The main control room in the expanded post complex features Pro Tools HD Accell 3 running on a dual 2.5Ghz Power Mac G5, Emagic’s Logic Pro, GigaStudio 3 and a 42" Philips HD plasma TV. Photos by Phillip Angert.
Space, at least in New York City, is the ultimate rather than the last frontier. No matter what your budget or purpose, however much space you carve out of this city's real estate jungle, there will almost never be enough to meet all your needs. You can also be certain you'll have some configuration issues to deal with.
JECO Music, a bicoastal company specializing in TV programming, feature film and commercial music production, recently partnered with sister company Stolen Car Productions to develop an unusual new audio-video production/post-production complex for New York City's production and advertising community. Created by studio architects/acousticians the Walters-Storyk Design Group, this 4000-square-foot facility occupies the entire 10th floor of its building (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. JECO’s new expanded post complex houses five other creatives. Four composing/audio-post suites; two Avid Media Composer/Meridian rooms; a live studio capable of accommodating up to 12 musicians; a three-person voice-over studio; a conference room; and executive, production and administrative offices are available for the companies’ use. Click here to see an enlarged diagram.
Having resided in considerably smaller quarters on the third floor of the building for seven years, the production company had completely outgrown its space. Beyond the physical limitations of its cramped studios, it also planned to reach out to a higher level of client, and to support its creative credentials with a substantially larger, more attractive, more comfortable and more technically sophisticated physical plant. In the advertising and TV production universe, appearance and creature comforts can give a company as much credibility as awards and a power reel.
Beyond this “glamour” quotient though, serious thought was devoted to the fact that, in a small company with a hands-on creative/management team, the partners spent more time in their studios than at home with their families. To support that large investment of time and energy, a serious comfort level is a necessity, not a luxury.
When the entire 10th floor became available in its midtown building, JECO jumped at the chance to acquire it.
The new complex offers clients a vast array of creative and technical advantages along with substantial creature comforts. These include four composing/audio-post suites; two Avid Media Composer/Meridian rooms; a live studio capable of accommodating up to 12 musicians; a three-person voice-over studio; a conference room; and executive, production and administrative offices.
The complex’s two editing rooms offer Avid Meridian editing suites with 1:1 capability, Mackie 1202 mixers and 500GB of drive space standard in each room.
As is usually the case in NYC, JECO was out of space before they started. However, creative designing and specialized studio construction techniques enabled architect John Storyk to optimize the available space without the creation of a single mechanical room.
JECO's interior design was developed by WSDG co-principal Beth Walters through a valuable ongoing dialogue with the production company's partner/composer Leigh Roberts on color and texture.
Long-time WSDG contractor Chris Bowman and his construction team have excelled at navigating the many issues related to building the complex facilities so crucial to a successful studio operation. The nature of this building itself, however, presented the construction team with considerable challenges. Foremost of those was the absence of a freight elevator to remove the debris resulting from a bare-walls demolition and to deliver an equally formidable amount of construction material. The passenger elevator had to be free for the other tenants during normal business hours. Fortunately the production company had a solid relationship with the landlord, and the work was accomplished.
In TV production, a company can gain credibility by offering creature comforts. JECO’s complex offers an attractive and creative atmosphere with a fully equipped conference room.
Equally daunting was the discovery that the 10th floor shared a power line with other tenants in the building. The initial concern was that a new riser would have to be installed to provide adequate power to the new complex, a potential $15,000 to $25,000 investment. Further investigation led to the realization that the power needs of the new facility would not necessarily be any more demanding than they were in the original third-floor studios. In fact, new, more energy-efficient air conditioning (three smaller units to replace the original 15 ton system) would actually lower their power needs. To further guarantee a safe, clean power source, the facility's technology manager recommended the installation of UPS power conditioners in each room. These small, highly reliable, surge protectors are further supported by battery backup systems to protect against unexpected blackouts and other disasters.
Because three of the six companies sharing the complex are music/sound related, the acoustic design of the space was critical. The audio technology evolution has seen computers replace massive tape machines, bulky monitors reduced to slender plasma screens, and the features of a 10-foot-long $300,000 mixing board written into a piece of software. Still, there is no substitute for a great-sounding room.
