Accentuating the senses – specifically, sight and sound – has always given Simon de Laat a sense of pride.
DeLaat has become a Vancouver Island audio-visual master throughout his various impressive career opportunities working on video games, live concert and sporting event venues and TV broadcasts, helping to provide the magic touches that create a wonderful experience for the audience.
“We were hired to build the entire video system at the Save-On Arena for the Victoria Royals, and Simon has been their game day producer since day one and some 350+ games later,” his business partner for the past decade, Doug Dulmage explained. “Plus, he’s also worked as video engineer on most of the Rock the Shores concerts, concerts on the mainland, and he’s now working as a media/audio engineer at the legislature. And in between all that he’s 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’s done a brilliant job herding our 20+ video crew on Royals game days, plus any other events – World Juniors, WHL Playoffs, concerts, etc.”
Born in Vancouver, de Laat and his family – single mom and two sisters – moved around a lot during his early years before settling in Chemainus. An introduction to a multi-media course in de Laat’s senior years in high school caught his attention.
“That really spoke to me,” he indicated. “I took that course and it’s fairly close to what I ended up doing work-wise.”
An anti-smoking video entered by de Laat and a classmate in an Island-wide high school contest made the top 10, culminating in a screening of all the finalists in Courtenay.
After high school graduation, de Laat enrolled in the Vancouver Film School. He enjoyed music scoring for film while he was there and started getting into 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 for the game.”
As someone who wasn’t a big video game fan, it really intrigued him how to make sounds for things like shells popping out of the ground. It went way beyond basic sound effects.
As much as he enjoyed the job, “I was kind of realizing it wasn’t the long-term career for me,” de Laat said.
He was offered a position as an audio-visual technician on a 34-day, 38-stop tour across the country with the David Suzuki Foundation and jumped at the chance.
“At each stop, I would set up a video booth and we would set up all the interviews with people,” de Laat explained. “I’d been a big fan of David Suzuki when I was growing up.”
The tour included the memorable experience of working at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto during a Barenaked Ladies concert with 15,000 people in attendance.
De Laat then went to work for S.W. Audio Visual full-time at the company’s Kelowna branch. He was the lead audio and video technician working concerts and sports events.
David Wohland and Jared Smith of Chemainus were roommates of his in Kelowna. They collaborated on a waxing video – yes, a waxing video of hairy Smith in four different ways – that brought 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 friends an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles. They appeared at the season premiere, chatted with host Tom Bergeron on stage and “they played our whole video,” de Laat noted.
After three years in Kelowna, de Laat moved over to S.W.’s Victoria office and had eight solid years with the company overall. He starting doing freelance work as well in Victoria after relocating that has included the affiliation with the Royals hockey team.
“I had the role and still do to this day to oversee the audio-visual production at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre,” de Laat explained. “Being someone who was into hockey growing up, it was the perfect gig.”
Experience with press conferences and government type work led de Laat to apply for a job at the legislature that was successful. Only a year after completely freelancing, he started part time as a console operator in the audio department and is still doing a lot of contract work.
Since February, he’s been working full time on the TV broadcast side of the legislature as a broadcast operations technician. He technically works for the Legislative Assembly, not the government.
“I’m incredibly lucky, the event industry has been one of the hardest hit industries by COVID,” summed up de Laat.
“I like to think I have a pretty well-rounded skill set at this point. I’m very happy where I’m at these days.”
For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.