Dave Hakes' – Island Mode

"I must do something!" will always solve more problems than "Something must be done"

Catchin’ Up?

D.V. “Dave” Hakes II, that’s me, started in the A/V Business (show business) at the age of 16 (1985) as a reel-to-reel “pancake platter” projectionist for United Artist Theatres, in Southern California. At the time there were only four of us in the entire area, which encompassed L.A., Long Beach, Orange, and San Diego Counties. Basically the other projectionists and myself had to do the upkeep and repair on all of the theatre projectors for this vast area – it was a busy job, and a great experience (it got me hooked on the business) – my main area was North San Diego and Western Orange County (if there was a “special event” we all had to be there no matter where it was). It was a nice area simply because we got to do a lot of screenings for cast and crew of various movies, pilots for T.V. shows, and, of course, the “ever important” movie premiere. I did this until 1987 – at that time, I went into the U.S. Navy…

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I got back from being stationed overseas in 1993 and began freelancing almost immediately (April Fools Day, 1993) in Maui (thanks to my cousin Mark Lowell). In September of that year, I moved to California and started concentrating my energy toward school – all the while, freelancing as often as I could to pay for school… I was receiving the GI Bill and a paycheck from the Navy, so I could pick and choose my gigs a bit. I received my Associates in Oceanography from Orange Coast College in May 1995.

I started DeltaV Technology in Monterey, California, in September 1995 – my first Semester at CSUMB. DVT started out as an “umbrella” for both A/V Freelancing and my Network Security business which slowly started to encompass the entire spectrum of Computer and Network planning, creation, installation, configuration, and repair… I received my Bachelors in Computer Science & Technology in May 1997.

One little (freelance) side job I had while in the Monterey area was as a “Cross-Over Tech” for McGraw-Hill. Their artists were all using Macs and the artists “vault” was a Mac server, but all the executives were using Wintel machines. This was “the beginning” of digital presentations. This is where we figured out how to make this work with that and how to present effectively for this audience or that audience. We were the beta testers for Powerpoint, Photoshop and many other Adobe, Apple and Microsoft products. My job was to figure out how to make this all work together and then train them on how to “do it” so that they could then train others how to “do it”.

In 1997, now free of the U.S. Navy, and wanting to consolidate my life, I took another of my businesses (Primalnet) and “brought it over” to DVT – this business was the planning, creation, hosting and online advertising of websites (your typical ISP)…

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In May of 1999, I came back to Maui “for good” – bringing DVT with me. It didn’t take long to discover that the A/V side of DVT would be the better side of things. Almost immediately, my cousin (Mark) hooked me up with Greg Hoover and Doug Paulson (they were both with AVHQ at the time). Up to this point (from 1985-1987 and 1993-1999), I had a lot of Graphics Operator and (film, slide, digital) Projectionist under my belt with a little Rigging, Lighting, and Audio to top it off…

Greg and Doug were the perfect hook up for me – they both believed that the more I knew, the less they would have to think about while they were dealing directly with the client. The coolest thing about working with these two guys was that I got to learn the business side of things on Maui: the venues, the equipment/gear, and the freelancers. All I had to do was come to work and be a sponge – all the information was there. They shoved so much information down my throat, and kept me so busy that by the end of the year (1999) I decided not to take on any new clients for Web Work or Computer and Networking. I was slammed with A/V work – and totally loving it (this is just around the time that PSAV and AVHQ had their “merger”)…

Now, the thing you really have to understand is that there were no real clients for website creation and marketing on Maui at that time. There were a few forward thinking people – but I was trying to help the locals and they were not interested.
1995-1999, when I was working with folks in and around the Silicone Valley, we had a vision of what was to come (and it pretty much turned out the way we envisioned it). I had customers fighting for my website creation services at $10,000 for a simple 5 page website optimized for search engine submissions – basically an “online marketing brochure” by todays standards. On Maui you were lucky if someone was willing to pay $1,500.
I had several mainland clients paying me monthly to advertise their sites online – no one on Maui would even consider paying monthly for “non-local” advertising. On Maui, the vision just “wasn’t there” for any type of innovation.
In the Valley we were making sites interactive, selling things online, etc… Most of Maui was still on dial-in at the time and the business owners were still very old school – they had no idea what was coming and there was no way to explain it to them so they could “see” it…
For me, 1995-1999 was like working in an open field in which you could build anything you could envision and connect it to anything you envision with the greatest tech, vision and people. Then, in May 1999, I tripped and fell into a lava tube and went through a wormhole and was dropped into a dome with no connection to anything else and no creativity or vision for anything other than “the way it is” being “the way it always was” cause “we always did it this way”.
To keep my sanity, I simply “let it go” and moved on…
Long story short, I kept the clients I had on the mainland until they either sold, retired or died…

