And so to… BVE

Intelligent Audio Visual


Allow me to explain. It’s not a new software platform, a control system or a magic black box. It’s an approach.

It’s the inclusion of an experienced AV professional. A human filter who knows how to deliver an outcome. It’s the successful communication of what is needed. It’s the balance to be struck between competing factions.

Where is this leading I hear you say? Well, I’ve been invited to take part on a panel at this year’s BVE and the subject under discussion is:

Embracing a future of AV/IT convergence

The more I think about it, the larger the topic seems (can of worms). Where to start. Take this as a question that will be raised:

– With AV budgets and teams increasingly sitting under IT – how can pro AV teams get buy in and support to embrace a fully immersive and integrated AV future.

Speaking to members of AVCF, and remember, you’re no slouches. There are many stories of what I will put kindly as ‘miscommunication’ and sheer ‘power politics’ from our cousins in IT. Who, let’s face it, are big players in our workplaces.

Of course, I am speaking from my experience of delivering live events in a large museum environment. There is a bigger systems integration issue here and it will be site/venue specific. But the story I mainly hear from our community is ‘we weren’t listened to, taken on board or consulted’.

Not exclusively of course, but quite a lot. How do we get buy in? Which led me to another question on the agenda:

– Pipe dream or reality – How can AV systems be integrated more fluidly, automated and centrally controlled like the IT sector?

Automated. Centrally controlled. Discuss, eh.

I advocate the use of IAV.

Intelligent Audio Visual.

An approach, a filter, an interpretation. Which in my experience, most of the best AV practitioners have instinctively.

That’s not to say we can rest on our laurels. Oh no. The world doesn’t stand still and we have to box clever. I attended an event this week which was all about how AI and robots will play a bigger part in the delivery of events? Very big questions for humanity as a whole here of course, concerning AI and robotics. But it will ripple down to our little world. Already has in subtle ways.

There’s a compelling scene in the new film ‘Hidden Figures’ about the crucial part played by black women mathematicians who were astounding, yet neglected, in contributing to the US space race. A supervisor realises her team can’t compete, for speed, in doing orbit calculations or models with the first IBM computer delivered to NASA. She surreptitiously learns the programming language, does it better than the IBM techs in fact. She spreads the word and teaches her team

’this is the future’ she says ‘but they’re going to need people to programme this new machine, and if we want to keep our jobs, we need to stay ahead of the curve’.

It is this human factor that solved various critical anomalies as they went forward.

it’s a great scene, amongst many, go see it.

It’s inclusion in my argument does traduce a momentous moment in US history. But hey, Hollywood made a movie of it. I had no idea of this particular moment, but it ably illustrates my point. We in AV need to be open to what’s happening in our worlds and to what’s coming.

Always thinking. That’s what humans do.


Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated by me and I can use them to inform the debate. Maybe you disagree strongly? Just let me know.

Some of our number will be at BVE and Dan Crompton, from Tate, is also appearing on this panel. It takes place on March 1st at 10.45-11.30 am in the AV, Integration & Live Theatre. It would be great to see some of you down at the Excel Centre.

Hope to see you there. It is possible that a drink may be had later?

Just sayin’.


NOTE: For those interested, here are some links which touch on some of the things I’ve been speaking about.

An alternate view of this debate:

Fascinating series on Radio 4 which explores AI and robotics:

The non fiction book on which the film I mentioned was based:

Rules for an AV robot to live by:

Further reading:

L.A. Story

Picture the scene.

The Getty Center, an amazing architectural statement, designed by Richard Meier, sits atop a hill with a commanding view of LA. In the distance, the Pacific ocean, glimmers through a gap in the clouds.

Have I mentioned the rain?

There was much rain. As I set out on my journey the weather was atypical, rainy and overcast. More in tune with London than LA. But after several years of drought no one was complaining.

However, Interstate 105 and all US freeways, are a challenge (read scary), and that’s without the rain. Check out Steve Martin’s film L.A. Story and the freeway scene. You’ll get the idea.

Happily I was driven there by my friend Nick Night, digital media maestro and formerly one of the world’s top illusion acts, with his wife Kinga. (A story for another time). Anyway, all good. As, after all these years, I have managed to escape the driving treadmill. More of a passenger me. But for Los Angelinos it’s a given, everyone drives.

