Pic: Element ICT’s Chris Manton
While the rest of us have had to learn IT skills as production gear went networked, Sydney company Element ICT have grown the other way, leveraging a healthy IT business as they launched in to live events.
“I’ve always had a connection to live performance, and started an events business many years ago, before I joined the corporate world,” relates Chris Manton, Event and Delivery Technology Manager at Element ICT. “Thirty years later, I’m back and doing it again! My wife Lisa and I run Element ICT as a family business. She started the company as an IT business while I was still in corporate, and we organically added hire and production after I joined a band and became ‘the guy who did the PA’. Hires started coming in from friends and family, and by 2019, we were out of the garage and doing events properly.”
Chris is being quite modest about the types of production work that started the company down that road. Due to their IT background, Element ICT’s first production jobs were dealing with the networking side of complex projection mapping implementations and large Dante audio networks. “Now our work is all over the market,” continues Chris. “We’ve supplied major TV studios and worked for wealthy private clients who want an intimate but technical garden party; it’s been such a wide gamut. We can afford to be a little picky, so we pursue projects that are complex, unique, and stylish. We also get a surprising number of enquiries just from having a well-optimised web site. We often joke about what enquiry is going to come in today; 12 cubic metres of mirror balls?”
Other business comes in through Element ICT’s diverse team of technical staff. “The base of experience in the team is quite wide,” explains Chris. “We have a graphic designer, a theatrical designer, and a composer, all with passions for live sound or lighting. We even have a guy with his own business startup who has a passion for truss builds.”
Diversity in sales leads translates into some very interesting projects. “We commissioned a PA running off a Dante backbone in a working railyard,” illustrates Chris. “We all had to get our rail safety certifications. The whole journey of rail certification and working on a live site with actual trains moving around is a story in itself. In contrast, prior to this, we’d just installed a permanent truss-based photo studio for a major fashion brand. We do a lot in the truss market. We have licensed riggers, and a comfort factor with flying things, working safely within regulations. We also have a relationship with a local engineering company for certification of bespoke or permanent truss builds.”
Having really only been full time in production since 2019, 2020 was a difficult year for the company, but the diverse customer base helped them through. “Hire stopped, of course,” concedes Chris. “But we were very fortunate to have two very large installs that kept us going. The IT business span off into its own entity in 2019, and that grew exponentially last year. We were in the enviable position of being able to invest in equipment in 2020, including lighting, truss, and PA.”
Brand stalwarts in Element ICT’s inventory including lighting from Claypaky; “The Italian optical industry has always been strong, and riders want them,” observes Chris. On the audio side, transitioning from analogue to digital, “Allen & Heath really works for us,” Chris adds, “particularly with our shared British heritage!”
Completely new and out-of-the-box for Element ICT is the addition of JBL’s new BRX300 compact line array to their hire stock. “I auditioned the BRX300 here in Sydney and did a lot of onsite research into its competitors,” reveals Chris. “I was honestly blown away that something with the capabilities of the BRX300 exists at that price point. It’s opening doors to us that we thought would be closed for a bit longer. We’ve purchased eight top boxes and two subs, and like the fact we can split it or grow it as necessary. It looks, feels, and sounds like a much more expensive system, and makes us feel like we’re playing the game seriously.”
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