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Building a recording studio

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by MadMax, Dec 29, 2001.

  1. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    I don't know if this belongs here or not... It's kind of a follow up to the "Gear means nothing" thread... in a way.

    I'm finding that I'm really loosing a LOT of additional income by strickly being a mobile service.

    I've tried doing the referral thing with several of the other studios in the area, but everyone seems to want my ears in their project. They like the way I mix, but I don't have a brick and mortar to have clients come to... so I am SERIOUSLY thinking of taking the plunge.

    I found a secluded 10 acre tract with the makings of a great facility. Now to the grit of the matter...

    If you had it all to do over, would you hire a consulting firm to turn-key your studio? -OR- Would you go it alone as project manager and sub-contract everything out that you couldn't handle yourself?
     
  2. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

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    That would depend on the business plan.
     
  3. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

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    I built my tiny place by living next door to it. I did little or no hands on work on it. Merely keeping an eye on contractors and the friends I got in to do it. I found I had PLENTY to do re it's build without physicaly laboring on it. We made a lot of stuff up as we went along, I had a walkie-talkie set up between my 'office' and the studio, I would zip round if needed, (and that was OFTEN)

    Can you afford to stop working to be at the consruction site all the time? (when it's done will you still have an audio business left?)

    Chums / indavidual contractors need a LOT of supervision - I recomend that you live / set up an office nearby.

    Hiring a pro team will allow you to work freely & live 'off site'.

    Will you be doubling up on gear? or using the trucks gear? Strikes me you should be designing your place so whiping gear in and out of the studio racks / truck - at short notice is always possible. I have a friend who doesn't like any gear that is not flightcased! DONT get hung up on 'fitted gear looks' - dont lose sight that you are the KEY MAN! And you are a MOBILE KINDA GUY! If your new palce has wheelable flightcase racks for outboard instead if wooden cabinets - SO BE IT! Yoo da man! Make your mobile / stationary studio dream, plan for all occaisions. I were you I would plan to be working say on a remote choir gig, but be able to rent out the studio to a trusted engineer and have enough equipment for him/her to be able to record a rock band. Two sessions at once, more money = more chance to survive.Also a studio is easyier to rent out when you are away on holiday (trusted engineer friend) than a mobile truck I immagine.

    Good luck!

    :)
     
  4. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Can you afford to stop working to be at the consruction site all the time? (when it's done will you still have an audio business left?)
    ------------
    That's the rub. I don't think so. If I were to give up the day gig, the income from the Mrs. alone wouldn't hold us.
    ------------
    Chums / indavidual contractors need a LOT of supervision - I recomend that you live / set up an office nearby.

    Hiring a pro team will allow you to work freely & live 'off site'.
    -------------
    The property has a house that I will live in. So I will be on site.

    It also has a 932 sq ft office/lounge area that has a section that could be turned into an additional 576 sq ft of sleeping accomodations.

    There is an unfinished barn that is 32x32 and an existing addition of 16x32 that should work fairly well as either iso booths or a drum and percussion suite.

    I want a quality facility when I'm done. Heck, if I'm gonna do this, I want to do it right. So, I know I'm going to need to hire a good designer/architect for the control room and any other additions plus the completion of the studio itself.

    I've got about half a dozen musicians who are qualified carpenters and my son-in-law is a commercial roofer. But I don't really know if this is a really practical approach or not.
    -----------
    Just my 2 euro pennies.
    -----------
    ... and just how much is the interest rate to borrow those 2 euro pennies?
    ----------
    Good luck!
    ------------
    Thanx, I gonna need it...
     
  5. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Ang1970:
    That would depend on the business plan.

    Seriously, I'm not being a smart-ass... but this IS part of the process of putting my business plan together.

    i.e. If I'm the contractor, then I can build the studio as I have the funds and time to do it. But if it's a foolish way to proceed with the physical aspect of the studio, then I would need to write the business plan to reflect the needs/requirements for the additional funding for a turnkey operation.

    If it's a generally acceptable risk to build as funds are available then I can possibly build the studio for less than $150-$175 US per sq ft. Otherwise I will be looking at a $250-$350 US per sq ft cost.

    So, are the cost savings worth going after to use on gear to outfit the studio? I dunno. Any ideas?

