ABOVE: ACE provided engineering and technical services as well as audio and lighting systems for the Impression Putuo live outdoor spectacular in Zhoushan, China. Photo courtesy of ACE.
It’s a match made in Asia, based on guanxi.
In the US, John Miceli, president and chief creative officer of Technomedia Solutions LLC, runs his media and integration company – based in Orlando with additional offices in Los Angeles – with a quest for perfection, the ability to keep pace with changing technology and client needs, and decades of attraction industry experience. Meanwhile, in China, Bingo Tso, senior vice president of Hong Kong based ACE [Advanced Communication Equipment (International) Company Ltd.], heads a respected AV integration business with 700 employees, theme park experience, multiple offices across China, and Harman product distribution rights.
On February 2, 2018, the two formed a strategic partnership that expands both companies’ ability to serve themed entertainment markets in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
The nature of the ACE and Technomedia strategic partnership is twofold: 1. Each will take on complementary
responsibilities. 2. The duo will bid for business as a single entity. That will allow clients and partners to get the best of both sets of expertise with one hire.
“Technomedia will focus on the design and media aspects of projects – the creative side of the technology,” said Brian Paiva, who has known the principals of both companies for many years. He and his company, Enigma Group, brokered the strategic partnership between the two companies. (Enigma is a business development firm and consultancy, specializing in the attractions business, with offices in the US, China and the UAE.)
“ACE’s skill set, which is more system design, engineering, procurement, fabrication, logistics, integration, programming, production, testing and ultimately maintenance of systems, ties in very well with Technomedia’s,” said Paiva.
This synergy is well-timed, as the entertainment business in China continues to grow rapidly, with increasing demand for guest experiences and venues that are of higher quality, technically sophisticated, immersive and media-driven. Guest expectations and standards rose with the successful opening and first year of Shanghai Disneyland, soon to be followed by Universal Studios Beijing – as well as the products of leading regional operators such as Chimelong Group.
Entertainment markets are still a long way from saturation in China, as the Chinese middle class continues to grow, with people having more discretionary income, traveling more and in quest of leisure activities. East-West collaboration has produced great results over the past 10 years or so as Asian operators tap expertise from across the Pacific Rim, while also valuing the ability to utilize and cultivate physical and professional resources at home.
In China, relationships and trust – as well as a good portfolio and a track record – are important to doing business, and those same factors have always been core to themed entertainment culture due to the team-based, collaborative nature of the industry.
Which leads us to guanxi.
“I’d say this match is based on guanxi,” said Paiva, using a Chinese term that in English equates to ‘trust and mutual respect that have been earned through effort and over time.’ “It really fits.”
“Each company brings something to the alliance that solidifies the offering,” said Miceli. Both ACE and Technomedia come from a place of a very high work ethic. Both are very honest, transparent and capable. In my own career, I have always led with a vision, driving innovation. All these years I kept reinventing our company and staying at the forefront. ACE and Bingo Tso are regarded similarly in the industry in China. That’s why we migrated to ACE and why ACE migrated to us. We are of like minds.”
“We have flourished in China,” said Bingo Tso. “Our large, technically sophisticated staff can create top-quality racks and technical solutions for even the most challenging, exciting and one-of-a-kind audio-visual projects.” Tso still takes a very hands-on approach to the business, working closely with creatives and doing some of the audio mixing himself on projects. His broad knowledge of theater technology has stood him and ACE in good stead and he remains passionately dedicated to the business since ACE was founded in 1982, when themed entertainment was just starting to gain momentum in China. The ACE portfolio includes many elaborately staged, spectacular live productions.
Paiva said, “It fits because each company has, independently, established a portfolio, client base and professional reputation within its community; each company has earned the respect of the other; each has a track record of East-West collaboration. They have a basis of trust for working together, and their clients can rely on that basis of trust as well, in addition to the obvious complementarity of skillsets and resources. ACE has been doing integration since 1982 in China; it is a little newer to the theme park industry than Technomedia – but not that new anymore due to a significant role on a major project that opened recently. That said, ACE benefits from Technomedia’s flair for visual and media technology, innovative AV creative immersive design as well as its experience dealing with Western firms.”
On a more mundane level are documentation and regulation. Each company’s expertise in dealing with these technical necessities in its field, its part of the world and its native language will benefit the other.
