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Jennifer Guhl

SCN Hall of Fame 2024: Pete Putman

SCN Hall of Fame 2024 Pete Putman.

Little did Pete Putman know when he answered an ad for a production manager position with a small AV company in New Jersey that it would lead to a career spanning over 45 years in everything from graphics design and multi-image production to event staging, tech journalism, and industry education.

[SCN Hall of Fame 2024: Mario Educate]

In just 12 months, he expanded his responsibilities, running a recording studio, processing film and prints, shooting animation on a Forox camera stand, and programming multi-image slideshows. This led to a new opportunity with American Express in New York City, working within their creative services department while simultaneously supervising and upgrading the AV installation in the corporate boardroom.

Over time, Putman began to receive encouragement from independent producers to go out on his own. "They all told me you know too much to be working at Amex for what you're getting paid," said Putman. "You should just quit and start your own company."

He started his first business in 1980, eventually running five companies throughout his career until his retirement in 2022. There's a running joke in Pro AV that being self-employed often means “unemployed.” Still, Putman quickly secured multiple corporate clients, creating business graphics and multi-image shows that utilized his audio recording and mixing skills. Eventually, he transitioned away from graphics production to event staging for major corporations, which he focused on for 17 years until his next career pivot.

Recently retired, Putman ended his career consulting on the new Vegas Sphere LED theater and working on advancements in multi-primary displays.

Exhausted from the travel, long hours, and constant state of crisis, Putman decided in the mid-90s that he was done with the staging business. "There was always something going awry,” he recalled. “And there was no respite. Every staging project was a 'seconds, minutes, hours' drama with each client. My motto then was, ‘Expect the worst to happen, and you’ll rarely be disappointed.’ But as it turned out, I was much more interested in the video and display technology and how it all worked."

His secondary career as a writer began when Putman read an article in AV Video magazine and was astounded by the number of factual and technical errors he found. He called the editor and asked how such a sloppy article got published in the first place. The editor responded by challenging Putman to write something better for the magazine—which he did in just a few hours. He soon joined the editorial teams of other popular industry and consumer publications of the time, including Sound & Video Contractor, Sound & Communications, Video Systems, and Broadcast Engineering. (His work has also appeared recently in SCN.)

At the same time, Putman also discovered he was pretty good at teaching, having been invited to speak at industry trade shows like InfoComm. Before long, he was creating and leading industry certification classes for AVIXA, eventually becoming a member of their senior and emeritus faculty.

[SCN Hall of Fame 2024: David Ross]

He went on to teach and present for more than 20 years, receiving the InfoComm Educator of the Year award in 2008. Putman also was invited to speak at numerous dealer events and trade shows, and became a regular presenter at the HPA Technology Retreat.

The culmination of his career was being recognized as a Fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in October 2023. "I got into industry education by chance," he said. "I didn't plan my four-decade career in the AV industry to turn out this way at all. It was more of a happy accident than anything else."

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