If you didn't get chance to read the feature on Melanie Malcolm in Hidden Wires here is the Q&A
Meet Melanie Malcolm, Director of UK integration firm, Bespoke Home Cinemas.
Melanie Malcolm Director Bespoke Home Cinemas Leeds, Yorkshire
Specialises in: Design and installation for Cinema and Smart Home Technology
You have been in the AV industry since 1995. What drew you to this business? We have been involved in the AV industry since the mid-nineties. Originally, the company was formed by my husband, Gifford and soon after, I joined to support whilst developing several other organisations. Gifford’s background is industrial design and he has always had a passion in the latest gadgets and technology so it was only fitting he would enter the industry.
I was drawn to the industry because I noticed there weren’t many family run AV organisations offering that personal one to one turnkey trustworthy service. We find the women of the house prefer to have me as point of contact, often helping them with interiors, furnishings, lighting, etc. Being an established organisation, clients trust our advice and knowledge, we have built an excellent reputation over the years with a large proportion of clients regularly returning to us to use our services and referring us to others.
How did that evolve into starting Bespoke Home Cinemas? How has your company had to change in the 20 years since you guys opened your doors? We’ve certainly seen some changes in the last 20 years. We have demonstrated our services from two show houses and 18 months ago, opened our cinema and smart home showroom in north Leeds.
Starting out in the mid-nineties we were known for installing the very first plasma based screens, CCTV and access control systems for both domestic and commercial clients. Then, around 13 years ago the projects evolved to installing home cinemas as screens became larger and clients wanted bigger and better equipment to watch movies, sport and use for gaming. Our clients became more high profile and we then started to build a regular client base of professional footballers, sports stars and celebrities around the country.
Bespoke Home Cinemas focuses on the integration of home theatres as well as home automation systems. What has been one of your most interesting recent projects? What were some of the challenges and what were your solutions? We’re currently working on our most exciting project, and largest to date, in excess of £600,000. A fully integrated 12,000-sq.ft. new build, incorporating every imaginable smart home product. The interesting aspect to this project is how much of the installation is on ‘The Internet of Things’ all incorporated through a Control4 backbone. Obviously, a fully managed enterprise grade Wi-Fi network sits at the heart to produce seamless coverage, even including numerous access points through the extensive gardens, but we have then specifically specified products that offer us network control and integration to the Control4 platform, everything from the Just Add Power IP-4K matrix (12x22!!), 4x Invixium Biometric locks, 32x Lilin IP cameras, 22x Nest Thermostats, IP intercoms, IP Pool management control, 187 zones of Contol4 panelised IP lighting, 140metres of RGB lighting controlled via an IP to DMX interface, even the Bioethanol fire is IP controlled! On top of this we have a flagship reference cinema incorporating a Sony VW1100ES projector, a masking 2.35:1 Screen Excellence screen, Arcam’s stunning AVR850 amplifier powering a huge Artcoustic Spitfire Atmos 7.2.4 array, obviously the entire room is IP controlled as well as the other 20 zones of audio throughout the property.
The only real challenges we had on the project involved educating the several firms of architects, interior designers and building contractors before they were even commissioned on the project. Educating them about the systems we were proposing to install was never going to be an easy task especially when they came with fixed ideas about what they believed the client required. But several months on we are all working on schedule and pleased to say everyone involved now has a strong understanding of the importance of the smart home technology that is being installed.
The main design challenge was convincing the client and architect that we needed a dedicated air conditioned comms room to incorporate all the equipment, this is a challenge I think all installers will relate to, as however big the house there never seems to be enough free space. We eventually did get a dedicated room to incorporate the lighting and the three 42Ucabinets, but then came the biggest challenge; it was situated on the first floor! We build our racks fully off site to test and there was no way of wheeling them in, we weren’t allowed to carry them up the £70K staircase, so we stripped them down and had them fork lifted to a first floor balcony then reassembled in the comms room. This project is due for completion in February when we will have it professionally photographed for our online portfolio.
I have to say one of the most interesting projects for us was converting our showroom in 2014, a huge financial commitment that has proven to be a huge success within its first year of opening and quadrupling our turnover. We certainly haven’t looked back!
You were recently named to CEDIA EMEA’s Board of Directors. What goals have you set for yourself in this role? I’ve been CEDIA members since 2007 and as Bespoke enters into its 21st year we thought it would be an ideal opportunity for me to join the CEDIA board. Supporting CEDIA I’d like to use my sales, marketing and business networking skills to help grow a solid support network of AV professionals to the highest of standards. I do believe we need to educate more people about CEDIA.
I’m fully behind the re-brand and marketing and will continue to spread the word on our social media platforms sharing the CEDIA messages and videos to educate the consumer, architects, designers and property developers. We’re making a start delivering CPD courses to Architects but we also need to make students, colleges and universities aware of our industry. I’m extremely passionate about the education and I’m already volunteering my time to support CEDIA with the City & Guilds accreditation. If we can encourage more students at high school and college to explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) this could interest them into entering the industry and signing up to the City & Guilds courses available. I’d like to encourage more business to join CEDIA whether you’re a trade supplier or HTP there are lots of opportunities, industry courses and events to get involved in that can be beneficial to your business as well as supporting our trade association.
You seem to be involved in so many different activities at the moment. How do you fit it all in? My time is divided between Bespoke, my business networking organisation Yorkshire Ladies Links and charity organisation Yorkshire Choice Awards. Yes, each one is a full time job but I certainly like a challenge. I’m not entirely sure how I fit it all in as well as being a working mum and new Director on the CEDIA board but it’s all proving to be extremely successful.
Entering into 2016 with a diary that’s booked up till spring for Bespoke, hosting the largest conference for women in Yorkshire next March and the Yorkshire Choice Awards makes one exciting start to the year.