In pop culture, the AV guys are often the nerdy afterthought. Take the teenage film staple 10 Things I Hate About You, the 1999 smash hit that launched the careers of Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. One particular joke from that movie has stuck in the craw of Cameron Douglas, executive director at Videopro Group, for two solid decades. At the Melbourne Integrate Expo, Douglas elaborated upon this scene.
Out-of-towner Gordon-Levitt is assigned a fellow Tacoma High student to tour the school, Gordon-Levitt quips that’s he’s glad his guide isn’t “one of those audiovisual geeks”.
Of course, the joke proves to be on the AV industry. A passer-by walks past David Krumholtz’s character and says: “Hey Michael, where should I put those slides?” With this, Krumholtz’s character is exposed along with, Douglas notes, some of the perceptions that still exist today.
What perpetuates AV stereotypes?
“Audiovisual is either the screaming baby in the room or totally transparent,” says Douglas, recalling the kind of polar-opposite scenarios that have come to define AV. You’ve been there before.
There is the meeting, on the one hand, that kicks off seamlessly. The speaker holds a small clicker masterfully commanding the audiovisuals of the presentation, discreetly prompting the next digital slide as the speech glides along, ensuring a star turn for the speaker and side-kick status to the AV on hand. This is AV done right.
Then, on the other hand, there is the presentation where the screen reflects somebody’s desktop background, giving the audience plenty of time to peruse the private items on screen, look at their watches, check their smartphones, and groan as minutes slip away. From the scrambling, you might hear: “Just a minute”, or the dreaded: “Is this thing on?”
In cases like these, the AV bears the blame. But this is a “screaming baby” clearly misunderstood. Audiovisual can only be as good as those that practise with it, and the more people with knowledge and enthusiasm for AV, the better the execution can be.
Learning to live with AV
Finding a broader audience that can learn to love AV could prove as easy as teaching the audience to recognise it. “AV is in every facet of our daily lives,” Douglas says. “It is the enabling technology that allows a musician to whisper to a stadium of 50,000 people, or to enjoy a film at the maximum experiential level, but it’s not just powering the arts, it has become an indispensable tool in how we work.”
“Video conferencing, presentation, digital signage and its evolution into smart workplaces and Smart Buildings,” he says. “Like IT in the ’90s AV may have a branding issue, but it certainly doesn’t have an economic one being in such high demand for so much of what we do.” It must be said, if the AV industry can wear one fault that has contributed to its less than stellar perception, it is the industry’s lack of diversity.
The curious tech-heads and self-proclaimed failed musicians who have gravitated towards the industry are nearly always male, and can prove apprehensive embracing young people entering the industry. Graham Evans, CEO and managing director at AVT, has noticed this.
“I’m a big fan of attracting youth and diversity into this industry,” Evans says. “I’m a big fan of having mentors that are half our age and learning about Macs, because they’re the future of what we’re going to do.”
Evans has observed older employees who have proven protective of their IP around younger colleagues, which has only delayed tomorrow’s leaders finding their own solutions, which they inevitably will do. This has stymied education going back the other way, from young to old, as “unlearning” old techniques and embracing new data is more vital than ever.
“I’m a big fan of being brave enough to go around the rules and rewrite them, but respect what we can sustain because when you’re launching platforms and changing the paradigm it hurts, there’s a lot of heavy lifting.” Progress in the AV industry, like in all sectors, requires a broad skill-set that is often found in many contributors of varied backgrounds. Douglas, for one, is confident AV can get there.
“I’m hugely optimistic, if that doesn’t come through in the way that I speak,” he says.
“My only fear is that people don’t embrace it. My fear is that we’re too scared of the politics of the supply chain, and going into the unknown on technology, because that is what is going to hold us back.”
So, twenty years on, detractors can put those slides and those perceptions wherever they see fit. We don’t need them anymore.
Cameron Douglas and Graham Evans were joined at Integrate Expo 2019 by fellow panelists Engie Servies’ Myke Ireland, David Lambuskes from AVIXA and Samsung’s Phil Gaut. If you would like to learn more about the trends, impacts and innovations in the ANZ AV industry – please Download a Copy of our Whitepaper ‘‘Sights and Sounds: Make way for the technology boom’ here.
About the Author:
Luke Dodemaide is an award-winning writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. He has contributed to INTHEBLACK, Nourish, and Inside Sport.