The Anatomy of an AV Integration Project

Like most audio/video (AV) integrators, we have been quite busy this summer. My company is taking on more projects than ever before, and I explained to my Engineering team that this is analogous to eating a big Thanksgiving dinner: the more food you eat in a given meal, the more likely your stomach will be in pain as you process all of that food.

Let’s flesh out this analogy: the more we eat (Sales), the more likely our stomach (Engineering and CAD) will hurt, and it is difficult to speed up that process . The only thing we can do to increase our overall metabolism (or so called ‘bandwidth’) is to try and exercise more often; exercise = training. And just like exercising, integration engineers need to make/find the time for training, to keep the process moving at a good pace.

If your Sales department is the mouth of the process, and Engineering/CAD is the stomach, then the next step is the process is Purchasing, which would be the small intestine. Some products have long lead times, others may be more readily available, and will move more quickly through the intestines, like liquids. The point is, the purchasing and receiving process usually takes a while, and largely depends on the Engineering to have things ready to go. If the stomach stops working, then nothing gets to the intestines.

According the Wikipedia, “[the] large intestine, also known as the large bowel or colon, is the last part of the gastrointestinal tract and of the digestive system in vertebrates. Water is absorbed here and the remaining waste material is stored as feces before being removed by defecation”. In our AV project analogy, the large intestine represents the rack building and programming of the DSP (digital signal processor) and/or control systems. The rectum represents the testing that happens before the installation begins.

At this point in the analogy, I need to be very careful to not offend anyone. To put it simply, the field installation teams are by far the most important part of the process, because without them, the rest of the process would get backed up. The project managers and installers don’t determine what projects we take on (eat), and yet they are the ones that inevitably have to deal with the … well, you get me. When they are finished, the integration process is essentially done. If Sales goes after junk-food-type projects, or if the Engineering and Purchasing departments make mistakes, you can expect some flatulence. Although it may be too late to fix the current project, the rest of the body will learn to take on jobs that are more healthy, and cause less pain.

So, are we finished here? Not yet! Assuming the system has been fully tested, the client needs to be trained, and the as-built drawings and manuals need to be delivered. Skipping this part of the process would be analogous to not using any toilet paper. You need to clean up! Some audiovisual integration companies are very faster than others in completing this step, others may take longer because they are more thorough. But no matter how long it takes, don’t skip this step! If you do, your clients will likely think that you stink. :)


Five Random #Infocomm12 Videos

In Case You Missed It (Like I Did)

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Since I was unable to attend this year’s Infocomm trade show in Las Vegas, I have been following a lot of the web videos being released. If you made it to the show or not, here are some random happenings that you might have missed:

NEC Flashmob

Video courtesy of NEC

MantaroBot Telepresence Robots
Video courtesy of Ed Nixon

MIDAS Headquarters Tour

Video courtesy of Sound Pro Live Network

JD Systems tries gives a sneak peek, and gets booted

Video courtesy of JD Systems

Chief Hosts a Hot Dog Eating Competition

Video courtesy of rAVepubs

Audio + Video Jobs = #AVjobs

Send In The Clones

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D
Not long ago, one of my #AVtweeps posted that he was so busy, he needed a clone to get everything done.  How often have you or one of your coworkers wished for a clone?  Or maybe,  “we need to hire someone who can bascially do everything that [___] can do, do you know anyone like that, who can start immediately?”

The problem is that there is no magic recipe for a seasoned audiovisual professional. No matter if you are a technician, an engineer, a consultant, a programmer, marketing, or sales associate, your individual experience is as customized as the audio and video systems you design, sell, install, and/or operate for a living. Don’t get me wrong, we sometimes have similar backgrounds. Many AV people started by playing music in a band, working theater, doing lighting, video, or sound engineering. Others may have grown into AV Land by working with their parents, or pushing the projector cart around at their schools. Some may help with the audio or video at their church or house of worship. Some may come from an information technology background, and have been “forced” into AV support because they were considered “techy” by their peers.

At some point in each of our AV careers, we have been forced to “step up to the plate”.  For whatever reason, we were given the opportunity to learn something new, to step outside of our knowledge base, and oftentimes our comfort zone.   And then we learned it, we did it, and we moved on.  For it is by learning something new that we made ourselves more valuable, kept things interesting, and stayed fresh in this ever-changing industry. Maybe it was the first time you tried AutoCAD, drove a truck, crimped an RJ45 connector, or terminated a big multi-pin audio connector?  We have all made mistakes, and we learned valuable lessons from our mistakes.  We also learned from the mistakes made by others, as we replaced old AV systems.

Maybe you don’t have field experience, but you have been navigating the sales and marketing channels of the Audiovisual River Basin for the past 10 or 20 years, hooking and reeling in leads, while still making your tee time. You are constantly on the phone, following never-ending email threads, and running into the same colleagues every year at the trade shows. The same people, year after year, right?

Have you ever heard of the theory called the Six degrees of separation, or maybe the Six degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well I think AV Land only has three degrees of separation, if that.  AV is traditionally such a niche industry, that it’s not uncommon to go to an AV industry event and run into someone you know.  Or if you meet someone, they probably already know of someone you know, or used to work where you used to work.  It’s a rather incestuous industry, each of us paving our own paths by learning the skills we needed to know to get by, or to get ahead.  It’s no wonder we want clones of ourselves, because we are all full of “tribal knowledge” based on years of experience. But for those that are hiring, the most qualified people are often happy where they are at, or unwilling to relocate without a major pay increase.

My suggestion is instead of looking for a clone, what you really need is someone who is willing to learn new things just like you did.  Instead of buying a pre-lit Christmas tree full of ornaments, start with some seedlings.  Instead of looking at the qualities you possess, look at the qualities that you are missing.  If your staff is inexperienced, send them to training, and give them incentives to get certified.  If your staff is having trouble finding new business, maybe you should hire some new blood from outside of the AV industry?  Someone who has a different network and a different Rolodex from you.  Instead of someone who is experienced like you, consider adding a new perspective, as an added value to your team.

If you are hiring, or looking for a job in the AV industry, the first website I would visit is I have personally found employment here in the past.  It’s perfect for people in the AV industry looking to hire people in the AV industry.   All of the jobs that are posted are from relevant AV manufacturers, integrators, consultants, and rental houses.

rAVe Publications also has a great AV Jobs page, and Gary Kayye posts a AV job to Twitter daily, here is an example: @ravepubs rAVe Job of the day: Outside Sales Account Manager for Visual Innovations Company in El Paso, TX #AVtweeps #AVjobs.  You should also follow #AVnews and @ProAVjobs on Twitter.

In addition to your own LinkedIn network, there are great LinkedIn group pages like Women in AV (or #WAVE), “a networking and information sharing group whose goal is to help, learn, and assist all women achieve success and mentor young women in the audiovisual industry.”  These industrial professionals are friendly and willing to help you connect with new faces both inside and outside of AV Land.

What about co-ops or internships at local universities? College grads are hurting to find jobs right now, and they are prime candidates for quick learning (and long hours!)  And please don’t forget the returning military forces, they make great co-workers.

Please let me know your thoughts and your favorite AV job resources.