Site Selection

one of the most common questions i see in the forums, as well as private messages, is about site selection. if you already own/rent/lease the property and you have a limited budget, then you’re very likely going to have to live with whatever situation you have. on the other hand, if you are exploring your options, its all about location location location. find the best possible location and facility you can find that meets your budget.

1) access and security – find a place that is easily accessible from car, public transportation, and other neighborhoods which are conducive to your studio operations. consider parking, nearby hotels, food, and drink. Security is often overlooked but the location and the facility should have good security, or be readily secured. Nothing worse than having your studio robbed, or clients harassed.

2) suitable for purpose – make sure you pick a building which is suitable for purpose. pick a place with tall ceilings (12′ or 3m+), plenty of open floor space (makes designing and building it easier), organized plumbing, HVAC (if possible), electrical service, etc. this way you can build your studio correctly and not struggle with layouts that have to address problematic building construction.

– do not pick a place with 6′ high ceilings, lots of odd permanent partitions, next to another organization with induction motors or other noise generating machines.

3) get a long term lease – you don’t want to invest a lot of money in building up your studio only to have your lease run out, and make sure you have termination clauses that protects your investment – don’t let a landlord run you out so they can rent your studio to someone else – make sure they have to give you enough time to disassemble it 🙂 maybe some business insurance to cover costs of a bad landlord.

if you find yourself in a lease/rent situation with low ceilings, bad layout, no or crummy services – get out if you can – it really will not be fun for anyone to accept a substandard location for your dream studio.

when in doubt, get a hold of me to discuss a site you are looking at as a possible location for your studio. i don’t charge for an initial consult (but even if i did it would be worth it!) so feel free to ask advice. Cheers!

Home Theater Design

it’s an interesting thing doing this type of design. much of the design tactics you would use in a control room or live room isn’t always applicable to a home theater (HT) design. in addition, the HT needs to have video considerations that are different than video monitoring or windows in recording studio.

one trend i’m seeing is a lot of people recommending “dead” rooms as the best solution for most HT layouts. i have to disagree with that position because a HT needs to have spaciousness as well as the usual timbre/coloration and spectral content controls. a dead room is definitely not spacious… i also see a lot of recommendations for a completely blacked out (and black painted/trimmed) room. yikes!

no doubt the room needs to have the ambient light (as well as reflected light from the presentation itself)  under control, but there are definitely better ways to handle this that is tasteful and less dungeon like. yes, you definitely want black-out drapes to close off windows, but you shouldn’t deprive yourself of natural daylight when the room isn’t in use as a theater, or when you’re cleaning etc.

so folks, there are definitely better ways to make your HT a spectacular place for family and friends to enjoy a “near-theater” experience, without subjecting yourselves to dungeon like rooms that make your ears ring from the deadness.

first off, pick an interior designer to help with color selections if you’re not comfortable with the task of working with dark(er) and flat(er) colors – remember the colors should complement your home as well as be neutral to ensure the colors don’t interfere with your viewing. windows can be treated with hinged “plugs” to block light as well as provide some isolation, or heavy blackout drapes used. the room should have bass trapping installed, low noise air handling, noisy equipment put somewhere it can be isolated, and the bare minimum of absorption to keep the room under control without making it dead.

and of course, contact me for expert help with your home theater project.

Do I need a designer?

Of course you do! but that doesn’t mean the designer isn’t you! without wanting to use “it depends”, sorry, it depends. to be an effective designer of a complex studio construct where isolation, treatment, layout, aesthetics all play important roles, it will take a lot of study and practice to create a proper design. and if physics and acoustics and construction engineering are not your primary skill set, then its an uphill road. on the other hand, if you are simply looking to treat an existing room using DIY or commerically available acoustic treatment products (such as GIK Acoustics, Real Traps, etc), you can probably learn what you need to know in just a few weeks of self-study on the product sites and main acoustic forums.

You might need to learn a bit of math and some terminology but the essentials are learning to accept room modes as the primary problem area for small spaces, and getting the RT60 adjusted for your space. a room mode is simply the result of sound waves being trapped within a set of walls, floor, and ceiling. RT60 is the reverberation time. usually, once you add the treatments for room modes using broad band treatments (broad band meaning wide number of frequencies) you can often find that RT60 and miscellaneous echoes also come under control. in “dry rooms “(low RT60) you might need to add some panels (like plywood or boards) to get some life back into the room. in “wet rooms” (large RT60 or lots of echoes) you will want to add absorption to get all the energy (sound is energy) from bouncing around for too long a time. It depends…

Did that sound alien? possibly. but in a short time you can review product sites for examples of solving common room problems, some reading up on the acoustics forums, you can learn what all this means to you and prepare you to make the decisions needed to shape your space.

