Director, Mark Ager is the founder of XM Automation. He is an industry-leading innovator in automation for live entertainment, with a wealth of experience in theatre automation spanning 40 years.
Mark’s first role was with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1983 as Systems Engineering Manager at the Barbican Theatre, where he was responsible for one of the first power flying systems installed in the UK. While there, he studied management and gained an MSc in Robotics and Industrial Automation.
He applied this knowledge at a stage engineering company, where he was responsible for the design of automation and power flying systems and then spent three years in industrial automation.
It was in 1994 that Mark set up Stage Technologies, the specialists in theatre automation systems, where he:
- Developed the Acrobat control system, a computerised control system allowing multiple groups of axes to be controlled from a single console.
- Created a system to allow free ranging computer-controlled trucks to move to pre-plotted positions on stage (first used on Martin Guerre 1996).
- Led Stage Technologies to be one of the world’s leading suppliers of automation and engineering systems.
Working around the globe, Mark’s successes include:
- The Han Show in Wuhan, China – the world’s largest theatre show which had 250 axes moving 1000 tonnes of stage machinery.
- A key role in the engineering development of the innovative Bridge Theatre, London.
- Two Queen’s Awards for Export.
Mark is a Chartered Engineer with a string of qualifications:
- FIET Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Technology
- MSc Robotics and Industrial Automation, Imperial College.
- DMS Post Graduate Diploma in Management Studies
- MA Physics New College, Oxford University.
In addition to Mark’s many areas of expertise, he also lectures at theatre colleges and has spoken at industry conferences on the topic of theatre automation and stage engineering. He is the author of ‘Automation in the Entertainment Industry – a User’s Guide’, the reference book for professionals and students of automation.
Head of User Experience, Vicky Hamilton joined Mark at XM Automation in 2023, bringing with her over 25 years of experience in software development, customer support and operator training for the theatre automaton industry.
Vicky began her career at Stage Technologies, after graduating with a Masters in Engineering and Computing from Oxford University in 1997. Initially working in software development, her first project was to research, design, develop and test the software for the Pilot control console – a purely touchscreen-based user interface for configuring small venues.
After a long career in development, Vicky’s skills have led her increasingly into a training and field support role where she enjoys using client feedback to problem-solve and facilitate product improvements.
Key Highlights include:
- Creating the software for Pathway, a user interface enabling the operator to design complex flight paths in 3D space. These paths could be linked with other dimensions of movement and the overall effect played back in a software simulator. The results were then converted mathematically to be run with a specified rigging geometry, as was used to fly ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ for the original West End production and on tour.
- Working on the ground-breaking Cirque du Soleil show ‘KÀ’ at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Vicky was responsible for the design and delivery of the dynamic interlock system for the complex automated stages. These included the spectacular and pivotal ‘Sand Cliff Deck’, an enormous lifting, tilting, rotating gantry stage.
- A wide variety of support projects, working with operators on major West End productions, large-scale acrobatic shows and with various different cruise lines, opera houses and repertory theatres around the world.
- Leading a team of controls support engineers, training and mentoring them and instigating positive changes in their working practices.
Vicky is a Chartered Engineer and also volunteers as a STEM Ambassador, encouraging the next generation into careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics by highlighting the variety of exciting creative opportunities available in the live events industry.