Ok don’t send me the names of the six people who don’t.

Anyway, anyway….while on my adventures in LA I thought I’d fly the flag for AVCF and arrange a visit to the AV technical team who run things at Getty. Many of my academic colleagues from the British Museum had worked on projects there and spoke very highly of it. Having sent a little heads up email a week before (I know how busy museum AV delivery can get) I got a very nice invitation from Steph Dirden, the man tasked with running AV for the Getty, and was invited to pay a visit.

Steph had very kindly supplied us with access to parking ‘up on the hill’ so no tourist monorail ride from sea level for us. We were met and taken to one of the main orientation theatres where they show a small film to put the building and it’s history in context. This is run from pre recorded content fed to a projection system via AMX, updates are serviced by Steph or one of his team (he has 9 people to serve both the Getty Museum and the Getty Villa which is in Pacific Palisades, Malibu). Like my previous existence at the Museum Steph has been a long time staff member at Getty, 34 years. He started at the Getty Villa in 1983 and saw the construction of the Getty Centre campus from it’s inception in 1984. He was appointed by the trust to run AV at the museum in 1995. So he has good context on the way things have evolved. Steph then took me to see their main theatre, the Harold M Williams Auditorium, which seats around 350 people and is named after the man who steered the Getty Trust through implementation of this this site. The trust oversee all aspects of programming for the museum.

Steph introduced me to some of his colleagues; Bill King, Mike Easley and Marvin Jones. They use the title of audio visual specialists, which I think has a nice ring to it. For those of you who know my views I think the titles we get for our roles can inform the perception of users. These guys are indeed specialists in either audio, projection or lighting but obviously can turn their hands to many different tasks. I felt right at home on the flight deck with names like Christie, Yamaha and Crestron, all amongst the familiar racking and control equipment you’d find in any control area.


They made me feel very welcome and I told them what AVCF was about, how it began, and where I hope my stewardship will lead it. At present, I explained, we are a growing community, a knowledge exchange and going forward will have some influence within our discipline. They got it. As you can imagine a group of techs chewing the fat in a projection room is a very familiar experience and I told them this could have been one of our Cultural Forum get togethers back in Blighty. I was happy to invite them, on your behalf, to link with our merry band, and have extended them all an invitation should they ever come through the UK. So our first international members! Welcome chaps.

In fact I hope we can arrange a remote VC link at one of our events, so we can say hi to each other and have a little Q&A. It was a pleasure to get an insight on how they ran one of the world’s top cultural venues.

It was still raining when I surfaced, but they had thought of that and had a complimentary Getty umbrella on hand.



Happy new year folks

The time for resolutions is upon us (well, this is the portion of the year the media uses to bang us on the heads about starting anew) we can all take a view there eh. In my case 2017 it is about how AVCF will proceed now that I’m devoting more time to it.

So, let’s just have a quick look at what our growing community got up to during last year. Looking back gives us an indication of what’s to come I feel. So, 2016 provided us with some great events and reinforced the Forum’s mission, to be a true knowledge exchange.

We had a great day out at Sennheiser HQ in Marlow back in April, via an Idyllic rural Thames train trip, and had an informative demo of their Mobile Connect technology and more. (Along the lines of that day we’re also hoping to plan a trip to Christie HQ this year) this arranged by friend and member, JP Cavaco, who incidentally helped with the above Sennheiser event. Our day out at RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) courtesy of Gabriel Thorp and Steve Barrett-White was a great chance to see some cool hardware and content from hand picked suppliers who had worked at RIBA, and we also got a tour of the magnificent art deco building Gabriel and Steve ply their trade in. Steve could have a second career as a tour guide that’s for sure.

Liam Helm at the Royal Society hosted us for an afternoon dedicated to highlighting speech to text, access issues with audio delivery and various solutions he’d came up with for his installation in a listed room (he also let us look at what must be the tidiest control area I’ve ever seen!) Paul Groves and Ewan Crallan at BT gave us exclusive access to a roll out of new kit from Roland and AVCF stalwart Jon Sheldon, at The National Gallery, provided us with a very interesting insight into the work of Dave Haydon and the TiMax2 SoundHub, Dave worked with Jon on the Soundscapes exhibition. I hope to get Dave back to show us more of this ingenious hardware that manipulates audio. He proceeded to stretch, snap and tread into the mud my understanding of what could be achieved with audio in exhibitions. Truly fascinating.

