Saturday, June 29, 2013

What if failure happens?

The house lights faded, the audience sat in darkness anticipating the start of the show. On the downbeat the lights came up with brilliant colors on a beautiful set filled with well rehearsed performers in elegant costumes. For a glorious three measures everything was perfect. Then it happened. The room returned to black, the music quickly faded, replaced by the murmurs of the audience. The volunteer lighting technician was feverishly trying to find the right fader, a maintenance man was heading for the electrical panel to check breakers, and a frightened 5-year-old ran up the side aisle to his parents. WAIT!...What does a frightened five-year-old have to do with the lights? The director ran to the general area where said youngster had just departed to find two electrical cords removed from the outlets and lying on the floor. House lights came up for a quick fix and a short apology for the technical difficulties, the house lights again came down, and the show proceeded with no further incident.

 If this scenario played out in your facility, what would the management response be? would the parents of the 5-year-old be brought up on charges? Would the technical or creative staff be chastised or dismissed? Would the director ultimately be held responsible? Would it be taken in stride and remedies be put in place for the next show?

Technical difficulties happen when humans and electronics get together and the responses fall all along the continuum depending on the personalities of those in charge and the consequences of failures for a particular event.

How do you prepare for possible technical failures? This may require a brief trip into pessimism for some of us! Here is a partial list:
1. Determine the cost of failure in terms of finance, image, credibility, waste, etc.
2. If failure comes at a high cost, determine what steps you will take to create redundant systems or staffing
3. Eliminate single points of dependence wherever possible.
4. Calculate the electrical needs. Don't put too much equipment on one circuit.
5. Have a "runner" available to help manage a crisis should it arise
6. Talk about and rehearse technical staff responses to equipment failure before the event.
7. Make visual inspections of all systems before the event.
8. Never assume a piece of equipment will work as it should because it is new or "it worked last time."
9. Tape all cables and provide ample strain relief
10. Control access to equipment between rehearsals and performances.
11. Keep your eye on any stray 5-year-olds.

As earlier stated this is a partial list. We would love to hear your additions or anecdotes.

We would love to help you with your next event. contact us at 888-667-7474 or through our website at

Michael Norris

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oh, well...

One year when I was growing up in semi-rural Texas, it became apparent that we were going to need a new water well. My dad was a construction guy with considerable skills and connections and was very thrifty. Seeing a savings of around 25%, the decision was made to have the well driller drill the hole and we would take it from there. After all, how hard could it be? The answer to that question is almost always "not hard at all if you know what you are doing." 

We knew almost everything that we needed to know...almost. Long story short, we didn't know how large the perforations in the casing needed to be and erred on the smallish side. The well didn't flow enough and in trying to correct that once the casing was in the hole, we collapsed the well. 

After an embarrasing call to the well driller we had an new professionally finished water well the flowed very nicely. The final cost was 150% of having it professionally done to start with, not to mention a Saturday that we could have spent at the lake. 

In the audio, video and stage lighting worlds, it is easy (and common) to go the DIY route, but if you are not careful, you can hang a speaker, projector, screen, or light fixture, point it in the right direction, fire it up, and then have that "why is it doing that?" moment. 
The staff  at Norris Audio Video wants to be a resource to you. We never begrudge the fact that you might want to reduce costs by doing part of the work, but we would love to help with design and implementation to help you prevent costly mistakes.

The next time you are considering a project, give us a call at 888-667-7474 or log on to our website at We will work with you to get a great result, whatever your level of need.

May your next project "flow" the way you want it to!

Michael Norris

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A word about wise quality/price decisions

     I have a scoop. Not the hot news type, the kind with a handle. I am into my fifth decade and I can't remember the scoop not being around. It was my dad's scoop that passed to me and I cherish it but certainly have not retired it or relegated it to light duty. I have used this thing for all kinds of projects, (most recently the blizzard of  '13) and it just lasts and lasts. I'm sure my dad had to make a decision  when he purchased that fine tool, whether to pay the price for the better product I still use, or purchase a cheaper one. I am grateful that he made the choice of the better product because of two things: First, it never has let me down. Second, when I am using it, it's like a part of my dad is there helping with the project.

     We all are faced with the same kind of choice with nearly every purchase. I encourage my customers to consider the long term results of their audio, video, and lighting purchases. Are there plans to expand or relocate a facility?  Does the equipment being considered meet the needs of the new or enlarged facility? Is it robust enough to deliver good results over its projected lifespan? Is its low price a result of nearing obsolescence? I also encourage customers to thoroughly explore why one product may cost more than another and to understand features, capabilities and build quality. There are almost always multiple products manufactured for any given purpose. While it is not wise to buy more that you will ever need, I have seen more situations where an item purchased lacks the power, features, or build quality to stand the test of time. That always results in added frustration, disappointment, and cost.

At we sell lots of different products and none of them are perfectly suited to every user and situation. Please feel free to call us to discuss your needs. We will guide you through the process to the equipment that will best suit your needs today and in the future. We want you to be happy with your equipment long after you forget how much you paid.

Michael Norris

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Great Practice to Consider

This week we are working with a long-time church customer that does an annual technical audit. They choose to do theirs at the beginning of each calender year and each year we look  forward to working with them. In December after the Christmas activities and programs, I receive an email with a list of things that they want to improve, and we set a date to begin. We schedule a couple of technicians for a couple of days, make sure we have the materials we need, and on the appointed day, go to work.

Since the customer is in a city a few hours away, we typically arrive around 11:00 am and take a walk around the facility to finalize plans. Then, always the hospitable types, they take us to lunch where we enjoy conversations both technical and just for fun.

Back at the church we set about making the desired improvements to their technical systems, and finish off our time with an hour or two of instruction for the staff and volunteer technicians, usually centered around a rehearsal. We go over the improvements made, any differences in operation, and expected outcomes.

By all accounts this annual project is refreshing for the customer and for us. The church staff gets the systems maintenance and upgrades that help them do their job, The volunteer technicians get the training they want and need to feel competent, and we see a church that is focused on delivering their message with quality. At the end of our time with them everyone feels fulfilled, valuable, and prepared to fill their roll effectively.

That's not a bad way to start the year!