Profiles - A Light-Hearted Look at Industry Personalities
Sales Manager, ADB Technologies
No. 63 in a continuing series
Raph Janssens was born in Aalst in Belgium, the carnival city of Flanders, and a quick-witted ‘carnival humour' and satirical approach has remained part of his philosophy - together with a healthy appreciation of a comprehensive number of choice Belgian beers and the best chocolates of the world!
As with so many in this industry, Raph explains that his link to stage lighting was genetic rather than common sense. His father used to be technical manager at the local theatre and from the age of 12 Raph spent many of his off-school afternoons and free Saturdays at the local ‘Cat' theatre (the City Theatre in Peace Square in Aalst, popularly known as ‘De Kat' from the name of an old pub in the location). From September through to the following June, every week saw a new production, with amateur companies covering all possible theatre styles. Raph started as a ‘control operator' behind a 24 way resistor control board - "hellishly warm" - and later at a more sophisticated 12 way autotransformer board from ADB, the JN12 - the first portable (75kg!) desk.
Within a few years, father and son traded places at the theatre and whilst père Hubert went to the control room and attended to the even more sophisticated new D1T2 control board with two presets and six groups, Raph was sent down to the stage, up the ladder to rig, and set to work on the BU 500, SP250 and other ADB luminaries that are still in use today! It was at this time he learned the benefits of using all kinds of diffracting glass cut to the shape of colour filter frames to change, modulate and cheat with the luminaries to create acceptable lighting states with the minimum amount of gear.
After finishing higher education in electronics, Raph worked for Bulterijs, a major rental company in Brussels who specialised in TV and film lighting, whilst awaiting his military service (still mandatory in those days) and returned back to them after an "unfriendly army year", which he wanted to forget as soon as possible.
Within this period, he went to Canada for several months as the production/lighting manager of ‘Les Ballets Modernes de Quebec, at the time of the opening of the new Grand Theatre de Quebec. Here he made his first contact with the MMS control from "the other company". With Les Ballets, he visited all the French-speaking communities in North America through a three-month tour valued even in those days at $1m (Canadian).
Back in Belgium, and having finished with the army service, he figured that you couldn't make much of a living in the lighting business, and ventured into the real world and started to work for 3M as a customer support supervisor in their business machines division. Working in a technical support function with critical and demanding customers in fact provided a very good sales training, something also noticed by 3M, and after some additional training, Raph moved on again.
His next port of call was to ADB as a sales engineer, firstly in charge of the Belgian home market and later, with growing territory and responsibilities, he started to discover Europe. When independent television was introduced in Belgium, Raph designed and project managed some 4000 sqm. of new production studios in a few months for several facility companies, who were responding to the increasing demand of production space for the newly formed VTM, the first digital broadcaster in Europe.
Raph started with ADB when it was a family business in the seventies, saw it growing to a small multinational in the eighties, and then evolving further as it became a Siemens company. Now, in the new millenium with the ‘new' ADB, following the recent management buy-out headed by Christian Léonard, and with new challenges and tasks, Raph Janssens manages a sales team of enthusiastic lighting professionals who travel to all corners of the globe promoting ADB innovations such as the ABTT award-winning Warp luminaires and Mentor control desks . . . all the while making sure that the "family" feel remains an added ADB quality. (And, as those of us who visit their stand at trade shows around the world have learned, not to forget Belgian beer and the finest chocolates!).
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