Emphasizing the senses – especially sight and hearing – has always given Simon de Laat a sense of pride.
DeLaat has become a Vancouver Island AV master throughout his various impressive career opportunities working on video games, live concerts and sporting events and TV shows, helping to provide the magic touches that create a wonderful experience for the audience.
“We were hired to build the entire Save-On Arena video system for the Victoria Royals, and Simon has been their matchday producer since day one and over 350 games later,” his business partner from the last decade, Doug Dulmage. Explain. “Additionally, he also worked as a video engineer on most of the Rock the Shores concerts, concerts on the mainland, and he now works as a media/audio engineer in the Legislature. And between all that, he has also traveled all over the world.
“Simon is a really great guy, I was newly semi-retired when I met him and we went to work building the broadcast control room at the arena and he did a brilliant job putting our 20+ video team on Royals game days, plus any other events – World Junior Championships, WHL playoffs, concerts, etc.
Born in Vancouver, de Laat and his family – single mother and two sisters – moved around a lot during his early years before settling in Chemainus. An introduction to a multimedia course in De Laat’s later years in high school caught his eye.
“It really spoke to me,” he said. “I took this course and it’s pretty close to what I ended up doing in terms of work.”
An anti-tobacco video submitted by de Laat and a classmate in an Island-wide high school competition made the top 10, culminating in a screening of all of the finalists in Courtenay.
After graduating from high school, de Laat enrolled in the Vancouver Film School. He enjoyed composing music for the film while he was there and began to dabble in the technical side. He got a job at Next Level Games, located on Homer Street in Vancouver, on a six-month contract. The company’s main claim to fame then was working on Nintendo’s Super Mario Strikers.
“I was creating sound effects for the game,” de Laat pointed out. “I was one of only two sound designers in the game.”
As someone who wasn’t a big fan of video games, it really intrigued him how to make sounds for things like shells coming out of the ground. It went way beyond the basic sound effects.
Although he enjoyed the work, “I kind of realized that it wasn’t the long-term career for me,” de Laat said.
He was offered a job as an AV Technician on a 34-day, 38-stop cross-country tour with the David Suzuki Foundation and jumped at the chance.
“At each stop, I would set up a video booth and we would do all the interviews with people,” de Laat explained. “I was a huge David Suzuki fan growing up.”
The tour included the memorable experience of working at the Air Canada Center in Toronto during a Barenaked Ladies concert with 15,000 people in attendance.
De Laat then went to work full-time for SW Audio Visual at the company’s Kelowna branch. He was the main audio and video technician working on concerts and sporting events.
David Wohland and Jared Smith of Chemainus were his roommates in Kelowna. They collaborated on a waxing video — yes, a waxing video of Smith hairy four different ways — that earned them their 15 minutes of fame.
The hilarious video was sent to America’s Funniest Home Videos and caught the attention of the show’s producers, earning de Laat and his friends an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles. They appeared at the season premiere, chatted with host Tom Bergeron onstage, and “played our entire video,” de Laat noted.
After three years in Kelowna, de Laat moved to SW’s Victoria office and spent a solid eight years with the company. He also began freelancing in Victoria after moving, which included joining the Royals hockey team.
“I got the role and still do to this day overseeing audio-visual production at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Center,” de Laat explained. “Being someone who loved hockey growing up, it was the perfect gig.”
Experience in press conferences and government-type work led de Laat to apply for a successful job in the legislature. Just a year after going completely freelance, he started part-time as a console operator in the audio department and continues to do a lot of contract work.
Since February, he has worked full-time on the broadcast side of the Legislature as a Broadcast Operations Technician. He technically works for the Legislative Assembly, not for the government.
“I’m incredibly lucky the events industry has been one of the industries hardest hit by COVID,” de Laat summed up.
“I like to think I have a pretty complete skill set at this point. I’m very happy where I am these days.
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