Pace Magazine

The Bald AV Guys Make a Minor

Johnni Medina
July 12, 2023
Cables in the back of an electronic

Audiovisual, better known as AV, is often mischaracterized as a nostalgic scene with student volunteers rolling in a television when the teacher was absent—but this falls short of encapsulating full scope of audiovisual work carried out by professionals every day. From television broadcasts and live concerts, to Twitch streams and Zoom meetings, AV is an industry with incredible reach. An industry that, according to the nonprofit AVIXA (the golden standard for all things A/V), is estimated add 100 billion in revenue over the next 5 years, reaching 400 billion by 2028.

What’s surprising then is that most AV tech professionals are completely self-taught.

George Chacko ’04 ’15 and Rich Miller ’06 ‘09 think it’s time to change that.

The AV industry has no formal training or education but relies primarily on certifications and job experience to validate skillsets. Both Chacko and Miller say their AV experience is similar to everyone they’ve met in the industry—they had to figure it out along the way with no formalized AV education and often by trial and error. With technology advancing rapidly and the increased reliance on it by the general population, there is a growing need for professionals well-versed in AV tech.

Chacko and Miller (who, incidentally, are also long-time friends) had been kicking around the idea of AV curriculum for some time. So when the pandemic lockdown grinded the world to a halt, they decided to use their AV skills and gift for gab to start a podcast, with the hope of hammering out the details of what an AV education could look like on air. The initial concept for the podcast, hosted by “the Bald AV Guys”, was to discuss the ins and outs of such a program at Pace, but it soon grew a life of its own. Cables, Coffee, and Curveballs is the podcast, named for the variety of topics listeners can expect to hear covered. “Coffee is coffee, we’re both obsessed. Cables is technology,” Chacko explains. “And while curveballs was supposed to be about sports, it's become tangents. You know, hypothetical curveballs.”

Those curveballs have included episodes on mental health, human resources, and military information tech. But these tangents never stray far from their shared passion for AV technology and their desire to create an AV program right at home, at Pace.

Though AV might seem synonymous with computer tech, Chacko and Miller decided to create their program under the banner of Pace’s Media, Communications, and Visual Arts (MCVA) department. Part of it had to do with the nature of AV. AV powers most media communications—there is no media besides printed media that exists without somebody who knows how to turn on the lights and make the sound play. But the other determining factor was how hands-on MCVA programs are. “All they do is experiential learning,” Miller explains. “And this AV program is a hands-on, experiential program.” When they bought it up the MCVA chair Paul Ziek, PhD, his enthusiasm solidified what would become an organic partnership between them and the MCVA department.

During the spring 2023 semester, they launched their inaugural class—Introduction to the Audio Visual Industry in the Media, a lab-focused crash-course in AV. And one of the favorite labs of their students?

The AV Olympics.

And what are the AV Olympics? Chacko and Miller split their class of twenty into teams, assigned them five tasks, and dumped a mess of AV equipment in the center of the room and said, “figure it out!” Each task either drew from or was a continuation of work from a previous lab, challenging them in all aspects of the work, even requiring some AV math (yes, that’s a thing!)

George Chacko, Rich Miller, and the students of their first ever audiovisual class stand on stage after completing the AV Olympics

The Olympics were not only a culmination of everything they had learned, but served as their final exam, really putting the students’ knowledge and thirst to succeed to the test. “It was just amazing to see how dedicated and interested the students were,” Chacko says. “They stayed past nine o'clock to make sure their setup was completely perfect, the cables, everything. It was so great to see.”

At the end of the inaugural Intro to AV class, students received their AV Technologist Certification. By completing the AV minor that Chacko and Miller are developing, students will be fully prepared to take their Certified Technology Specialist certification and complete an internship that will help springboard them into their AV career.

Chacko and Miller’s overarching hope is to build an entire program, and hopefully a movement, towards AV education. “Obviously there's a lot more hurdles to making something a major, but that is our end goal,” Miller says. “But we're not ending it here, once the minor’s done. We're not stopping there.” They’ve even had other schools reach out asking to partner to develop their own programs. “They're actually sort of jealous,” Miller says, “that we've been able to get something off the ground.”

Chacko and Miller might have had to learn their craft along the way and on their own but, if all goes well, their program won’t be the last of its kind, even if it may be the first.

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