By Jacob Wolf, Chief Distribution Officer
Image Credit: Hunter Hourany for Horizons
The Digital Media team is the part of the IT department responsible for audio visual (AV) equipment at Embry-Riddle’s campus events. When you submit an event technology form for an event, you’re asking Digital Media to supply, set up, operate, and take down technology for you. When you attend a meeting in the DLC or Lower Hangar, you’re hearing the speaker and seeing the presentation because Digital Media is working in the corner. The team is led by Dave Rauch, an AV Support Specialist and the only full-time staff member. The rest of the team are students, balancing their educational needs with ERAU’s event wants.
For the Board of Campus Activities (BCA) to start their “Top Gun” double-feature at 6:00 p.m. on Friday Jan. 20, AV setup had to begin in the IT office at 4:30 p.m. The day’s team of five – Carson Ballou, Cannon Smith, Ariana Acosta, Andy Chiu, and Blake Maas – ran through the evening’s game plan before loading equipment into university golf carts and heading out to the Lower Hangar.
Once inside, they started setting up large active subwoofers and speakers to supplement the Lower Hangar’s passive speaker system. This equipment wasn’t included in the original event ticket, but part of Digital Media’s job is to interpret client requests to supply the best possible experience.
After the equipment was up-and-running, it was time for signal testing. Songs were played at full volume over the system to adjust the volumes at different frequencies and match the speaker layout with the room’s natural acoustics. They also faced an unplanned technical hurdle: a low buzzing with an unknown cause.
The team scrambled to locate the buzz’s source in their equipment, knowing that intense crisp sounds define “Top Gun.” They swapped out cords, tried new methods of transmitting the sound signal, and debated finding a new machine to stream the movies. They eventually adjusted the signal amplification levels in their computer and media system, eliminating the buzz via successful troubleshoot.
With the movie finally started, Digital Media’s unnoticeable work continued throughout the event, primarily through sound adjustments. “Someone will always be on the [sound]board doing something” explained Maas, who uses his recording studio background to ensure sound quality. He’s especially active during events where multiple people are using microphones, owing to inconsistencies in speech volume and pitch. He must “constantly be aware of what’s happening and adapt to it,” since he doesn’t “want to make someone sound like a banshee. Or Batman.”
After the event is the strike, and the team budgets about half of the setup time to breakdown “all the lighting, all the sounds” says Chiu. But when the events are over-the-top, so is the team’s time commitment. For BCA’s Casino Night, Acosta says “us students, even on a Friday night that we give up to try to get all the event done, we also have to take it all down. We’re gonna be still on campus until 3:00, 3:30 in the morning when we started at 6:00 a.m.”
Smith says it’s nice when clients are grateful for Digital Media’s work. Organizations that consistently hold events “typically take the extra time after an event or even before the event to go, “Hey thank you guys for being here.” Or some of them will come on up and say, “Hey we anticipated you guys being here, we have some extra food. Make sure you come interact, come get something to eat.””
And while they appreciate being appreciated, Smith and the team understand “we are the background, and that’s where our job lies. Our job does not generally bring recognition unless something goes wrong.”
The next time your event uses audio visual technology, hopefully you don’t notice Digital Media. But for those who can recognize when things go right, take a look at the team in the booth and thank them. They are making it happen.