Mar 19, 2010 12:00 PM,
By Cynthia Wisehart
When Stephan Villet and Alan Anderson founded Smart Monkeys in August of 2008, the world they traveled in was very different than it is now. As AV show-control experts, they saw complex projects everywhere, with no real end in sight. Dubai alone would need months of programming.
As AV and IT converge, expectations of show-control systems were going up at every budget level. But many programmers were tied closely to individual products that may or may not network well with others. The small group of quality freelance programmers were primarily one-man operations, frequently booked for months at a time on large projects throughout the world. The partners started a small company specializing in show-control design—consulting, project management, and programming.
“It was difficult for people to bring objectivity to show-control design,” Villet says. “And objectivity, [it] was becoming more important as systems become more complex.”
Villet and Anderson had worked together at Disney as Disneyland Paris was going up. They later both worked at Medialon and were still steeped in those products, but they were also familiar with a range of show-control options including AMX, Alcorn McBride, and others. They’re also aware of the influence AV was bringing into the technology and customer expectations. “It’s important to be close to the manufacturers so you can understand the features that are coming to market—and even influence them—but it’s also important to maintain a perspective that allows you to choose the right tools for each application and each network,” Villet says.
Villet says that IT has influenced what people expect from show-control systems and also brought more openness to the technology, allowing elements to work better together. Indeed, Villet says the company is actively looking for people with IT skills, especially network and database architecture
“The projects we work on now expect remote scheduling and access, and they expect the system to be able to support new scenarios in the future,” Villet says.
Though the project landscape abruptly changed in early 2009, and Villet and Anderson may have been reluctant to leap into business had they foreseen what was to come, the company is succeeding with projects such as the Univesral 360 Spectacular, Shedd Aquarium, and the Comcast Experience, and working with clients including Roscor, Electrosonic, and Niles Creative Group.
As consultants, Villet says they do not do system design but can work with designers to determine if the system specified supports the creative application; he’s quick to clarify that they are programmers, not developers, and as such, they bring an in-the-field perspective to any system. They see themselves as part of the new wave in show-control development that will draw on the potential of the PC platform, IT tools, and architecture, and help bridge the gap between that world and ours.