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Old May 7th, 2007, 12:05 AM   #1
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Turning a Warehouse into a Production Studio. What would you do?

So basically...
I need to find out what it would take to turn a warehouse into a full fledged production studio. Im talking about sound isilation issues - installing a lighting grid - building a 30 foot greenscreen wall, building editing rooms...ect. I need to know what items a good studio would include...

This would be something that would service just about any type video/film production you could imagine. I need a good recourse to find out how much money it would cost to get a start. So are there people who advise this sort of thing? Im suposed to be putting together an estimate for my boss who i can only imagine has hundreds of thousands of dollars to potentially spend.
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Old May 7th, 2007, 08:50 AM   #2
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Tyson:

You are asking a nearly unanswerable question. There are too many variables.

What kind of client are you trying to serve? If you are going after high end film work, or high end broadcast, you will have to meet higher standards. If you are going after independant producers, or more of a corporate/industrial market, the standards you have to meet will be a bit lower.

At the very least, you have to consider the following:

What type of construction is the warehouse? This will have a great impact on sound isolation issues.

What do you want in the way of lighting. This will have an impact on power requirements.

Will you be building sets?

What kind of "amenities" (meeting rooms, dressing rooms, office space, copiers, faxes, phones, internet access, etc) will you need to offer your clients?

How large of a stage (width, depth, AND height) will your clients need?

What kind of access do your clients need to the stage? For example, will you need to drive in vehicles, or bring in large sets or props?

What does your facility lie in respect to highways (easy access for your clients) and airports (sound issues from planes flying overhead)?

Are you providing equiment, or just space? If you are providing equipment, which formats are you going to support?

At a minimum, you need to consider:

Free spans.
Airconditioning (and it needs to be suitably quiet)
Lighting
Sound isolation (from external and internal sources)
Power requirements
A smooth floor (You will most likely have to replace or resurface your existing floor).
A hard cyc (I recommend something like ProCyc)
Staffing

We built our own 20,000 square foot facitlity, including two studios. I think "potentially several hundred thousand dollars" might be a little on the light side.

Mark
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Old May 7th, 2007, 01:52 PM   #3
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Mark, thank you...

Exactly everything you mentioned will have to be considered. Yes, this studio will serve independant producers, tv commercial production, and the corporate industrial video market, and also photography -with room for future growth...

The main thing we need right now is some expert person who can just come look at the site and give us an idea of what can be done with it - so we can put together some $ estimates.

Like you said, there are certain 'standards' for power requirements, air conditioning, sound insulation, ect, and my questions is, where do i find out what these standards are?

You seem like the right person to talk to about this.... What kinds of projects do you produce out of your studio? What all did you construct to make it happen? I assume you don't just call up a local contractor. Where do you find the specialists for this sort of construction?
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Old May 7th, 2007, 02:10 PM   #4
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How about you go and visit some of the similar production houses, talk to some of the director-generals. Doesn't have to be in your state. I don't see how we can come and tell you how much things should cost and that you should do it like this and that.
And surely, you guys will have some wishes and experiences of your own?

EDIT: Also ask for referrals from companies that they are SATISFIED with. That could help a lot towards saving you from having sleepless nights.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 03:27 AM   #5
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[QUOTE=Tyson Persall;673878]So basically...
I need to find out what it would take to turn a warehouse into a full fledged production studio. Im talking about sound isilation issues - installing a lighting

Tyson,

You need LOCAL advice. Atlanta is a big market. People will have done this before. You need to start talking to people and make contacts in your local production community.

You'll discover there are people there who have done not just HVAC, but HVAC as it relates to a production studio where they require operating AC while microphones are open.

You will find carpenters who won't look funny at you when you tell them that you don't want ANY of the walls in the live sound spaces in the studio to run parallel. And when you ask them to angle wall at 83 degrees instead of 90 - they won't hassle you with why that will be "inefficient because all the construction stuff is built around the 90 degree standard" - they'll just know there's a reason and get it done.

