If you attend guest speaker events, concerts, sports games and everything in between at Goshen College, you may have noticed mysterious people dressed in black pushing buttons in the background.

It’s not as scary as it seems. They are trained professionals, making sure all of the audio and visual (AV) elements in the events are running smoothly.

ITSMedia, the AV extension of ITS (Information Technology Services), has several key functions on campus, including the operation of Campus Post and classroom technology. What takes up most of their time, though, is the AV and systems support for events and event centers.

ITSMedia is run by four staff members and a crew of roughly a dozen part-time student workers each semester. Colin Berkey, a senior at Goshen High School, has been interning for ITSMedia since the summer of 2021 and often helps run sound for concerts and lectures.

“Before an event,” Berkey said, “I first come in and power on all the equipment in the venue [and] look at my work order to see what needs to be set up,” which mainly includes microphones or setting up projection.

Grant Bachman and Mike McHugh are both AV systems specialists at ITSMedia and can often be found planning out or running the sound and video in Umble Center and Sauder Hall.

In addition to device setup, McHugh said that they coordinate event needs with the Events Office to map out what AV is needed. He added, “Sometimes that planning starts months in advance.”

ITSMedia works closely with the Events Office, which manages lighting, cues, entrances, exits and stage setup, rather than the technology side of events.

“During the event,” Berkey said, “it is crucial that I’m constantly paying attention to make sure that I turn on microphones at the right time and that I play the sound cues at the correct time. I also have to be prepared in case things go wrong.” He said that common problems are when microphones stop working during a show or a presenter picks up the wrong mic, which leads to adjustments he has to make on the fly.

Additionally, McHugh had a message for anyone who ever appears on any stage: “Tapping on microphones and simply asking once ‘is this thing on’ is not enough to properly let a tech make sure it is on and is loud enough. Keep talking until we ask you to stop.”

Beyond microphones, ITSMedia also operates projectors, sound systems, cameras and live streams at events, all of which are constantly being upgraded and configured to create a better experience for the audience. 

For example, both Bachman and McHugh noted the new equipment added to the RFC gym: an automated camera to improve their streams of basketball and volleyball games. 

Running cameras for sporting events requires intense focus, so students were not able to perform other tasks or ask for help in a tech emergency, which led to countless problems for their streams. 

“We needed streaming to become more reliable,” Bachman said. “It’s not perfect, but oftentimes, neither are students.” 

McHugh said that ITSMedia is hoping to improve the reliability of its technology. Another goal is to “build out the ability to add value to the streams with additional cameras and instant replay,” he said, “but that will take more conversations, time, and money.”

Two of their favorite events include Kickoff and the Performing Arts Series due toof their intricacy and atmosphere. 

“One of my least favorites,” McHugh said, “was a convo a few years ago where the guest presenter was late, unprepared, and uncooperative when we couldn’t fix issues that were out of our control.

“Those are always the toughest because we have to do our best to stay calm, be polite, and continue on,” he added. 

“We like to joke that, like IT people, AV people are generally unnoticed until something goes wrong.”