Today is October 29th. For those who read my post yesterday… I am (unfortunately) in the middle of the Hurricane Sandy’s path. New Jersey is officially under state of emergency. We have been told to stay home and off the roads. Coastal communities have been emptied out since yesterday afternoon and now towns inland are beginning evacuation.
Hurricane Sandy and her angry disposition will hit NJ full force later today. The winds have picked up which is a sure sign that my time online is coming to an end as internet & power will surely go out. As I wrote yesterday the even the weatherman disposition has changed. They are now angrily pleading with people to save themselves and not put rescue personnel into the same perilous situation.
As I am writing this I am watching the large oak trees on my property bend and sway with these sneaky gusts! The wind is strange. It comes, it comes goes in quick bursts. It’s not a sustained wind that is what is strange. Everything is quiet until this huge gust comes out of nowhere and bends these trees like reeds in a marsh.
I am fortunate enough to have scored a generator during Hurricane Irene. A generator that I received, unpacked and pulled start handle only to watch my city power come back after 4 days of nothing. So I packed the generator up and stored it for the next time. So here is….the “next time”. Sandy will undoubtedly knock my power out.
Part of my preparation was getting some gas for the generator. I grabbed my red gas cans and headed out to gas station with my cousin and his son who happened to be over my house helping me with a small project in my garage. The three of us decided to head out to gas station to fill up on gas and grab a soda. My cousin filled up his truck and a 5 gallon then went inside to grab coffee. In the meantime I grabbed my 3 red gas cans and began filling each. The gas collection was not the fun of it….the lady in the Black german V12 import was.
Before you say it…yes its NJ and we are typically impatient. Now to paint the picture… There is 10 Fill up bays at the local gas station. Each lane is about 3-4 cars deep with everyone doing the same thing I am filling cars and cans. As we are filling the truck and cans this lady had chosen to pull up behind us to fill up her car. I went about filling the truck and cans not paying attention to the car behind us. My godson Michael must have notice this lady growing impatient.
Go figure…She was in a hurry and did not want to wait. As if there isn’t enough stress on the people who are there filling up. As i proceeded to pump gas she “lost” her cool. Angrily she exclaimed “You could have said something!” after I had pulled out another 2 cans. Really? We now have to declare our intentions while at the pump? Oh Did i mentioned that she added few choice words that would make your grandma blush. What a Class act! She worked with profanity like Picasso worked with Oils. She then peels out from behind us, jumping out of line and cutting off an incoming car into an open pump.
I’m never at a loss for “choice” words but considering the situation and the company I’m with I decided to mind my tongue. I grumbled and went about filling my 5 gas cans but the best part of the whole episode was the following exchange with the gas attendant
As I pulled into the gas station I had asked the gas attendant … “How crazy has it been?”
He responded “You have no idea sir!”.
I did now.
I filled my gas cans handed him my credit card and thanked him for his help and told him to “Stay Sane”
He smirked before running to the furthest lane away from the lady’s Car. Did I mention he was the only one working that Bay.
Stay Safe and be nice to those working hard to help us.
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Today is October 28th 2012 and New Jersey is under state of emergency due to Hurricane Sandy. I have been following this news since early this week. There was never a question that New Jersey would be hit with the storm it was a matter of how bad it could become. I have been through hurricane and storms before so these warnings are nothing new but as the week went on you can see the weatherman on TV change. Their curiosity of the storm colliding with 2 more “storms” was making them giddy with the “what this could become”. The giddiness comes from the fact that these monster storms are rare. So rare in fact that a book and movie was made about the last one. Their giddiness changed as the week progressed. That same weatherman this morning is reporting with stern warnings and a tone of dispar in his voice.
