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New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

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New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Tonyes335 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 6:29 pm

Hello everyone,

Here I plan to share the story of my recording studio build. This will comprise a control room, a booth and live room. The slight complication is that the live room will also be the family home cinema.

I anticipate delays but I'm determined to keep this record as up to date as possible. I have deliberately taken well over a year to make sure preparations are right, a budget is in place and other potential distractions won't slow progress too much.

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I have enjoyed reading the many heroic studio builds featured all over.
As always if you need any further info or have any questions or criticisms please do not hesitate to ask or comment. If you see me stumbling into a glaring mistake or would like to propose an alternative method please do contribute as this discussion helps benefit everyone and perhaps equally important is entertaining!.

To begin:
Below is a mock up of the area based on the final plans.

The pianos in the image attached are just to give an idea of relative scale.

Image
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:04 pm

Awesome. This looks exciting!

So one thing strikes me about the plans - you've made an effort to create a good sized booth there, and a booth can be a very useful thing. But ironically enough, the one thing vocal booths are generally not good for is...vocals. They're good for isolating amps, sometimes tracking an acoustic guitar along with a loud band, getting a guide vocal along with the band etc. But they're not USUALLY good for vocals. There's a lot of colouration and it's often better to screen off a space in the live room in a less 'agressive' way from a barrier perspective and work with that. SO my point is, don't compromise your control room (if you feel that you've had to do so) to create a big booth, which while very useful, might work equally well a little smaller.

The 'obvious' place to put the desk would be at the other end of the control room looking out over the live room. I see why you've done it this way though...doors and access etc. It also helps to have space in front of the glass so that a musician can stand in the CR and play with a band tracking in the room.

Looking forward to seeing more. Where are you btw?

J
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby J_J_Breeze » Sat Jan 24, 2015 8:14 pm

Jack makes a good point. It might even be best to completely do away with the vocal booth or make the space smaller and turn it into a machine room, this way you can have a very quiet control room. Quiet enough to track vocals.

Good luck with your project!
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Tonyes335 » Sun Jan 25, 2015 4:37 pm

Thanks for the kind wishes and comments. Hopefully the following few posts will shed some light on the reasons for the current design.
We are based near Wrotham, Kent in the UK.

First some history.

I come from a drumming background and have built fairly well isolated drum rooms in most properties we have owned. With hindsight and the more I have learnt from the various resources available, I realise I must have used up a lot of luck getting acceptable results, particularly from an acoustic point of view.

I have a single room at the moment which has now become a store room and is partially converted to an office.
In October 2008 I started building an outbuilding to house a small recording studio, a bar / lounge, kitchen, bathroom and somewhere for guests to stay. I'll elaborate if there is any interest although there will be some background on the website in due course. Anyway, it was slow going as working full time in the City (London) meant that the time with my family was premium and pushed the build to the bottom of the list as I want to do most of the work myself.

At the end of 2012 I got a nudge towards early retirement. We decided it a perfect opportunity to leave the City career behind to spend more time with my family and focus on some of the things we wanted to do. I had only just been toying with the idea of getting a turnkey solution but having new found freedom decided it was something I would do myself.

I wanted a large live area and CR but thought that I may get good use from an iso booth that could possibly be used for vocals as well. It was a question of compromising a larger CR for more flexibility in future. In addition the small lobby created between the three rooms will serve as a transition between the different levels in the building, and possibly another exit point if necessary.
The large live area should also double as our home cinema in order to get max value from the build.

After an extensive research project, buying many books and trawling the usual forums I learnt more about studio design and building. However, I found the wealth of information available was quite often in contradiction which made me wimp out and call in a studio designer.

After an initial meeting with Howard Turner of StudioWizard we decided to go ahead and do a full set of drawings with plans for appropriate acoustic treatments.

After some extensive dialogue over many months in 2013 my plans were delivered. I then had to make some structural adjustments and decided to finish all my other outstanding projects as I had a feeling that once I started there was no going back.

Anyway Howard is kindly and patiently supporting me and I have the appropriate permissions for anything I post.

The basic shell that will house the rooms is nearly complete so have about 3-4 weeks worth of work before I start framing the inner rooms.

To finish this post I would like to acknowledge that none of this would be possible without the support of my wife also affectionately known as the spending committee, and of course my two children who after all this is all for.
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Jack Ruston » Sun Jan 25, 2015 5:51 pm

Howard is great. You're in good hands there.

J
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby zenguitar » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:57 pm

This sounds like an interesting project. And as you are planning to update us regularly I'll make the thread sticky.

