What is an AV Technician?

(Video transcript) Hi I'm Paul Donovan. Welcome.

I'm glad you asked the question. AV stands for Audio and Visual. Audio is things related to sound. That could be microphones, speakers and various cables and wires related to sound. Visual is referring to just about anything that has to do with the video and visual aspect of a performance or an event. It can be the staging, the drapes, the lighting, the props, but it can also mean technology such as PowerPoint, slides overhead projectors, as well as, of course, the actual creation of it. And don't forget visual also included the use of cameras.

An AV Technician, an audio visual technician, is someone who's well versed in just about all the equipment that they are going to be involved with. They need to understand not only how to set it up, but also how to configure it and operate it.

Many events can include things like: trade shows, stage performances, concerts, conferences, meetings and training sessions, webinars, press conferences, special events, such as weddings or funerals. Press releases. Product releases. And so much more. Just about everything these days needs some form of audio visual need. Even something simple as a video like this.

There are really two types of AV technicians in the market. There's the setup or teardown crew. And then there's the show operator.

The setup and teardown crew, these are the ones who sometimes we lovingly call them the "grunt" workers, but not all of them are. These are the guys who have to haul the equipment, do the heavy lifting do the setup, and even be able to configure the equipment to a certain extent. They don't necessarily have to be professional at operating the equipment. They do need to know how to at least plug it in, turn it on. and configure it at the basic settings. You often see AV technicians coming ahead of time before event is over (starting). A lot of times these people are coming really early in the morning. They also come at the end of the event to tear it all down. That means they are there late. They have a wide variety of hours and activity. And not always is the setup grew and teardown, crew or the strike crew, the same people. Often times they will be completely different people. They don't have to specially know every piece of equipment. But they should at least at minimum know how to run the cables, plug things in, and and turn on the device. on. Configuring the equipment is important too. There are some AV technicians who are setup and strike who understand how to configure the machines and the equipment as needed.

The second group of people are the operators. This is the one that I like to do, because that's where I do a lot of my own work. They have to have two basic talents.

Firstly, is they have to be able to configure and operate the equipment that will be used for the event that they are working for. And secondly, they need to be able to interact with the client, or the presenters, or the talent. Depending on the type of event. Of course, these guys are usually working in a team, sometimes its a team of one, but other times working with many different people. They have to be able to get along with the team members and even along with the client. So there's got to be a lot of people skills. associated with an operator.

The entire industry the audio visual industry, is based on a schedule that is totally erratic. There is no nine to five in this business. There are a lot of downtimes when there are very few events, and then there are busy times when you'll be overtime and sometimes overtime on top of overtime. There really isn't a lot of standard. Wage rates can vary depending on if your employer is a small av company or an international company. And also there are union and non-union contractor that hire people.

The smaller av companies tend to be paying on the lower end of the wage scale and they also tend to have the most erratic working schedules. Setup and strike crews, for example, can expect wages between $12 and $25 per hour, more leaning on the twelve side than on the twenty-five dollar side. Show event operators, the other group, they tend to get a little bit more, depending on their experience and talent. They can probably see between $15 and $30 an hour. Some of the really talented special are paid a whole lot more, especially those in the movie industry.

Most av technicians are freelance. Sometimes called contract workers. It depends on how you work in your life, and so on. You'll find that a lot of time, especially the show operators, tend to be freelancers. If they are freelancers they work for a lot of different companies.

Most companies have a 4-hour minimum call. So if they call you in to do an event you can expect to have at least four hours of work. Some of the freelancers will negotiate day rate, half-day rate, things like that.

Because freelancers, or contract workers, are often they work for many different companies and they are often hired because of their special experience and ability they are hired for the event and then that's the end of their responsibility. They have to do their best at what they do as well as still continue to make the company they are working for look good. So its often hard when you work for two or three companies that might be a fierce competition in the market each time you work for those different companies you have to be the face of that company. Its a little bit awkward when you are working for multiple companies.

