Shane Skaggs, Chief Design Officer at Mankin Media Systems, talks about how to make your A/V system dream a (practical) reality.
In this first series installment, we talked about Step 1: DREAM. What denotes a movement to Steps 2 & 3 — DESIGN and DEPLOY — in the A/V system design process?
Skaggs: Once the client has a good idea what it wants to do, we take everything we’ve discussed together in the DREAM phase and begin to turn that into reality. A design contract is signed, and we start putting all those ideas on paper.
Step 2 (DESIGN) consists of four ‘stepping stones.’ Can you explain what each entails?
Skaggs: First, there’s space evaluation. This step is about making sure that the space will house the dream. We model to figure out what coverage will be like, so that each seat can hear the same — that the experience in the balcony, for instance, is as close as possible to a seat on the floor. Similarly, with lighting and video, we model the space and determine what components and effects are needed to pull off the church’s dream.
Resource assessment, from a capital standpoint, is trying to get the best value to fund the dream and design. Here, we find the best places to spend money in ways that advance the church’s story. Many times, clients already know that attendees expect an audio experience like no other. Or, maybe the lighting or video experience is most important. We tailor the project towards those objectives.
On to pre-visualization artwork — here, we provide documentation and images that help clients understand and translate emotional language into technical language, or vice-versa. This could be a very ambiguous concept; but, if you look at a picture that shows (in blues, yellows and reds) where sound will appear, that’s very compelling. It helps the client see if there are obstacles in place, such as a column in the middle of the room or HVAC that hangs down too far.
Then comes system schematics. This is just a fancy term for line drawings. It plots connectivity from one widget to another, on paper.
Step 3 — DEPLOY — consists of four components. Here again, what do those look like in practice?
Skaggs: Pre-building major components at our headquarters in Franklin, Tenn., is much easier, more efficient, and more resource-friendly than our team having to build on-site at a client’s location. By assembling and doing some pre-programming ahead of time in our shop, not only does it allow us to catch many issues in advance, but it also expedites our team’s on-site installation process once they arrive with the equipment.
Expert on-site installation plays a little bit into that, as well. There will be several experts onsite over the course of the project, from project managers to gear experts. If technical issues pop up, or if we need to interface with existing equipment, we might bring in a source expert to maximize efficiency and make sure we’re delivering on the client’s expectations.
Once gear is deployed and installed, we bring in a separate team to do the programming that makes systems function correctly. This is called system commissioning. Here, we must make sure that separate pieces of gear ‘talk’ to each other, as designed, on Day 1.
Finally, education is a core value for us. We believe it is a critical component to the growth of our company and success of our clients. As such, we tailor a training curriculum to each client based on their expectations for opening day. We walk through their service orders, work with their volunteers, and make sure every piece of gear operates in the church’s work flow. We teach them all the parts, pieces and functionality to make that happen.
Training begins as early as the pre-build process. Once we have the majority of a client’s system built in our lab, we invite staff and key volunteers to come to our facility and begin training. It’s very helpful, especially if there’s a lot of new, unfamiliar gear.
Once the system is installed, we come back to offer 201– and 301-level training, and to answer any questions that remain. Or, if the church is ready to take its system to the next level, we could certainly help.
In the next installment, we’ll talk about the final step in the 4-step process: DEFEND. What does that shift to the “home stretch” look like?
Skaggs: Really, it’s taking our process to the next level. If you follow our 4D process all the way to Defend, we can own the outcome. If anything happens to your gear, or if you need training or support, we’re able to manage and provide all that, often remotely.
We can actually drop probes into your system to do monitoring and troubleshooting from our network operations center in Franklin, Tenn., just outside of Nashville. If issues arise, we get notified well in advance, so we can alert you and help you work through them before Sunday morning.
Editor’s note: In the next issue of Church Executive, the Mankin Media Systems team will further outline Step 4 in the “4D” process: Defend.
Shane Skaggs is Chief Design Officer at Mankin Media Systems. He is the expert behind many award-winning AVL solutions for the firm, crafting technical elements to achieve the creative outcomes clients want, but without sacrificing form for function.