Consumer electronics products of all kinds have made such impressive advances in the last few decades that a $29 “databank" watch has more raw processing power than the computers that guided the first rockets into space nearly half a century ago. Perhaps people can be forgiven for thinking that today's consumer and “prosumer" video equipment can be pressed into professional service. They are wrong, of course, for the standards in broadcast video and professional recording are in another league entirely.
If you work with high-end audio and video (A/V) equipment, you won't find the products or the expert help you need at a consumer “big box" store. Surfing the Internet can be an exercise in high-tech frustration. The fact is, if you are an A/V professional, or run a company that uses pro-level A/V equipment, you need to speak with the people who know the language of broadcast video and high-definition ("hi-def") recording. You need to speak with professionals, and they are not found in chain stores.
Mention “video" to the salesperson at Best Buy and you will be shown some very nice, fairly capable but, on the whole, consumer-grade camcorders. Department stores certainly do not carry Sony or Ikegami studio cameras for broadcast video, and their salespeople are not likely to know anything about Pro-Bel video routers, the Echolab DV-5 NTSC composite switcher or Ear-Tec wireless headsets.
Best and brightest It would be impossible for any one dealer to stock every single item, of every different kind, that a pro A/V operation demands. Therefore, professional dealers will maintain worldwide sources so they can get you whatever piece of equipment you need, common or rare. The sales and service personnel at these high-end firms are knowledgeable about wireless microphone systems, distribution amps, mixing consoles, cameras and lenses, CD/DVD drives and such tools and accessories as grips, dollies, risers, cable snakes, Kino-Flo lighting and everything else imaginable.
As opposed to the junior college student working at the local Radio Shack, boutique A/V dealers and their sales consultants know the broadcast video environments from top to bottom. Of course, at these top full-service dealers, expertise with real-time image processing is matched by similar experience with audio recording technology. Whatever the A/V challenge is for you and your company, these specialty firms will have the expertise to resolve it. Like any other proud professionals, top A/V consultants like nothing better than devising smart, efficient and cost-effective solutions to the obstacles that stand in your way. That's why “solutions" is what they really offer, not just equipment.
If you are an A/V professional - a studio cameraman, wedding videographer, musician or music producer, filmmaker, etc. - then you already know that you can rely on a big box store only for such staple items as blank CD-Rs, DVD media or clerical supplies. High-end A/V dealers are usually founded and staffed by hands-on A/V professionals who have pooled their experience. They establish relationships with the leading pro audio and video manufacturers, and develop valuable sources for high-quality used broadcast video and recording equipment. Top firms will continue to search the world for the best items, and will search for any specific item you need, too. If none of the top dealers in your area have what you need, they will doubtless find it from one of their many sources. You can search on your own, of course, over the Internet, and often do quite well finding what you need, but it is always reassuring to have “a friend in the business, " and that's what boutique A/V dealers are.
Overlapping technologies There are a few specialized areas in which the expertise of the pro A/V dealers is similar to that of experts in other fields. One such overlapping field is security. Professional security consultants have seen tremendous advances in the areas of technology that support their efforts to protect people and property against crime. In the last 25 years, in particular, video cameras, recorders, wireless transmitters and related technologies have benefited greatly from the “digital revolution. " Security professionals can be just as knowledgeable as top A/V dealers about the components you need for a small, discreet but powerful surveillance camera system.
However, most A/V professionals would probably advise you to consult a security firm concerning the best way for you to set up your video security system. Although both types of professionals, A/V and security, know their stuff when it comes to cameras, wireless transmitters and digital recorders, the security experts will certainly have more experience in installing surveillance systems. This is one area, surveillance and video security, where you should consider using both sets of experts to ensure that you get the very best results.
Team up with the pros It is important that pro A/V dealers communicate a clear mission to vendors, colleagues and customers. They should not be in business merely to “sell" things, but to solve your problems and meet your challenges, based on their many years of combined experience in broadcast video, studio operations, professional audio recording and other A/V applications. With every piece of equipment, from a single digital coaxial cable to a complete Avid or Sony NLE (Non-Linear Editing) workstation, you will get much more than mere hardware or software.
First-rate A/V dealers won't simply give you a box, big or small, and then send you on your way. Frankly, at these high-end firms, the line between customers and colleagues tends to disappear swiftly. The staff of A/V professionals at any boutique dealership would be happy to educate you and help you become more expert in your area of A/V interest. And if you own, manage or work in a professional broadcast video or recording firm - or use pro equipment in another type of business - a good dealership can be as much a resource for information and assistance as it is for products. Products, service and education, too? Sounds like good, professional advice.
By Scott McQuarrie, representing the EZWatch Pro brand, a leading provider of computer based security-cameras for business, commercial and government applications.