What Is Audio-Visual Equipment?

By Scott Shpak

An AV receiver volume receiver.
i Kevin Woodrow/Hemera/Getty Images

For those who were not privy to the secrets of the A/V room in high school, there's a chance they've fallen behind the curve when it comes to the equipment and accessories common to the audio-visual field. As with so much in the computer age, that field has expanded to include hardware and software. While the audio-visual name gives a broad definition to the scope of the field, here's a look at the equipment used, then and now.

Sound Advice

Before computers, capturing audio required dedicated recorders, such as very bulky reel-to-reel units with external microphones. Cassette tapes reduced the bulk, down to handheld mini-recorders, adding built-in mics to reduce the equipment load. Movie and video cameras also have on-board mics to capture audio, as well as jacks to add better quality external mics. Contemporary devices such as smartphones, tablets and personal MP3 players usually have voice memo functions that can capture interviews, music or natural sound effects.

Catching the Action

Film was the first visual capture medium and, while revolutionary, it was always an awkward tool for A/V use. Early cameras were large and editing equipment, as well as the projectors were cost-prohibitive for many. Miniaturization and digitization brought video cams down to handheld size and, as with audio, smartphones and tablets can now capture video of reasonable quality. Visuals are not all about motion capture either; still image photography, from photographic slides and transparencies to digital JPG images are now, and have always been part of the A/V community.

Multimedia Takes the Stage

For many, the sight of a television set on a high, rolling platform meant an easy period, watching a movie or video in a darkened classroom. Presentation equipment started out with movie projectors and retracting screens, before updating to overhead projectors and videocassette players. Multimedia projectors now take the place of film projectors and TVs, taking a variety of inputs from video equipment to computers and projecting onto a blank wall or that same, humble retracting screen. Many projectors have built-in speakers as well as jacks to connect to public address equipment for large audiences.

New A/V Technologies

There are some contemporary A/V tools and devices that don't really have historical counterparts. While not a device in itself, presentation software, such as Microsoft's PowerPoint, turns your computer into a powerful design tool for multimedia presentation, allowing manipulation of sound, images, video and text. The days of the projection screen may be numbered as well, as the interactive whiteboard replaces projection, chalkboards and paper flip charts with a large display that uses touch screen technology to create, present and alter data in real time.

Backing Up

Backing up data is intuitively connected with computers, but movie reels, photographs, videotapes, audio tape and cassettes were the A/V storage media before the computer era. Digital storage replaces those older media for use with a single device, your computer, allowing you to access, edit and combine all A/V elements in one place. The Internet is also growing into a key A/V component, whether used for storing data on cloud-based servers or providing interactive content for presentations.