Warning: If you are an Audiovisual (AV) professional or are on the cutting edge of event technology, you might yawn your way through my column. If, however, you find yourself broadsided by the miles of cold metal truss, audio snake (why is it called a snake anyways?!) and troops of techs in black polo shirts and cargo pants, then hopefully you’ll find some value in the knowledge I hope to share.
I do intend to share some insight on audio, video and lighting technologies, but my primary intent is to foster a sympathetic (or at least empathetic) relationship between the two parties interacting from their respective side of the production booth drape.
The first order of business is to discuss the various AV positions. The physical placement of technicians and their accompanying roles can help immensely in feeling less overwhelmed. While most AV companies share a general rule of thumb for the arranging of the crew, there are a few ways to identify who does what.
As this will most likely require more space than one column permits, I’ll spread the topic over a few months.
Before learning the more technical role players, you should get to know a few key people. You probably already know your Project Manager (PM), who has worked hand in hand with you to address every minute detail in the months or weeks prior to the event. They are your first go-to person onsite for any issues or questions. The PM is expected to be your direct link between any and all situations that are related to the sound, lighting, cameras, projection, non-permanent digital displays and occasionally IT. Your best bet is to always go to this person with any concerns before approaching the other technicians. I highly suggest you have them on a two-way radio or at least speed dial!
The next person that is good to know is your Technical Director (TD). The TD is responsible for managing the flow of an event. Before going live, they will ensure that presentations are in order, create cue sheets with information for the other technicians such as timing of and work with a stage manager to manage speakers. Frequently the Technical Director will “call” a show, which basically means they will speak via intercom to the crew, controlling the flow of the event … think “ready on camera two, and bring up lights stage left, cue speaker notes on monitor No. 3, now go on camera two”… you get the picture. This position is most easily identified as the person sitting in the center of the production booth with an assortment on monitors in front of them, showing them all of the available video images. When your project manager is unavailable, this is a good person to go to for pertinent information.
If I have one reminder, it’s to remember that your team is doing their best to present a pristine production in an unpredictable, live situation. If they seem distracted or frustrated, it’s not a result of their interaction with you, but rather a reflection of their desire to deliver you a perfectly executed audiovisual service.