As someone who recently went 4 days with no power during Hurricane Irene I know what I could be in for. My neighborhood is fairly safe from flooding though we are near creeks and streams that make up the Manasquan River. Another comforting thought is that my house is located at a high point so most of the water runs away from the house and down the street. The biggest drawback is that the water has to go somewhere and that somewhere is the road leading into my development as seen here. My biggest lesson learned during Hurricane Irene and the aftermath is that I need power. After 4 days of no power my refrigerator began to leak. Needless to say that the picture began to look bleak. More so that I have a fridge full of food that would go bad. Just as the first drops began to emerge from the freezer door a friend of mine sent me a text that generators would be arriving at a local hardware store. I was fortunate enough to nab a 5000 watt “portable” gas generator. It’s a beast! Big, Heavy and perfect in every way! That is plenty to run many of the necessities in my house but a bit extreme to take camping….well maybe not for a guy with power needs. So for the impending Hellfire and Brimstone that “Sandy” will bring I will be ready with power. The comfort in knowing that I will have power is unreal, hell it make me sleep better at night. I am fully prepared and ready to take on the challenge.
Like every other person in NJ on Saturday I was cruising around shopping for supplies. I have nice stock of goods ready just in case. Your basics water, milk, eggs and bread can be found in my fridge. By the way that’s the ongoing joke is that in bad weather the shelves in NJ become cleared of these good quicker than any other. I guess French toast is “comfort food” for bad weather. Aside from the great breakfast foods I do have items that will not perish in a couple of days. Canned goods, dry cereal, Parmalat and plenty of drinks. Now what sets me apart in my store visits was my inner tech side. While at the stores I searched for , what I thought was an elusive item. On a side note I had to stop and play with a touchscreen pc with Windows 8 … pretty nice.
Back to my mission…
I was probably the only person in the store looking for “rabbit ears”. Rabbit ears are no longer used but i refer to the term so that the Analog man working in the electronic section of “Big Box & Stuff” could point me in the right direction.
I made my way to the isle where I could find my modern-day “rabbit ears” the Amplified Indoor HD antenna. I figured if I have power I might as well watch a some TV. After much debate i picked up a basic HD antenna to help me catch some local channels. And by the way there was plenty of HD antenna on the shelves, I guess plenty of people have them already. As I made my way home with my secret treasure I thought to myself this will be key especially since my local cable provider has a hard time handling overcast days let alone the “perfect storm”.
I should have pulled out the camera unboxed the antenna on YouTube just to see my reaction. I tear through the packaging like a kid on christmas. I throw the instructions to the side (I am a trained AV person so do not try this at home) and begin working with F-connector like its 1999. So here it goes…I set up the antenna and ceremoniously plug-in the power adapter. Drum roll please….Actually I really felt like Ralphie’s dad in “A Christmas Story” when he plugged in the infamous “leg lamp”.
LET THERE BE FREE TV!
This can’t be. I redid the channel search and repositioned the antenna.
HOW CAN THIS BE?
Choosing not to be beaten by this cheap antenna I began running through the house unplugging the cable boxes and connecting the antenna. While I in the process i received a call from my cousin Pete ,who had purchased the same antenna. He called to tell me that he was only able to pick up a single useless channel. Not what I wanted to hear. As a matter of fact it made me more determined to make this work since I’m the video guy. I ran through the house pulling every HDMI cable and replacing it with the “rabbit ears”.
Not a single channel. I even hung out the window with the antenna in hand. Bring on the Lightning and Flux Capacitor!
This is not over.
I will find a way… or call in backup.
Clear Communication is Key by Todd Anthony Puma
Sometimes, during a consultation, a client will review work with you that they are looking to have done that falls outside your scope of work and a subcontractor needs to be brought in. It is so important that the sub contractors you choose are people of integrity and will work just as hard as you for the client. You should not only have the same business ethic, but similar practices as well. The client tends to get used to how you work, bill and your level of customer service so it is important that the people you sub in provide them with the same levels of service that you do because they are tied to your name. If the client is unhappy with them, they are inevitably unhappy with you.
Different people work better or worse with certain personalities so you want to make sure that your subcontractors are similar to you in personality as well. I am currently working on a job where I contracted in my IT team so do network and computer system integration. The IT team I work with is a team of brilliant guys who know their stuff and are always available for over the phone tech support. My client was working directly with them for a few months now. I just found out that my client has been completely frustrated because he had an issue with his system and while trying to trouble shoot over the phone, could not understand the technician at all. On top of that, the team came out a number of times to address the issue to no avail and sent him a large bill for the numerous trips without letting him know that there was even a charge.