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On September 11th, 2001, as I watched the Twin Towers come down on CNN, both my (soon-to-be) wife and I were booked solid for about 6 months. 24 hours later, every show on the island had been canceled. We were married in November 2001. By that date, there was absolutely no work here on the island, so I started looking into going back into the military…

Anyway, right around the day of our marriage, I worked a gig at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center and Rusty (Conway) found out I knew a thing or two about computers and networking. A few days later he called me in to fix a few computers, and offered me a job the next day. My wife and I really wanted to stay on the island, so we took the job (if not for that job offer, by mid-December we were on our way to South Carolina for my processing back into the military)…

From 0700 to around 1500 Monday through Friday I was the Sysadmin, Network Administrator, Webmaster and Computer Tech:

As Network Admin, I had a lot of work to do. This was right after September 11th, 2001 – every government, company and group with an online presence was going nuts and nothing was “secure” (still isn’t, but that’s another story). I had to work with the local ISP and phone company to get a T1 and static IP so we could bring everything in-house (the donor database, mail server, etc)…

As SysAdmin, I ran all Linux boxes with the firewall “in front of” the mail server, web server and database server boxes just to assure the best security possible. This was a task because there was no mail server when I started (a lot of them were using their own personal AOL accounts) nor web server and all in-house databases were on Windows 98 machines when I started the process…

As webmaster, I had to make sure we owned “derivative” domains (the .com, .edu and .net to our .org) so that no one could send out marketing or donor material by spoofing an alternate domain (pretending they were us). I also had to recreate the website aesthetics to 72dpi (that was important back then) and simplified the code to assure the site ran fast. I also made it easy to update the calendar of events daily – when something needed to be updated, I did it myself, so I wanted the process to be quick…

As Computer Tech, I replaced every computer and peripheral in the place and made sure every computer was backed up daily. This turned out to be the most time consuming task because as certain computers were replaced I would have to pull the database that was being stored on it, reconstitute it to one of the servers and test everything before getting rid of the old computer. The other time consuming role was, oh yeah, I dealt with user issues one on one – teaching the new OS and how it interoperates with the peripherals and such.

Before you get any ideas, know this: I will never do that again. Too much for one person to handle for even a quarter of the time I spent doing it. It should have been a team of 3-5 people, not one individual…

From 1500 until the last truck was loaded out I was the A/V Utility Guy:

As A/V Utility Guy, I did whatever had to be done to get the show running. Anyone who has ever worked in theater knows that that means the job description is “Everything” and what that word doesn’t cover, the words “…and all other duties as required…” does cover… Forklift Driver, Rigger, Flyman, Projectionist, Stage Manager, A1, A2, Video Engineer – a complete list would take more time to read than I wish to write…

To make a long story short, in September of 2003 I bought a few laptops, and monitors, for rentals – and started freelancing on the side. October 1st, I turned in my resignation at the MACC, my last day was to be December 31st, 2003. I stayed until replaced, which made my last official day at the MACC March 15th, 2004… I continued to work there as a freelancer until September 2014 (when we moved to Virginia)…

For a few years we tried this thing on the island where I would go into a venue a few days before an event and run cable from the speaker ready room to each breakout room. I would have to run cable because once the attendees started trickling in the wireless network slowed down to a trickle and was totally useless for our purposes. The scenario was:
I setup five windows machines and five macs in the speaker ready room and one of each machine in each breakout room – I would network everything with my machine as the master machine. The speakers would come in and do what they needed to do and then let me know when they were done. I would then “shoot” their presentation to the computer in the room they would be presenting in and make the file structure self explanatory so they could find it easily if they needed to.
I would have one tech walking the halls telling me when each room was done (I could also see from my screen if the presentation was on the last slide and for how long), when this happened I would close out the presentation that was over and open the next one in each breakout room (remotely from the speaker ready room).
I was able to do this for up to 20 breakout rooms with just myself and one other person walking the halls to adjust sound and let me know when a presentation was over.
This saved the client tons of money and headache on just the labor alone.
The smack to reality came down to the fact that I couldn’t mimic this scenario with just two people unless I was the guy in the speaker ready room. If the event lasted longer than 4-5 days (or 100+ presentations) it took a lot out of me and I simply couldn’t go from event to event doing this…

