Widgets Magazine

My AV History

By: David Danto
In thinking about how I was introduced to the world of AV I’d have to go all the way back to my childhood.  My dad – despite all his wackiness – wanted to be sure I knew at the early age of six that anything mechanical could be taken apart and put back together.  His first teaching example was a 78 RPM phonograph – which we disassembled and reassembled dozens of times.  When my older sister got her first portable transistor radio I of course proceeded to take that apart – something that was held over me as guilt for many years (until I snuck into her drawer and found and repaired it.)
While not always the same as my examples, I find these early age traits to be unique to AV and technical people.  We come from a desire and ability to understand why something works – not just how it works.
The AV bug continued to follow me throughout my education – whether it was being the resident technician on my high school Stage and Lighting Crew, majoring in TV/Radio and Theater in college, working for an AV rental company as my first job out of college, teaching production for CUNY, or designing and engineering TV studios as a young adult.  In all of these experiences understanding the history of the technologies and why things work the way they do was the key to success.
Yes, today’s projectors produce images to be awed, but if I had never operated a Leisegang projector or a multi-image dissolve unit I wouldn’t understand the nuances of beautiful projection.
Yes, today’s cameras are feature rich and can stream superb images, but if I had never learned what depth-of-field was or truly understood the visible difference between a zoom-in and a dolly-in I wouldn’t appreciate the nature of conveying appropriate images to remote locations.
Yes, today’s cameras can also shoot in low, non-specific light, but if I hadn’t learned why three-point lighting was appropriate I wouldn’t understand the difference between a video image and a good video image.
Yes, today’s microphone arrays pick-up much of the sound in a room, but if I hadn’t learned about the acoustical properties of rooms and the physics of sound I wouldn’t be able to design a microphone plan that makes people heard well.
As I look at the spectrum of AV professionals today I see Facilities people, IT people, Communications people and even end-users all stepping-up to learn, select and manage the technology.  That diversity of perspective is a good thing, as long as there is that respect for why things work.  Regrettably, I and others have spent way too much time taking flack for and undoing way too many terrible AV installations; ones where the installer should have known better but instead took advantage of a client that surely didn’t either.  When a basic understanding of why things work, and how people interact with them, isn’t present, the results will always be a disaster.
As technology continues to evolve and improve the AV industry needs to evolve and improve with it.  We need to respect the new skills that encompass a much wider view of the ecosystems of which we are just a part. This can only be done with an understanding of why things work but the “things” now are much bigger in number, including networks, routers, digital transmission, security, bots, sensors, and more.  These all need to be part of the AV professional’s understanding.  For AV to survive and thrive it needs to be the place where you can find someone who understands how to secure and set-up QoS on a videoconference network and understands why the lighting, camera and sound have to be correct.
In the current transformational, digital environment all industries are faced with needing to “make the pivot,” and this wider understanding of why things work is our pivot – our challenge.  How do we eject the poor-performing firms and the self-professed experts and truly become trusted partners for our clients?  How do we become the go-to folks for the digital revolution?  Easy – by understanding why things work, and making them simple, repeatable and effective for our clients.
David Danto has had over three decades of delivering successful business outcomes in media and collaboration technology for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds. David’s efforts have been recognized by many premiere industry organizations, serving as The Director of Emerging Technologies for the non-profit IMCCA; as adjunct faculty for InfoComm International; as a National Association of Broadcasters “Pick-Hits” judge for Broadcast Engineering; and as a repeat judge for the Consumer Technology Association’s CES Innovation Awards. David is an award-winning blogger and contributor to technology publications, a frequent presenter at conferences, and is a member of many industry advisory boards. He also works directly with organizations as a Business Transformation / Collaboration Consultant.

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