- Jul 27, 2017 -
High End Systems is an Austin, Texas-based manufacturer of entertainment lighting and control systems. The embryo of the company, Blackstone Audio Video, was founded in 1972 by Lowell and Sue Fowler. Later on High End Systems was founded, owned, and managed by Lowell Fowler, Richard Belliveau, and Bob Schacherl before it was bought by Belgium-based Barco in 2008.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in communications, Lowell Fowler founded Blackstone Audio Visual with his wife Sue. They specialized in projection systems called “Atmospheres,” which used multiple slide projectors that dissolved from one image to the next. They also owned and operated a nightclub in the west campus area of the University of Texas called Stars. It was there that Fowler met Richard Belliveau, who convinced him that the lighting could be improved. Belliveau then set out to install more advanced lighting equipment in Stars, as well as other nightclubs, when he began working for Blackstone Audio Visual.
Belliveau was born in Hitchin, United Kingdom. His father was in the U.S. Air Force and his mother was British. His family frequently moved around Europe and the United States when Belliveau was a child. He became a self-taught electronics technician while he was in high school in Austin, Texas. He learned he could earn extra money by modifying musical instruments and by installing and repairing car stereos. He entered and won many competitions for car stereo installation. Later, he began working as a DJ, and his background in electronics and natural curiosity enabled him to install, repair, and eventually design audio and lighting equipment.
Blackstone Audio Visual moved from a small shop in central Austin to spacious offices in north Austin in the mid 1980s, in the same complex as Dell computer. By this time, Bob Schacherl, who was one of the first employees of the company, had become a partner.The three partners began attending trade shows and learning about state-of-the-art lighting equipment, much of which was being manufactured in Europe. They began installing and distributing Pulsar, Clay Paky, Coemar, Optikinetics, JEM, and other European brands that were difficult to find in North America. At the same time, Belliveau began designing and building loudspeakers especially for nightclubs and discothèques. Blackstone Audio Visual specialized in installing high end audio, video, and lighting systems in nightclubs all over the United States. But Belliveau was unhappy with the design of many of the products they were selling, so he began to design his own.