Andy :beamup:
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby J_J_Breeze » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:33 am

Tonyes335 wrote:
After an initial meeting with Howard Turner of StudioWizard we decided to go ahead and do a full set of drawings with plans for appropriate acoustic treatments.

Great to hear - looking forwards to seeing some images of the build!
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:46 am

You have not told us yet, what it is that you are going to do there - on that topic, some thoughts (from someone who does this for a living!) -

1. If you are self-recording, i.e. making your own music and just for fun, the very LAST thing you need is a control room. CRs are needed when the engineer and the musician are two different people and have totally different skill sets. If you are a wind-swept and groovy rock-god who can afford his own in-house engineer, super. If not, who is in the CR whilst you are recording drums and piano?

2. Where is the machine room? Computers make a noise and some make quite a good deal of noise. They also require cooling; even with liquid cooling and heat pipes, that heat has to go somewhere.

3. Media room - 4K projector in the ceiling? Furniture? Where do all the Parker-Knolls go? Beers and nuts on the floor or on a table?

4. Control room = one set of speakers. Media-room-come-live-room = another set of speakers. Good speakers cost money, as in many thousands of pounds. They also take up space. One room = one set of speakers!

5. You plan 5.1 in the CR - are you doing A-for-V for TV and video or are you authoring DVDs? Music in 5.1? Hardly ever! A friend of mine got a Grammy for a 7.1 music project, but he admits that was largely because hardly anyone else was bothering with surround for music-only projects. Film is sometimes in 5.1 or usually 7.1 or sometimes in Atmos, TV in 5.1 only and music is nearly always only in stereo. There are very, very good reasons for this (that I cannot go into here, as it is a huge subject!)

6. If you have multi-media ambitions, a larger room can double as a video studio.

7. Having the live room behind you will just not work. You have to see the talent and have the speakers making the sound from the same direction as the talent. There are many half-baked home/project rooms with the CR at 90-degrees to the live room and the engineer ALWAYS ends up having to keep looking sideways and in the end, someone comes to their senses and turns the desk around and faces the talent.

8. Unless you have a separate store room, the booth is going to fill up with junk (AKA, toys/er-equipment you are not using right now). My booth right now has two electronic drums kits, three keyboards, a bass amp, two guitars and an old analogue drum machine. And I DO have two store rooms!
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Jack Ruston » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:55 am

Yeah good point about the surround....Is that something you're doing for a specific reason? It really isn't that useful in most music production work, and even then quad makes a lot more sense than 5.1, because the centre channel and subs are really quite film specific - The sub is an LFE rather than handling 'bass' like it would in studio monitoring setup, and the centre channel allows for dialog to come from the middle of large screen, where some viewers are not sitting centrally, and so would get no central phantom image from a stereo pair of speakers. It really has little role unless you're working specifically for film and being asked to do surround work. Most of the guys I know who have spent money setting up for it have used it once in ten years or whatever.

J
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:58 am

The Red Bladder wrote:... Where is the machine room? Computers make a noise and some make quite a good deal of noise. They also require cooling; even with liquid cooling and heat pipes, that heat has to go somewhere....

Do keep up! :)

There's been a thread here recently about the number of people using silent computers and those specialist manufacturers who now offer them...

But heat from various sources and ventilation is always a factor in a 'proper' studio. Proper ventilation and, sometimes, air-con does need to be factored-in.
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Wonks » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:07 am

The Red Bladder wrote:You have not told us yet, what it is that you are going to do there - on that topic, some thoughts (from someone who does this for a living!) -

7. Having the live room behind you will just not work. You have to see the talent and have the speakers making the sound from the same direction as the talent. There are many half-baked home/project rooms with the CR at 90-degrees to the live room and the engineer ALWAYS ends up having to keep looking sideways and in the end, someone comes to their senses and turns the desk around and faces the talent.

Andy, you obviously haven't looked at his layout picture in detail. There is currently no window between the control room and live room, so it doesn't matter which way he faces. Presumably there's some sort of CCTV link to the live room which hasn't been mentioned (though hopefully thought about).

Steve Hill's Woodworm Studio worked well without a window to the live room (OK, it was dictated by the split level arrangement and he would probably have liked a control room, but it still worked). And some people may perform better if they can't see anyone staring at them through a window!
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:16 am

Mike Stranks wrote:
The Red Bladder wrote:... Where is the machine room? Computers make a noise and some make quite a good deal of noise. They also require cooling; even with liquid cooling and heat pipes, that heat has to go somewhere....

Do keep up! :)

There's been a thread here recently about the number of people using silent computers and those specialist manufacturers who now offer them....

