Warwickshire-based AV Candy specialises in home cinema, full control multi-room systems.
The company designs, supplies and installs bespoke home cinema and multi-room audio video systems into residential homes, caravans, motor homes, buses, inland waterway, blue water vessels and more.
AV Candy’s owner, Simon Redfearn takes the Q&A…
What are you up to today?
Today, my work has taken me to two people that have enquired about getting a second opinion on a system that has been designed and installed by others. The first is local, here in Kenilworth, with a basic TV system and surround sound, which does not meet the owner’s audio requirements.
The second is a significant property over 80 miles away with 10 Pronto remotes, “which have never worked right since installed,” the customer stated.
The worrying trend here is that 50% of our work is now repairing systems whose installations have been poorly executed by professionals. I believe it damages the industry at large, and not just the reputation of the crews who have fumbled the install.
How and why did you pursue a career in the AV/Install industry?
I have always had a great interest in lighting and sound and even worked in professional theatre for several years, which was a great opportunity to learn the technical aspects of these professional productions. I met some great people in that industry.
It occurred to me around that time that I should probably get some more qualifications so I could progress my career; I studied electrical and mechanical engineering in Leeds, sound and lighting design in Oldham and electronics and acoustics at degree level in Salford.
After installing various items for friends and family, I went professional in 2006.
What project are you most proud of in your career and why?
We are proud of different jobs in different ways. We’ve done fully dedicated cinema rooms where we had full control of all the A/V equipment (projector, TV, Blu-ray, Sky) as well as lighting, A/C, automated blackout blinds, curtains and TV lift. Seeing the finished product where everything is controlled makes us extremely proud. We love doing this!
But we also have completed some wondrous projects that would be classed as a standard installation, but where the location was unique – such as the time we installed a multi-zone A/V system on a canal boat.
This in itself brought its own brand of particular requirements and challenges – such as creating multiple viewing zones with multiple screens and satellite TV where space is at a premium. We have proven we can get really creative in tight spaces!
This was satisfying because we were doing something that we don’t do every day.
There were quite a number of things that required special attention and challenges we had to overcome with power supplies, water protection and the like; that is quite satisfying to get it all done perfectly!
What is the worst thing (outside of your control) that has ever gone wrong on a project?
Unfortunately, a valued client passed away just as a large project we were working on was coming to an end.
I worked closely with the client and got to know him well; it was a difficult time for both my team and me.
As an installer, what is one thing you’re tired of hearing either on the job, or about your job?
“Why is it taking so long? The TV is up, why can I not watch it yet?” Clients are generally already fed up with waiting by the time we turn up on site because we are usually last in.
Clients often take out everyone else’s delays on us even though we are on schedule.
Plus, most clients do not understand the technical nature behind A/V installations and believe that plugging a couple of wires together is all it takes.
What advice would you give new installers breaking into the industry?
Think long and hard about who your client base is going to be; don’t compete on price alone; become an expert in one control system and stick to it; and finally, practice on your own home and family before playing in other peoples’.
When it comes to an installation, what would you say is the biggest hurdle?
Managing clients’ expectations on cost. The AV industry is one area in which people don’t have a clue.
We often turn up at million pound home builds to be told they want everything and have budgeted £5,000. They seem shocked when we get on to the real costs to do exactly what they want, although they are happy to spend £100k+ on the kitchen…
With the IoT (Internet of Things) increasing day by day, where would you like to see the industry in 5 years?
I have my own house set up so the technology is not obvious; the lighting, heating, electric blankets, audio, TVs, user interfaces look after themselves.
The family and myself don’t worry about it day-to-day, month-to-month.
This is what my clients expect and what the IoT should be about, but I think it will take a long time to get to this state, maybe five years.
You have a magic wand; what would change about technology?
For it to have proper testing. I don’t really see why I should be the one that finds all the bugs in the field and have to update firmware or find a hardware solution at my cost.
What is your favourite piece of AV kit on the market right now?
My family’s favourite is the Kaleidescape system; it is used daily, does what they want, and is rock solid.
What products or concepts do you think will be the next big thing in the industry?
I find this very difficult; we see so many, ‘the next big thing’ and very few actually make it.
We are definitely a follower here. I need a system to be rock solid for my clients and this takes priority over having the latest new and shiny fad.
Best reaction from a client?
Often we find that only one half of a couple want the home cinema, and it’s nice when the one who had been negative says to me that they are enjoying watching loads of films on it and are having film nights in with friends.
There have been some other extremely enthusiastic responses we get from time to time, all very memorable, but we really appreciate seeing the genuine way in which A/V technology can impact the lives of so many.
What’s the best thing about life as an installer?
The challenge to keep up with technology; test it, break it – and then selecting what we move forward with.
You can only listen to one album and watch one film for the rest of your life, what are they?
Probably something from the early to mid 90s – Moby or Faithless. I am happy without a TV, so would take an extra album.
What’s a common pet peeve during a project?
As it’s not possible to test every TV model update, I find it infuriating that we get to site or the test bench in the workshop and they don’t have stable HDMI implementation.
Sometimes no HDBaseT compatibility and sometimes you have to use input 2 rather than 1.
Why is it so hard to release a working product with the same control commands as the last model?
Do you have any hidden talents?
Cooking; having just bought a Kamando Joe BBQ, much of this will be outside now.