2017

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

Dispatches

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.

Chris

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.*

Chris

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