Manufacturers Have Big Role in Broadcast-Audio Training

If formal education in broadcast audio is somewhat spotty, one thread that has been very consistent over time has been education in the form of ongoing training by manufacturers of pro audio equipment.

Most commonly, manufacturers link their training and education propositions to the marketing and sale of their products, although there’s a collateral trend that sees key issues broken out as seminars. For instance, in addition to training as part of sales, Linear Acoustic has developed a highly focused presentation, dubbed the HEAR Factor, on loudness management that it has been giving at various SBE and SMPTE meetings around the country.

“The main goal of the presentation is to increase awareness about a significant issue in broadcast audio,” says Linear Acoustic Director of Marketing Howard Mullinack. “We also talk about how our product can be used in the process, but we keep the sales pitch very low key.”

Some manufacturers’ education propositions have become quite complex. Sennheiser, for instance, has expanded its Sound Academy program into three modules: studio recording, systems installation, and wireless RF — the last including many sports applications in its agenda. A recent edition of the RF module held at communications-systems dealer CP Communications’ facility in New York focused on planning, configuring, operating, and troubleshooting a wireless RF and monitoring system.

Sound Academy’s day-long seminars are open to anyone and cost $149, but attendees can take advantage of a $20 early-registration discount and $50 voucher towards a Sennheiser product purchase; the event includes breakfast and lunch.

The Sound Academy workshops are also held as private events specifically for students of media-arts schools, such as Full Sail and the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences.

Joe Ciaudelli, who oversees Sound Academy as Sennheiser’s director of market development and education, says such highly focused workshops let attendees focus on topics that might be too esoteric even for four-year academic audio programs, such as the phenomenon of how body absorption of RF signals can interfere with a system’s operation.

“The founder of the company, professor [Fritz] Sennheiser, and his son Jörg Sennheiser were both educators, so education is really kind of in the nature of the company,” Ciaudelli points out. He adds that an important part of the program is that it assiduously avoids a hard sell on the company’s own products: “When you come, you’re not going to get hit over the head with a product pitch. That kind of thing turns people off.”

The Freelance Factor
One of the biggest hurdles in broadcast-audio training is the fact that most network sports broadcasts are mixed by freelance engineers. Therefore, manufacturers sometimes try to schedule additional training sessions to augment demos done as part of their exhibitions at trade shows, such as the NAB Show.

“The shows bring a lot of freelancers from a given area to a central location, which is the best way for us to reach as many freelancers as we can,” explains Kevin Emmott, marketing manager for console supplier Calrec. He says the company also offers both operational and technical (maintenance, troubleshooting, etc.) training as part of console sales and commissioning, as well as training at its manufacturing site in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, UK.

In fact, the freelance equation has actually worked into the DNA of modern digital consoles. The fact that a console will be used by a stream of different operators, some of whom will inevitably be new to its operation, implicitly shapes the console’s operational design.

“We’re conscious, in the design phase, that we have to limit the steepness of the learning curve,” says Emmott. “These mixers are working in very high-pressure environments, so it has to be intuitive operationally.”

And in a synergy that combines marketing and education, manufacturers and media-arts schools are increasingly forming relations that keep cutting-edge products in classrooms in exchange for a shot at mindshare among students who hopefully will soon be making purchases of their own. That’s a bargain everyone seems happy with.

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