AV Done Properly by Christopher Maione

AV Done Properly: Professional Quality Work, Attention to Details, Relentless Follow Up

During my humble career, I have designed, engineered, and project-managed literally thousands of AV projects – large and small — and I will share with you the most important aspects of a successful project: quality work, attention to details, and relentless follow up.

Professional quality work, attention to details and relentless follow up are important in all phases of a project, from design concept, engineering, fabrication and installation through project completion. Unfortunately, way too often the lack of proper efforts in these areas yield results which are mediocre at best and disastrous at worst.

There are various reasons (a nice way of saying excuses) for mediocre work, some of which include:

A general lack of skill or knowledge on how to complete a task with the level of quality, attention and follow up required. (at the extreme down side we refer to this as “clueless”)

Being too busy with conflicting deadlines to give tasks the attention required.

Not seeing the need or urgency in giving a particular task the time and effort required.

And the worst; Feeling the client isn’t paying enough for this level of attention.

Any one of these reasons can adversely affect the success of your project and damage your relationship with your client. So here are some of the areas where AV Consultants and AV System Integrators tend to fall short and suggestions for how to do things better.

AV Facility Design Drawings – a proper and complete set of design drawings are the start of a good project. A “weak” set of drawings is the beginning of a train wreck. As I frequently state, the fundamental rule of poor AV design; Garbage In = Garbage Out.

A “good” AV design set of drawings is complete when all parameters of any AV component which touches the walls, floor or ceiling is properly depicted. AV equipment must be shown to scale and dimensioned on each relevant drawing view including floor, elevations, sectionals, electrical and reflected ceiling plans. AV drawings must be integrated and coordinated with the architectural drawings. Quality work. Attention to details.

Coordination – This is probably the most important and most frequently “dropped” phase of the project. Just because the AV drawings depict an item, doesn’t mean it has been picked up by the rest of the design team. Proper process is to review the architectural drawings to ensure all AV equipment has been captured and properly depicted. Detailed review of the M / E / P drawings is required to ensure coordination of all AC power and coordination of ceiling items such as speakers, sprinklers, HVAC diffusers and lighting fixtures. The Telecom drawings must be reviewed to ensure all voice / data connectivity is depicted where required by the AV system. Review of the lighting plans to ensure proper lighting and dimmer zoning to properly compliment the AV environment. Attention to Details. Relentless Follow up.

Project Management – Show me any successful project and I will show you a good project manager. The PM is the maestro of the AV band, he (she) must lead his team, but yet must take direction from and answer to the director of the show (aka the client).

For the best outcomes, the PM must take full responsibility and “ownership” to resolving issues. These issues include all items, either internal or external to the AV organization, which could compromise the AV project in any way, shape or form. All aspects of work flow, design, engineering, project management, scheduling and coordination are the responsibility of the PM. Quality work. Attention to Details. Relentless Follow UP.

Assembly / Installation
– Do it right the first time. There is never a good reason for sloppy workmanship when it comes to AV assembly, orderly wiring practices (no rats nests!) and a clean AV installation. It doesn’t take any longer to wire a system NEATLY vs. the time it takes to do it over. Assembly, wiring and installation practices MUST be meticulous, neat and orderly. Quality work. Attention to Details.

Testing & Commissioning
– It’s a shame to say I’ve seen many AV system properly installed – but then not properly tested. Blowing into the mic, Testing 1-2-3 no longer cuts it.

We design, build, and install complex AV systems and a thorough testing / checkout process is key to ensuring they work properly. This means testing the system – REALLY testing the system. Audio, Video, display and Control. This means we break out the meters, scopes and test equipment and confirm all systems are working up to spec. “Loud enough” is not a quantitative measurement, how about 65 dB SPL measured at ear level. When it comes to Touch Panel / control systems – testing MUST include actually pressing EVERY button and systematically gone through every possible user combination of AV system functionality. Quality work. Attention to details.

The Client – Communications is key. Remember to always keep the client in the loop. Keep them informed and most important, happy. Quality work. Attention to Details. Relentless Follow Up.

Remember, they’ve hired you because they believe you can bring their project to a successful completion. They will expect nothing less from you then…..quality work, attention to details and relentless follow up. Don’t disappoint.

A successful project requires a real dedication to seeing the project through to completion with the same level of commitment on your first day running the project as your last. Anything short of this is mediocre at best. With professional quality work, strict attention to details and relentless follow up you will produce a project that you can be proud of and will keep your clients coming back.

AV Done Properly is not for the light hearted. The flip side of the fundamental AV equation is this: Quality Workmanship In = Quality Project Out.

Christopher J. Maione, CTS-D, can be reached at cmaione@chrismaione.com.

The AVNetwork staff are storytellers focused on the professional audiovisual and technology industry. Their mission is to keep readers up-to-date on the latest AV/IT industry and product news, emerging trends, and inspiring installations.