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Old April 19th, 2010, 10:42 AM   #1
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Building A Studio, Suggestions Needed

I'm renovating an area to turn it into a studio. The ceiling is about 12-14' high, it's about 36 feet wide from left to right and approx. 25 feet from where cameras will be to the back wall.

All walls and ceiling are currently white. The stage area is raised with carpet but pulling up the old carpet and painting the floor flat black.

What do you suggest for the walls? I am thinking it is best to either paint all side walls black or just cover with black cloth like commando cloth.

What should we do with the white ceiling?

Background for back wall just put up a velour curtain hung from 1.5 " pipe suspended with chains and use upward angled LED lights for effect.

Sound proofing ideas?

Looking into a truss for lighting or make a light grid ourselves?

Any suggestions or ideas would be great?

Planning to shoot tv programs for clients and web casts. We also have seats for audience which will be used for some of the tapings.

Thank you.
Lisa Bennett is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 19th, 2010, 05:25 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ 85260
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Hi Lisa.

Welcome to the studio owners/builders club. It's a daunting task, but one you'll get a lot of satisfaction out of when it's done and you can concentrate on the work you do rather than all the distractions that a purpose-built studio is designed to address.

Sound, which you noted in the middle of your post, is the MOST difficult aspect of a studio space to get right. Large, box like rooms like the one you describe are TERRIBLE for sound. The best test is to go to where you envision the talent to be standing when the space is completed, and clap your hands LOUDLY. In a great space, you'll hear just the single clap, no echo, reverb or bouncing of the sound around the space.

Audio improves with soft, absorbent surfaces and elements like baffles that break up the transmission of sound into and back from places where you don't want your sound to go.

Good studio sound also means controlling mechanical and HVAC noise so that you can keep the space cool or warm without messing up your audio. Companies like Mitsubishi make "split system" AC units that help keep the compressor noise separated from the air handler fans and controlling the velocity and rate of airflow through ducts can keep rattling and airflow noise down. Most common electricians and AC contractors have NO CLUE about stuff like this. So hiring an experienced team who knows studio construction would be a BIG plus.

When I learned that my control room would be better off without parallel walls in order to keep audio standing waves minimized, NONE of the original framing crew could handle calculating all the weird angles necessary to cut the framing. We had to import a crusty old carpenter who was about 80 years old, who figured most of it out with a pencil and a protractor as he cut stuff. The young guys were all conditioned to using a framing square - a pretty useless tool when you don't WANT 90 degree corners everywhere.

Power is also an issue. You typically want some circuits of "dirty power" available for motors, light ballasts, and general purpose plug in circuits anything that doesn't get affected by RF interference. Then you'd want some "clean power" circuits that you'll use for your electronics and monitoring, so that the voltage and/or phase fluctuations on the dirty lines don't mess up the power on the clean lines.

The other thousand or so decisions are all based on the kind of work you'lll actually be doing in your studio. Something you need to think ALOT about in advance. I've known folks who put in big fancy lighting arrays, only to leave them in a single plot for the whole studio use time. They could have done something a LOT simpler and saved a ton. I've also seen people cheap out on something as simple as a place to plug in a coffee pot in the craft services area - and have to live with a big ugly orange cord strung across a doorway for something this fundamental.

Finally, as I've mentioned in other posts, NEVER underestimate the need for power outlets.

In my studio control room space, on the wall behind my edit bay I specified 8 quad boxes of outlets. That's 32 edison style plugs. They were ALL full the first week of studio setup.

Those are some simple starting places to think about.

Good luck.
Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 19th, 2010, 10:52 PM   #3
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I'd shop around for a consultant even for a basic setup. Ask around first for a *good* one and I'll bet you save way more than their fee and get a much better studio to boot.

Don't paint the walls black (sic) I've seen it before .. it depressed the performers so much the place went out of business.

As Bill says specialized aircon .. and control room and the wiring for that?

I had our 3 studios designed and built and the power circuits were paramount. We had 3 phase power and an earthing array called a *star ground* which had all the earth wires run in their own separate lines to a 3 foot 1" copper rod driven into the ground underneath the floor of the main control room.

Regular electricians had never heard of it so you'd need a specialist company to do it.

Do it once and do it right you'll go into debt you can't avoid it .. I was told to think of a figure and triple it so you bite off more than you can chew and chew like blazes! But it was certainly well worth it, after 30years I sold ours and semi retired.

30+ years with our own audio and visual production company and studios.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 01:36 AM   #4
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Location: Mesa, AZ
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Above is good advice and I would second the call for a pro designer. It may cost you more up front but you will make that back in the long run as the facility will run properly without the need to call in repair guys or cob up fixes later.