Part of what ACE brings to the table is the experience and ability to deal with the way projects are structured in China. The leisure development model unfolds very differently there than in other parts of the world. Government often has a stake or a say in how a project goes, or where it goes. Entertainment development in China has often been just one segment of a much larger real estate scheme, often on state-owned land, with an associated labyrinth of requirements that will affect many aspects of the project process.
Or as Dan Moalli, senior vice president, business development, Technomedia, said, “Solid partnerships based on trust and collaboration are the key to success for US companies seeking projects in China.”
Making the match
Still, it was somewhat organic that CEO Brian Paiva came to link up Technomedia and ACE. “We were not actively seeking a partner in Asia,” Miceli said. “We always seek relationships for potential projects, but this marks a new level of commitment to the region.”
ACE, however, was actively in search of a strategic partner, and Paiva – who’d been working with ACE for four years – was bent on finding the best fit. “My task was to help them grow in the China theme park market when it was just taking off,” he said. “With new opportunities visible on the horizon, ACE executives wanted someone to help them navigate working with American theme park owners and operators, preferably an American company that had good relationships of its own and could also bring additional technical expertise. It was hoped that company would be in a prime geographic location for the industry, such as Orlando. We at Enigma looked at several different companies, and realized that Technomedia was the best possible partner for ACE.”
“ACE and Technomedia both maintain similarly high standards and our strengths are complementary,” said Ben Lui, vice president project division, ACE. “We respect one other’s work, which is an excellent platform. In the end, clients will have two sets of minds and hands for creativity, productivity and effectiveness. We will get the job done, meeting the needs of clients and partners, Eastern and Western.”
“Together the two companies really do bring more to the market,” Miceli observed. “The history and talent ACE has on the ground, and the incredible projects it has done in its country, sold us.” He cited as an example ACE’s work on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, providing the lighting control network, audio systems and services for the opening and closing ceremonies.
Enigma engineered the first meeting between ACE and Technomedia to take place in Orlando in June 2017 during the InfoComm show, including a tour of Technomedia’s Orlando offices. A subsequent Orlando meeting took place the following November during the IAAPA Attractions Expo. The next meeting was in February 2018, beginning with a tour of ACE’s Beijing facility and concluding with the official signing ceremony. “Bingo and John hit it off right away,” said Moalli. It was a whirlwind finale, including the tour, meeting key staff, an impromptu client presentation, the signing itself and a celebratory banquet hosted by ACE.
Not long after the signing ceremony, ACE and Technomedia teamed up to respond to a “huge” RFP from a leading international developer planning new parks in China.
“This is the best of both worlds,” Paiva said. “They’re off and running now.”
“Together, we now offer the best-case scenario for successful attraction development in China,” said Miceli.
“The alliance between ACE and Technomedia will help both of our companies achieve our goal of helping to create great theme parks in China,” said Tso. • • •
Journalist Rona Gindin (www.ronagindin. com) has been covering travel from various business and consumer angles for three decades, and today follows the attractions and travel industries from an Orlando, Florida base.
ACE stands for Advanced Communication Equipment (Int’l) Co. Ltd. The company is a professional audio, video and lighting service provider, and a major supplier and system integrator in China, Hong Kong and Macau. It develops and installs equipment not only at attractions but also for TV stations, recording studios, theaters, stadiums and more.
Founded in Hong Kong in 1982, ACE now has branch offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xian, Shenyang and Chengdu. Recent major projects have been the sound system for the 20th Anniversary Military Parade in Hong Kong, and the Encore Dunhuang production in 2016. ACE theme park clients include Shanghai Shendi Group. It has a staff of 700 nationwide. Website: www.acehk.com
Technomedia Solutions LLC is an award winning audio-visual integrator with offices in Orlando and Los Angeles. It was founded by John Miceli, whose belief in pushing the creative possibilities both media and technology-wise, has carved out a unique position for Technomedia in the world. The company has a long history providing services to top theme park operators and developers around the world, including Universal Creative.
Prior to founding Technomedia in 2002, Miceli was president and CEO of Soundelux, which served the film industry as well as themed entertainment, working on soundtracks for blockbusters such as Braveheart. When Mood Media acquired Technomedia in 2012, the integrator gained a global boost due to Mood’s having 100 offices around the world, including China. Website: www.gotechnomedia.com.
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