Boutique Design - June 2017 - 84
Ascend Studios president/owner Josh Almeida
always understood that magic is in the details. Now
he's using his audio-visual expertise to craft showstopping environments for guests around the globe.
INTERVIEW BY CHRISTINA GREEN
IT dOESN'T ALWAYS take Disney to make dreams come true.
HOW DO SOME HOTELIERS MISS THE MARK?
Too often, operators will have their AV designed and installed by a
general contractor. Those businesses are notorious for subbing out
the AV to their electrician, who will then sub out the work to a local
AV company that's near the project site. This means the AV team
doing the work has no direct connection to the hotel or its brand
goals. The job becomes about "value engineering" and details don't
matter. Suddenly, the AV vendor is installing $30 box-store speakers
when they should be using professional-grade ones that sound
fantastic. No one notices until after the hotel's open and it's too late
That's why it's so important that operators choose the AV vendor
themselves, and not pass along the decision. They need a qualityoriented, relationship-focused team they trust to create a brand-wide
standard that extends to all of their properties.
WHY IS AV ESSENTIAL TO HOSPITALITY INTERIORS?
WHAT AV TRENDS ARE ON YOUR RADAR?
AV helps give a room its energy, whether it's a lobby, guest room or
restaurant. The music, lighting and visuals have the power to make a
room or diminish it. You can have the best fabrics, modern furniture
and the most helpful staff at a hotel, but if the music isn't as carefully
curated, then all of that falls flat.
We're seeing a lot of video walls, interactive experiences and hightech accommodations. The world has become all about personalized
experiences. It's exciting to see the guest response to interactive
lighting systems, as well as zoned audio systems that allow them to
stream their own music to a cabana or the hotel bar.
boutiquedesign.com june 2017
COUR TE S Y OF A SCEND S TU DIOS
Sometimes unexpected obstacles can help write a new script. At just
10 years old, Josh Almeida decided he wanted to be an Imagineer. It
never happened, but something equally exciting eventually did.
"I grew up in Orlando going to theme parks all the time. At one
point I could tell you where every bathroom, pay phone or ride was
at the Magic Kingdom," says Almeida. "Even as a kid, I understood
that themed environments are thoughtfully designed spaces where
the smallest details matter. Each is part of a story, experience or
feeling that a team of people worked so hard to create for us. I love
the magic within that."
Almeida started his high-tech education at Full Sail University,
which specializes in training for the entertainment and media industries. After only one year of studies, he ventured into the audio/visual
(AV) arena, spending a decade working on projects ranging from
amusement parks to military mission control rooms-including
managing AV systems for such brands as Hard Rock Cafe Intl., Jimmy
Buffett's Margaritaville and adidas.
From there, the techie applied for his dream position as a Disney
Imagineer. "After the six-month interview process, I was offered a job
on the R&D [research and development] team to work on what's now
known as MagicBand," recalls Almeida. "But there were two issues: I
had to move to California and the salary wasn't what I wanted. I
decided not to proceed, and I was crushed."
But that disappointment sparked the idea for Ascend Studios, a
business that designs and builds AV experiences. Almeida launched
the company in Orlando in 2011, and has since done work for such
high-profile hospitality clients as The Ritz-Carlton, Loews Hotels and