As smart as my IT team is, this is one client that they just cannot connect with because of their lack of communication and clarity. Now, I have to resolve the issue for my client as this whole situation reflects back on me even though my portion has been executed without a hitch.
As I have always stressed, you can never be clear enough with the client from beginning to end. The contractors you hire in have to be the same way because they become used to one method and are not always going to be accepting of another method. Make sure the business relationships you build between clients, yourself and the contractors you bring in are compatible on all levels so that process is nothing but smooth sailing and the end result spectacular.
Introducing 2 new Bloggers to the “BAND”.
Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. He brings an unmatched passion for the AV industry along with musical and art inspiration into his views.
Joshua Stackhouse is a unique individual who currently is earning his A.A.S. in Electronics and Audio/Visual Systems from one of the only colleges to be both ESPA certified and an InfoComm training partner.
Do not mistake Joshua for a rookie. His time spent in the Navy coupled with his IT background and his love of all thing tech make Joshua a great example of what future AV talent will look like. His writings bring the perspective of the individual breaking into our industry.
For more information on Both Todd and Joshua please click the images below…. MORE TO COME.
Summing up AV in one scene by John Sciacca
We were watching TV last night and the opening dialog from the show Up All Night was just so full of spot-on, brilliant amazingness that I had to share it for all to enjoy.
So, I’ll set the scene; married couple Reagan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) are sitting on their couch eating and watching TV. (I think it is an episode of Real Housewives of Something-Something they are watching.) When – poof! Suddenly the TV goes out…
Continue reading by clicking the image below:
Here’s a new one… I’m recognized in Stewart Filmscreen’s October newsletter as their “Social Media Highlight of the Month”. I have to admit that’s a first for me but definitely a cool one in my book. Thanks Stewart!
Click the image below to read their October 2012 newsletter…
What you will read may shock you.
Chances are it will appall you.
But the fact is we all do it when no one is looking.
We all play our music on someone else’s soundsystem.
Typically you try not to bring your musical stylings into the mix. So we find ourselves buying Smooth Jazz CDs or Bland Music that may/could be technically solid to play while at a customer location. But Every so often we get a window of opportunity to put our own tunes into that freshly installed soundsystem. To tag it with “I was here” !
So Last week I put a call out to REDBAND to send me a playlist that they would use to drive a soundsystem (sans customers) and leave it gasping for air. It’s a new system and let’s see what it can do. It’s like test driving an italian sports car in at rush hour. You know what you’re working with and you want to go full throttle.
You kindly and professionally wait till none is around. You check the halls and the parking lot and rush back in to get your MP3 player connected. You file through your playlist and find that Special Mix and not the mix tape you made in High School for your sweetie. No disrespect to your Sweetie, your formal audio training or your well-trained ear. This is unadulterated Ear Candy so hit the gas!
Underworld – Born Slippy (Single)
- From the Trainspotting Soundtrack will build into a 100 mph Dance Anthem. Searing describes it well.
Rage Against the Machine – All 4 Albums.
- Songs like “Killing in the Name“ , “Bulls on Parade”, “Pistol Grip Pump”, “Renegades Of Funk” will make want to keep an eye on the speakers and their warranty.
Guns N’ Roses - Appetite for Destruction
- Start to finish it’s one of the greats.
Gipsy Kings - The Best of the Gipsy Kings
- A change of pace and a personal favorite of mine . Anyone who can appreciate Spanish guitars plucked away with a pulsating beat will enjoy their music.
- I love everything this band has put out. The rhythm and the horns are infectious.
- Electric and Love Albums are 2 of the best and very high on my most played list. The Riff just flood the room with sound.
As I have gone back to my roots and re-entered the Event Staging world I do not have many opportunities to tune up and perform test drives on media room systems these days.
