Published on December 6th, 2011 | by Dustin Baerg


Rules of Thumb for AV Site Inspections

In order to evaluate the needs that an AV solution will meet, the first step is to start with a comprehensive site inspection. Another slang phrase for this is a “site spec” which I will use throughout this discussion. There are a few things that I have learned throughout the years that can make this process simpler, and also lead to more comprehensive analysis of the conditions. By knowing more, you put yourself in a position to prepare the most relevant solution for the client which can give your company an edge in securing business and prevent false assumptions from eating into your profit margins.

Plan Ahead
This one is pretty simple, but needs to be said. Planning ahead can mean bringing the tools you need to record relevant information, namely a tape measure and camera (if the site will allow it) One thing that is not immediately obvious however, is to come in with a general plan of what to cover. Despite what you might think, in most cases you are not going in completely blind. If you get a chance to ask a few questions when booking the site spec, you will narrow down the type of project you will be looking at which may give you a chance to review relevant information beforehand. Having a bit of a plan of what type of system might be required allows you to prepare a few questions beforehand that might have otherwise gotten missed. Although this might not help in all situations, it always helps to come prepared.

A lot of measurements onsite can be approximated with a fair degree of accuracy for site inspection purposes. Keep in mind that detailed measurements are made available for construction projects so at the initial phase know EXACT numbers is not as critical.

  • Counting Tiles: This is a handy way to approximate room size, screen width, etc. Most ceiling tiles are in a 2′ x 4′ grid and you can use this to quickly determine rough room measurements, which can be helpful for an overall feel of the size of a room (especially when relaying to others)
  • Translate Door width: Not really for “site” work, but more when you get back to the office. This is handy for drawings, you can assume that a door is roughly 3′ wide and mark that distance out several times sequentially on the edge of a business card. This will let you create a rough but surprisingly accurate scale ruler.

Don’t do all the talking
Although this one steps outside of the technical into more of a sales tip, whenever you are in front of a customer you have to be aware that the sales process is underway. One powerful thing to remember about most AV installations is that they ultimately solve a problem for the customer. If you go into a project trying to force your solution you are missing the point and are probably not going to have a happy end user. Listen to what the problems are, and let the customer’s frustrations guide your solution.

I know that I haven’t even come close to covering all of the tricks for site specs. Let’s get a list going here of some of the best tricks that people use on a daily basis. To make this interesting, I will be doing a random draw out of all comment submissions to this post for a $10 iTunes gift certificate. Contest is now closed.┬áThe Contest Winner was….Andy! I have contacted him by email to redeem the prize. Thanks everyone for the participation!

Enter by leaving your Site Spec tip below:

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About the Author

Dustin has been involved in the Professional Audio Visual industry for 20 years, working for integrators both big and small. Learning the ropes through many years of trial, error, and firsthand experience, Dustin is passionate about creating resources to help share the knowledge that he has obtained the "hard" way.

6 Responses to Rules of Thumb for AV Site Inspections

  1. Ed Johnakin says:

    There are days in which I run 3-4 site specs…and there is usually little time to title each picture. If you have ever come in the next day and opened your picture gallery to find 30 pictures of construction sites or a generic conference room, you know that sometimes it is difficult to determine which sheet rock photo belongs to which job…you can use this trick. I always try to snap a picture in each survey set that includes the customer (usually off to the side but enough that I know who it is!) or I snap a pic of the building sign. I also have taken a pic of the customer’s biz card as a bookmark at the end of the set of photos. Obviously not a technical “tip”, but nonetheless could be helpful!

    • Admin says:

      Thanks for the tip, Ed
      That reminds me of a trick I learned when taking a lot of photos of different rooms. I take a picture of the room number (usually just outside the door) first. Then when viewing them later in sequential order, every picture belongs to that room until you reach the picture of next room number. Works great when you don’t have time to write a lot of notes.

  2. Andy Barys says:

    Along with the tape measure & camera I always bring a multi-tool like a Leatherman and a flashlight. These are essential especially when evaluating existing equipment that may have to be re-used. A comprehensive checklist that includes construction elements such as floor, wall & ceiling material type is helpful. This should also include all room dimensions including ceiling height. The most important thing to do is a complete needs analysis that asks the right questions. Let the client do the majority of talking and remember to ask open ended questions that allow the client to do just that. Be sure to ask about future needs as well since it’s our job to future proof our systems as much as th client or budget will allow.

  3. Chris Neto says:

    Couple Tips:
    -Invest in an electronic/sonic tape measure. Comes in handy when you are by yourself and need quick measurements. Especially handy when your time is limited in a room, ceiling heights are beyond your tape measure and projector throw distances.
    -Find an SPL app for your smartphone. Will come in handy in a pinch though some will argue that its not the most accurate.
    -For a room upgrade/renovation bring some test material to see what works and what doesn’t. A DVD, CD, Mp3 playe and VTG/ PC would be great. Don’t forget your connection cables.
    -Add a light meter to your spec kit. Crucial when dealing with projection and good info for the screen company.

    • Admin says:

      Thanks, Chris.
      A Light Meter is a great idea, light levels are easily to overlook and impossible to communicate in relative terms.

  4. Admin says:

    And the winner of the contest for a $10 iTunes gift certificate is Andy! Thanks to everyone who participated, and some great tips here!

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