Audio and Video Technicians, also known as AV Technicians or AV Techs, are responsible for setting up and operating various types of audio and video equipment for meetings, conventions, sporting events, concerts, news conferences, plays, movies, and almost any type of radio or television broadcast. They work with video projectors, screens, monitors, recording equipment, sound speakers, microphones, mixing boards, cabling, and wiring. Technicians are typically called upon to also set up and operate any custom lighting systems associated with the event, including spotlights and/or floodlights. In addition, they are responsible for maintaining and repairing the equipment they use, often times in the midst of a production when a light fails or a cable breaks.
Other types of technician are very closely related to audio and video techs. In some cases, the job titles can be applied almost interchangeably. Some of these job designations include:
- Broadcast Technicians: They deal specifically with the equipment used in radio or television broadcasts. These technicians regulate the signal strength, clarity, and the range of sounds and colors of the equipment.
- Sound Engineering Technicians: They work with the equipment used for recording, synchronizing, or mixing music, voices, or sound effects. Their work is done in many different venues including recording studios, sporting arenas, and movie sets.
- Radio Operators: They ensure that communication systems are maintained in good operating condition. To do so, they regularly receive and transmit communications using a variety of means and also repair and test communications equipment.
The growing prominence of digital recording, editing, and broadcasting has greatly changed the work of all varieties of technician who work in the broadcasting industry. Specialized electronic equipment previously used in many recording and editing applications is to an increasing extent being replaced by computer software. Most radio and television stations have replaced videotapes and audiotapes with computer hard drives and other computer-compatible storage media. This industry change is requiring technicians to become more computer-savvy and to familiarize themselves with computer networking and specialized software.
The proper use of audio and video equipment involves a creative blend of technology and art. The processes involved in recording, editing, and broadcasting can be widespread and varied. Technicians who perform audio or video recording have both production and post-production tasks. In the production phase, the main focus is on the accurate capturing of sound and/or images. In post-production, the raw recorded material gets polished and transformed into the final desired product. In both phases, the technician is a key player in making things happen. Working alongside other professionals (engineers, directors, broadcast field supervisors, etc.), the technician is charged with setting up much of the equipment, operating it, controlling it, and maintaining it. Some of the specific tasks a technician performs may include any or all of the following:
- Mix and regulate sound inputs and feeds
- Coordinate audio feeds with television pictures
- Perform minor repairs and routine cleaning of audio and video equipment
- Monitor incoming and outgoing pictures and sound feeds to ensure quality
- Run dubbing machines to match edited dialogue, music and sound effects to a video or movie recording
- Work with creative artists to get the recording they want
- Notify supervisors when major equipment repairs are needed
- Supervise, advise and coordinate other recording technicians
Generally speaking, audio and video technicians do the bulk of their work indoors, inside studios or related locations, but by no means is this universally true. Some who work on news or other types of broadcasts from locations outside the studio may work outdoors, sometimes in adverse weather or other dangerous conditions. Technicians who work at large establishments, including broadcasting networks or large TV or radio stations, usually work a 40-hour week, albeit often under great pressure to meet broadcast deadlines. Those employed by small stations often work more than 40 hours a week and may find themselves putting in long late hours to meet the demands of stations on the air 18 to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Technicians who work on movies often need to work long hours to meet contractual deadlines.
Audio and video technicians need to have the right combination of creativity and technical know-how. Manual dexterity and an aptitude for working with electronic and mechanical equipment are other important traits. Knowledge of information technology and skill in that area are also valuable because of the growing prominence of digital recording and broadcasting.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), employment of audio and video technicians is expected to grow much faster than the average profession over the next decade. These workers will be called upon to not only set up audio and video equipment, but to maintain and repair it as well. Job prospects in the cable and pay television segments of the broadcasting industry should show exceptional growth as the range of services in these sectors keeps expanding. Jobs in the motion picture industry will also grow rapidly. However, there will also be a great deal of competition for jobs due to the large number of people attracted by the glamour of TV or motion picture work. In general, technicians seeking entry-level jobs in broadcasting can expect to face keen competition in major metropolitan areas but better job prospects in small cities and towns.
Mitigating factors affecting job growth for technicians working in radio or television are the growing consolidation of ownership of radio and television stations and emerging labor-saving technical advances, such as computer-controlled programming and remotely controlled transmitters. Stations which consolidate are often operated from a single location, reducing employment because a handful of technicians are able to provide support to multiple stations.
Audio and Video Technician Schools, Certification, and Licensing
At a minimum, an individual should earn a high school diploma or GED equivalency in order to embark on a career as an audio/video technician. To an increasing extent, entrants in this field also have a degree from a community college or some other type of postsecondary institution. Technicians need an electronics background in order to be able to effectively operate technical equipment. Training in electronics, computer networking, and/or broadcast technology is vital, whether it is obtained from a specialized postsecondary program or acquired on the job working as an assistant in a recording studio. Once employed, technicians should take maximum advantage of all opportunities to learn on-the-job and to demonstrate as high a level of technical and creative talent as possible.
Prior to 1996, when the Telecommunications Act became law, audio and video technicians working in the broadcasting industry were required to be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Although this is no longer the case, many of the best technicians today seek certification by the Society of Broadcast Engineers. A very valuable and widely-recognized credential, this certificate is a mark of competence and experience which is issued to experienced technicians who pass an examination. This certification, which is offered at both the Radio Operator and the Television Operator levels, has filled the void left by the elimination of the FCC license.
- InfoComm International
- Society of Broadcast Engineers
- National Association of Broadcasters
- Audio Engineering Society
The largest employers of audio/video technicians are the motion picture and video industries, which employ about 35% of them. About 20% work in radio and television broadcasting and another 20% are employed by colleges, universities, and professional schools. Other major employers include equipment rental and leasing agencies and promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events.
Schools for Audio And Video Technicians are listed in the column to the left.