Getting Started

you know you want it. but you’re not a designer or acoustician. don’t know how much money you need or can get. and haven’t swung a hammer or cut some lumber. you’re a musician, producer, or just someone who wants a great place to listen to music or watch movies.

without some understanding of the basics of acoustics, video, and construction, you’ll be pretty limited in how much you can achieve without getting some help. and that help is often going to cost you. money, time, aggravation, promises to be kept, and other bartering. even so, getting started in the right way can go a long ways towards having the facility you want. i’ll be skipping the whole site selection bit as thats covered in another blog, but we’ll visit the design steps a bit more.

step one – do you really want to do this? are you really committed? if not, we can stop right here because you’re not going to pull it off so save yourself the frustration and find other means to get into the facility of your dreams – rent, lease, etc.

step two – plan. you must figure out your market, your needs, a proposed budget, skills of the people involved, and how you’re going to get paid or pay back (yes, even personal studios need to provide value). this should be put together into a plan so you can track your progress, and if need be, get investors on-board to help.

step three – if you need help and have limited (low) budget – consider exchange/barter for services, materials, recycled materials, reduction in scale/scope, etc. there are some excellent examples of people putting out advertisements for people to help build a studio in exchange for recording and mix time. one studio in LA, the owner got over 200 responses in a week. his studio was built by a handful of construction professionals (he paid for materials) in about a month.

if you’re looking for investors, work with your designer to get some basic comps, renderings, and ballpark estimates (usually by taking the high level construction per square area costs X your square area = rough approximation – add another 15-25% – and then price retail on your equipment – because you’re likely to be paying installation costs even if you do get discounts on the equipment later, then another 10% of the total – worst case you’re high but its often easier to be high then to have to go and ask for more money later).

step four – be there. show up everyday on site and see whats going on as your facility is built. ask questions, bring coffee or soft drinks (don’t get the crew drunk while they’re working ;-)) show enthusiasm for your project. keep your investors up to date on progress. if this is a commercial facility, start working on your marketing, you want projects lining up in anticipation of your opening. take lots of photos and keep a log of the activities. track costs and time to your plan to see where you guessed right or wrong. plan a party for the construction crew and a party for your clients/friends to celebrate opening day.

step five – get to work! this is the best job in the world! if its your home theater, go relax, you’ve earned it!

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!