Life as a Multimedia Consultant
Jason Brameld, PTS Principal Consultant reveals why Multimedia is about more than just advanced technology.
Q: How did you start out in Multimedia consulting?
I have had an interest in all things AV and technical theatre related since I was at school. I joined the BBC after leaving University and so my route to Multimedia was through broadcast. From the BBC, I joined a small AV installation company, Quest Technical Systems. Over a period of 10 years, we grew the business from a small team to a 60-strong workforce with a £10m turnover. During this time, I had worked alongside Mark Johnson and his company, Mark Johnson Consultants (MJC) on a number of AV projects and so it was a natural move to join the MJC team. Ten years later, MJC joined forces with PTS Consulting Group, and here I am today.
Q: What have been the most memorable projects that you’ve worked on?
I will always remember the work I have done on the new buildings for some of our most prestigious clients. Being engaged on iconic projects is very exciting and I find it fascinating to be so immersed in our clients’ businesses to make sure Multimedia is integrated into the fabric of the buildings.
One private equity client in particular is memorable as we had the opportunity to do some bespoke product design to fit the architectural scheme. We proposed some really futuristic solutions which had never had never been done before to integrate loudspeaker technology into the architectural finishes. It was great to be part of delivering cutting edge design. The proof of the pudding is that seven years later, the client is still working with us… and the rooms still look and sound just as good today!
I will also always remember the first project I ever did when I was working at Quest, around 20 years ago. I worked on implementing a Video Conferencing room, when that was something I’d never even heard of (and neither had most of the rest of the world)!
Q: Have you seen demand for Multimedia increase over this time?
Definitely – a good part of that is driven by what people do at home. People can connect easily at any time and expect the same ease of use, but with better quality, in the workplace. For example, the take up of HD displays in the workplace has clearly been led by the consumer market. Interestingly, the same hasn’t happened with 3D. A couple of years ago it was all over the press, but it hasn’t taken off. It probably came too soon after HD and is still a bit cumbersome, so people had no desire to update their technology again in a short period of time; plus, there is currently limited content broadcast in 3D.
Q: What are the current challenges in realising value from Multimedia?
Multimedia, or components thereof, can often exist within multiple departments in an organisation, such as IT, Estates, Facilities, or individual departments, meaning that it does not always benefit from dedicated management support in its own right. Without clear ownership, the supporting AV infrastructure, services and processes can be lacking, leaving the technology to operate in isolation and the user experience to be fragmented and deteriorate over time. In such a scenario, technology procurement happens piecemeal and typically multiple different technologies will be deployed, making retrofitting equipment onto existing networks challenging.
Q: What is coming over the horizon in the world of Multimedia?
Bigger and more transparent displays will become commonplace. Interaction with free space will increase and we will also start to see other gesture based user interfaces even at desktop level, meaning there will be no need to use physical peripheral equipment such as keyboards and mice. We’ll also be looking at flexible displays – for ease of transportation and to accommodate increasing touch or gesture based activity.
Q: How do you keep up to date with the latest Multimedia trends?
I make sure that I stay an active member of the Multimedia community. I am very involved with Infocomm - the leading trade body for AV and Multimedia internationally. I was invited to join a Standards task group by its President whom I have known for many years. Infocomm works to define industry standards and shape best practice by running events, membership, education and certification schemes. I attend the annual European Infocomm trade show and conference, ISE, which is held in Amsterdam. This year, I joined my peers on a panel discussing the boardroom of the future. As a member of the standards steering committee – I also help set the course for standards development. I prioritise development of standards and look at issues such as internationalisation and promoting the standards to help increase industry adoption. I am specifically currently working on development of an AV systems performance verification standard and guidebook. This defines a method for meeting performance defined at the outset of a project. I presented on this at ISE in January this year. The standard is due to be released for public review by June 2013 with a view to formal release by the end of the year.
I also have strong links with AV magazine. I have judged the annual national AV awards twice in the past three years, and I have been asked to do so again this year. The awards recognise achievement in this sector. I also took part in an AV Consultants round table for AV magazine a few months ago – to discuss the direction of the industry.
Finally, the internet is my friend and I receive a number of news feeds from the multimedia space – these can be a good source of information on some research and technologies that shape future product development. We also maintain close relationships with manufacturers and this gives us visibility of product roadmaps before they reach the public domain.
Q: Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into Multimedia Consulting?
A good Multimedia Consultant must be able to speak multiple languages on a project as our work is far-reaching. For example, I need to deal with architects regarding aesthetics as well as the integration of technology with design, acoustics consultants, building services consultants, and most importantly the end user client. We must ensure we have a full and detailed understanding of the business strategy, the construction processes and IT and networking in order to communicate to all of these people at the right level. Multimedia is not just about the fancy toys! You really do need to have a broad interest base and look to develop skills across a number of disciplines. If you can balance all of these things well, you get rewarding work and happy clients.
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