment. Gary's involvement was beneficial in two ways - it enabled LSC to be at the forefront of technology worldwide and presented Gary with export opportunities for his products. LSC was growing and continuing to develop new products for a much larger marketplace. At last, Gary had enough money to go and learn how to fly a plane!

After obtaining his licence, one of his first adventures was to grab a few buddies and fly a chartered plane up to the northern Australian Island holiday resorts and try a bit of socialising with the opposite kind. Apparently the fishing was so good, he actually met his future wife, Kerrie-Anne.

Now happily married and living in his beloved eastern suburbs of Melbourne, flying has once again taken a back seat, as all his free time and energies (read: money) is consumed by his lovely daughter, Kate. Engineering is still his forte and Gary now heads the Engineering Department at LSC Lighting Systems whilst moonlighting as the CEO of the company.

Look out for the next subject in our Profile series...

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