We in the CI industry seem to be riding the storm (although I know the retail sector has been finding it hard), and it’s been a busy couple of months for us. I have just returned from the South of France, where one of my clients has just bought a holiday home. He wanted some advice on lighting and music, so I flew out to give him some ideas. We ended up in Monte Carlo, looking at how the millionaire’s go about lighting up their yachts.
He invited me onto one of his friends’ floating paradises, and I have to say, I was really impressed. I know these beasts cost a lot of money, but the attention to detail is out of this world: discreet LEDs in the stairs; colour-changing illumination in the top deck Jacuzzi; well-designed wall lights to match the chrome supports and handrails – the list goes on and on.
We always seem to struggle to persuade our rich clients to do their lighting the best way, with the right quality fittings. Some do listen, and it makes a big difference to the end result. As dusk settled in the port, the yachts took on a new amazing look, as the Mediterranean was shimmering with light; the relaxed feeling on board with the scene-setting lighting was perfect. The yacht also boasted three plasma screens, which were hooked up to High Definition sources. What more could you ask for – travelling the seas, playing your latest collection of Blu-ray discs and sipping champagne, as the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea laps against your boat. This is PERFECT – the way it should be!
The trip to his friends’ yacht was also the catalyst my client needed to spend the right money on his own lighting system; he now understands the value of good light fittings and good lighting design, and at the top of his wish list is a mood lighting system. A great trip, then – a happy client and a sun tan for me. What more could a custom installer ask for? The next thing on my wish list is a yacht which I could use as a demo room; it works so well when you need to demo lights and control. It might take me a while to save up the 20-million though!
I’m back in the overcast UK at the time of writing, coping with a drop of 10ºC in the temperature (I hope I don’t sound too depressed), but hey, it’s only one week until I’m back on a plane to Denver for the CEDIA USA Expo, just in time to bring some new fresh ideas to my business. I always like to see the launch of new products and I’m a sucker for the States – I know some Americans are loud, but I find them easy to work with: they tell you what they want and pay you the bucks.
Being back in the UK, though, I had to check some of our running jobs, and we’re due for our annual NICEIC review. This is a yearly visit from a very strict, old-school electrical engineer; he checks all our work and tests me and my squad on our knowledge of electrical installs. I always feel like I’m back at school as he is the only guy that makes me sweat under the collar! We joined NICEIC a couple a years ago when we brought all the electrical work in-house, and like CEDIA, this is a truly professional organisation – you need to have a certain level of knowledge and exam results to get in.
Don’t forget that, if you’re doing any type of electrical work in a domestic property which requires the electrical circuits to be changed, then you need to be P certified and issue a 17th Edition Certificate to Building Control. THIS IS THE LAW! I do know of cases where the NICEIC have prosecuted electrical contractors for NOT complying with the new guidelines. This could be any installer who puts in a projector which alters the circuit or installs a new circuit to feed the appliance. YOU should never take chances with electrical work. If you’re not qualified, you must use a sub-contractor who is, or employ an electrician.
home is where the heart is
On a lighter note, once I was back, I felt I needed to give my seven-year-old daughter some quality time. She persuaded me to go to the local cinema to watch Kung Fu Panda. After paying around £16 to get in, and getting ourselves some obligatory popcorn and a drink, my daughter headed for the pic ‘n’ mix. Have you ever wondered why they put the lightest sweets on the top shelves? I will tell you why: it’s to fleece the poor parent! As usual, my daughter went straight for the heavy ones – 6-inch rubber snakes, fudge and huge cola bottles. When the young assistant put it all on the scales, “MY GOD, how much?” was my comment!
Into the film we went. Up came the usual bad ads which looked like they’d been filmed in the 70s, my daughter asking every 20 seconds, “When will it start?” and the kid behind kicking my chair. I have to say, I enjoyed the film – it was presented in 2.35, which is unusual for an animated film. But I was also sitting there thinking how good home cinema has become, because the picture was not up to the quality of my 1080p projector at home. The sound was also lost in this great vast space compared to my 20x10ft room.
How lucky are we having this technology at our fingertips? It’s even much cheaper to spin the Blu-ray disc in our personal home theatre – plus, the little screaming brat who was kicking my chair is NOT allowed through my front door. MAGIC! Being serious though, you can get anamorphic lenses, 2.35 screens, 10.2 surround with loss-less sound, a pin sharp picture and even moving chairs these days. If home cinema has come this far in three years, why hasn’t anybody made a stunning cinema complex? Then again, I have to be biased towards home cinema or I would be out of a job!
One thing I did pick up this month from my visits abroad is that certain customers are willing pay for perfection, as there is still huge wealth out there. These people like luxury and service, and will pay for it as long as it looks value for money. I have never seen this type of wealth – cars worth £200k and boats worth £20-million plus – before. Whatever these clients are sold must work and work all the time – you must never underestimate such a customer; they have not made this type of money by being stupid.
Customer service is so important. You shouldn’t have to wait for the waiter to fill your glass with wine, or for ages for your meal to be served in a restaurant, and it’s the same with the CI industry: you need to be there when it goes wrong. It is technology, so it will go wrong at some stage (the kit may fail or the customer will break it), but high-paying clients will never want to wait for it to be fixed.
Dave Slater is MD of DSE GROUP incorporating DSE DIGITAL.
His article was submitted on 27/08/08