(My construction team had to bring a master carpenter out of retirement because he was the only guy they could find who wasn't intimidated with all the weird angles in my control room.)

There will also be people who understand video lighting and how to wire a production facility to keep "dirty power" and "clean power" lines separate so you don't get noise in RF sensitive circuits. And literally a thousand small similar technical issues that make the difference between a facility that works properly and one that you find you have to constantly fight to make work properly.

Nobody with any sense simply goes out and BUILDS a STUDIO without doing a couple of YEARS worth of research and investigation. There are simply too many things you can get wrong.

I spent three and a half years researching my facility before I started construction and even with all that time and the help of a lot of experienced people, there are things I would have done differently if I had known then what I know now.

Ask anyone who's spent huge money on doing it, only to be forced to go back and spend significantly MORE money on areas like audio tuning, power distribution, camera position geometry, running comm lines, evolving fire code issues, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

Really, if you don't already have the expertise - HIRE IT. Studio construction is VERY complicated to do really well.

For what it's worth.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 03:36 AM   #6
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I tell you what. Make an appointment to see George Lukas or Steven Spielberg and they will give you tons of information....

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Old May 8th, 2007, 07:54 PM   #7
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Tyson:

Before we started our production company, I was a construction and mechanical engineer. So I had a bit of an edge I guess. I had experience building heavy machinery, bridges, and structural and precast buildings. I also had a good foundation in electrical HVAC.

There is nothing in a production facility that a standard contractor can not do. But most of them don't know what to do. You have to tell them what you want, which means you have to hire somebody as a consultant who has the experience, or you have to do a lot of research yourself.

In our case, we designed our place from the ground up. It was a new, 18,000 square foot facility. We did the floor plan, (we did everything in Autocad), and then got bids from an Architect to make up the actual construction drawings. This way, we got the design we wanted, but we were sure we were meeting all of the building codes for our location.

Then we took those drawings, and we bid them out to contractors. We served as the general contractor. We did all of the "video" installation. We made our own detail drawings for all of the equipment consoles and had a local cabinet shop build them. We did all of the schematics for the systems, and did all of the wiring and equipment installation. We shut down our old facility at 5:00 PM on Friday, and we were up and running at 8:00 AM on Monday morning.

You can see our facility at our website, www.video-impressions.com . 80% of our work is for high-end corporate and industrial clients. 20% is low to mid range broadcast work.

Somebody else recommended that you find local help. I agree. If you can't find somebody local, we have designed several installations, and could serve as consultants. But a local source would be much better for you.

Mark
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Old May 9th, 2007, 12:25 AM   #8
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Thank you,

Ive gotten ahold of a guy -head of Studios at Turner studios that has arranged to talk to me about my needs... He should be able to help.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 06:08 AM   #9
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Bill & Mark: sounds like you guys need to write a book for building your own studio! :)

Wouldn't be surprised if more and more "small" studios start popping up in the next years making their own movies and want to have all facilities in-house, so to speak.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 08:42 AM   #10
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Rob:

I'm not sure if your prediction will come to pass. I'm in the Chicago area. There have been several times in the last 10 years where somebody has tried to convert old warehouse space downtown into very nice studio space. I don't think any of them made any money.

Our studios are the least used part of our business, and their use is declining, even though we have the only studios in the Chicago suburbs with ground level access and a moderate size (40 x 60). We get a lot of request from independant producers, but most of them don't have any budget. So even though we do rent out our facitlity to other producers, most of the work done in our studios is for our own clients. And we easily do 90% of our productions on location.

Most people think of a studio as just a big room. They are deceptively more complex than that, even studios like ours that are designed to cater to the corporate crowd rather than the film crowd. That means they are more expensive to build than most people realize.

As the old saying goes..."If you want to make a little bit of money in the video business, start out with a lot of money!"

