A Lifelong Love Affair with Audio Visual Design

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A Lifelong Love Affair with Audio Visual Design

January 24, 2018

Hal Hawkins joined our audiovisual team in 2018. He's been pursuing his passion for A/V since he was 15 and has completed over 65 trainings and certification courses. He brings extensive experience in both the commercial and military sectors to the McWaters team. 

How did you get started in the industry?

I started with an internship of sorts at The Handlebar in Greenville, SC, when I was 15. I knew someone that worked at the local music store who ran the sound system at The Handlebar on the weekends. Somehow, my very conservative parents were okay with me going there at that age to learn about the audio equipment and how to mix sound for local and regional concerts. After high school, I joined the Marine Corps, where I was the bass guitarist and sound system non-commissioned officer for the First Marine Division Band. I also did two tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as a machine gunner providing security for the First Marine Division Headquarters Division. The whole thing was a great experience and I learned a lot about teamwork and attention to detail. After I got out of the Marines, I got into the A/V integration business and eventually got my electronics engineering degree at Greenville Tech. Most people stumble into the commercial A/V business, and I am no exception. I did not really know what I was applying for, but I ended up working at one of the nations largest touring sound companies. The company had an opening in the contracting division. I knew I wanted to do something with audio. I ended up learning about audio, video, and control systems. I had no idea that audio and video could be so complicated and interesting.

This industry changes so much. You have to continually educate yourself to keep up with emerging trends.

What drew you to McWaters?

I like how McWaters approaches A/V at the beginning of a project instead of waiting until the end. Everyone in the industry jokes that the A/V team gets forgotten until the building is almost occupied. Since McWaters is selling the furniture, flooring, and walls, we are able to consult on A/V early on. Now, instead of fighting with interior designers and architects about how to get the speakers, microphones, and projectors in the right place without ruining the visual appeal, we're able to go in and say, "This is where the A/V devices need to go and this is how we can hide it." We are designing A/V into the space instead of trying to place system components in as an afterthought. The result is a well thought out, cohesive furniture and technology plan that everyone has agreed on. 

What are some of the benefits of working on a small team?

I worked with Joel and Dennis at a different company in Greenville, SC, so I already knew we would be able to work together well. Communication must happen up, down and laterally for an effective team to operate. McWaters has a team of team’s approach. The furniture team works with the flooring team and those teams work with the A/V team. Everyone works together across multiple domains. This creates a very integrated work environment and allows us to come up with unique solutions. A lot of the time, our projects don't even go out for bid since we're already talking about A/V at the same time we're talking about furniture. This adds value to the customer since there are not as many trades to coordinate. McWaters is able to work together to provide solutions quickly since we all work as a team every day.

What do you hope to contribute to McWaters?

I have always enjoyed coming up with unique solutions to problems. I love the “ah ha” moment. It is crucial to have a design based on data. This provides specific design goals that can be proven once the system is installed. This also provides a way to show the customer what they are paying for. Anyone can go in and put up displays and cut in some ceiling speakers. Will the system provide even audio coverage? Has the appropriately sized amplifier been specified? Is the display size appropriate for the intended task? Is the control system easy to use and intuitive? It is important to understand the space that the A/V system is going into. An audiovisual system is not just a sum of disparate parts. An audiovisual system is something that should be reliable, enhance the user experience, and provide value to the organization. I am looking forward to working with everyone at McWaters to ensure that the AV team is meeting these goals and providing data-based designs.

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