Vibrant In the Valley and Beyond - AvNetwork.com

Vibrant In the Valley and Beyond

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Arizona's Video West Inc. has been a driving force in the rental and staging arena in the State of Arizona as well as nationally, for 25 years and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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Video West, Inc. provided video and audio support for an Image Events' production at the Rio in Las Vegas.
From its incorporation and start up in Tucson, to its current well-established headquarters' location in Tempe, AZ, Video West, Inc. has earned one of the valley's best reputations for rental services and an industry nod for show rental and staging support.

John P. (Jack) Waitkus, president & CEO of Video West, Inc. started his company in January of 1982 in Tucson, AZ with a focus on meeting the video needs of the business theatre marketplace based on his early years of experience at Chicago's Video Replay. He explained, "We thought we were going to be exclusively industrial and broadcast video, but the Tucson market wasn't established enough to support those video rentals. As a result, we were encouraged by our clients, and forced by the bottom line, to invest in other parts of the industry, lights and audio, but never changed our name. Those were the early lessons we learned about paying attention to our clients' needs that we still attend to today. As a result, we have grown into a full service rental and staging company."

In 1983 Waitkus decided to expand and open an office in Phoenix. Soon after, Video West Inc.'s clientele grew to include many producers and technical directors based on the east coast and in the Midwest, with the actual events taking place well outside Arizona's borders.

Waitkus recalled, "In the mid 80's, we started doing live video production support (cameras, switching, engineering) on shows outside of Arizona when video was still a relatively new medium and multi image was beginning to be a thing of the past. When we first began getting into shows, Video West, Inc. generally served as the video sub contractor to some of the established AV companies around. Soon we were being requested by clients, production companies, technical directors and Stage Managers directly and given opportunities to both expand our video inventory and technical expertise as well as grow our audio and lighting departments.

Fast-forwarding 20 years, the humble Tucson office has been closed for many years; Video West, Inc. is already pressing the bounds of its headquarters facilities in Tempe, which Waitkus built in 2003, with 40 full time employees and a multi million dollar inventory. Video West, Inc. also has a show coordinator/account manager positioned in Las Vegas, and a satellite office and warehouse facility in Baltimore.

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Video West, Inc. designed and executed video projection on a 130 foot serpentine screen for an auto maker's display at the Detroit Auto Show.
Video West, Inc.'s core business is supporting the business theater marketplace as well as a number of outdoor festival, fair and concert events. The majority of show support Video West, Inc. provides occurs outside its home state of Arizona at hotels and convention centers often managed by resident AV companies. Initiating and maintaining a good rapport with these in-house companies has been important to Video West. Becky Spooner, account executive of sales and marketing explained, "From a show perspective, when we go into a property where there's another company in-house, we respect their requirements and make every effort to work with their staff amicably. As an outside vendor coming in, we need their help, and we make an effort to maintain an attitude of respect rather than one of adversity. It has always been Video West Inc.'s philosophy to operate under a long term prospective. We value our integrity, and are committed to long term relationships with our clients and our competitors."

Video West, Inc. has approached its role in the AV rental and staging industry as a partner and team participant in the events it is contracted to stage. Gary Bigler, sales manager, said, "Video West, Inc. has a very broad client base, from independent producers and technical directors to meeting planners and well-established production companies. Many of those clients require far more than just a computer-generated list of gear and some techs to operate it. More often than not, we find ourselves in a position of doing consulting, design and pre-production administration on their behalf. We believe that this is part of the value-added product Video West, Inc. brings to the table as part of our services." Spooner added, "We also like to do the legwork and planning up front to avoid logistical hiccups on site or any financial surprises when it's time for billing. Live events must be done right the first time; there are no do-overs." Bigler continued, "We are providing more support not only in scenic direction but also in suggesting possible venue alternatives. We do not however, tread into the territory of producers or meeting planners such as hotel negotiations, complex scenic construction and design, catering plans or collateral materials. Video West, Inc. is at its best in video, audio, and lights."

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Video West Inc. supplied video, lighting, and audio support for Ray Ramsay & Associates's annual meeting.
Video West, Inc. also has a strong rental services division, headed by John D. (Johnny) Rodgers, rental operations manager. This market has been very successful for Video West, Inc. as more and more AV and production companies pop up in the Valley who need cross-rental support. Waitkus expanded, "Phoenix has been growing. A lot of companies have sprung up here just recently. If you compare it to NY or LA, the number of AV companies in the metro Phoenix area seems out of proportion to the actual population. Initially, these new entities put us on guard; however they haven't taken our business. In fact, Johnny and his department work with just about all of them. We've managed to maintain our reputation as a friendly competitor instead of an adversary."

Rodgers uses a simple approach to managing his rental services department, which keeps companies coming back time and time again for their various needs. "Basically there are three words that I utilize in my department, availability, commitment, and excellence. Our department personnel need to be available to respond to our clients and we must have the gear available to meet their needs at a moment's notice. My team and I have made a commitment to make ourselves available 24 hours a day and perform with an attitude that speaks of that commitment. With that commitment, to the clients and their needs, comes a further commitment to excellence, excellence in equipment, but most importantly excellence in customer service. Rodgers continues, "we all recognize that the equipment's out there, but again I believe the level of customer service my department and I seek to provide on a daily basis is why so many local companies turn to Video West, Inc. for support. It's really that simple. The amount of support we're able to give to the industry is equal to what we're able to receive from the industry."

As with other AV companies, Video West, Inc. must make frequent decisions about what gear to purchase and what to leave on the shelf. As Waitkus explained, "Both serving the needs and interests of our clients and offering them creative solutions to communicate their message basically dictates what technology we need to investigate and what gear we should buy.

Manufacturers routinely come out with an abundance of technical approaches and we're left to sort out what is both economically and technically viable for Video West to purchase. And of course we want to buy gear that enhances each of our departments' capabilities. We recently purchased more high output DLP projectors while at the same time beefing up our LED lighting fixture inventory."

As a natural response to the current trend in video display, Video West, Inc. has a deep inventory of Vista Spyder edge blending systems as well as a wide range of Folsom high-resolution seamless switching packages. As for projection, "We're pretty heavily into Barcos. As a matter of fact, back in the 80's and early 90's when Sony was the CRT projector, we urged our clients to try our Barcos then. It's a different story today! We have also invested in Stewart Filmscreen products to provide superior wide screen surfaces on which to project the video imagery," Waitkus adds.

Commenting on another very visible product sector right now, Waitkus notes, "The LED display marketplace is an interesting one, and we're constantly looking at it but haven't been convinced to commit to a product yet in part because of the expense. So we rent it as we need it, but don't own it yet. LED display manufacturers are finally coming out with an indoor/outdoor product, so maybe we'll have the opportunity to use that in more situations. While there is work that requires the brightness of LED video screens occurring here in Phoenix, no one in Phoenix owns the equipment yet. And with this type of investment, if it's a wrong move, it's a really big mistake. We can spend those million of dollars on other gear that we know that we'll move. For now, we will continue to take the conservative, cross-rental approach." For more information visit www.videowestinc.com.

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