A great time was had at the APRS annual lunch at the Roof Gardens earlier this month. We spent the afternoon celebrating the life of Sir George Martin. It was an afternoon filled with special memories, laughter and a lesson on how to mix a Martini to Live and Let Die.
The importance of supporting the next generation of industry engineers, producers, writers and artists was the overriding message of this years 2015 APRS Sound Fellowship Awards, held earlier this month at the Kensington Roof Gardens in London.
Our very own Eddie Veale and APRS Fellow presented the citation and accepted the award on behalf of Mike Oldfield, who was reportedly delighted to have been recognised and thanked the APRS for its “valuable and tireless work to support the vast numbers of unsung heroes often working in studios and developing new technology”.
We were also delighted to see our friend Trisha Wegg, Manager of RAK, receive her fellowship from Led Zepplin’s Robert Plant.
Studio acoustic can be adjusted to the studio use, so what is needed?
Whatever the style or music genre, listenership is king!
The link between station output and listener is content. Differing formats and style attract different listeners. The number of listeners varies over the day with drive times often attracting most.
The statistics for popular stations show that the presenter plays a critical role in capturing and retaining listeners. Listeners also enjoy variety, from music to news and current affairs.
Plays from the music library require no studio acoustic. The presenter, news reader, guest contributor and any live music does require a good studio acoustic – this is so that the listener is able to enjoy and relate to the performance and not be distracted by poor studio acoustic.
Poor studio acoustics fall into several headings, most of which involve one or more of the following;
• Sound isolation
• Background noise
• Noise interference
• Off-mic effects
• Guest voice quality
• Live music sound
So, what may constitute ‘a good studio acoustic’? There is not one single quality that categorises a studio acoustic as good but the combination of several qualities and the relative importance will vary according to the style and format of the content or station output. Following are some of those qualities;
• Presenter voice intimacy
• Lack of off mic effect
• No background noise
• Consistency of programme level
There is another factor – comfort. And this is about the studio ergonomics and environment. The most brilliant acoustic will not compensate for items being out of reach, lack of comfort for the presenter and guests, ease of operation, good lighting and environmental control.
How should a broadcast studio be designed? Because buildings, station format and content vary so much there is no single approach and the following is a useful guide;
• Determine what size the studio needs to be
• Survey the studio location for noise ingress (traffic, train, services, etc.) from all sides
• Plan the studio for ergonomics – consider the equipment, presenter, guests and general use
• Is live music to be used in programmes
• Consider other studios and studio interaction – are windows required
• Can external windows be introduced for some natural light?
The design process can now begin; size of room, position of console and attendant equipment, space for the producer, news reader, guests for dialogue and guests for live performance. What is the interaction between each and can the presenter be sure of participation and programme precision so everything runs smoothly.
Attention can then be given to external services for cable routes, electric power and lighting, ventilation and air conditioning, windows and doors, and circulation space with exits to satisfy safety and emergency escape regulations.
Once all this is known detail acoustic design can begin and finishes considered. The general appearance and finishes will need to integrate and reflect the image and corporate branding, and could impact upon the acoustic design with the choice and placement of materials.
Within the acoustic design there are stages in the process; first is to eliminate any external noise and neutralise any undesirable qualities of the room shape and size, then to design adequate bass (or low frequency) trapping so the room does not exhibit any ‘boom’. Poor low frequency control easily leads to exacerbated off-mic effect, problems in getting a good voice sound from the microphones and messes with the sound of live instruments (often making them sound muddy).
Then attention is turned to finishes, how to avoid too much mid frequency reflections and introduce enough within the desired time domain so as to create a well balanced acoustic with warmth and comfort for the users, and creating something unique for the station.
To meet the needs of the Ealing School of Art, Design and Media, part of the University of West London, Veale Associates have created broadcast facilities dedicated to those training for a career in radio. VA worked closely with the school academics, technicians and principal contractor Willmott Dixon to create studios that reflect the latest ideas and practices of commercial radio so students gain real experience of the commercial world.
The development is part of a £50 million pound campus regeneration scheme for the University aimed at improving students’ learning and social experience. The BA (Hons) Radio and Multimedia Audio Production course equips students with creative and technical skills relevant to the production of audio for radio, and the wider broadcast and entertainment industries. Blast Radio (UWL’s official student station and a Finalist in the 2014 SU Awards) gives students a chance to get real hands-on experience in a radio studio.
Both Studios are identically equipped and centered around the Lawo Crystal mixer with Vistools and uses the Tieline Commander for external reporting and contributions, Protools with RedNet to ingest music from other parts of the campus and record live studio productions, Myriad for play-out, Burli for news capture and script editing, Phonebox for phone-in contributions, IDS clock and information display, DJ kit comprising Pioneer CDs and record decks and mixer, Neuman microphones, PMC twotwo5 monitor speakers Adder integrated KVM switches to seamlessly link the kit in the CAR/Racks room to the studio desk and wall display screens.
