AV Insider Spotlight : Nathan Schneider , AV System Designer – USA

Each week, I am highlighting on some of the incredible people who are in the Audio Video Industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Nathan Schneider .

Here is a brief intro about him.

Nathan Schneider has worked in the Audiovisual industry for over 10 years. He is currently working as an AV System Designer for Image Stream Medical and as host/producer for AV Shop Talk podcast.

Please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.

1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?

It began when I found my dad’s Epiphone electric guitar and Fender Bandmaster 40 watt tube amp in the basement at age 13. My friends and I started a rock band and we would conduct jam sessions in the garage on Saturday mornings. I found myself sitting near the 4-channel Radio Shack mixer on a regular basis. I wish I hung on to that little mixer. It had this vintage distortion feature that would only engage as the faders were moving up and down. By age 15, I was volunteering at my church and learning live sound from a guy named Phil who strategically placed sticky notes all over the Mackie SR32.4 VLZ. Of course all of these notes indicated to never touch or change any settings. It wasn’t until I was in college at UMass Lowell that I got what I would call my “gateway gig” as a stagehand with Durgin Technical Services. Durgin is the name of a building on-campus that contained a small theater. The technical services group provided support for all the events scheduled there. The acts that came through were mostly musicals for kids. The hours were flexible and I gained real-world experience with audio, lighting, and rigging while pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Performance & Sound Recording Technology.

One night I got called up to the major league. My supervisor at Durgin Tech was Casey Soward, who also happened to work for Bill Kenney Productions. They needed a few extra hands for a big show in downtown Boston. I said yes to the opportunity and showed up early one morning at the Agganis Arena. I helped unload the truck and roll cases of equipment around the venue for the Def Leppard & Bryan Adams concert. It was hard work, the hours were crazy but at the same time it was an awesome experience. For the first time I got to see what it was like backstage and see how all the various components of a large scale concert came together. I learned how line arrays were unpacked, rolled into place, rigged up, flown, then taken down and packed up again at the end of the night. That stagehand opportunity lead to a couple dozen more stagehand gigs with Live Nation and Bill Kenney Productions. One of the most memorable jobs was building the stage on the field of Fenway Park for Dave Matthews & Sheryl Crow.

Part of finishing my bachelors degree in Sound Recording Technology included a 20 hour per week, 15 week internship in a related field. At the time it was mandatory that we intern for free in order to earn those last few college credits. After researching and identifying 10 AV Integrators in the Boston area I chose to pursue an internship with HB Communications in Waltham, MA. I have to give credit to Mark Whittaker for explaining what an AV Integrator actually was and pointing me in the right direction. I learned from Mark that HB Communications was one of the top integrators in the Northeast. At the time I had this idea in my head that I could either move to New York City or LA to pursue a career in the recording industry. Mark was the person who really put AV Integration on my radar as a possible career path. In 2007 I went from being a student and part-time Stagehand to being a rookie Installation Tech. When the internship concluded I got my diploma and I was launched into Commercial AV when HB Communications decided to hire me full time.


Over the years I’ve worked for three integrators in the Boston area. Currently I’m an AV System Designer with Image Stream Medical focused primarily on integrated operating rooms and serving clinicians in the medical community. There are some unique challenges to clinical AV systems. At first I was hesitant to dive deep into the medical vertical given my experience primarily with commercial AV and video conferencing but I’m glad went for it. The spring of 2017 will mark 4 years with Image Stream Medical.

2. What do you think is the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry.

I actually hear from new people inquiring about the AV Industry frequently because I moonlight as a content creator. I talk about AV Integration on my YouTube channels and my podcast AVShopTalk. One of my favorite things is when people reach out after listening to an episode or watching a video. The biggest challenge I see is not knowing where to start. I recently received a message from a young man named Kinan located in Salmiya, Kuwait. He says he has worked as a sound designer for the past two years but is finding it very competitive with few opportunities. He’s interested in becoming an “AV Tech” of some sort but doesn’t know where to start. He said he doesn’t know if it will be stable work and doesn’t know what the long term career path will be. For me, my friend Mark took me under his wing and explained how AV Integration and Video Conferencing could be a potential career path. Mark came along at the right time and pointed me in the right direction. Not everyone has a Mark in their life. One of the ways I’m trying to help people like Kinan is by producing videos and podcasts that puts this information out there. I have no idea what the AV Integration market is like in Kuwait, but what I would say to Kinan or someone in his position is to start doing research in your region.

