All Costs First
If we are going to build a recording studio from the ground up, we need to cost out the ground and everything up. There simply is no other way. There are no short cuts to obtaining costs. One must look at every square foot of land and every brick or timber used. Without costs for every part of the project, you are lost ship and a lost ship never sails straight. It is not fun, but it must be done first and foremost.
land costs must be known and calculated into the budget. There is a big difference in a 200,000 budget that includes the land and one that does not. Land costs can equal equipment costs. Land costs can determine how much square footage we can build on the land. We may want a larger piece of land for future growth or we may choose another piece of land because a cheaper land cost will leave more room for equipment and isolation rooms. One can not compare and contrast costs and assign these costs their respective “weights” in the total project without a real number.
Location, Location, Location
Where the land is located is critical. Once you have determined what hours you will be recording in the facility, you must then locate a piece of land that is located in a noise free zone during those working studio hours. Do a noise study over at least a week time period covering week days and weekends. If a noise study is not in the budget, do one of your own. Remember, every amount of noise has an associated cost in our budget to keep it out of our building and recordings.
What type of studio building are we going to build. Our noise study tells us what our outside noise issues are over our new studio working hours. What is the material list and construction technique we are going to use to keep the bad noise out and the good music in. Our outside noise levels tell us how much sound transmission loss we must have in our structure or barrier. Can we spend that amount on construction? What if we have a nice quiet building with no money left for equipment?
Draw Out Studio
Did we spend a lot of time sketching out the isolation rooms, live room, and control room. It is much better to sketch out an intended room layout on a bar napkin and then put it in your pocket and take it back to your office. In your office, you can stare at it and put yourself inside the studio. Go ahead and walk around. One must make this “walk” many times, before going to final drawings. It is much cheaper for you draw the lines, before the architect does.
Just like the contractor has a material list to go with the drawings, you must have an equipment list that the studio business plan can support. Does the equipment on the list align itself with the studio’s economic goals? Will you have the correct balance between number of electronic boxes and what your prospective clients will require to make beautiful music together. No room for self indulgence here. Make sure every piece is a responsible and productive member of the signal chain earning its respective cost.
Acoustical treatment must be in the budget. One can not just stick panels here or there and expect any cohesive room sound no matter control, iso, or live. what are our acoustic goals in the control room. How will we address side and rear wall reflections in our control room. Do we want a live end/dead end approach to our control room. If control room size is small have we allowed for low frequency technology to be installed in the control room or are we going to manage low frequencies with free standing units.
Live Room Acoustics
Does our live room really sound live to our microphones? Have we allowed for enough room volume during our napkin (design) phase to give our drums that big room sound we may need in our recordings. Can we give a client a nice tight attack and decay with our drums, no matter snare, tom, or kick.
we need the correct room volume from the beginning to make a live room sound big and live. No amount of electronics no matter how much they claim can make a small room sound large.
Low Frequency Treatment
Each room treatment has a different cost. Low frequency absorption is the most expensive treatment to do correctly. After we figure out the costs of low frequency absorption for our chosen room size, we may find that if we make the room just 12″ larger in even one dimension, we can reduce our low frequency absorption costs at the very beginning.
Middle And High Frequency Treatment
Middle and high frequency absorption is economical and acoustical foam technologies work well here. Make sure and use closed cell acoustical foams. Closed cell foams have a smoother more natural absorption curve. Middle and high frequency diffusion can be costly. It must be used on the rear wall of our control room. Other walls have more options and can use acoustical foam. Make sure you have enough money in the budget for control room, rear wall diffusors.
Build your new studio with only two windows. The control room window is a must and so is the window in vocal booth. No need for any others. Windows are the weakest and pound for pound, the most expensive construction element in the whole studio. Windows must be layered, laminated, and sealed into place to achieve any semblance of sound transmission loss.
We must have all costs on paper before we break ground on our new studio project. With all the costs in front of us, we can then propose our budget and decide if we really have enough money to do everything in our budget. Maybe, we need a larger budget. Maybe, the cost numbers tell us we need a smaller budget. Yeh, right, that never happens.