AV on the Big Screen

Fifteen years ago when I took my first job in the AV world (as a tech manager at a college) I remember people asking me things like, “So does this mean you program VCRs?” or “You’re taking a job pushing TV carts around?” In those very early years, yes, we actually did push around some TV carts. I was lucky enough to never have to program a VCR. I mean really, programming a VCR is hard! My point, however, is that the wider world was not really aware of what AV was, or would be in the future.

Flash forward to the summer of 2017 and I think people have a better sense of AV, but most of the time it is not recognized. During the summer, my family watches America’s Got Talent together. It is a feel good, clean television show that allows us to spend a couple of hours per week together. Even though both of my children are in high school, we still enjoy watching it together. As an added bonus this year, I got to point to a few acts and say “That is AV!”

The first act that demonstrated cool AV was Light Balance. Light Balance is a dance company that uses lights on their costumes to change their design and scenery. The lights, dancing and music are all synced together to produce an exciting and interesting performance. Light Balance’s performance can be seen below:

During the August 22nd live show, I also had the opportunity to share with my family the heartbreak that sometimes occurs with live shows and AV. When Light Balance was ready to come out, instead the host took the stage and reported that there were technical difficulties. The live audience and the home audience were forced to watch a replay of the dress rehearsal. Yes, I told my family, even after a dress rehearsal, AV, and technology in general can still fail.

A second act was dancer Canion Shijirbat, who danced in coordination with a projection behind him. A low tech approach to AV, but one that got the audience thinking. For everyone in the industry, we have seen, and likely worked shows like this before. Yet, some viewers, including judge Simon Cowell, were fooled by the performance. Watch this clip of the show and listen to Simon after the dance ends:

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Cowell asks, “where is the second one, there were two of them”. The performance was so good, the video so good, that Simon believed it was a real person dancing. Bravo to the AV designers and producers of that performance.

A really exciting act that I believe shows how impressive AV can be, and what is possible with imagination was the Oskar and Gaspar body projection on Heidi Klum. Before I go any further, take a moment and watch the video if you have not seen it:

For those of us in the industry, projection mapping is a few years old, and many of us have probably not see it used much, outside of a trade show. For millions of people sitting in their living rooms, they had never seen any such thing. Adults, teenagers and children alike were introduced to this amazing AV technology. Unfortunately for many of them, and for our industry, they may not have even realized what they were seeing.

As an industry we are doing good work with trying to introduce AV into colleges and technical schools, so students see it as a potential future career. I realize that not everyone in AV does this type of work, but it is the type we should be showing people and bragging about our industry. Sometimes you need a bit of flash get people interested in asking questions. That is what I experienced this summer as I pointed to these performances and told my family, “I don’t program VCRs — I help people do that!”