Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Further Adventures of 255 2015: TechMDi

After our trip to JBL/Harman, we switch gears completely for our next class adventure. We again braved the 405 North at rush hour, but this time to Burbank; A land that is covered in sprawling studios of every discipline, full of artists and technicians at the top of their respective games, none of whom can talk very much about their current projects because they are up to their eyeballs in non-disclosure agreements.

Fortunately, it turns out we know a guy!

Joe Wilbur, a 2010 graduate of our program was nice enough to take us around the digs at TechMDi. They are a company that designed, builds, and installs audio, video, and show control systems and wrappers for many applications, but they work primarily in themes entertainment. Among many other clients, they are one of Walt Disney Imagineering’s go-to houses when they need someone to make all the pieces fit and end-user operable! Find out more about them at their website.

Joe brought us in through the “Design Bullpen;” and we were met warmly by Dave Revel, the President of TechMDi, and Kei, the shop dog and mascot, who went from skepticism to bringing us tennis balls in just moments. We passed a number of offices (including that of Tim Brown, UCI Sound Design MFA 2011, who was out of the country at a job site) on our way back to their shop spaces, the larger of which is an open floor where they lay out and build racks, and the smaller of which is where they produce UL compliant faceplates for all of their operator panels. It was cool to see some of the system diagrams and how they compare to how we tend to think of line diagrams in theater. Line diagrams make sense for us because our systems generally only need to move signal in one direction, but a non-linear approach needs to be taken when coordinating multiple playback types across multiple zones.

Joe does a great deal of system programming for TMDi, and one of the major platforms that they currently use is one that we don’t have our hands on at UCI: QSys. Joe took us through some really basic steps in QSys designer as we sat around the big conference table. He stepped us through the way that TMDi goes about organizing multi-zone systems, in order to help parse through the tremendous number of control points throughout the varying programs that they use. He also set up a simple system from scratch in order to demonstrate some of the more straightforward functions available. He also gave us doughnuts, which is of equal importance.

So thank you Joe, Dave, and the rest of the team at TMDi for hosting us! I’m sure you’ll see some of us again in the future.

- Ben

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