AV People: Nigel Brent of Nigel B. Designs

Nigel-0314Nigel Brent is arguably one of the most interesting and innovative people in the AV industry today — and he’s been in the industry for over 48 years. At the age of 78, Nigel is as sharp and driven and motivated as ever (if not more so). However, his journey to the AV industry happened a little differently than most people.

“When I got to the age of 30, I decided that’s when my career really started,” recalled Nigel. “I actually started working on an episodic television series called ‘The Avengers’ in England. When the series came to the end, I was offered a freelance job making TV commercials. At the time, I attracted the attention of some very well known directors such as Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Adrian Lyne. I began working with [those directors] just two years into my career.”

Nigel knew that those directors were very visual and he knew that his own style was very similar. Nigel began traveling all over the world working on different jobs and different commercials.

Then, 12 years later, in 1979, Nigel decided it was time to pack up his bags and head to the United States to work. It didn’t take him long before he realized he loved California and living in America.

“After I came to the states and had been working for a bit [here], I said to my wife, ‘I think it’s about time I made my own commercials instead of working for other people,’” Nigel said. “So I began to assemble my own team of directors. It was during this time that I realized that like those directors I had worked with in London, I was also quite visual and creative. My mother was a concert pianist and I took after her in my creativity. That’s where my skills were.”

Nigel’s commercial business began to take off. One of his directors was even nominated for Best Commercial by the Directors Guild.

A few years into running his own business, in 1985, Nigel got involved in the budding industry of computer graphics and building industrial computers. He sold his computer graphics to companies like Calty Design for Toyota. He soon met the marketing director for Roland, the music company, and was asked to design a workstation for their music stores. These partnerships then led to partnerships with AV companies like AVID and Lightworks.

Shortly thereafter, Nigel was asked to work on something that, to this day, is one of the projects of which he is most proud.

“I had attracted the attention of Channel 22, a news channel, here in California for my work in computer graphics,” Nigel said. “Channel 22 had said they were looking to go all electronic and they were looking for someone to do the digital ticker tape of the stock market that would scroll along the bottom of the screen. They said they had approached every other company across the country and no one could do what they were looking for, so they asked if I could do it. I said to them, ‘Yes, give me two weeks and I’ll prove it to you.’ And sure enough, two weeks later, I gave them what they were looking for.”

What that showed was that Nigel had original thinking and innovation and it made him realize that he could do things that many other people just couldn’t do yet. And from there, his love and passion for innovation, technology and the industry at large just grew.

It was also projects like that that gave Nigel the good name that he has to this day in the industry. He’s known for his innovation. He’s known for his creativity. He’s known for his ability to follow through.

“I seem to attract people that share my enthusiasm and innovation,” he explained. “The invention of the ticker tape was really groundbreaking for them and for me. So, I felt very proud of that.”

After a bit, Nigel had decided he wanted to get even more into the AV market. He then teamed up with a small company in Salt Lake City that made a good miniature amplifier. And because he’d built up a respectable reputation up until this point, he was able to sell this miniature amplifier.

“I realized I had a very good sense of design,” Nigel stated. “It didn’t occur to me that what I was very good at was spotting trends and being able to look at problems and solve them. And I continued to develop those skills in the AV industry.”

It was just a good fit.

Outside of his varied and diverse work in AV, Nigel has always had a love and zest for traveling the world. He also loves gardening and woodworking. He’s made quite a bit of the furniture in his home. He and his wife, Katherine, have been married for 38 years.

However, his passions truly lie with innovation and his work in AV.

“Anybody coming into the industry has got to be prepared to adapt constantly to the changing technology,” Nigel advised. “If you look at the industry today it’s all driven by computer related technology — software… whereas in the early days it was all hardware. I mean look at how the cell phone is more powerful than the computer that was used to put man on the moon. The industry [and technology] is changing and people have to be prepared to move with it.”