Sweet Sounds of Success
Stretching limited resources is a principle that unifies most of New York's independent creative community.
Project: Oväsen Music and Tandem Sound Studios
Application: Broadcast/recording studio
Location: New York
Consultant: Walters-Storyk Design Group
Stretching limited resources is a principle that unifies most of New York's independent creative community. In 2002, Eric Offin and Mark Garcia began collaborating with this community. Their Oväsen Music and Tandem Sound Studios was in the right, but tight, spot on West 14th Street, but it was in dire need of a facelift.
In late 2006, Offin, a sound designer/re-recording mixer, and Garcia, a composer/sound designer, recognized they needed to bring their studio up to speed — technically and aesthetically. Happy with their lower-Sixth Avenue neighborhood, and committed to expanding their facility despite its size, they negotiated a lease for a somewhat larger 800-square-foot space in the same building. They quickly called upon the Walters-Storyk Design Group to develop a compact, but workable facility on their new second floor space.
The compact recording studio represents the first application of the BagEnd E-Trap technology, a tunable electronic bass trap that absorbs low-frequency sound, enabling an acoustician to expand the sweet spot.
Credit: CHERYL FLEMING AND DAVID FLORES
“When we learned they wanted two identical 5.1 mixing rooms, a shared Foley/ISO booth, a kitchen/lounge, and a screening area for a large flat-panel monitor, we saw this as a very interesting challenge,” says architect/acoustician John Storyk. “Extensive experience on New York City projects prepared us for this job, but this assignment was a particularly interesting adventure.”
It quickly became apparent on this installation that every inch mattered. Taking up a fraction of the space of traditional mixing desk, Digidesign Icon D Control consoles were chosen. The design team developed a 120-square-foot live ISO room that accommodates voice-over (VO) sessions and doubles as a Foley room.
Keeping in line with the trend toward small, multi-faceted rooms common among the New York recording scene, Storyk explains that the multi-use arrangement works because it's rare for both owners to record VO tracks at the same time on the same day. “Efficient scheduling enables them to keep both their studios humming and provides them with a live room without stepping on each other's toes,” he says.
The tight physical constraints of the twin 215-square-foot control rooms represented a critical acoustic concern for the studio. While the engineer generally occupies the sole “sweet spot” at the console where the audio mix is typically optimized for tonal balance, it's vital for film directors and other key creative clients to share the experience, because they are the paying clients.
Designed to provide post-production audio services, Oväsen Music/Tandem Sound Studios makes the most of its 800-square-foot recording space in New York.
Credit: CHERYL FLEMING AND DAVID FLORES
While in larger rooms low frequencies tend to be omnidirectional, in smaller rooms like control rooms or home theaters, that's not necessarily the case. Room modes, caused by low frequency wavelengths interacting with room dimensions, create cancellations (nodes) and hot spots (anti-nodes). According to Storyk, most studios offer enough room for a minimum of three or four clients, but the custom leather couches at the back of the Oväsen/Tandem Sound control rooms needed to be located farther back, flush against the rear walls, and out of the “sweet spot” zone.
To expand this space within these inflexible physical parameters, Storyk introduced the first application of BagEnd E-Trap electronic bass traps. These tiny tunable units absorb low-frequency sound with a high degree of effectiveness in a fraction of the space where large passive absorbers are not an option. By installing two E-Traps under the consoles in each of the control rooms, Storyk was able smooth out low frequency hot spots and dead zones.
Recently, Offin and Garcia were asked to demonstrate how the room would sound with the E-Trap system switched off. First they listened to some music they were mixing for a project, then Garcia crawled under the console and unplugged the E-Traps. The difference was immediate and dramatic, according to one demo participant. The sound went flat, and was muddy and unintelligible, as if they'd gone from stereo to mono or just pumped up the bass.