    Thanx,
    Max
     
  6. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

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    If you haven't built at least half a dozen studios from the ground up, hire someone who has. You can read books on acoustics, but they will not replace an experienced acoustician. You can use friends who are skilled carpenters, but if they've never built a studio before, you will at very least require a project manager that has.

    A recording studio is a very labor intensive bit of construction. It starts to look like something quickly, then can languish for weeks before you see any real noticable changes. This is often one of the largest causes of frustration during the process. This frustration can lead to corners being cut, which will lead to your studio being less than it should/could be.

    There are a million and a half "little" details that all need to be addressed, from wire troughs to 120vac/audio line separation. How to best build the floor to accomodate both, so you can use the shortest runs possible, while avoiding stray field induction. Power into the building...3 phase? Single phase? The pro's and con's of each (they're often different for each application), do you want to run the majority of your equipment on 220vac rather than 110vac? Why?

    If it's done properly, it can take 2-3 days to mount the main monitors in the front wall...down to whether the control room will be on one level all the way across, and if the rest of the facility will have the same level floor, or if there will be ramps.

    I would never presume to give advice on such things on an internet bulletin board, but I would definitely advise you to hire a professional to design and oversee the project. In the long run, the results should be superior, and just the reduced number of "ahshits" will more than justify the added expense.

    [FYI, an "ahshit" is when you realize you forgot something seemingly minor that turns out to be rather critical].

    Best of luck with the project!!
     
  7. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

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    I believe you're in the same neck of the woods as Wes Lachot, who's a studio designer who was profiled in Tape Op and did an article for them on bass cancelations in the control room. I don't know his work personally, but the profile piece says he shoots for making studios from new construction no more expensive per square foot then a residential house. Maybe treat him to lunch to get a rough idea of what he could do for the place.

    Bear
     
  8. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

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    Note:
    I kinda fell out with ALL the chums I got in to work for me. :)

    Perhaps alert the studio builder co to the local talent you have, but let him decide to use em or not. Keep your friends and things cool with relations!!!
     
  9. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

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    Originally posted by xaMdaM:
    i.e. If I'm the contractor, then I can build the studio as I have the funds and time to do it. But if it's a foolish way to proceed with the physical aspect of the studio, then I would need to write the business plan to reflect the needs/requirements for the additional funding for a turnkey operation.I mean what do you intend to do with the studio once it's built? I know you want to scoop up the loose bucks that are flying past you, but you haven't really described what kind of clientele you're going after, what specific services they need, and what they will be likely to pay for them. You've calculated the investment risk, but it doesn't quite seem like you've calculated how you're going to pay it all off. Think more long term, and that will help you with the decision immediately in front of you.
     
  10. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Fletcher:
    If you haven't built at least half a dozen studios from the ground up, hire someone who has. You can read books on acoustics, but they will not replace an experienced acoustician. You can use friends who are skilled carpenters, but if they've never built a studio before, you will at very least require a project manager that has.

    Thanx for the heads up. That's EXACTLY what I was wanting to know. While I had no plans to design the studio/controlroom itself, I wasn't really sure if I should attempt to tackle the project management.

    A recording studio is a very labor intensive bit of construction. It starts to look like something quickly, then can languish for weeks before you see any real noticable changes. This is often one of the largest causes of frustration during the process. This frustration can lead to corners being cut, which will lead to your studio being less than it should/could be.

    There are a million and a half "little" details that all need to be addressed, from wire troughs to 120vac/audio line separation. How to best build the floor to accomodate both, so you can use the shortest runs possible, while avoiding stray field induction. Power into the building...3 phase? Single phase? The pro's and con's of each (they're often different for each application), do you want to run the majority of your equipment on 220vac rather than 110vac? Why?

    If it's done properly, it can take 2-3 days to mount the main monitors in the front wall...down to whether the control room will be on one level all the way across, and if the rest of the facility will have the same level floor, or if there will be ramps.

    I would never presume to give advice on such things on an internet bulletin board, but I would definitely advise you to hire a professional to design and oversee the project. In the long run, the results should be superior, and just the reduced number of "ahshits" will more than justify the added expense.

