A pro-AV stalwart of nearly 20 years’ standing, Vincent McAtamney (pictured) is currently preparing to roll-out three designer home cinema packages in a bid to bring a more all-encompassing approach to this competitive segment of the CI market. He spoke to David Davies about the development of these concepts and the history of his company, SMS Control Systems.
How did you come to be working in the custom installation sector?
For approximately ten years I worked for Sevenoaks Sound & Vision as the shop manager in their Essex store. It was a really good, happy period, during which I recognised the shift from [purchases of] turntables, amplifiers, speakers and stands towards more [elaborate] AV systems. In retrospect, that was really the start of CI. Around 1999, I went to work for API as national sales manager, and that role definitely helped to broaden my understanding of the crazy world of installation! A couple of years later I left and co-established a company called ACM Installations.
Three years ago, you moved on to form a new venture, SMS Control Systems. Your website contains many references to home cinema, so is that your primary focus now?
Home cinema is certainly the area I am developing the most at present; I see it as being quite lucrative and also something I am passionate about. With all this in mind, I have been working with an interior designer, Steven Thorne, to create a range of designer cinema packages that offer a complete room experience: AV, sofa, wall coverings, carpets, lighting and more. We have already outlined plans for two packages – around the £100K and £150K price-points – and are currently fine-tuning a third, entry-level scheme, circa £60K.
It’s my feeling that a lot of cinema systems are still being sold with the enthusiast in mind; it’s quite a tricky process and well-off individuals don’t necessarily want to face that kind of hassle. So we’ve developed these packages for those people who, within reason, are not restricted by funds and are inclined to purchase things on impulse – from the heart. We want to enable them to have a room that they can fall in love with and regard as offering great value.
Aside from the home cinema rooms, we do quite a few whole house projects, typically involving the installation of Crestron DigitalMedia and Lutron HomeWorks systems.
Have there been any recent projects that you think have been particularly important in building the reputation of the company?
Yes – in fact, we’re in the closing stages of just such a project at the moment. It’s a garden installation with colour-change lighting and DMX control. There are 178 colour-changing sequences and zones in total, and it’s certainly our biggest DMX project yet.
The customer has been really great to work with. Although I hate the phrase, he’s very keen to ‘push the envelope’ and embrace new ideas. He’s also quite a fun character! We’ve undertaken a lot of other work inside his home, including Crestron integration, as part of an installation that should be complete in early 2012.
Are you remaining busy as the economy continues to wobble?
We’ve remained busy, although I won’t say it’s been easy. We have one customer who went into financial meltdown; not good for him or for us. Another customer who doesn’t seem to have been especially affected by the crisis has nonetheless lost confidence in spending money, so a project that would have started this year has now gone back to 2012. But while there have been some difficulties, we have managed to ride through it, and we are optimistic about next year. Part of the inspiration for the designer cinema packages is to ensure we have more smaller, ‘safer’ projects; if we could sell ten such packages next year, that would be very good, dependable business for us.
How are customer requirements changing?
Whether you like it or not, companies like Apple have had a huge impact, so we are putting in more networks – from smaller Apple TV-based systems to specifications based around the likes of Evolve Media Servers.
This is a very highly skilled area, and despite the tough financial times I believe that we are in a relatively safe industry – if there is such a thing at the moment! – because people still seem to want the services that installers are able to offer.