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Editorial: A Change Is Gonna Come

Those of you who are old soundmen like me (I'm a charter member of the Old Guys in Audio focus group) probably are familiar with the saying, Everybody

Editorial: A Change Is Gonna Come

Jul 1, 2004 12:00 PM,
By Mark Johnson

Those of you who are old soundmen like me (I’m a charter member of the Old Guys in Audio focus group) probably are familiar with the saying, “Everybody has two jobs: theirs and audio.” That refers to seemingly everyone’s ability to speak knowledgeably (so they think) about the audio quality of the show you happen to be mixing.

In a larger sense, this is one of the underlying concerns regarding the convergence of AV and IT. As the industry evolves, the IT infrastructure will be the backbone of the majority, if not all, of installations. Networking for system control, networking for communication, and networking for data transmission — the IT folks will be in the driver’s seat so to speak. But how will an IT person know what’s required to fulfill the audio or video specifications of a given installation? Well, he or she won’t generally, but I think that most will be astute enough to realize that and that there are already people who can and do fill those roles.

Not only is it an evolution of technology but it’s an evolution of process, as well. How we interact and who we interact with are changing. As Lee Iacocca used to say in those old Chrysler commercials, we can “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” What I mean by that is the convergence of AV and IT is a natural and necessary evolution, but it’s up to us, individually and corporately, how we will respond to it.

For an old soundman who grew up on analog consoles and spring reverbs, the advances in technology can be challenging to say the least. Readers of this column already know my thoughts about certain aspects of human interaction with computers and related technology. However, I find the possibilities and the power of technology to be extremely exciting. I’m still amazed whenever I look at a Yamaha 01V mixer and compare it to a console I used to mix on 25 years ago. The console 25 years ago had 32 inputs, weighed hundreds of pounds, was about seven feet wide and three feet deep, had six manually controlled scene presets, and cost tens of thousands of dollars. An 01V 96 is expandable to 40 inputs, weighs in the tens of pounds, is less than two feet square, has 99 scene memories, and costs around $2,000. Did I mention built-in dynamics and effects? For me the act of mixing on an 01V is more deliberate, and when EQing, I find myself strangely focusing on the display rather than the sound. I spend more time on the front end establishing cues and settings, but on the back end, doing the actual production is like (to quote the “Coffee Talk” character) “buttah.”

It’s a paradigm shift on how I approach mixing, but the outcome and the benefits are worth it. Put in old soundman terms, that’s how I’ll approach the convergence of AV and IT. It’s a paradigm shift, but the outcome and benefits are worth it.

In this issue, check out our wrap-up of InfoComm 2004, the premier show for AV/IT technology, on p. 34. At, Stephen Porter recaps the Streaming Media Pavilion — sponsored by Sound & Video Contractor, Video Systems, and SRO — and Jeff Sauer shares his thoughts about display technology at InfoComm. Also online and upcoming in the August issue we’ll feature the winners of our inaugural InfoComm “Pick Hit” products.

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