Primarily working in the residential sector, Mood Installations strives to bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and enthusiasm to each project, developing truly bespoke solutions.

2015 will see the company expand into the commercial sector to provide mood/scene lighting systems to cafes, bars and restaurants. CE Pro Europe caught up with company director Steve Ratcliffe to get the lowdown.

What are you up to today?

We are currently embroiled in the final completion stages of an elaborate project which has called on just about every skillset our team has to offer, so today will see team members and subcontractors doing everything from fitting speakers and light fittings to tiling, painting and room dressing. 

How and why did you pursue a career in the AV/Install industry?

For me personally it is the perfect culmination of skills and interest. I wouldn’t really say I ever “pursued” a career in this industry, it’s been more of an evolutionary process! As a primary school aged-child my interests lay with electronics sets and anything with lights over the sorts of toys you might expect a five year old to want to play with.

This progressed on to getting involved with lighting and sound for high school performances and working voluntarily in local theatres from around the age of 14. Careers advisors never really came up with anything when leaving school or further education – decisions were imminent and although convinced of wanting to work professionally as a theatre tech, the suggested route of drama school was simply not something I could stomach. 

Instead I left school as a “modern apprentice” (buzzword of the day), taken under the wing of a new company specialising in industrial automation and data acquisition, initially as a trainee electrical engineer, but eventually becoming responsible for all IT and communication requirements of the company’s offices and projects. A total career change then lead me through a period of several years’ manual skills apprenticeships, general building, plumbing, plastering, joinery before launching our first company providing complete renovation services with a lean towards modern techniques, home technology and integration.

The demand for our custom installation, automation and lighting services grew to the point we decided to launch Mood Installations, where the main focus would be on CI and complete project management for clients looking to ensure their home tech requirements were understood and as important to their main contractor as other aspects of the project.

What project are you most proud of in your career and why?

This is a difficult question, as our projects are so varied it’s hard to benchmark one against another. For Mood Installations, our current project, although hard work, has definitely been a flagship and for a client that really appreciates it, that’s a huge satisfaction for me!

What is the worst thing (outside of your control) that has ever gone wrong on a project?

We once had a pole-mounted distribution transformer fall over landing in a brook, the ensuing chaos of around 30 vehicles from the fire service, environment agency, central networks (as it was then) and numerous others halted any further progress on site that day. Despite numerous phone calls beforehand they never would take our word for it that the pole appeared to be leaning a bit more… and a bit more… 

As an installer, what is one thing you’re tired of hearing either on the job, or about your job?

We don’t tend to get too involved in the politics really, I think being responsible for a site overall you let a lot of the usual gripes between trades wash over you. We get referred to as “sparkys” quite a lot, which isn’t overly

We get referred to as “sparkys” quite a lot, which isn’t overly appreciated

appreciated. We do hear regularly from clients who contact us once a project is well underway “we didn’t know that was possible”, often by which time it’s too late to include whatever “that” was. 

What one thing could the industry collectively do to improve its standing and profitability?

I don’t think there is any lack of profitability within the industry, not if you pick your projects and are well organised. I think the industry could do with more definition, at a client level, we all know the key descriptors; home automation, custom installation, mood lighting, because we talk about them day in day out. However, I think a relatively small percentage of clients, and sadly I think architects too, are even aware that there is a whole industry sector here eager to provide some very desirable solutions.

What is your favourite piece of AV kit on the market right now?

That’s like asking my boys to stand in a sweet shop and choose their favourite! We are blessed with kit at the moment, with literally thousands of products on offer it’s a great time for integrators, whether you are into the big one stop shop systems like Crestron, or integrating a number of disparate sub systems, you really have everything you could possibly need. We recently spent an excellent couple of days at ISE, this really brought home the massive scope of what’s currently available! To name a couple of specific products, an all-time favourite has to be Rako lighting controls and we are very excited about the new Systemline 7 multi-room audio. 

What product/s or concepts do you think will be the next big thing will be in the industry?

It’s difficult to say, as discussed previously product wise there’s already far more available than I think most of us can commit to memory! Concept-wise I think NFC will be a key technology in a wide range of applications. Voice control seems still to be teetering on the edge of becoming more widespread and although relatively old news now there seems to be a huge emphasis on HD video distribution currently with a plethora of emerging HDBaseT products.

What was your first ever job? 

My first paid employment (post paper round and washing cars) was a Saturday job assembling and populating PCB’s for an Opto-Isolator module used in automotive test systems.

What has been your worst ever job?

In the absence of any “proper” jobs that I haven’t really enjoyed, the paper round might well have to clinch this.

Best reaction from a client?

Our last client said “Holy Cow” a lot, which I always found very amusing!

What’s the best thing about life as an installer?

Variation. I like the fact that projects/days/months/years are rarely alike, and that there’s always more to learn! I also like the social side, the trade shows, meeting new like-minded people and getting out and about to a lot of different places!

You can invite three people living or dead out for a pint or over for dinner (not including family and friends!) Who are they and why?

Billy Connolly, Paloma Faith and Boris Johnson. You might think an eclectic selection, but that’s just me (you should look thought my music library)! They are all very real people that I admire for various reasons and none too scared to tell you exactly what they think! I think it would make for a good night and although politicians don’t seem to sit well with Billy Connolly, Bo-Jo could surely shine through on comedic common ground?

You can only listen to one album and watch one film for the rest of your life, what are they?

The album is easy; Saint-Germain-des-pres-Café Volume 4, the perfect blend of my favourite genres. Fuoco Fatuo, stunning. Film-wise I had to give this some thought, but not for long, Hackers, for many reasons ranging from it being the first 18 rated movie I sneakily watched underage on a flight to Florida to the positively awesome sound track (and many more between probably only understood by my longest standing childhood friend – you know who you are)!

What’s a common pet peeve during a project?

Dust in compartment/organiser cases! If you are going to drill the ceiling, move the kit out of the way first!

Do you have any hidden talents?

Nothing I’d be anywhere near BgT with, but randomly I am a qualified cocktail bartender and rock climbing instructor!

Who else took our Q&A?…

“Just because you can integrate everything from your kettle to your fridge does not mean you should”

Career highs, nightmare job scenarios, Hitchcock, Churchill and Lennon…

This installer wants Ayrton Senna, Stephen Hawking and Cedric Lynch over for dinner…

Why does this installer want to watch Only Fools And Horses for the rest of his life?

 

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