Avolites, the world leader in the innovation of visual control systems, is celebrating its 45th anniversary today. First established in 1976 under a railway arch in Hammersmith, London, from its first touring dimmer rack, the landmark Avolites FD dimmer, to the launch of its latest flagship Diamond 9 console earlier this year, the company has been at the forefront of technological change in the lighting events industry ever since.
Throughout its history, Avolites has believed in the power of technology innovation to improve creative expression and has coupled that approach with bullet-proof reliability, ergonomically designed interfaces allowing for ever-more artistic freedom, top-grade components, quality finish, and inspired design. As such it has played a key role in enabling shows to become bigger, more demanding, and more immersive over the decades. From the largest touring shows to the biggest stage productions and the world’s leading nightclubs, Avolites has ensured that the multimedia visual canvases that delight audiences worldwide fulfil the ever-more demanding ambitions of their designers.
The company was first set up by Ian Walley in 1976 and gets its name from the AVO meter (Amps, Volts, and Ohms) that he would habitually have with him at load-ins. Over the decades, Avolites has manufactured a wide range of lighting control products, media servers, accessories, and software, but is probably best known for its range of lighting control consoles and dimmer racks. These include the first generation of consoles designed to control the new intelligent lighting products that were emerging onto the market in the 1990s, such as the Sapphire, Pearl, and first Diamond consoles; the Art series of dimmers followed by the PowerCube dimmer/distribution units in the 2000s; and the launch of its own game-changing Titan lighting control software in 2009.
A move into media servers saw the launch of the ‘Ai’ range, which was used in the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics to perform video mapping across the audience seats, setting an as yet unchallenged Guinness World Record for the greatest number of pixels. The pioneering Synergy software was launched in 2019, allowing the power of video and lighting to be used interchangeably for the first time by everyone, and not just programming professionals. And 2021 saw the launch of the new flagship console, the Diamond 9, featuring vast screen real-estate, all-new controls, and unique media integration that intuitively combines the control of all visual aspects of a show and is ready for the next generation of shows and beyond.
Along the way, the original FD dimmer was updated many times, and still currently lives on as the Art 2020, though it is a very different product from Walley’s original design.
“At the heart of every technology decision or innovation lie our users and customers; the lighting and video designers and operators, who use the tools we create,” explains Avolites Managing Director, Paul Wong. “Avolites has always been about the people who use its products. All our best product innovations are born from hundreds of conversations and consultations of users and customers. It is why our software platforms have a visually led, intuitive user interface, with no intense training required to get up and running.”
Given the length of its history and the depth of its heritage, it is unsurprising to see that there have been corporate changes over the years. In the 1980s it was briefly owned by Carlton Television, before returning back to private ownership following a MBO led by three employees: Rick Salzedo (currently Chairman), Steve Warren (currently New Business Director), and Meena Varatharajan (retired Finance Director).
Recent years have seen more changes too, with Paul Wong heading up a new team of directors that have steered the company successfully through the Covid-19 pandemic and are now looking towards the next 45 years of its development.
“I feel extremely proud to be able to lead such a great British brand into the future, together with our highly talented and dynamic board of directors, some long-serving employees, others new to the company,” says Wong. “With our leadership team ready and in place, and a dedicated, talented, and growing number of staff, we are all set and committed to building on what has come before, serving our loyal customers by enabling their creative ambition to become a visual reality. Here’s to the next 45 years!”
“Looking back all those years ago, when we took the company over from Carlton Television in 1991, it is hard to believe we are still here,” comments Rick Salzedo, Avolites Chairman. “We have been extremely fortunate to have had the benefit of working with so many wonderful people, staff, and customers over the years, many of whom have gone on to become good friends. Along the way we have had our share of good and not so good fortune — 2020 will not go down as a fabulous year for anyone in our industry! — but none of what has been achieved would have been possible without the backing of our fantastic staff. Having said that, I also want to acknowledge the colossal contribution both Menna and Steve have made since that MBO; theirs is a significant legacy, which our foundations have been built upon. All three of us are extremely proud of what Avolites has achieved over the years, but I am even more excited about the future of the company. Never have its foundations and leadership been in better shape.”