With lighting designers across the world turning their attention to livestreaming, the barrier between live and broadcast seems narrower than ever. Throughout the past 12 months, one recurring fixture brand has featured on these productions time and again – Astera. With numerous examples of lighting designers selecting the manufacturer’s offerings as part of the visual backbone for stream performances, including Dermot Kennedy’s LD Owen Pritchard-Smith citing Astera LED Titan Tubes as his “absolute go-to” for the singer’s performance at London’s Natural History Museum, TPi was keen to chat to Astera about how the company has fared during these trying times.
“The live events sector is where Astera began, but over the past two years, we’ve seen significant interest from the film world,” began Astera Sales and Marketing Director, Sebastian Bückle, discussing the variety of applications of the brand’s fixtures. “We have always designed our fixtures to have a wide range of potential uses. The idea being that a customer would be able to rent the fixtures for a number of purposes and get a great return on investment.”
Astera is a dynamic international operation based on two continents. Product design, R&D and marketing are directed from Germany, while the manufacturing operation is based in China, where the company has had its own factory and dedicated workforce for over a decade.
Like most companies in 2020, Astera took an initial hit in sales from March to June, with the events industry grinding to an abrupt halt. “With the film industry making a quicker return, we began to slowly get orders again at a sustainable level,” stated Bückle.
This enforced downtime provided Astera with a chance to evaluate how the firm could maintain contact with its customer base, given its main communication tool – trade shows – was suddenly off the table.
“In a normal year, Astera does around 30 exhibitions; they are our core way to connect with our customers and they take up the majority of our marketing budget,” Bückle revealed. The Sales and Marketing Director explained how one particular staff member, who typically spends most of their time out on the road for in-person demos, seminars and trade shows, had to change tack and became the face of their series of online training and demonstrations.
“Our online virtual content has been evolving rapidly throughout the past 12 months,” Bückle commented. What started as a simple “webcam setup” has now evolved into a studio for Astera’s customers to receive high-quality content about new equipment and training.
“We now offer tutorials in a really professional setting,” stated Bückle. “We’ve also realised that we now have the ability to create our own content when it comes to product videos – a job we always used to freelance out. This is far more efficient as we know precisely what we want to highlight in each video.”
Throughout this process of taking content in-house, Bückle explained how many of Astera’s permanent staff in the German HQ have adapted to challenges and, as a result, may even change their roles within the company going forward.
As well as producing content, Astera has created several virtual webinars, gathering “top customers” for an opportunity to suggest new feature sets, products or describe how they have utilised various features in the field. “Although they don’t beat meeting customers face-to-face, these webinars offer opportunities to gain vital intel for Astera’s R&D teams,” stated Bückle.
Bückle was also keen to comment on the blurring of boundaries in the world of live and broadcast. “Like most, we used to separate clients in the filming and events world, but right now, everything seems to be blurred – especially with the increased number of streamed events,” he stated. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some people with new opportunities to explore different markets and it will be interesting to see if people will stay in those markets, return, or straddle the two when things return to some semblance of normality.”
Bückle remains uncertain of what lies ahead for Astera in 2021, however, the company is still scheduled to appear at several tradeshows, with the hope that some of the events will go ahead.
“I think there is a chance that a number of the more local shows will go ahead, but I’m still unsure about some of the larger international ones,” he said. “Even if they do happen, there is always the fear that not enough people will make the trip to visit.”
In the meantime, Astera will continue to create content and develop a brand-new website.
This article originally appeared in issue #259 of TPi, which you can read here.