I along with Graeme Massey, at JacobsMassey (who I thank again for being our primary sponsor in this endeavour) went over, at the invite of Adam Harvey, Eliot Fulton-Langley and Steve Bell to the University of Hertfordshire to see the amazing new Science Building on campus. And, let’s not forget being guided by our very own Mr Dan Crompton around the new Switch House installation at Tate Modern. Transforming Tate Modern was the name of this second phase project to complement the original Tate Modern building on the South Bank of the Thames. By the way, Dan does a great line in Dolby Atmos trailers in his new Starr Cinema there, 4K DCP doncha know 🙂

This last slingshots us nicely into 2017 as Dan’s approach to the Tate project has seen him, his team and Tate named as finalists for the InAVate Awards this year for their Transforming Tate Modern adventure. What’s more Pete Dunsire, who worked very closely with Dan, is a finalist as well for project manager of the year at the very same awards. Not forgetting of course that the University of Hertfordshire are also finalists for their Science Building. All of this taking place in the evening of the first day of ISE in Amsterdam.

On a personal note it was a pleasure to work with Dan, in a small way, on behalf of AVCF to advise on his submission. That particular adventure and all the above confirm my personal belief that on leaving The British Museum, and making a decision to devote more time to the Forum, was well worth it.

I was heartened as well that in 2016 we welcomed to our band, colleagues from The London Transport Museum, Central St Martins, London College of Fashion, Imperial War Museum and the Overseas Development Unit into our fold as members. This will furnish us with opportunities to see how they deal with the problems we all encounter every day in this business, and build on our network of fellow professionals, that is so clearly in place.

To paraphrase that great philosopher, John Wick, when asked:

“So is the Forum back in 2017?”

His answer would be “yeah, I’m thinkin’ we’re back”.

Chris Power
10th January


Hi everyone, further to my request for contributions to our blog I have great leisure in introducing the first of these from our member Jason King. Thanks, Jason.


Dispatches from the front line

So, I have been thinking about this blog thing after Chris got in touch about contributions and where to begin. Do I write about technology and business or do I write about conferences and events? Well unless it’s Pink Floyd reuniting for a one-off gig there isn’t much there to write about as it’s all about the event. I guess what I’m trying to say is all of us in the business of running audio visual services strive to make every event the best possible experience. Whether that’s running technical services for a small intimate meeting or a 200 seat event streaming videos from multiple sources in multiple locations we all do our best with the tools we have.

So here I am thinking about my experiences both today and in the past and I have come to the conclusion that it’s the people in the industry that make the difference. It is the unsung hero sitting in a booth at the back of a conference room that deserves the accolades. It is he or she that understands what it feels like to have 200 people baying for blood because the speaker that is due on stage is lost and hasn’t finished their presentation. Yet we are rarely applauded for the work we do.

Take today for instance, in between dealing with a Lync meeting involving senior executives and the culmination of a 3-day conference involving multiple breakout sessions, demonstrations and practical sessions all running simultaneously. I decided to take some time out to meet a friend and colleague for lunch. Now this person (who shall remain nameless) works for a leading supplier of AV technology in sales, yet he doesn’t consider himself a sales person. He doesn’t have the usual sales patter, he doesn’t try to dazzle with tech. He calls himself an introducer. He naturally has targets and responsibilities but ultimately he is what I would call a people person.

People ‘people’ (pardon the expression) listen to end users, understand the brief and with the right technology make our jobs that much simpler.

To St Pancras…

So, my focus today, Friday 27th November, has been on finishing off a few mundane tasks before I cruise over to the new Google HQ for an event, run by AV User Group, showcasing new AV technology. The venue is nestled in amongst the huge St Pancras and Kings Cross development, you feel like you’re being assimilated by big brother, all steel and glass towers.

After getting lost and having to rely on Google maps, the irony, I found their HQ. I was somewhat taken aback by the masses of smokers congregating outside the entrance all furiously chuffing away producing as many emissions as a badly tuned London bus. Not very ‘west coast’ I agree but nevertheless I plowed on conscious of the time and excited all in good measure.

Once in the heart of the machine I was greeted by a charismatic young lady who gave me my badge and who, after a short time, then escorted me to the conference floor. During my brief trip, I passed large wooden crates passing as quirky offices and walls laden with coloured post it notes in the shape of arcade games. We exchanged niceties on route and I realised this left me feeling upbeat and relaxed. Google conditioning?

