Basic Skills to Fix AV
Perhaps it is the influence of action movies or 30-minute crime shows or just how stark differences allow us to comprehend change, but subtle movements tend to be ignored or disregarded. There is a long-standing rule in technology called the KISS standard; while I would love for this acronym to involve kabuki-style grease paint, fire breathing, and overwrought power chords, it simply stands for Keep It Simple Stupid.
The most complicated live events start with a basic concept or goal; the pathway to the final product is a series of micro steps. I recently re-entered the live events industry with a role on the back end of things. My past experiences in the field, most recently traveling around the US and parts of Asia/ Oceania for Broadway tours, allow me to see the big picture. Yet, with all the drama and adrenaline from working live shows, it was a service guy who taught me patience and the value of quiet observation.
Like A Swiss Timepiece
Mike, though we called him Alex, his middle name because there were too many folks named Michael (4) at the time, is a Swiss engineer who fell into the world of event staging. Mike was brought in to develop home-grown solutions for the expanding installation and special projects part of the company; by default, he also ran the in-house maintenance department.
Taking me under his wing, Mike shaped my ADD tendencies and helped hone them into something I could act on, granted this was presented in his pragmatically austere Nordic engineer manner. Now in his defense, he had a very casual side, not quite footloose American, but as we were neighbors in Park Slope Brooklyn, there were ample opportunities to share a drink or three.
Alex, when we were not drinking, impressed upon me that While attempting to replace an IC or soldered components was not to be considered lightly, there is usually a much simpler, often glaringly easy fix. It is a life lesson I try to impress on the young and inexperienced techs under my management.
Fast, Furious, Fix AV
Keeping things moving and ensuring the equipment a company uses is in running order is essential in any audio-visual shop; this is doubly critical when working at a mom-and-pop company. Without the resources of larger shops, we need to pay close attention to the condition of the equipment used for shows; with a limited inventory, we cannot afford to have gear go down, especially during busy seasons.
The reality is that sometimes this means we identify a problem and, like a NASCAR pit crew, get the unit running with a spot of glue and some gaffers tape because the truck is leaving now for a 6 am load in. Fast and furious is the order of the day at these times; sometimes, taking a step back and relying on experience provides a longer-term solution.
Looking for the Obvious
A co-worker recently brought me one of our workhorse projectors with a thermal overload error on the LCD control screen. After reviewing the maintenance manual and consulting the manufacturer support via email, we were given several possible causes, including a faulty PCB board, failed thermal sensor, or damaged fan controller. The support agent gave us options for sending the unit in, all expensive propositions, and a timeline for return that did not fit our immediate needs.
Once we removed the unit’s top, it was clear that the fans were working, and the software tools did not indicate any deeper issues. I recalled a valuable lesson Mike had often repeated to me, the weakest link in electronics is the connections. If one pin is slightly misaligned or an edge connector has slipped, ghosts in the machine can appear and disappear at random moments.
Well, Would You Look At That
After turning off the projector and letting it cool down (no need to get burnt or blinded by the light engine), we looked more closely at the numerous circuit boards that make up a modern piece of AV gear. Using a mix of habit and trained intuition, I gently pressed down on board connections; in return, we were greeted with the satisfying crunch of connectors nesting again.
Et Voila! Reapplying power brought the projector to life in a healthy state, with the previous warning messages nowhere to be seen. After letting the unit run for an hour and a couple of re-starts, it was determined we had a solid fix.
Because our equipment is moved from shop to show and back to shop again, pieces jiggle, shake, and ultimately work themselves loose. Rather than being afraid of the devices our livelihood depends on, careful observation and gentle prodding lead to better understanding and lower maintenance costs.
Small Steps for Giant AV Fix
I once had a therapist/life coach explain that if all you look for is the end goal, the job may seem unattainable and prevent you from taking the first step. Honestly, it is advice that I do not always follow but inevitably come back to. Working with fear holds a person back, restricting movement and advancement; if one can find simple solutions, getting back on track becomes an obtainable task.
Do you have trouble completing a large task or cannot get started at all? How do you break it down, and whose voice lives rent-free in your head, guiding you to success?
This blog originally appeared on Tucker’s personal blog, Tertiary Tech. Check it out here.