The bigger companies they have different situations, they often have very strict guidelines about how wages and hours are counted. The working conditions are often different quite often you may be given a specific task and that will be the task you will do for the whole shift, depending on the size of the task that's involved, for the whole shift. The bigger companies tend to have larger crews when doing setups and strikes. More operators where possible. The wage rates don't really change a whole lot. Just the working conditions are there. Oh, by the way, since you are usually freelance contract workers it's very rare that you will get any benefit plan when you are working in the av business.

Now there's another area, of course that av is also involved in. That's in the movie industry, or the television commercial industry. Or the tv series industry. Most of those things are done with union operators. Some of the commercials and smaller things might work with non-union scenarios, but a lot of the major industries the hollywood movies, and so on. Those tend to be mostly union shops. Of course you need to get involved with the union registration I don't know enough about that to tell you what to do there, but they do the big gigs, you can sometimes see at the end of concert 50 or 100 guys waiting for the end of a concert then they come in and quickly dismantle the entire stage set.

You'll see some of the larger events that the event will have its own dedicated crew members and they will hire locally to bring in the gigs. You can often find listings on Craigslist and other places for gigs. Where there are gig events, where you are brought in just for your muscles and your back. Often the experienced technicians won't get into the really big ones because if the shows are put together like the big concerts with the major performers out there. They often have their own people who are very familiar with the sound setup for the show don't use local talent for that. So its very rare that we get involved in that area.

You'll often hear about the exciting opportunities the great chances you will have. I can tell you stories about having put microphone on Sarah Palin or Vice President Chaney or I even put a microphone with John Cleese. It sounds pretty exotic puting a microphone on a lapel, but you don't get to interact with them, and so on. Also the other part of this thing is that your life is constantly changing. There's no schedule, when there's nothing there there's the beautiful moments, the light moments, the hard-working moments. Times you sweat like crazy hauling equipment around lifting heavy equipment. Then there's the easy parts where the show is on and you're sitting around making sure the sliders are moving your mixer board and that the light are on. Giving the cues and things like that.

Is it possible to earn a living? Yes. Would you make it a career? I know some people that have been doing AV work for 20 or 30 years. They just keep on doing it for whatever reason they keep on doing it. It certainly is very rewarding for a lot of people as they use it as a stepping stone to move up into the film industry. where they can get a chance to work on movies and so on. Remember that the hours are extremely erratic. There are times when you are overloaded with telephone calls, can you work, working working. If you were 2 or 3 people you could have all the work you could get. And there's the times when there's nothing going on and you are sending out messages to all the shops, saying have you got anything going on? Have you got anything? And you're sitting at home twiddling your thumbs, and not doing anything.

Hopefully you've got a second income that you can also promote during the down times. One of the bad things about this this makes it very hard for you to plan budgeting and even for things like holidays because you don't want to take holiday if its going to mean you're going to lose a week or two weeks of events. So quite often you even have difficulty making holidays.

So here in North America in July and August are really dead times, just a pittance amount of work its not nearly enough work. This is the time when a lot of AV technicians will head off and do some of their own little plans and projects. Holidays, I've heard some of the guys going off backpacking through Asia and Europe and things like that. If you've got a hobby this is the time that people will build up their hobbies. There's also a break over the Christmas period of time when the Christmas parties are done and Christmas is on and after Christmas. Nobody wants to have a meeting or special happening during that mid-December to mid-January period things slow down as December comes in and slowly pick up for February.

Now those of you who might be watching this from other countries where your seasons are opposite. Whatever is your "summer" and your "winter" flip those months around, and you'll get the idea.

So there's a little bit what an av technician is all about. It is a challenging job, its a job that can earn your keep. Its also a great opportunity especially in the case, like I am as a show operator, you get to meet a lot of very interesting people and have a lot of fun. And you learn a lot. I have worked in a lot of medical conferences and legal conferences. accountants. Some of them are boring, some of them you learn something. But you are always earning a living.

Please check out www.avtechnician.ca or make comments on the Youtube video. Thank you for watching.

Paul Donovan here. Thank you very much.

Contact Information:

Audio Visual Technician
c/o Living Productions Inc.
28-848 Hockley Ave.
Victoria, BC V9B 2V6

Tel: 604-837-7953
Email: info@avtechnician.ca