Creative Vision & Audio's Operations Manager, Kraig, gives us a glimpse into the life of an AV Technician - how do they get into the industry and what draws them to it? And more importantly, what does this mean for you?
While relatively new to this industry we call AV production. I can safely say it’s probably one of the most varied and hard to describe professions you could ever be in. People often ask me, “So what is it you do for a living?” To which I reply, “I’m in audio visual production for events.” Which seems a concise answer, but in reality it’s a very simplistic answer.
Over the last 7 years I’ve done everything from hanging concert sound systems to hanging domestic curtain rails. While working with everyone from the prime minister, to community ukulele troops. In venues ranging from 5 star Hotels to Dusty fields on the middle of nowhere. And quite literally everything in between.
The production technician is the jack-of-all-trades. Most AV techs will be proficient in most, if not all three technical disciplines, Sound, Lighting and Video. Many however will have a vast array of other skills including, but not limited to; Rigging, site management, computer systems and networking, logistics, set design and carpentry, cameras and videography. In addition to this, purely by being exposed to related industries, your average AV tech probably knows a thing or two about, Event catering, Food Service, Ushering, Security procedures, and likely has enough electrical experience to out-run most 3rd – 4th year electrical apprentices.
So what is it that draws people to this gig?
For me personally, I fell into the role of operating my high school’s AV system in-between school band rehearsals. Initially it was a modest system, but was upgraded half way through my tenure to include a substantial Audio system and 2 venue sized projectors. It was here I learnt how to make power point presentations seamless the old fashioned way and more importantly how to deal with presenters, teachers, as they nervously reached a point of hysteria prior to a big public speaking moment. From there I decided to forgo an offer of an electrical apprenticeship, and signed up to a 1-year diploma course, covering all things Live Production. And the rest is recent history.
To me there’s nothing quite like hooking up 100’s of thousands of dollars worth of specialized equipment, and knowing exactly what every cable in the incomprehensible web of patch leads and devices does. Seeing devices from multiple manufacturers communicate with each other, to display and reproduce AV content is where the magic happens for me. Overcoming the enviable technical challenges these devices throw up along the way is what keeps it interesting.
For others the common theme seems to be that they fell into the industry, not initially seeking it out.
Quite often musicians will find life behind the stage to be more rewarding (and better paying) than life on the stage. Bedroom music producers, with an affinity for technology find themselves DJ’ing at a club, next thing you know they have a PA system of their own, 10 years later they have a warehouse full of PA systems and a staff of 20.
Some simply knew a guy who was in the business, and started out just loading trucks and learning the ropes. Perhaps less so in Australia, but elsewhere around the world, there are churches everywhere with extensive audio visual systems, entirely run and maintained by congregation volunteers who pass these skills onto their children and other armatures, those with a bit of talent often make it a career choice.
Regardless of which foot you put in which door to get started, you end up knowing everyone in this tight knit industry and learn a vast array of skills equally from the people you work for and their competitors. You’ll rarely work in the same place twice, and even if you do it will be with a new show and different group of performers or clients each time.
You learn some amazing things, chatting with Celebrities back stage, and some useless things sitting at the back of an accounting conference. But all in all the experience is positive.
Being such a niche and relatively small industry, it’s highly unlikely that your school careers councilor, would advise you to skip uni and become a roadie. Or be able to tell you anything about the industry for that matter. But if you think it might be up your alley have a good chat to someone already in the business and start the journey.
If you’re employing an AV technician for your show and you have a question or a problem, even if it’s not AV related. Try asking them for advice. It’s highly likely they have experienced the problem before. Remember they attend conferences and events for a living.