You aren’t going to get very far as an AV freelancer if you don’t have the right tools for the job. Although it’s important to possess the top traits of audiovisual professionals, it won’t mean much if you don’t have the stuff you need to complete a successful AV project. Having tools that you can rely on throughout a project, from the site survey to the implementation of a system, allows you to do industry-standard work according to schedule.
While we can’t point you towards specific brands of tools—that’s up to your practical experience to decide which ones perform the best—we can give you a checklist of the kinds of tools you should have. Having a checklist is itself a tool essential to your pre-installation activities, since every job will require varying toolsets. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it will give you a better understanding of some of the mainstays of an AV freelancer toolset.
Personal Protection and Safety Equipment
One of the first things that should go into your AV freelancer kit is equipment that ensures your protection and promotes safe installation procedures. Make sure you bring a hard hat, goggles, work gloves, and steel-toed boots for your personal protection. As well, you should include a first-aid kit fully stocked with antiseptic wipes, gauze, tape, bandages (both plastic and fabric)—the works.
Other vital safety equipment that you should take note of on site: approved ladders, fall protection gear like harnesses, and flashlights. Even as of 2015, falls are still a leading cause of death for construction workers, followed by being struck by objects and electrocution. Part of the reason you should only use approved ladders, made of fiberglass (preferred) and wooden (acceptable), is to prevent both fatal falls and to avoid electrocution while on ladders.
What are some items that you will probably need for almost any AV project? Tape measures, laser tapes, scissors, crimpers, pliers, compression tools, flathead screwdrivers, cables, cable ties, and coloured tape. These materials will be used during site surveys and tasks like pulling and terminating cable as well as mounting equipment.
You should also bring a camera or use your smartphone smartphone to take in-depth photos not just during the site survey but to document milestone work, too. You build credibility with your clients when you regularly send tangible evidence of progress.
Audio and Video Specific Tools
Tools you should take note of for audio portions of a project are: impedence meters, tone generators, signal analyzers, SPL meters, real-time analyzer (RTA) hardware or software, dual-channel FFT analyzers, and measurement microphones. These tools test the quality and distribution of a system’s sound.
Tools for video are: portable oscilloscopes, HDMI signal analyzers, and light meters. Multimeters, signal continuity cable testers and network cable testers may also be necessary for video or audio.
Other Useful Testing Tools
Industry professionals also advise new technicians to have “source material” in their kit, if your AV gig is focusing on updating a system rather than implementing one from the ground up. When you’re reusing existing on-site equipment, you’ll need to be able to run audio and visual tests for the AV system’s VGA or HD sources.
Source material can be a laptop and a combo pack Blu-Ray/DVD movie so that you can test the current system’s display and control operation. You might also want to carry a video test generator that can test patterns for both analog and HD systems. Video test generators can also run audio tests, making them quite handy.
Having a kit of consumable parts is always a good thing to have on hand. Items like extra cables, hardware, and even equipment like switchers or amplifiers all help if you’re onsite and need to troubleshoot. These extra pieces could make you an AV “life saver”!
As an AV freelancer, there’s no such thing as being over prepared. While you might not need each and every tool mentioned on this checklist, you should confirm at the start of every project what tools will be vital. Building a killer kit will keep you safe on site and assure your AV project is completed with excellent standards.