I do keep up! But that means you are always limited to those machines that can be supplied in a silent mode. What happens if you want to buy an old Radar for tracking, or a friend brings in his old ProTools TDM rig with a G4? Or it's the middle of Summer and the machines are so hot, you could fry an egg on them? I have about 3kW of PSUs and computers in the machine room (admittedly, most of that is the desk PSU) and having ice-cold air blowing at them is just vital! And they last longer that way!

It's these doofus practical issues that a studio designer is supposed to solve.
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:28 am

Wonks wrote:There is currently no window between the control room and live room, so it doesn't matter which way he faces.


EE-Gads! There are no windows anywhere! (Or are those turquoise boxes on the right wall windows?)

I have worked in dozens and dozens of studios and they all had daylight. Even one that was built into a converted cinema, had windows knocked into one side.

I know of a suite of some eight studios and only the two mastering rooms in the cellar had no windows. But that is in Germany where nearly all houses have proper cellars. Anything above ground needs windows.
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Wonks » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:32 am

After another look, maybe the light blue panels are supposed to be windows? I took them to be acoustic panels as they seem to be in the right place for those.
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:43 am

The Red Bladder wrote: I have worked in dozens and dozens of studios and they all had daylight.

;) You've had a spoiled life, RB! I've spent a great many years working in radio and TV studios, OB trucks, and dubbing theatres with no windows at all! Didn't do me any harrrrrmmmmmm!

It is much nicer to have natural daylight, I quite agree. But it also adds to the cost and acoustic issues which may outweigh the benefits in some cases.

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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon Jan 26, 2015 12:23 pm

Having written those words, I now have to admit that I have indeed worked in a handful of studios that did not have any daylight and of course most mobiles and all OBs, TV and film studios do not have any daylight for obvious reasons. Some dubbing and film mixing rooms do have daylight, but most do not.

The largest recording studio in the World (nearly 1,000 sq m live room!) does not have daylight and the one in London that claims to be the largest studio in the World, but is not, does not have daylight. But then both were built at a time when that was the norm.

Anyway, it looks as though the OP does have daylight.
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Tonyes335 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:25 pm

Dear All,

I will of course keep this journey as up to date as possible.

Over the next few days I'll post images and I'll try post images of what I'm up to, to help illustrate the text. The next few weeks will be a bit boring as I'm just sorting out the sub floor, then tidying up the space and beefing up the shell.

I have full plans incuding M&E but I am just going to ask permission before posting.

To answer some queries and very valid points: Please forgive me if I miss any just ask again.

The idea is to make this multi functional. I will be recording myself, friends and family. It will also be a business.

I am currently looking at airconditioning including heat recovery and bypass. This will be important to ensure that it remains comfortable to work, I mean play in.

There will be day light in the tracking room and the CR but the booth will not have it's own. The light blue panels are in fact windows.

There is a window at 90degs into the booth and indeed the window to the live area is in the rear wall. The main reason is for efficiency of the space and the entry and exit points. We experimented with different layouts including some corridor proposals but I really wanted to keep the maximum floor area for creativity. I am assured that there will be no reflection issues. Also I anticipate having two screens in front of me plus a screen on the wall.

I have no short term plan for 5.1in the CR but the designer included it just in case.
The live room/cinema room will be a bit of a money pit but the family love a film. I am intending to keep this equipment separate and will elaborate in further posts.
This also ties in with the need for a booth (A space to stash excess gear when the live room becomes cinema.....)
As for machine room I think there maybe space in the lobby area for a rack for noisy equipment which is where I was planning to put the amps for the cinema sound.

A bit about the host space.
The external walls are made of Insulated concrete formwork (ICF). That is 50mm extruded polystyrene 150mm of concrete and 50mm of polystyrene. The outer face has battens then a cement fibre weather board.
The roof is warm roof construction. So over the trusses there is 18mm OSB, 50mm rockwool insulation, battens then counter battens with clay tiles with membranes in the appropriate places.
On the inside of the OSB sheathing I have installed 2 layers of 12.5mm plasterboard caulking all edges and joints. At this point I should point out that when I ordered the trusses I specified a higher load to take this into account, just in case.
The floor for the tracking room is beam and block overlaid with 100mm 140kgm3 rockwool and a layer of 18mm flooring chip 15mm plasterboard and another layer of 18mm chip awaiting the final floor finish.
This floor does not touch the outer walls but does sit on the same strip foundations. The airspace beneath this floor is vented as per UK building regs but if there is any unexpected problem then I can deal with it even after the room is done. (Simply cutting out the centre of the floor and filling up the void if necessary.)
The CR and booth originally had the same floor construction but due to a nasty floor resonance I called in help. Then I decided to rip it all out and start over. This was a major hold up. I had moved all the beams and blocks to our field opposite the house whilst I made some adjustments. As they are quite heavy I was unable to move them back as the weather got bad and turned the field into a bog. In fact some unsavoury characters had broken into the field, I presume to try and steal them, they clearly underestimated the state of the ground and left empty handed, but left me to repair the smashed field gate. (as if I haven't enough to do!) Anyway the recent ground frost gave me the opportunity to bring them back on Friday with help from my friend and singer/songwriter, Craig. Needless to say the guitar was not picked up on Saturday. They are in place ready to be infilled with blocks. Each room will have its own floor of similar construction to the live room, not touching the outer walls or each other. I anticipate this method will reduce flanking noise to a degree. Membranes will all be in the appropriate places.
Today all the beams were levelled and some of the blocks are in place. Although the airspace beneath the floor should be fully vented I have added some rockwool to the voids to help dampen any resonance.