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From September 2003 to December 2008, most of my time was spent working with PSAV, Rhema Services, Staging Solutions, and the MACC:

-> For PSAV, I spent most of my time working on the South Side of the island (The Grand Wailea, The Four Seasons, The Marriott, and The Kea Lani), but I did spend a fair amount of time on the west side (mostly The Ritz, The Westin, and The Hyatt). I did everything with PSAV (Rigging, Lighting, Audio, Video, Graphics, Computer Rentals, etc…). If working on the South side, I was usually called in as a Video Engineer or Graphics Op; If working on the West side, I was PSAV’s “Single-Op-Man” – meaning, when they need just one guy to Op the show (Audio, Lighting, Graphics, and Video) they called me…

-> For Rhema Services, I did a lot of Stage Hand work, as well as being a General Audio Guy for the mid-to-large concerts…

-> For Staging Solutions, I was Jim’s “Video Utility Guy” which means I really just jumped in and went for it. My show position with Jim was usually Handheld Camera Operator, Tape/Playback Op or Record Tech…

-> At the MACC, whatever position was needed, I filled. Aside from what I did in the Castle Theatre and A&B Amphitheater, I was usually the guy the Rusty called to be the “Single-Op-Man” for the McCoy Studio Theater gigs…

I did work with many other people and at many more venues, but the guys above were about 80% of my income and kept me extremely busy. Besides, I love working with all these guys – good people who know their stuff and work their cabooses off…

Most of my time, as far as show positions go, was taken up as Handheld Cameraman, Graphics Operator, Video Engineer, Rigger, Flyman, Stationary Cameraman, General Audio Guy, Projectionist, Tape Operator, and Spotlight Operator (in that order)…

For load-in and load-out, I just let everyone argue over where they wanted me. Just kidding. If I had a choice, I unloaded the truck/s, forked whatever needed to be forked, rigged whatever needed to be rigged, and jumped on a show position. When the show was ready for strike, just reverse the order of that last sentence…

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I “fell” into Technical Directing & Project Management around mid-2004. After working with the same clients every year, Greg moving to the big Island, and Doug travelling so much, the clients simply started calling me to TD their shows. I have a pretty broad background in all the technical aspects of the business; I know all the venues on Maui like the back of my hand; I know who has what equipment; I know the best person\s for specific jobs; I know where to find just about anything…

From January 5th, 2009 to December 31st, 2013, I was the Technical Director for Swank Audio Visuals in the State of Hawaii, based out of the Grand Wailea… Some of the clientele I worked with during my time with Swank (this is not a complete list, generally this is a list of shows which had 1,000+ participants):

SAP (every year)
Estes Park (every year)
Maui Humane Society (every year)
Federated Insurance
CND Global
MACC Concert – Aerosmith

Apple – iPad announcement
NFL Players Association

MACC Concert – Chris Isaak
MACC Concert – Steve Miller Band

Forrester Research
MACC Concert – Jimmy Buffett
MACC Concert – Ziggy Marley
Mutual of Omaha
Roto Rooter
American Express
Hyundai Tournament of Champions (every year since)

Texas Roadhouse
Mutual of Omaha
MACC Comedy – Bill Cosby
MACC Concert – SOJA
MACC Musical – Sesame Street Live
MACC Concert – Earth Wind & Fire
MACC Opera – Les Miserables
MACC Concert – David Crosby & Graham Nash
MACC Concert – Tony Bennett

Kal Tire
ABC (Association of Builders & Contractors)
MACC Comedy – Dave Chapelle
Google – Hawaii Get Your Business Online

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Now, when I said “I worked with…”, I under-stated it a bit. For example, we had SAP, Texas Roadhouse and Oracle back to back one year. All three clients were what we called “Wailea Buyouts” – which means every hotel, B&B, VRBO and any other room available in Wailea was booked for our event (usually around 2,500 invitees with their spouse and two kids – so 10,000+ people – and usually two to three “waves”, meaning one group for one week and then another group for the following week, etc…). There’s only so much gear and techs on the island and I had to plan each of these events down to the last piece of truss, generator and cable and bring techs in from the mainland to run various venues (we’d often have 5-20 venues loading in, events happening and/or loading out at the same time). We’d often have to move gear and techs from one morning event at one location to an evening event at another – so setting, running a show, striking and then moving it all to another venue and doing the same thing for the evening (while not interrupting the foot traffic nor sound of the events happening at the moment). Working with the venues and the producers to pre-plan all of this was essential…?So, “I worked with…” is over simplifying it a bit in many cases…

