This month we resume enriching your relationship with your AV team by obtaining a better grasp of who does what and where they’re doing it. If you think about a factory, there is a definite order to an assembly line. Each worker has their position in the process for a reason. We’ve already examined two of your lead positions on an AV team (the Technical Director [TD] and Project Manager [PM], see October’s column). Now we’ll move into some of the more detailed positions.
If you have an event that requires input from more than one source, you will need a video switcher (think video camera plus PowerPoint and possibly speaker notes on a downstage monitor). In a simple set-up, you would have one video engineer to operate the switcher. If there is room, the engineer usually sits behind the stage. This person is best identified by the spread of monitors in front of them showing the various video inputs. The video engineer sits in the back simply because of the quantity of the video equipment — you probably know how difficult it already is just trying to squeeze the production booth into your cramped ballroom.
As the TD calls out over intercom which input should go where, the engineer backstage makes the appropriate adjustments. He or she will switch the images on the projection screens and/or monitors — usually alternating from the camera image to PowerPoint slide — based on what the TD instructs.
I often feel the most sorry for the audio engineer. Because of their need to hear most closely what the audience is hearing, they usually are situated at the very edge of the production booth; as close to the middle of the room as possible. Sometimes you’ll even see them outside of the booth with their equipment on a separate table. Due to this placement, they are the most frequently approached by audience members, speakers, the client, etc. with questions on everything from the schedule to obtaining copies of presentations to finding the nearest restroom!
The audio equipment (and engineer) is best identified by his or her proximity to an audio console. This piece of gear has a multitude of sliding levers to control all of the audio “channels” (a channel could be music from an iPod, one of the microphones, a DVD being played, etc.). A popular console/mixer that we use is the LS9 by Yamaha, you can see it here. The engineer responds to the TD in much the same way as the video engineer.
Barring any pressing and/or exciting reader questions, next month we’ll take a final look at the remaining members of your AV team.