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Audio Visual Centres in the 21st century
3 Photographic and Lecture Theatre Services Self Access Systems.
3.1 It is essential that all the services on offer are a cost effective use of staff time, and maximises accessibility and flexibility for users. At QMW we have used technology to solve increasing demands, rather than put an extra burden on the recurrent budget e.g., staff costs.
3.2 The photographic section of MSU has the equipment and skills to undertake any assignment from scientific applications e.g. high speed cinematography to industrial and commercial work. When the group moves to its new studios in the near future it is intended that commercial activities will be a high priority. This will support the internal service at minimal cost. I do not support full cost recovery on internal services, it is wholly unrealistic. We have invested heavily in networked photographic services which comprises scanners, slide writers and dye sub printer. This is going to be augmented shortly with an AO poster printer. These automated services save an inordinate amount of time compared with conventional photographic techniques. This is not to say that conventional silver technology should be abandoned, more that there is a place for both.
3.3 At the moment digital cameras are very expensive and are not sufficiently well developed for our use, resolution being very poor compared to silver based systems, consequently full digital transfer is some years away. I consider that computer technology enhances our work and at the moment is an additional tool and not a replacement for conventional photography which is an extremely cost effective medium.
3.4 It is important however, to use digital imaging where and when appropriate and electronic cameras will play an increasingly important role in the future.
3.5 It is vital that full digital integration takes place but not at the expense of quality and we will not use technology just for the sake of it. We must provide a quality product and there must be time and/or cost advantages before purchase is sanctioned.
3.6 Self access.
Self access is the key to reducing overheads and making AV more accessible to users. This applies not only to the small video replay rigs and projection equipment outlined above, but here we have also moved to achieve similar levels of self access for large lecture theatres that have projection boxes (see photograph P5). This is particularly easy in recently refurbished rooms and in particular where AMX control is available.
3.7 How have we achieved self access.
Self access will always need some technical support but this is reduced to the absolute minimum. It is usually restricted to the start of the lecture and is normally limited to ensure the systems are working . Once satisfied all is well, the technician leaves for the next job. Time on the job, less than five minutes.
3.8 The remainder of the lecture is then controlled from the lectern.
3.9 Regular users are `trusted' to operate the theatre independently after they become confident with its operating procedures; not that it is particularly difficult but some people need to be reassured. This is self access at its best and further reduces demand on support staff. To achieve this AV staff must have a good rapport with teaching staff and a good training programme. This may be formalised at some point but at the moment it is `on the job training' and works well; the advantage of the latter is that it does not take an inordinate amount of time and it is one to one training.
3.10 Security problems are overcome by obtaining a signature from the user on a liability/loan form. Any loss or damage having to be reimbursed by the offending department. This form applies to all loaned equipment and applies equally to a lecture theatre. Making teaching staff responsible for equipment in their care has been very successful. Since its introduction four years ago, equipment theft has ceased. Equipment will not be delivered unless someone responsible is in attendance to receive and sign for it. After the lecture they must either remain with the equipment until its collected or take it with them for safe keeping. In the case of lecture theatres they must close the system down and ensure the projection box is locked and of course return the key to the AV centre.
3.11 I can report that academic staff are extremely cooperative and the system works well.
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