I do not hate surround sound -(regardless of the fact that I once caused a virtual right in 1992 on a BBS board by calling it “… Quad without the thrill nostalgia…” ) – but I am ostensibly a two channel guy with romantic tendencies toward the lo-fi genre.
Still there are times I am asked by a friend to help out for a few beers and dinner and when the manufacturers bring over a new system to test I have a few discs that I know all too well and provide a means to show off the capabilities:
The Creatures – Boomerang
- Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie from Siouxsie and the Banshees side project of evocative middle eastern rhythms and instruments all bundled into a post punk tent revival. The ,music swirls up into crescendos only to build up again and again layering in goth inflections with dance beats, electronic pace and arabic prayer like calls. While this does have a rock bottom heavy sound it is not so deep as to overwhelm the intricate sub melodies nor counter the subtle lilting opposition beats that crash around the songs like a tipsy musically adept conductor stumbling his way around the brass section. This is my go to desert island disc.
- John Coltrane – Hackensack NJ 1958. While not considered one of the best Coltrane records it is remarkable for the space and presence of the pieces. Long before surround sound was a pipe dream and Quad was losing out to the long play records, Black Pearls achieved a sense of transporting the listener into the room. The album, recorded by the renowned Rudy Van Gelder -(if you do not know of this gentlemen I suggest looking into him, his work is a revelation)- on a three track wire recorder dubbed ‘bandsaws’ by engineers at the time. A quartet Be-Bop band recorded live with three microphones onto a three track wire recorder - If this cannot be called F’n brilliant then nothing can.
Tori Amos Crucify: Smells Like Teen Spirit
- Tori Amos’s cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is what will make the original stand the test of time. The cut from the limited EP ‘Crucify’ lifts the veil of noise from the song and exposes the sheer craftsmanship of songwriting – the lyrical playfulness and dexterity Kurt Cobain had. Recorded with only Piano and Voice the song is all about the quiet, the space. Ms Amos’s version can give me chills each time I hear it but in a good room my skin flashes into goosebumps and knees literally grow weak. Audiophiles may rave on about capturing transients of the strings but I thrill at how a system handles the empty spaces just as well.
- Crazy gypsy dance music – crash, boom, bang music. but that voice is recorded BeAuTiFulY! Modern rock recordings tend to subdue and strangle the vocals. Granted this could have a lot to do with the quality of modern singers (need I say more than Auto-Tune?). The vocals in the Gogol Bordello songs are pushed right up into the forefront with a sound that I have only heard on the great Frank Sinatra albums.
Lucero – Nobody’s Darling
- Think of a genetically modified love child of Hank Williams junior and John’s Children and you might come close to describing the sound of this band. The sound is raw and jangly with harmonies and harmonics that shift from Sonic Youth squeals to the band X channeling Patsy Cline. Nobody’s Darling starts hard and flirts with being swallowed up in a rain of distortion but keeps the breakneck pace. Ben Nichols raspy voice is so present cutting through the chaff and providing a steady hand to the music which fills the room and leaves no corner untouched.
Metallica – S+M with the San Francisco Symphony (DVD surround)
- I have to admit that I am a secret Metallica fan. Despite some of the anti digital rhetoric from Lars Urlich the band knows how to nail down the accelerator. Metallica has always had fantastic production of their material, sometimes running right up to the line of too much but never over.
Sitting down to listen to S+M is a good surround system is an experience not soon forgotten – When Phil Spector talked about the ‘Wall of Sound” I am dead sure this is what he was hearing in head. (the disconnect between what he created and what he wanted may very well be what unhinged him. It’s a personal theory at least). This concert DVD does not envelop you in the standard sense but brings you right into it. The sound is raucous but never shrill , it is warm without being cuddly. The Strings pop right out, the vocals are direct and clear, the audience is with you. Play this loud and no one will be free of its draw.
The Video Vandal
The Sugarcubes – Birthday
Massive Attack – Exchange
Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Oh Suzanna
Frank Zappa -Watermelon in Easter Hay
Jefferson Airplane -Embryonic Journey
Play’em if ya got em. Rock on!
The Crystal Method - “High Roller”
- Has an awesome bass line that can be completely missed or turn to mush on poor systems.