    [FYI, an "ahshit" is when you realize you forgot something seemingly minor that turns out to be rather critical].

    Best of luck with the project!!


    Thanx Fletcher! ...BTW, I did contact most of the firms you've suggested and figured that they 'll call after the first of the year.

    xaMdaM
     
  11. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Bear's Gone Fission:
    I believe you're in the same neck of the woods as Wes Lachot, who's a studio designer who was profiled in Tape Op and did an article for them on bass cancelations in the control room. I don't know his work personally, but the profile piece says he shoots for making studios from new construction no more expensive per square foot then a residential house. Maybe treat him to lunch to get a rough idea of what he could do for the place.

    Bear


    Hey Bear,

    Thanx for the remider about Wes. He's got a great reputation around here as a good designer. Any ideas as to any project managers in my area?

    xaMdaM
     
  12. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Ang1970:
    I mean what do you intend to do with the studio once it's built? I know you want to scoop up the loose bucks that are flying past you, but you haven't really described what kind of clientele you're going after, what specific services they need, and what they will be likely to pay for them.

    My current clientele is comprised of choirs, gospel groups, acoustic acts, percussion ensembles, jazz, fusion, and rock bands.

    I'm tracking everything from 5 song demos to full blown album projects. The work I'm missing is everything from the whole project to the mix-down with overdubs... and only because I don't have a decent facility to come back to to do the work.

    You've calculated the investment risk, but it doesn't quite seem like you've calculated how you're going to pay it all off. Think more long term, and that will help you with the decision immediately in front of you.

    I think I'm following what your saying here... i.e. owning a studio for the sake of owning a studio is the wrong reason for building one. If I can get bookings for the mobile because I've got a decent facility to do the mix/overdubs/etc., then the reverse should also be true. I'm not sure if there is really a calculation or some type of measurable formula that I can plug in here, is there?

    I know that I lost 6 complete projects this past year due to no extra facility. I've also seen 5 other projects become MAJOR "awshit" :mad: situations as I have had to utilize what limited space I have here now for overdubs and the like... besides, mixing on nearfields is a bitch. Getting a good mix is tough enough without the added hassle of having to redo the damn thing because of issues related to the lack of a well built mixing room.

    xaMdaM
     
  13. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

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    Originally posted by xaMdaM:
    If I can get bookings for the mobile because I've got a decent facility to do the mix/overdubs/etc., then the reverse should also be true. I'm not sure if there is really a calculation or some type of measurable formula that I can plug in here, is there?There is, actually. But you have to have a degree in business to convince anyone that it isn't complete BS. :)
     
  14. I would give it a go on your own. Check out the F. Alton Everest books availble at Amazon.com. I personally liked the "Sound Studio Construction on a Budget" the best. also check out this link.

    http://www.saecollege.de/reference_material/index.html

    Joe
     
  15. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

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    Bear brought up Wes Lachot before I did- I have heard good things about him. I wouldn't worry so much about finding a project manager yet- if you follow Angelo's rough estimation plan, and then contact Wes, you will have a budget to hand him, and I'm 99% sure that he is going to be more plugged in to the project managers/ builders/ contractors around your area than you. Let him help you through that part, as well as the actual design. Keep us all posted, too!

    Originally posted by xaMdaM:


    Hey Bear,

    Thanx for the remider about Wes. He's got a great reputation around here as a good designer. Any ideas as to any project managers in my area?

    xaMdaM
     
  16. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Jon Best:
    Bear brought up Wes Lachot before I did- I have heard good things about him. I wouldn't worry so much about finding a project manager yet- if you follow Angelo's rough estimation plan, and then contact Wes, you will have a budget to hand him, and I'm 99% sure that he is going to be more plugged in to the project managers/ builders/ contractors around your area than you. Let him help you through that part, as well as the actual design. Keep us all posted, too!



    Jon,

    I talked to Wes yesterday afternoon and much to my surprise, he was not opposed to managing the project as well as design the studio and control room.. As a matter of fact, I think he's actually used to doing both the design and project management. He seemed pleased to know that his name and reputation were being put out there.

    He really does seem to be interested in making this as good of a project as can be done within my budget. So I am hoping to at least get his input on the feasability of making this happen right...