I was heavily involved in building and designing a pro recording studio with the firm Walters-Storyk in NY. They are one of the best in the industry and the facility turned out amazing. What really made a huge difference from our previous space was their choices of materials to do the acoustic treatments and their knowledge of power requirements. (star ground is the only way to go!) The HVAC was a major design challenge and their expertise meant even the hottest or coldest days were completely noise free for critical recording.

To echo Allan, color is important for the creative process to happen so please don't make everything black!

Consider painting one wall chroma green and another wall pure white and if possible make a seamless transition for both to the floor. There's a local studio that did this and they get quite a bit of biz because of the size of these two walls and their seamless transition to the floor. Sounds like you have about the same size space and if you didn't want to see it, just pull curtains to change the space.

Also, moveable acoustic treatment is extremely useful. You don't want a completely dead space. Controllable is the key.

If you are going to do a grid for lighting, you MUST hire a pro for both structural and electrical as safety is priority one.

All of the contractors we hired were seen at one point or another scratching their heads at the plans, but they followed the instructions and everything simply worked and has been working flawlessly for the last 15 years!

So that's the long answer...

Short answer...hire a pro design firm and your life will be much easier for years to come!
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Robert Turchick is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 20th, 2010, 07:02 AM   #5
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Great information. Thanks to all. Have to type a quick note for now. Looking at using moving pads for sound proofing on the side walls which means I won't have to paint those walls black.

What to do with the ceiling? Paint it black? It's white currently.

The floor...carpet coming up and painting the raised floor stage area dark gray. Suggestions?

Thank you.
Lisa Bennett is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 20th, 2010, 07:37 PM   #6
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Location: Scottsdale, AZ 85260
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The point of black paint is to control the reflection of light. But controlling light is significantly more complicated than just pulling out the black paint.

Think of it this way.

Imagine you're holding a flashlight in a perfectly dark room. When you snap it on, do you ONLY light up the wall in front of you? No. The moment that flashlight comes on, the light not only hits the object it's pointed at, it REFLECTS off that and fills the entire room with some amount of light. You'd expect to see your hand and your arm, and possibly your shirt with just the reflected light from the flashlight.

The lighter and more reflective the room surfaces, the more efficiently the light bounces around and the brighter the room becomes. The person holding said flashlight wearing a WHITE shirt, will be easier to spot than one wearing a dark Maroon shirt. That's how light works. Some surfaces (dark, dull) absorb more light, others (bright, shiny) reflect more.

And if you're shooting, say, a shiny car on your stage. That white refrigerator standing on the wall back BEHING the camera might show up as a white rectangle reflected in the cars shiny finish

yeah, you COULD paint everything black to minimize all the reflections, but as someone noted, it's a dismal working environment. Plus sometimes you don't WANT all black - and projecting color on a black surface dulls it out significantly.

So most of us choose a different approach. Personally, I went with a black ceiling ONLY over the lighting grid. That's because I wanted to minimize reflection from where the light was being generated. And I also wanted an angle (UP) where I could aim reflective items on stage and not see anything. I wanted to be able to set a light up on the gird, and know that any spill coming from that light other than the beam pattern would be supressed.

Then I started with all my studio walls and the floor a medium light grey. I picked a cool grey, rather than warm grey in tone, since I wanted contrast to the facial tones of any subjects. (skintones tend to be warm, rather than cool.) Now an executive subject who insists on wearing a white shirt and tie present's contrast to the walls - rather than blending in.

If I need solid white, I use roll up seamless paper on holders built into my overhead track system.

Also, when designing the space, I made sure that elements like the exit lights that needed to be on all the time were NOT positioned in places where they might cast light on the shooting area, NOR be in any sensible reflection path from something shiny on stage.

For those time when light control is critical, I have a black velour theatrical curtain on a track that runs around 3 sides of the studio. So I can instantly block light on any angle to and from the stage, and also the heavy velour knocks down audio echo like a giant sound blanket.

Without the curtain pulled, the stage is a grey that reads white on camera. With the curtain the stage goes pitch black. High key set or low key set in 10 seconds.

Again, we're discussing just a few ideas that have worked well. I took literally two solid years planning my studio before we drove a single nail. Doing just what you're doing now. Learning about what makes a studio a studio and how that's different from a standard building.

When the studio is done, you ARE going to learn about the difference between right and wrong in this specialized type of construction. It's really best that you learn as much as possible BEFORE the fact, as opposed to after.

Again, good luck.
Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 23rd, 2010, 06:39 AM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Little Rock
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While not addressing your specific questions, I will advise you to pay attention to a few areas that folks forget about when starting a new studio, like the liability and insurance issues with converting an area to a studio, and having clients and audience in said area. As well as code issues which could arise, safety/fire and such.

All the Best!
David W. Jones
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Old May 8th, 2010, 07:00 PM   #8
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Location: Central, FL
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Did any of you build your own grid? Know of any good links with info on DIY grid building? We have checked and the building can hold the weight of the grid/lights. Construction person helped with this.

Thank you.
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