Talking Heads “Love (Building on Fire) – Live”
- I just love the energy of this song and the horn section
Fiona Apple “Get Gone”
- Soft, brush strokes on cymbals, piano and Fiona’s great, sultry voice…
- I just love the lyrics and pain in Stipe’s voice
John Mayer “In Repair”
What’s on your personal Playlist? Share with us your personal mix in the comments below!
Since you got this far into the Post let’s commend your patients and provide a well deserved bonus.
Utah Saints – Something Good 2008 (Single)
- I included this song in the list not so much for its sound quality but its funny video that surely will give you a good laugh or have the song echoing through you head all day. ENJOY! … Click Here - Chris
Taking Names and Saving Service Contracts by The Video Vandal
Video Vandal… hmmm (insert evil voice) Videeooo Vaandaallll. I think A/V Bounty Hunter is much better suited for a person of my caliber. Neto suggest Video Vandal as my shroud of secrecy. I should be grateful that he saved me from the grasp of Corporate the Hut and my entombment in the carbonite slab. I now may once again roam free and bring the battle to the next chapter of the saga where I land on technology planet populated by furry AV techs looking to fight the evil empire with Cables and Pliers. That said please join me as I fire my first volley.
MANAGED SERVICES…. AAhhh….Managed services sounds simple. Actually it sounds like it takes care of itself doesn’t it. Well friend nothing could be further from the truth as a matter of fact it takes countless dedicated individuals to ensure that large networks of videoconference end points are in a constant state of ready. The individuals who are the first line of defense are Tier 1 supports. The grunts. Sounds Easy? But let me tell you a thing or three about the skill set that one must have to get this done.
- First and foremost is the ability to remain calm and poised for action with your greatest asset at the ready while chaos and pandemonium reign supreme!
- Second – You will walk into conference rooms and be received as the enemy. Regardless of your Cool tech Swag or Superhero styled gadget belt Your It! You’re the Saboteur! You were just left standing there while your friends rang your neighbor’s door bell and ran. That’s right you are the one responsible for the Panic that has been set off the room because the display did not switch to HDMI 1. I know it sucks but someone has to pay for this inexcusable failure. Nice to know to ya.
- Third – You better know something other than your name and address when you walk in. Do not walk into a conference room without a good grasp of the problem and at least 3-4 possible ways to deal with it. You have 5 minutes to make your move and the clock started ticking 15 minutes before you walked in. Got it? Now get in there and make us proud!
Onsite technicians have developed a thicker layer of skin. One that cannot be penetrated with your run of the mill shoulder fired trouble ticket machine. A site tech has to be smart, creative and technically proficient. But if you do not have the stomach to have 50 sets eyes depending on you to disarm a Videoconference “bomb” then I’m sure there is plenty of work in calmer settings such as crab fishing on the Bering Sea.
Now how many of you still reading this can say they have walked into that room a la Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction and demand to be shown the car with a headless corpse? You fear no gear and your greatest asset is the ability to remain as cool as “The Wolf” while re-establishing a bridged call with one arm tied behind your back and your gadget belt ringing off the hook. If you’re that “Person” I guarantee that the you’re currently employed, underappreciated and will have no trouble find future work as “The Wolf” in any other organization.
Once the problem is resolved it’s back to the secret liar where your asked to Fill in Paperwork , reports, work orders, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Until the AV “signal” is lit again and your off and running. I’m shining that light onto the “tier 1” technicians that roam office buildings campuses across the world. They are the unsung heroes who, without regard for themselves, walk into hostile territories to do the dirty work. They are the true Account managers for the managed service contracts. They become the reason why contracts are renewed.
I may no longer fight the good fight on a daily basis but I surely have earned the “Street Cred” to say that Onsite technicians are different breed of Tech. It’s not for everyone and not everyone can handle the job or do it right. So Rulers of the AV world take note. The little people in this industry do a lot with very little. We don’t demand respect; we earn it every day that we keep service contracts from falling into the abyss.
Yeahhhhh…. I went there.