Mysterious Visitations

one of the cool things about having a web site is the ability to view activity reports which show you how people are using the site and hopefully to gain some insight into things that people find useful. one pattern i’m seeing are people (anonymously) making 2, 3, or 4 visits to the site and repeated visits to the contact page and my design checklist page, all without contacting me! i don’t mind (really) but if you want to call me to discuss your project, please don’t feel that you will end up being obligated to hire me on the spot. i often advise bigger potential clients to “shop around” because designers can often provide important ideas on how to approach your project (for free!) and this can help you to more effectively determine what path (and designer(s)) you should take.

so if you are on your 2nd or more visits to my site and you want to chat, email or telephone me. if you’re international, email me to set up a time to talk via IM .


Cost Effective Construction

Since the majority of my customers tend to be in the under $100,000 studio market, one of the key points i make is that i like to use commonly available construction materials instead of higher priced specialty components (unless its necessary or desired). There is a lot of information on the Internet regarding DIY construction and there are many different opinions on how to best create proper isolation and acoustic neutrality (not lifeless!) in a studio.

of course it depends on your needs, but most people can get by on a reasonable level of isolation because then they can properly monitor the recording process, and most folks can also get by with a reasonable level of acoustic treatments. all too often we (not designers per se) get carried away with thinking we need 100db of isolation and all the latest diffusers and electronics. in most cases, going from 50db of good isolation to 70db of isolation is going to shift your budget from under $100K to probably well over $500K… why? because the very structure you are in determines just how much isolation you can ultimately achieve. once you get the air borne sound levels under control, its all about flanking. or structure borne sound. then infrasonic and the whole rest of the audible frequency range come into play.

most project studios and small commerical operations cannot afford to use floating foundations with costly suspension systems to get beyond 50db easily. Cheap and good isolation is not something you can use in the same sentence.

acoustic treatments – if your builder can read the design docs, they should be able to build the necessary acoustic treatments properly. if your budget can support it, then commercial treatments are a really good choice to ensure that the calculations your designer spent all that time on will very likely be reflected in how your rooms perform. it can also reduce your materials and labor costs if you can obtain the treatments for a reasonable price, and that in turn can lead to getting your studio online faster, and in a business situation, allow you to start taking on work sooner.

striking the right balance in the design to ensure you have options when it comes to construction your facility is a key part of what i (and most designers) do. getting the inside knowledge on how to properly apply common materials and construction methods to solving isolation and treatment problems is essential to making sure the money and time you spend on getting your studio built is used as best as it can be.

remember to hug your studio designer today!

Ready for the new year

As the new year approaches, i can look back on a pretty successful year of designing studios for people around the globe. i donate a significant amount of time and effort to do inexpensive or free designs for people all around the globe. i do this this because i have learned so much from many people and feel this is one way i can give back to the world at large. it also helps to have a full time job that enables me to support my family without depending on expensive design fees, so it enables me to take on design jobs where the total budget is under $100K US. In 2007, i either designed, co-designed, or helped out with design ideas on over 250 studios (pretty much every day really…). of these 12 full designs were paid, and about 50 full designs were free for educational, or other groups.

high-cloudsHaving just finished a design for some great folks in South Carolina, i’m busy on my vacation taking care of some smaller projects which i hope to complete this weekend so i can take off a couple of days before digging in on some larger projects.

So if you’re looking for design assistance, get a hold of me as i do have some slow time for the next week or so… and try to give back to the internet community whenever you have something to offer. its a strong investment in people and the music.

have a happy and safe new year!

Holiday Crush

Not sure what it is… seems everyone wants a new studio for the holidays… i was planning on taking off for two weeks the end of this year but now suddenly i have two more projects coming up and another two right after that… sheesh… no rest for the weary…

good thing i really love this stuff… its weird how when i need a break from creating copious documentation that i spend it doing quick sketches for folks on about 10 forums… nuts…

anyways, its always interesting the diversity of people, projects, locations, and requirements. there really are no cookie cutter designs because there’s always some variation to the way people work, what they have to work with (building, equipment), and budget… it does make for an interesting work environment. the best thing is that everyone for the most part is very nice and i’ll have no shortage of recording studios i can drop in on where ever i am on the globe…