Spotlight on InfoComm


An IT Guy’s Guide to ‘Talking Legacy AV’

An IT consultant provides a sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek glossary for IT guys who need to ‘speak AV.’

David Danto

Update: David Danto wants to preface a few things in a subsequent blog post. Read this first.

Recently Commercial Integrator published a blog titled An AV Guy’s Guide to ‘Talking IT.’ It was meant to be a handy and helpful guide for AV professionals who need to understand technologies that may not be within their core of expertise.

It was certainly a useful guide that many have circulated on social media, and my appreciation goes out to the author for his good work. However, it regrettably perpetuates a myth — that a cursory knowledge of IT talking points is all that is needed for AV professionals to be successful in the marketplace. As I often say I have a different (and admittedly more controversial) opinion.

There are two types of AV professionals left in the world — those that now work in IT and those that don’t realize they now work in IT. A third type that I don’t usually include are the legacy AV guys that have their head in the sand, still trying to make a success out of a dead business model that is based on the ignorance of the user.

Video: David Danto on NSCA BLC ‘Integrator of the Future’ Panel

Sadly, just like a tree that still stands for years well after it has actually died, these AV guys are still out there trying to fool their next customer into believing that everything needs to be customized, they’re the team to do it, and customers don’t really need to look at enterprise / organizational communications as a whole.

So, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, to balance that last blog, and as a public service for the “IT Guy” (and AV clients everywhere), here are “some of the key terms that will be good to know” when dealing with the now dead part of the legacy AV industry:

  • AV Consultant. multiple definitions: 1) An individual or organization that charges clients a percentage of the cost of each custom room for the privilege of specifying equipment that they have already made side deals with manufacturers to get installed.  2) A rare breed of individual that mixes expertise with arrogance resulting in higher costs to everyone.  3) An organization that colludes with architects to convince end user firms of their value in the process.  4) A group of AV professionals that produces flawed designs and then blames the integrator for the problem. Also see AV Program Report.
  • AV Integration Firm’s Control Programmer. Typically a High School student or recent graduate (who attended a few weeks of programmers training) paid $40 an hour, but who’s site visits to make changes cost the client $10K per room.
  • AV Integrator. multiple definitions: 1) An organization of 20% brilliant people and 80% idiots where the brilliant people go around talking about the importance of using their “expert firm” but then send the idiots to complete every job.  2) A firm that used to charge 15% to 20% margins on hardware sales to support their operational costs, but now that Amazon.com exists is looking for new ways to make money.  3) A team of in house or freelance staff that has significant expertise terminating AV and video cables and pulling them through a raised floor, stemming from the long gone days before Cat6 and fiber carried all communication signals.
  • AV Integrator, Consultant Driven. An AV integration firm that spends most of its time responding to RFPs as written by AV Consultants. Clients hire these firms after an RFP process, but they really work for the consultant, not the client.
  • AV Integrator, Design Build. An AV integration firm that spends most of its time directly seeking out clients as opposed to responding to AV consultant-written RFPs. These firms manage to capture all the nuances of blame the designer / blame the integrator / blame the programmer activities completely in-house so the client does not have to miss any of the excitement of using third parties.
  • AV Program Report. The detailed, room by room needs description of a complex AV facility that once existed in the mid-1970s. Every program report written since then has had the client’s name whited-out and replaced with the next clients name with only a handful of other minor changes made each time. (When computers replaced typewriters some AV consultant office managers still used the white-out on the screen for a few years till they learned to search and replace.)

Click to continue to Page 2 of the glossary.