Beyond the given of creative talent, the most integral component of a recording studio is pure acoustics, regardless of the size of the room, gear or client base. All of the rooms had to sound great, as well as provide a high level of isolation so as not to interfere with the functions of the other rooms.
An intractable budget placed a fully floated studio out of reach, but the team was convinced that an acoustic solution complementary to the type of creative work done in those dedicated non-recording spaces could be accomplished with design rather than more costly physical solutions. To accommodate the production company's financial realities, the WSDG team analyzed their plans to confirm which rooms absolutely required complete isolation and winnowed these down to two. The architect floated the live room and the vocal booth, establishing an average of NC 15 in those spaces. Sound isolation of an acceptable NC 25-30 was attained for the other production rooms by a combination of internal room acoustic treatments and the selection of a particularly quiet HVAC system.
Also contributing to the quiet was the introduction of a freestanding, wheel-mounted ISO Box Studio. The 4½-foot-high, 3-foot-deep, 2-foot-wide maple cabinet was designed to hold all the computer towers, hard drives and related gear that contribute to the general noise environment. The unit is equipped with a thermometer for monitoring internal temperature, super-quiet fans, cable access in the rear and a glass door for visual monitoring. The system can be shifted easily from studio to studio.
Other creatives headquartered in the new complex are: Chris Hajian's Moving Picture Music; Propeller Music & Sound Design headed by creative director/composer Doug Hall and executive producer Iris Schaffer; director Conrad Fink's This Is TV; and Paul LeBlanc's Lantern Eye, TV.
Now, open barely six months, the new facility's unique approach seems to be working to everyone's advantage. Clients and tenants alike find a creative synergy between composers, graphic designers, editors and writers. They aren't collaborating on every project, but they have noticed an increasing number of clients that appreciate access to so many diverse disciplines in one location. This is an especially attractive option given the ongoing issues of tighter production schedules and shrinking budgets.
This community of like-minded individuals with companies specializing in their respective fields offers clients the resources and physical amenities traditionally associated with much larger companies, along with the benefits of the personal attention, creativity and adaptability typically found only at boutiques.
Howard Sherman heads a New York City-based public relations firm specializing in audio and video production/post-production companies.
Leigh Roberts, co-principal/systems integration
Gus Reyes, partner/executive producer
Glenn Ianaro, technology manager
Walters-Storyk Design Group:
John Storyk, principal architect/acoustician
Beth Walters, interior design
Construction: CHBO, NYC
Contractor: Chris Bowman
HVAC: Marcy Ramos Associates, Marcy Ramos
Lighting and electric: Robert Wolsch Designs, Robert Wolsch
Power Mac G4, with Aurora Igniter video capture card
Pro Tools HD Accell 3
Apple Cinema Display 22"
42" Philips HD plasma TV
13" LCD for viewing ISO booth and private client monitor
GigaSampler Dell PC Pentium IV 1.8GHz
Genelec 1030 powered monitors
Mackie Baby HUI ProTools control surface
PreSonus central station monitor matrix
Roland A 80 controller
Server computer G4 Dual 500 running OSX server
Plug-ins by Focusrite
20" Sharp Aquos LCD screens (main studio)
13" Sharp Aquos LCD screens (isolation booth)
Avid Meridian editing suites with G5
Emagic Unitor 8 Midi interface
Roland 5080 with six expansion cards
Fosxtex D-15 time code DAT
Denon CD player with digital output
Eventide DSP 4000 harmonizer
Lexicon PCM 90 FX
DBX 386 two-channel tube mic preamp
PreSonus DigiMax 96 eight-channel mic pre/limiter with optical out
Canopus Firewire DV video converter
Sony UVW-1800 Beta and U-Matic VCRs
ISO Box Studio
Video/patch panel video DA matrix system
Neuman TLM 103, KM 184
Audio-Technica AT4033, 414, AT4041
Shure SM57, 52
Elation KM201 matched pair
Rode K2 tube