    I'm not ashammed to admit it here, or anywhere else for that matter, that I while I could "probably" handle the project management, but just like it is with lawyers... I'd have to be a fool to represent myself. I will definitly let you all know how things progress along.

    I also recommeded that he sign up for recording.org. Anyone know if he's signed up yet?

    Thanx,
    xaMdaM
     
  17. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

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    Looking good!

    Are you going for soffit main monitors (in the wall)

    Are they a little old fashioned and impossible to get right?

    Free standing the new trend?

    + Cheaper?
     
  18. Chuck Jopski

    Chuck Jopski Guest

    In addition to all the helpful aforementioned tips about design, costs, etc. I would like to mention that you may want to check your local zoning laws.
    If it is 10 acres of residentially zoned property, your local zoning ordinances may forbid a commercial operation on the property.

    It is better to find out in advance than to spend the money building the studio only to have problems with the local zoning board. It may not be a problem. But if it is a problem, they can shut you down.

    Just something to think about in addition to the 10,000 other concerns during such an ambitious undertaking. I also suggest opening an account with your local contractor supply house if you do the DIY route. You will get to know them and visit them often! They can help you out on pricing and will usually deliver promptly. They know all the local contractors and can guide you to the right person for the right job.

    BTW, I hired a consultant, named David Rochester out of Nashville. I believe he is also currently the service manager for Amek in Nashville. He was immensely helpful, quite affordable, and saved me a bunch of money during my construction and design.

    Good luck on your endeavor.

    Chuck
     
  19. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Julian Standen:
    Looking good!

    Are you going for soffit main monitors (in the wall)

    Are they a little old fashioned and impossible to get right?

    Free standing the new trend?

    + Cheaper?


    Haven't quite gotten that far in the decision proce$$. I would prefer to, but I doubt if the budget will really allow for it.

    Any other opinions?

    xaMdaM
     
  20. MadMax

    MadMax Distinguished Member

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    Originally posted by Chuck Jopski / Summerhouse Sound:
    ...
    If it is 10 acres of residentially zoned property, your local zoning ordinances may forbid a commercial operation on the property.

    It is better to find out in advance than to spend the money building the studio only to have problems with the local zoning board. It may not be a problem. But if it is a problem, they can shut you down.
    ...<SNIPIT>...
    Good luck on your endeavor.

    Chuck


    Chuck,

    The zoning issue was the first criteria I gave to the real estate agent. Zoning ordanaces here in NC are a bit different... The property is out in the county. Most property over .5 acres is zoned for dual purpose. (residential - small business/cottage business) Unless the business is commercial in nature, i.e. manufacturing or storefront retail, I shouldn't have to worry about it. But that is being looked into and I am supposed to have an answer tomorrow by noon.

    There's plenty of timber on the property - Oak and pine. I've got a couple of friends who have sawmill operations who should trade out 1:1 on the lumber. (Thank God!) I also have the sawdust making hobby of making furniture and repairing antiques, so I've got a really good source for other types of exotic and domestic hardwoods... I can't see doing the entire floor in Zebra, Koa or Cocobolo... but it sure would be nice.

    Here's my general list of STD... ($*^t To Do)
    What's Done:
    No commercial air traffic within 30 miles.
    Light air traffic (no jets) is limited to daytime only and we would be 4 miles off the landing approach. (airport is 15 miles away)
    No heavy commercial/industrial with 2.5 miles.
    Nearest grain elevator is about 1 mile away.
    Nearest house is approximately 1500 feet.

    Left To Do:
    Verify Zoning - 99.5 percent sure it's OK
    Soil Testing - Compaction
    Water/Septic - Adding a bathroom/shower
    Power - Line Load/Grounding/Stability

    Once all of these are completed only then will I make an offer on the property.

    If it does work out that the list is ok up to this point, then I should be able to get an estimate on the design/construction costs.

    That's when I go for the rest of the financing... so far my budget looks to be around 175-200. Wes indicated that this should be a decent enough budget to work with...

    Maybe a referb'd VR w/FF, a couple of A820's and Whirlwind copper... and if Jules will lend me those 2 euro's at a decnt rate :D I might look at a API lunchbox. Whatdaya think?

    xaMdaM
     

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