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In January 2014, with the PSAV/SWANK merger complete, they had no idea what to do with me in Hawaii (PSAV didn’t have TD’s and there were too many PM’s at that point), so I freelanced for them as I started looking elsewhere (PSAV is the biggest AV company in the world). When business slowed down, I made one phone call and had a job in DC within 24 hours. I use to train “newbies” on the mainland for Swank and one of the other trainers use to tell me, “If you ever need a job on the East Coast, call me”. How often does that really pan out? This one did…

In September 2014, my family and I moved to Virginia where I got a full time gig with PSAV as a PM in Washington D.C. Although many of the gigs were with extremely High Profile Clientele (such as POTUS, VPOTUS, various Senators and Congressmen), the shows themselves were very small (on average 250-500 folks per venue). There was often more press than attendees. I became bored rather quickly – lots of talking heads, very few Awards Banquets or any real chance to be creative. I love to WOW folks and the opportunity just wasn’t presenting itself…

In August 2015, I became a Project/Production Manager for PSAV’s Premier Global Events (aka “PGE” or “National Ops” for you old timers). I just happened to have lunch with the right guy one day and transferred the next. PGE needed someone who they didn’t have to train to do the large events. The new gig was to do what I love to do – I got paid to WOW folks. General Sessions, Award Banquets, Concerts, Corporate Events, you name it!

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The one thing that always drew me to the live event business was the fact that there’s no second chance with live events. You can not get several takes and fix it in post. There is no editing process. You have to plan everything from concept to execution:
Talk to the client to understand the aesthetic look and feel for the event as well as what they are trying to accomplish.
Draw up the CAD’s, talking with the venue team, local fire marshal, riggers and leads (Audio, Video & Lighting) to assure “this is the correct CAD for the venue” and to find out if there are any issues someone may be aware of (such as “this hang point doesn’t exist”).
Drawing it all up and going through it with the team to assure it’s safe, doable and still has the aesthetic effect the client is going for.
Prepping all the gear at the warehouse and working the phones to assure any gear not in the warehouse is up to spec and will be there on time.
Going through EVERYTHING with the leads 10 days ahead of load in date to make sure they have everything they need (crew and gear).
Making sure everyone who walks in the door for load in day knows exactly what they are doing and when: from the trucks off loading, through setup, show and strike…

Every thing that every individual on that crew does, matters. We are flying “big things” (and small) above people’s heads that spin and vibrate. Everything is a safety concern.

We only get one shot – there is no second take – there is no post editing – I think that’s what most live event techs love about the business… Those who don’t go work in the studio…

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In January 2018, within the same month of finding out Big Dave (my dad) was not doing so well day-to-day and my mom needed help, my in-laws called us and told us they were going to retire from the carpet cleaning business they had been running since 1979. Long story short, we bought the company from them and moved back to Maui in June 2018 and have been running the business since…

My first “gotcha” moment with the business was the domain. Turns out all email from deepsteammaui.com or mauideepsteam.com went straight to the “Junk Mail” when we sent out an email – not good when our billing was going to our customers junk mail before they could see it. So, I bought dsmaui.com and used that domain to email our customers – that was a quick fix – but what a way to find that out, right?

With my prior background in website development and search engine optimization, I’ve been able to drive traffic to the site and have many “new” customers. I actually loved the fact that this business was a brick and mortar business when we bought it – hand written billings, file folders full of past billings and a lot of cash business. I reluctantly brought it into the 21st Century by digitizing the customer database and billing system, there was just too much “new” business to keep up with…

I was also able to use the “coconut wireless” to let all my old buddies – Banquet Managers and such – know that I could clean their ballroom carpets – this has brought in “a bit” of revenue as well… A 20,000 sqft ballroom here, 1,000 ballroom banquet chairs there – yeah, nice chunk of change…

I’m actually looking to sell the business, if anyone is interested. If you already have a truck on Maui, you absolutely want to buy the phone number – you’ll, of course, get the domains, customer database as well as the files we haven’t digitized yet. I will keep it all until someone buys the business and I have family who can run the business in my absence if the need arises.
I’d love to take the truck with me, all the new stuff is perfectly broken in – but will sell that part of the business if the price is right…