After about 20 mins of nosing about like a child in a sweet shop in all the meeting rooms and the main control room aptly named Ground Control. I helped myself to lunch which included sushi, wraps, branded cakes and water decanted in jars with plumbs, mint leaves and other exotica. I must admit I thought ‘god all this stuff is wasted on my untrained pallet’! Duly fed and watered we were all ushered into the main conference area for a sneak peek. I was surprised to find the room I was eating in turned out to be just the staging area.

After securing my seat in the conference room curiosity got the better of me and I began snooping around hoping to see behind the scenes. After a few mins of wonderment at all the flashing lights, screens and devices I worked out that there are separate mobile trollies for Lighting, Sound and visuals and that the meetings rooms and the two larger conference spaces were all named after David Bowie songs; Jean Jeanie, Aladdin Sane, Rebel Rebel how could I have missed that!

After a brief discussion with colleagues on this and that device, or choice of kit, our very own Kevin McLoughlin arrived to do a presentation on the ‘MeeToo’ voting system.

The technician in attendance for Google obviously had an issue with plugging a ‘rogue’ laptop into their system and started to ask many questions, usual stuff a tech would ask, and I have to say struck me as a little sniffy. But, Kevin answered all the questions superbly, as befits our AV Professional of the Year J

The tech finally managed to merge Kevin into the Google mothership but still seemed a little out of sorts? Bad day probably. Didn’t get nominated?
Just bought to mind what we all know, that one person can make such a difference to an event. Perception is all eh.

Jason King

My Brave New World…

“What’s that then?”

“Well, It’s about People, not boxes”

This is what I told someone, not of our world (no not an alien, just someone who thinks PowerPoint is where they plug the kettle) when they quizzed me on ‘what’s AVCF all about then?’ The above was my very short, spontaneous kind of answer to a question of ‘what I’d do next’?

But, considering it now, my answer kind of gets to the truth of the matter.

It’s been about six weeks now since I left the British Museum and after I made the decision to spend time giving something back. This via the community we call AVCF. When I think back through all my experiences dealing with AV, teams, people or projects, the defining factor has been my relationships with the people. I remember a successful businessman once saying in an interview ‘choosing the right people is the most crucial investment we make’. I also remember that when I had a team up and running (motivated and happy, which should be the aspiration of a manager) everything was less stressful; running rotas, delivering events, sourcing the right equipment (despite the fact that being in the museum sector fighting for budgets is a… challenge). One day I met with my line manager and she saw how smoothly everything was going in my world, so she asked me, what would I like to do for my own development. Enlightened eh. I thought. Then said that for a long while I’d talked to colleagues in various museums and institutions, who worked in AV, and that I’d never managed to get out and see them – this was the fledgling start of what would become AVCF. Although I’d phone often, chat and ask various questions about ‘have you used this type of projector or mixer and what the hell was WUXGA anyway’. It was a while back! I still ran old school kit, film and slide projectors. I was an analogue guy in an increasingly digital world.

Well, she said ‘go do it’. At last I had official sanction to roam out and find these people in far flung kingdoms. To me anywhere outside Bloomsbury seemed far flung. My initial instincts were confirmed when I finally chatted face to face. We were all doing the same job and despite specific differences locally we faced a lot of the same issues. Let me tell you the least of it was ‘black boxes’. We talked about perception of our roles by management, staffing structures, budgets, the strictures of our management structures and how to deliver AV in the face of this. Managing everyone’s expectation, at all levels, both external and internal seemed to be a constant trope.

People, not boxes.

So Chris, what’s your plan now you’ve taken up the reins at AVCF I hear you cry? (Some of you need to adjust your gain structure a bit, little faint there in places). Well, first off is this new blog on our website, it’s where I can throw out random thoughts, ideas and news of what we’re up to. Feel free to comment and challenge when you feel the need. But, more importantly I invite you, members of our growing community, to contribute. We can then move forward in becoming a real forum for our discipline. I think it’s needed. Don’t you?

Audio. Visual. Cultural. Forum.

Four words. Huge topic.

Hey remember, people, not boxes.*


* Although some of the new Roland kit showcased at BT on our last outing was pretty sweet