NOTE: For three days in November, Your Humble Content Marketing Manager at CEDIA attended the training session called “Basic Boot Camp” at the association’s HQ in Indianapolis. Here’s a summation of Day Three. (Find Day One here
and Day Two here
Today is Retrofit Day. Ken Erdmann, the instructor, issues The Retrocratic Oath:
First, Do No Harm.
You need patience. You need dropcloths. You need to plan. You need shoe covers. You need drill bits and drywall saws. You need to know how homes are framed, no matter their age. You need a right-angle drill and a tool called a wet noodle. (Enough snickering, newbie. It’s actually a thing.)
We talk about Walabots and Quadsaws and how critical a template can be. We learn that Gravity is Your Friend, followed closely by an exploratory hole and a bit of stiff wire.
There are a few anecdotes from Ken and some other members of the class: everyone seems to have a story about someone working in an attic and putting their foot through a ceiling. We also learn that, like predatory aliens, F-bombs travel through ductwork — especially when the homeowner is near a vent.
Now it’s time to get cracking. 9 a.m.
My lab partner Jordan and I hit the practice room. It’s about the size of a bathroom, so we decide it’ll be amusing to put the ceiling speaker directly over the space where a toilet would sit. 10 a.m.
Jordan and I realize that where we’ve placed the ceiling speaker will require the most complicated cable path in the room. 11 a.m.
Jordan shows me how to work the noodle, fishing a chain through a wall I can’t see. I’ve done precious little drywall cutting in my day, so my technique by its nature matches what Ken’s recommended: slow and manual. I’m proceeding at low speed with a handsaw, and the speaker openings I’ve built are neat and precise.
We hit one setback: a piece of speaker cable has come up short — an overly aggressive cut on my part. A quick do-over is in order. We realize we’re a bit behind some of the other teams.
I exit the lab for a lunchtime meetup with the CEDIA Marketing Crew. We’re working on materials for the upcoming Business Xchange in San Antonio. (March, 2017. It’s all about sales. More on that soon.) When I get back, I discover that Jordan’s been playing catch-up. The ceiling speaker’s in. 1 p.m.
We’re back in the lecture room. Now we’re talking about cable testing (there are more tools for this than you can begin to imagine) and the real-world problems of speaker impedance. 1:30 p.m.
Jordan — last name Stipes — and I have gotten to know each other pretty well by this time. He’s just begun running his own one-man shop that will specialize in retrofits (SnapPro in St. Louis). He’s done big live sound work, and he’s had a few jobs that he designed (but sub-contracted a good bit of cabling). He wants to learn industry-accepted best practices, hence the boot camp. He’s been nothing if not patient while I learn the 101 skills.
I strip the ends of the last pair of in-wall speakers. 3:30 p.m.
We’ve installed several working video cables, door and window sensors, two UTP runs with jacks that terminate in our panel, two pairs of speakers in the walls and a single speaker overhead, and three volume controls. Jordan grabs the cable run that goes back to our Sonos amp and plus it in. He fires up the app, and — nothing.
Luckily, it’s not the cabling — it’s the amp. Ours — the one meant to feed Room 7 — was mislabeled.
Crisis averted, Jordan loads up his Zeppelin-heavy playlist. We put the finishing hardware on the boxes, put the magnetic grills on the speakers and step back.
Mission accomplished. All the other cables pass muster, too. Full disclosure: This is thoroughly satisfying.
Stephanie Simopoulos (CEDIA’s Research Manager), who’s also been taking the Boot Camp training, compares notes with us briefly. She’s got the same vibe: a head full of fresh knowledge and a nascent understanding of the unique rewards of a solid installation.
Ken Erdmann checks the work. Jordan and I get the thumbs-up.
As we’re sweeping out the ends of wire and stray slivers of cable jacket, CEDIA’s Training Tech Manager Jeff Kramer sticks his head in the room.
“Looks like it’s 0-beer-thirty.”
I turn up the volume. “Yep. Right after this song.”