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Installations – The Install

Having been involved with tech for many years I have seen some truly AMAZING and some truly AMZINGINGLY Scary installs. I am not talking about the equipment here but the actual physical install. Whatever your level of tech, your knowledge of DIY, or the vast collection of tools and drills you own installs are not as easy as they seem. Unlike when you do a live event and run loose cables installs are a permanent fixture and generally people like to see it looking tidy.


The self builder

If you watch tv you will at some point have seen a program that either shows the brilliant self-builders / DIYers or the total home wreckers where things are never finished. I really like watching programs like Grand Designs and seeing a glimpse into the process. You have those people that project manage, those that do a half client / half builder role, and finally those that take on the whole jobs themselves. Most of these people quote a timescale that the presenter the heavily questions. Finally, at the end we see the completed project with a longer than planned timescale.

There is nothing wrong with doing your own install, if you have the skills and knowledge. What many people lack is the time to devote. Doing an install in your spare time is not easy and it can often mean a rushed job or cutting of corners. I tend to find the most time consuming job is the cabling aspect. Installing cables so they are tidy and not visible can be an art. If you use unterminated cable this then adds more time when you have to solder or wire up connectors.

I also mention the words skills and knowledge. As great as you maybe at using equipment installs require a different skills and knowledge. It’s not just about using the equipment. A big aspect is that of safety. If you are hanging something above people heads it needs to be safe and secure. Drilling into beams or, bolting something on a wall needs to be done correctly. Choosing the right fixings, knowing that something is safe or knowing that a weight loading is correct are all things that require more than the general DIY knowledge.

 

I’m a designer

I’m going to be really open and honest here and say, I am not an installer! I have worked within installations and worked as an installer, but I am not or would not say I am an installer. I am the guy that designs the systems, configures it and makes it work. I can work out the weight loadings do the planning, make sure the parts are there but the installation aspect is something I am not the greatest by no means at. Actually, it’s the area I least enjoy and probably.
Does this cause an issue, No. Does this mean I can’t be involved in an install, No. An architect can design a home, but you need the builder to build it.
If I am involved in the physical install generally this is more as a 2nd installer / system specialist.

 

Hire an expert

There is nothing wrong with hiring an expert or experts. There are lots of great installation companies who can provide a brilliant service. Hiring an expert does not mean you have less control, its putting the responsibility on them to install the equipment properly and safely. whether you choose to appoint an installation company from the initial phase or even for the final phase they will be able to suggest ideas and solutions. Part of the cost of using external contractors is for their knowledge and experience, it’s not just about the man power. When you employ a bricklayer to build a wall you are not employing him to stack bricks, you are employing his skills, knowledge and experience to make sure that the wall is built correct, that the foundations are right and so on. For the large majority of churches out there working with an expert will be the best option. I know of both large and small churches that easily could have done their own installs but instead choose to work with and hire experts.
If this is the way your church decides to go then great but do your research. I have seen church installs from ‘professionals’ that leave a lot to be desired.

Experts don’t always need to be AV installers, it might be that you choose to work with an electrician. For example, if you are installing a lighting system and you have the skills to design and configure the system, working with an electrical contractor may prove to be a better partnership.

 

Measure twice, cut once

It’s a phrase you will hear builders and carpenters telling their young apprentices from early on. The advice is one that can save a lot of time and issues. The idea of checking what you’re going to do it before actually doing it especially within an install setting is important. I recently found some cables that were ‘too short’ and had been extended ‘but badly’. I would always prefer to spend more on cable and have one single run with no joins. This is the difference between working within the install and live realms. The live realm will generally require you to extended cables, largely due to cables being cut to standard sizes (1m, 2m, 5m, 10m, 15, 20m). It can be really nice and easy to just buy that pre-made cable and save the time rather than buy the reel which needs more work. Now there are certain cables where it makes much more sense to buy them, for example HDMI. Another aspect to consider is hole sizes. Pre-terminated cables will require a much bigger hole and the more cables going through that hole the bigger the hole.

Taking a step back and returning to the initial statement of measure twice, cut once, there are other aspects where this approach or mindset is useful and important such as the types of fixings required. Another area this can apply to is expectations. If your using an installer its important to make sure your both are in agreement about how the work is to be done and how you expect to see the end result. A recent conversation with someone described how an installation workmanship was below the level that they expected it to be. When working with a company never feel scared to question why something is being done a certain way or to even ask that it be done another way. In the long term you have to live with the install, not the installation company.

 

So the install is on its ways and it slowly feels like this series is drawing to a close. In the final part we will be looking at that first Sunday and the new task of learning the new equipment.

Anthony Lear

Anthony lives in Sheffield with his wife Fiona and daughter Naomi. He works for Hawthorn within the event projects team as a Project technician focusing on Video. Anthony is the founder of Church Tech UK, an initiative designed to support, develop and equip those that work and volunteer within a technical capacity in UK Churches.

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