Av Maryland Zooms In To Meet Multimedia Demand

Firm Designs, Installs Presentation Systems

September 10, 1990|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

Geren Mortensen got into television production in the early 1960s, when bulky cameras handled less than gracefully and zooming in for a close-up meant physically moving equipment.

After a brief promotional writing stint at WBAL and after 11 years producing Maryland Public Television shows like "AM Weather" and "The Old House Works," Mortensen left television for a related line of work: producing video and audiovisual presentation systems for corporate clients.

Much as the old television camera has become obsolete, the equipment with which the county businessman designs audiovisual centers for clients like Westinghouse, Fort Meade, The Naval Academy, National Geographic and Memorial Stadium bears little resemblance to the familiar classroom staple, the AV projector.

These days, the presentation equipment many large companies rely on to train employees, sell products or show clients how to use their products is becoming increasingly high-tech, combining computers with videocassette recorders, slides and overhead projectors.

To capitalize on an emerging technology known as "multimedia," which mixes video with computer graphics, Mortensen's company, Audiovisual Washington Inc., of Fairfax, Va., has opened a Maryland division. Based in Linthicum, it handles clients in Baltimore and its suburbs. Mortensen serves as general manager with a staff of three.

The new division, AV Maryland, will design, install and service audio, video, audiovisual and multimedia communications. It also will specialize in electronic photography, computer graphics and large-screen and data display.

Audiovisual Washington has designed presentation systems for such places as the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon, Va., and even at Monticello, historic former home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Va.

Gone are complicated wires and extension cords. A speaker need only push a button and almost magically, curtains open, a screen slips out of the ceiling and video projectors drop into place. At the Monticello visitors center theater, a projector repeats a film throughout the day, while at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, the company installed a video system as part of a replica of an aircraft's flight deck.

Though most major companies and government agencies have replaced their old audiovisual projectors with video cameras, in many cases, CEOs are finding they need even newer technologies.

"The video business is interesting, but it's no longer a growth industry," Mortensen said, noting that since most of the major companies now have video production facilities, his company concentrates on maintaining those systems or selling video equipment to production or television studios. Major companies "have made their investment in equipment and facilities in the past 15 years and the boom is over."

The next boom appears to be in multimedia, in which the the personal computer replaces the camera as a production tool, capable of graphics and picture dissolves, Mortensen said.

But few video companies have stepped in, he has found. In fact, most of his competition comes from computer firms.

"Video dealers have not jumped on it, which gives us a real advantage," he said. "This is going to be a major business in the next five to 10 years."

Audiovisual Washington started 12 years ago to produce multi-image shows, then started selling equipment, Mortensen said. When the partners who founded the company split up, President Sidney Lissner kept Audiovisual Washington, concentrating solely on equipment sales.

The company moved into the former offices of Maryland Video Systems in Patapsco Business Center Aug. 1. It will assume all equipment sales and service of Maryland Video Systems, which will continue to rent video equipment.

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