Eddie Veale Veale Associates’ head consultant said, “Studios need to look and sound impressive, but it’s not as straightforward as that. Today’s studios need to remain flexible, operating 24/7, and have to make sure they deliver optimum performances from a host of different users. At the same time they have to live for the future to guarantee longevity so there is a lot of detail to the design and build. I am proud that we achieved that, and the University is enjoying the results.”
Paul Lohneis, Head of Film and Media at UWL, said, “Together with an exciting new curriculum, and a dynamic team of connected-creative academics working at the heart of the industry, this new facility will put us at the forefront of HE radio and multimedia audio teaching in the UK.”
We have just completed refurbishing restaurant facilities dedicated to those training for a career in hospitality and tourism. The project, at the University of West London’s Ealing Campus, provides a state of the art restaurant for both training and hosting special events.
“The restaurant is intended for presentations and musical events and the acoustics were far from great” says Eddie Veale. ” We adapted the ceiling design to provide acoustic tempering and lighting to create an airy feel with good acoustics so clientele can enjoy a fine dining experience with excellent musical and sound reproduction.”
The development is part of a multimillion pound campus regeneration scheme for the University, aimed at improving students’ learning and social experience. VA worked closely with principal contractor Willmott Dixon and Ferro Design, UWL’s designers, to create the restaurant facility.
“Flagship facilities have become increasingly important in the education sector to attract prospective students and provide them with the best experience but also enabling establishments to undertake commercial activities” comments Eloise Randell, our Creative Director.
“We are delighted with the newly refurbished restaurant which provides excellent industry standards for teaching and learning for those students who are studying for positions in the international hospitality industry” said Head of London School of Hospitality and Tourism Professor David Foskett.
Welcome to this months throw back Thursday. This time we look back on one of our favourite projects, the legendary Hook End Manor.
Alvin Lee had lived there for a number of years and recorded Ten Years After ‘Anthology’ before Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd) owned it in the late 70’s. Alvin converted the large barn into a studio. Later Alan Winstanley (Madness, Dexys Midnight Runners) and Clive Langer (Madness, Teardrop Explodes) bought the property. They wanted a control room complementary to the live room, not quite as large, but bigger than most at that time.
We needed to redesign the roof of the parlour as it was a flat roof and had collapsed. This enabled us to create a considerable amount of height and we decided to approach the acoustics of the control room very differently to previous designs. The height was an advantage in being able to put some low frequency absorption at high level, and our approach to the design was to encourage the natural fundamental from the monitor loudspeakers to flow naturally through the space. The loudspeakers were built into the front wall so we created an extended loudspeaker baffle. We deliberately moved away from the compression ceiling to allow the energy to free flow. There was a risk to this with the size of the console being large and a potential diffuse so we chose to raise the height of the monitor loudspeakers to compensate, allowing more direct energy to flow over the top of the console rather than beneath; really using a bit of aeronautical design in terms of wing airflow technology. Base frequencies where tightly controlled through use of base traps. We used the natural shape of the building to highlight the internal contours and retained the timber of the building so we had oak columns and beams, giving it a very homely feel. The colours were chosen to complement the general style of the building. One could move around in the room and the quality, the perspective of the sound was very consistent. That proved very successful and, as a result, Hook End very quickly became one of the worlds best residential recording studios.
The studio was later acquired by Trevor Horn (Robbie Williams, Pet Shop Boys). He was very impressed and in an interview remarked he was of the opinion that “the control room was probably the best control room in the world, and certainly the best he’d worked in”.
Trevor Horn talks about Hook End
Attention! We are delighted to have joined forces with the British Forces Broadcast Service (BFBS), refurbishing the 1980s broadcast facilities that have been supporting our troops serving abroad since 1943.
We have overhauled three studios, three production booths, a talk studio and a television studio with green screen for the BFBS as part of a refurbishment programme orchestrated by the charity which provides the invaluable service, the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC), under its contract with the MOD.
The project included an extensive technical upgrade to broadcast hardware, power distribution, data connectivity and play out systems including upgrades incorporating touch screen controls across several systems. An easy to use clock and lighting system was installed to enable staff to see and select the different time zones for broadcasting to our troops overseas.
Commenting on the task, our Head Consultant Eddie Veale said: “With SSVC being a charity, we had to work particularly hard in this instance to contain costs while ensuring sufficient resources to design professional studios to a tight budget. While studios need to look and feel impressive, they also need to remain flexible, operating 24/7. Our challenge was to make sure they can deliver optimum performances from a host of different users. At the same time they have to be built for the future to guarantee longevity so there is a lot of detail in the design and construction. I am proud that we achieved all of these aims for such a worthy cause.”
John Sullivan, Head of Projects and Infrastructure at SSVC added: “Everyone is pleased with the final result. The refurbishment has given presenters a better working environment and a commonality with the studios they work from around the globe. We are particularly delighted to continue a long association with Veale Associates. The company’s flexibility in accommodating our requirements and changing timelines has been very much appreciated.”
BFBS currently broadcasts to 23 countries including some extremely remote destinations. The television service broadcasts the best of UK television over fifteen 24-hour channels to seventeen countries, across fifteen time zones and includes a service to HM Navy vessels.