Mark
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Old May 9th, 2007, 06:16 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=Mark Hislop;675482]Rob:

I'm not sure if your prediction will come to pass. I'm in the Chicago area. There have been several times in the last 10 years where somebody has tried to convert old warehouse space downtown into very nice studio space. I don't think any of them made any money.


Which is a pretty good argument as to why about seven years ago, I made the kinda radical decision not to renew the lease on my commercial space and instead, bought a piece of suburban horse property with a haybarn that I could gut and convert into a private video studio.

It was the only way I could pencil out doing what I really wanted to do. Build and maintain video studio space for CREATIVE work, rather than PRODUCTION work. There's a BIG difference. When you're trying to book Xhundred hours a month just to pay the lease and overhead, you don't have the luxury to sit and dream much.

Back then, my commute was a reasonable 15 minutes in traffic. Today, it's 15 seconds out the back door, past the pool, and into the studio. When clients come over, they take their phonecalls outside to the deck, the pool, or the back patio. Inside it's a soundproofed, purpose built production facility about the size of an insert stage (1400 sq ft) that setup for chroma key can be as virtually big as I need.

And if I have a great idea at 1am. I'm 30 seconds from a camera, or the edit suite, or whatever I need.

That's what makes today DIFFERENT from yesterday. You can own and operate the tools of even high end videomaking on a PERSONAL basis - instead of just a CORPORATE one.

Today is a DIFFERENT video production world from yesterday. Embrace that! Celebrate it. Change your thinking commensurately - and you'll be happier than just "let me see if I can build and operate somethign like what they used to build and operate back in the 80s for video production."

For what it's worth.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 04:08 PM   #12
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Bill exactly describes what I had on my mind. I wasn't thinking about a stage to rent out (or at least not as a primary goal), but more for your own work. I guess a bit like how Robert Rodriguez build a studio in his own home.

It would be good to know if you're building a "mini" stage / studio what kind of things you need to think about (power, sound proofing, lighting & rigging systems and whatnot).

To me it's pretty much a big unknown...

Hence a book that would guide you through that stuff, at least from a building perspective. Sort of like those "building your own home theater" kind of books (the good ones!).
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Old May 11th, 2007, 06:18 PM   #13
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Your business venture might be more profitable if you were to convert a production studio into a warehouse.

As the old saying goes... The easiest way to make a million dollars in the video production business, is to start with two million.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 06:31 PM   #14
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I think with any venture like this, you should get the business first, then make the facility that suits your business. There's no point in saying "I need something thats good enough for high end TV" if you have no high end TV contacts. See it there's any demand first, then try and fill that demand. As far as I can see, there are more than enough studio spaces for those who can afford them, and plenty of dingy basements and old storerooms for those who can't, so the only way to make money would be to undercut everyone else and work 7 days a week for the next 5 years marketing and promoting yourself for minimal profits - is this really the life you want?
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Old May 11th, 2007, 09:58 PM   #15
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[QUOTE=Bill Davis;676062]


Which is a pretty good argument as to why about seven years ago, I made the kinda radical decision not to renew the lease on my commercial space and instead, bought a piece of suburban horse property with a haybarn that I could gut and convert into a private video studio.

It was the only way I could pencil out doing what I really wanted to do. Build and maintain video studio space for CREATIVE work, rather than PRODUCTION work. There's a BIG difference. When you're trying to book Xhundred hours a month just to pay the lease and overhead, you don't have the luxury to sit and dream much.


QUOTE]

Bill:

I don't think we are too far apart in our thinking. The only nit I would pick is that in my case, my production work (my clients) pay for my creative work. They pay for my equipment and facility and staff. That gives me a lot of freedom (and toys) for my own projects.

I too gave up a long time ago on leasing space. I decided to be my own landlord and build my own commercial space. The building is my retirement fund, (or my kids' inheritance)

I am originally from Phoenix, and I go back home several times a year. I would love to see your facility when I'm in town, if it's OK with you.

Mark
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