FAIRFIELD — Larry Schindel is just like millions of Americans, watching the Olympics on TV.
Except he’s doing it in Sochi, Russia.
Schindel, who has lived in Fairfield for 15 years, is in the Olympics city as the director of technology for Pennsylvania-based Linear Acoustic, a company that develops sound-processing technologies and products for broadcasters. He’s been there since mid-January to help support broadcasters from around the world, but now that the Olympics are at full speed, he’s generally not at the events.
“I’ll see if I can get tickets to some events while I’m here, but I also need to see how my schedule shakes out with support calls from the venues and other locations here where my equipment is installed,” Schindel wrote in an email to the Daily Republic. “Attending events as a spectator is a TBD type of thing for me, due to the nature of why I’m here. I watch a lot of events on TV just like you, only I’m at work and paying close attention to the broadcasts, not sitting on my couch relaxing.”
He did get out to see the men’s 1,000-meter speed skating final, but largely he’s focused on troubleshooting, answering questions, verifying configurations and collaborations and making sure the programs sound good over the air.
“Before the games, there was a lot of going to the venues and other locations where my equipment is, making sure everything is set up and running OK, and that everyone is comfortable with how the unit works,” he said. “There was a lot of listening to pieces of content, making adjustments to settings to achieve the optimal sound, sitting with sound mixers and video editors. Now that the games have started and there are broadcasts under everyone’s belts, things are calming down a bit. There are a few phone calls for basic support and verifying settings and a lot of watching and listening to broadcasts to help make sure everything is still going smoothly.”
“No, I’m not really worried about terrorism,” he said. “Security here is tight and they seem to be well-prepared. Obviously, there are no guarantees in life and nothing is completely bulletproof, but I feel very safe and comfortable here. There would really not be much I could do about it anyway if something were to happen, but again I’m really not worried.”
Despite some of the horror stories from media members about the accommodations, Schindel said his experience has been good.
“I’m staying at a media hotel complex down near the coastal cluster of venues. I think there is something like 10 or 11 buildings in my hotel complex, and it houses several thousand people,” he said. “My room was ready when I arrived. It is obviously new construction, like most things around here, and I’m sure I’m the first person to stay in my room. My room is fine. It’s finished, furnished, clean, heated, has a functional bathroom, both hot and cold water, working TV, even WiFi.”
He also gave his approval to the region where he’s staying six weeks.
“Sochi is OK. This isn’t a big city like a London or the Bay Area,” Schindel said. “The games themselves, or at least the coastal cluster and Olympic Park, are down in a town named Adler. It’s about 35 miles or so away from the town of Sochi, but still in the region named Sochi.”
The weather is surprising.
“This is a small town on the Black Sea that is more of a summer resort,” he said. “I will admit that it is strange to see palm trees and green grass planted here, when I’m here for a Winter Olympics.”
Schindel said that a broadcaster from Canada told him this week that it felt like summer in Sochi, since it was around 60 degrees while the weather at the broadcaster’s home hovered near zero.
“Who would think that people go to Russia in the winter to warm up and get nicer weather?” Schindel said.
This is the first trip to Russia for the 48-year-old Schindel, but not his first Olympics. He worked with CBS-TV at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
“That was a great experience,” he said. “I was working in the International Broadcast Center there as well, but was working directly for CBS and was on the audio team for the shows produced there.”
His team won an Emmy Award for Best Technical Studio Team that year.
Schindel has lived in Fairfield since 1999, moving here from the East Coast. He has two sons – Alex, 16, is a student at Rodriguez High School and 14-year-old Dylan is a student at Green Valley Middle School.
He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., then worked for several professional audio equipment companies as an engineer designing products for the musician, live sound, recording and broadcast markets. Most recently, Schindel worked at Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco, where he worked with other major broadcast equipment manufacturers and broadcasters from around the world. He’s also done sound mixing and worked in event production, including his work with CBS-TV.
In Sochi, Schindel is supporting the 40 units of Linear Acoustic audio processors at the Olympics, along with their software application that runs inside many video editing systems. He says he did most of his major work in the weeks leading up to the games.
“Before the games and broadcasts started, I would go to the various locations where my products are installed, configure the units, train the sound mixers or video editors on how it operates and calibrate the speakers and the listening environment for the editors,” he said. “All of this translates into a good sound experience for viewers at home, regardless if they are listening in stereo from the little speakers in their TV or in full surround sound with their home theater.”
He arrived in Sochi in mid-January, after a 28-hour, three-leg trip from San Francisco to New York to Moscow to Sochi.
“When I got to Moscow, the security guard in the passport control area saw my Olympics credential in my hand and waved me over to one of the special passport control booths for people headed to Sochi,” Schindel said. “I was the only person in that line, and when I cleared passport control, a Sochi volunteer escorted me all the way through the airport over to the security screening area for my connecting flight in order to make sure I didn’t get lost. My luggage even made it here with me, which is always a bonus.”
In another couple of weeks, that luggage will return home – from an epic stay in Russia.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com.