You’ve got to become an expert at identifying the AV opportunities around you. Start with finding 10 companies doing business in the AV Integration market near by. Creating that initial list of local companies is a huge first step in the right direction. Knowing who to call is only half the battle. The next step and arguably the more important step and is something one of my professors in college emphasized quite frequently. Alex Case taught me many things about compression, acoustics, music and the recording industry but one of my big takeaways from Alex was the concept of being a mover and a shaker. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make the call.


3. Let me know how online marketing through blogs, social media has helped you. How effective is it compared to the traditional methods.

See related  Spotlight: Guy Etgar - CEO of Insoundz

Online marketing and personal branding is right up my alley. Social media is something I have been tracking and staying up to date with since about 2004. I have three content creation channels I have been building and experimenting with over the years. I launched my first YouTube channel called BigNate84 in 2011 which is dedicated to how-to videos. I call it a field guide for the millennial man and it’s up to about 3.6 Million views. In 2013 I launched the Live Sound 101 video series which has now spun off into it’s own niche channel combined with the Volunteer Tech Vlog. This is where I vlog about my adventures in the church tech world and create basic pro audio training videos. My latest project is the monthly AVShopTalk podcast which was launched in 2014 with fellow #avtweep Jason Griffing. Currently there are 33 audio episodes available for download that contain interviews with systems integrators, manufacturers, journalists, broadcasters and audio video professionals.

Measuring effectiveness compared to traditional methods is a bit difficult to quantify because I have spent my entire professional life in the age of social media so I don’t have a good metric to compare against. Compared to exchanging business cards, knocking on doors, making phone calls and attending events online marketing has more potential. Often times we focus on the classic bit of wisdom, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. I read a different take on that recently from David Avrin and I agree with it. “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” When you think about the raw numbers of people viewing content 24-7 all over the world it’s mind boggling. If you can figure out how to create great content and make it available online for free that’s where the action is. You never know who’s going to see your content and reach out with some sort of offer.


The most obvious benefit of all this online activity is the professional networking aspect. I began strategically seeking out and connecting with other folks in the AV Industry locally and around the world. While I was in England visiting family for Christmas I had the opportunity to meet-up in person with fellow AV Pro Nevil Bounds. Without my podcast and without twitter community known by the hashtag #avtweeps I would not have had that opportunity to meet Nevil. We recorded episode 24 and 25 of AVShopTalk during our impromptu meet-up at the pub in Heathfield.

In addition to professional networking content creation has helped me establish personal recurring streams of revenue and also lead to a number of unexpected opportunities. I’ve had dozens of free product offers, I’ve had a short clip make it into an ABC World News segment, I’ve had multiple invitations to collaborate with other content creators and I’m currently working on a deal with a TV producer who has requested to use some of my content in a new History Channel series. I can’t imagine how any of these opportunities would have come my way without being a content creator. When I do content creation or any type of social media activity it has always been as an independent endeavor apart from my nine to five as an AV professional. My day job is heavy on the technical side designing systems in AutoCAD, creating cable pull schedules and specifying equipment lists. I really enjoy that type of AV design work but I also love having a creative outlet to produce podcasts, YouTube videos, collaborate and explore new social media platforms


[RELATED] : If you have missed any of the previous interviews, please click here.

4.If you were going to start over, what would you do differently ?

I would double major in Sound Recording Technology and Electrical Engineering if I could start over. That way I would have started off with a more well rounded understanding of electricity, grounding and basic power considerations that are so important for AV professionals to understand.


5.Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?

The primary software I use is AutoCAD. I learned how to draft by hand in high school. I consider myself quite lucky to have taken design technology classes at such an early age. I distinctly remember the last year of the drafting tables, pencils, eraser dust and the first year of AutoCAD Release 14. That was a big deal for a high school to get a computer lab of about 30 PCs equipped with ZIP drives, AutoCAD and PhotoShop. So I’ve been using CAD for a little over 15 years now, first as a student and then professionally when I started with HB Communications. Knowing that one piece of software has been vital to my AV career development. Additionally I find myself using a mixture of enterprise level and consumer level tools like Box, Trello, NetSuite, Omnify & Zoom.

For more information about Nathan Schneider , please find a few links.


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