Again I appreciate your comments and sorry if a missed a point.
Tony,
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby The Red Bladder » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:50 pm

I am watching this with interest, as I am about to begin work on a similar thing to expand the business, only this will be for editing and mastering only, so it will all be in one c.a. 40 sq m room.

Tonyes335 wrote:I will be recording myself, friends and family. It will also be a business.


The 'Studio-for-Rent' business model works in central London, especially if you have a large live room. It can also work in those places where you are filling a specific niche and have links to that niche musical activity, or are tied to an existing TV, film or similar facility, for example, renting space on a TV or film studio lot. The rest, I am sorry to say, are dying on their feet!

Running any studio as a business is about as close to impossible as you can get nowadays. The three big rooms in Town manage OK, particularly Angel, as there is a steady demand for large rooms for film scoring and corporate events in a sexy place.

The main reason the rest are struggling is, even if you have all the bells and whistles, your customers have pretty much the same things themselves. All the people with money, build their own places. All the people without money, are, well, without money! (And as a producer friend of mine once said "When a man has no money, I lose all sympathy for him!")

There is also the simple fact that a basic home recording rig is yours for £400 - one SM58, a laptop and a download of Reaper. So that's all your singer-songwriters gone!

For a long time, genuine home recording was impossible, but today, for £1,000 of kit, you can be recording whole bands.

I notice from your website, that you also want to go down the video route - well, all the above applies here as well, especially the bit about having enough space! Even pokey, regional news rooms are now usually at least 100 sq m. And just as you thought it was safe to go back into the hi-def water, 4K and Atmos are coming!

I would suggest, before you go much further, that you take a look at existing studios and ask the people there, why they have things the way they are and what the major problems are. My experience has been that city centre studios have to have a certain standard (Neve 88R, all major DAWs, very good acoustics, etc.) The rest have to have something funky going for them, like pin-ball machines, good food, crazy locations.

But on the subject of the layout, I would definitely want to face and be able to see the talent. That and I'll just mention the fact that we have not used the separation booth for vocals for years. Storage, yes. A place to put back-line, yes. A place to lock up guitarists, until they have calmed down, yes. But vocals, almost never. We do them in the main room.

You really can afford to lose it!
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Stef Andrews » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:38 pm

Tony,

I'll be watching this build with interest! I do like a good look into other people's projects!

Also, while it is probably not needed now... I'm based down the road in Uckfield at the mo. But looking to move to Tunbridge Wells/Sevenoaks area (and currently work in Sevenoaks amongst other places), so when the gritty fun stuff comes in, if you need a hand etc. feel free to shoot me a PM. I'm more than happy hiding under desks plugging wires in!
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Re: New Studio Build - Summerly Studios

Postby Tonyes335 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:35 pm

Today I have been continuing with the adjustment of the sub floor. Why is it taking so long? When a block and beam floor is laid you use a mix of sand & cement to grout the gaps between blocks and beams. As I have already used these before there is old mortar stuck to the beam & block edges so the each one needs to be cleaned first so I can get a snug fit..... to be fair most people only do it once and frankly once is enough.

You can see the old dpm on the walls. I have lowered the floor by a brick depth to make the void smaller and I can now put a screed on top to increase the mass and hopefully kill off the resonance. The temptation was to load it with concrete but I bottled it as we are building on clay. Although have filled alot of the void with rockwool there is still ventillation underneath and plenty of room for expansion.
Even with the rather rubbish UPV double glazed doors if I crank up the amps inside to an unscientific "loud" level there is relatively little sound escaping which bodes well. Once I have finished the shell I'll do some more tests with a sound level meter and post the results.

Image

Thanks again for comments and interest,
T
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