Snap the Power

Dimmer switch socket and fan speed control for the aircon

The electrics are going in. The control room will have a fan speed control so we can adjust the flow of cooled air into the room. The lights will have a dimmer – for those ‘Barry White’ sessions, I imagine. The control room lighting will consist of eight directional spots, flush-mounted into the ceiling. We don’t quite have enough ceiling height in the live room to do the same so we’re going for three flush circular dome lights in a line along the centre of the room – you can see the location of the furthest one in the picture below.

Back wall of the live room, with light location in the ceiling.

Back wall of the live room, with light location in the ceiling.

Not too Aston Villa, I'm hoping?

We ran out of green hessian to do all the walls in the live room – we could easily order more, but the batches might not have matched perfectly, and it would have held up the project. So we’ve decided to go with all-green walls (including the bass traps, but maintaining the claret ‘V wall’) in the control room, and choose a different colour scheme in the live room. The live room walls will be blue-grey, and the ceiling will be the same light blue as in the control room.

Jeff’s away setting up their next job, and Artis is finishing more of the frames of the interior walls. Here’s one under construction – this is the grey-blue colour we’re using for the live room walls.

Once the frame is made, Artis stretches the hessian over it and staples it in place.

Once the frame is made, Artis stretches the hessian over it and staples it in place.

The frames are made in situ, up against the wall, then once they’re the perfect shape & size they’re removed and the hessian is stapled to them. I was on my way to the shops today and asked Artis if he needed anything picking up. He requested sticking plasters, as the friction from hessian-stretching had scraped several layers of skin off his knuckles. He had been using gaffer tape as hand protection. Very ‘rock’, but I imagine quite painful. We got him the most cushioned plasters we could find.

And here's the same frame resting up against the wall, ready to be nailed to the MDF/rockwool stud wall. In this pic you can see the different blues - greyish-blue for the walls, lighter blue for the ceiling.

And here's the same frame ready to be nailed to the MDF/rockwool stud wall.

The cool thing about this kind of commitment is that the guys don’t have to do it – they could stretch the hessian much less, and it would still look OK. But they know that over time the fabric will settle, and eventually the walls will start to look wobbly. I’ve seen this look in a few studios so it’s great to know they’re future-proofing the interior so well, albeit at the expense of their knuckles. Ouch.

Mr Blue Sky

Thanks to everyone who voted in the polls. I’ve also collated some views from the ‘analogue’ world – studio users and muso mates etc (plus a few Facebook comments) – and the verdicts are as follows.

  • Sofa – second-hand leather. It will age gracefully and be, er, wipe-clean. Many a studio sofa smells of old ganja and stale sweat after a year or two. Or maybe I’m too used to working with students.
  • Colours – light green walls (restful), light blue ceiling (sky-like) and deep red ‘claret’ for the monitor/baffle wall area. As some have pointed out, this will make the control area look worryingly like I’m an Aston Villa fan. I’m still not sure about the claret at the monitor end – this, after all, is the wall I’ll be staring at for hours at a time. On the other hand, it’s a beautiful colour. Grey is also an option. Comments welcome…
This is the Mac hidey-hole, which will be sound-insulated and allow Mac fan heat to escape into the void.

This is the Mac hidey-hole, which will be sound-insulated and allow Mac fan heat to escape into the void.

The newest addition to the structure is a hole for a soon-to-constructed Mac box, made to measure, which will serve two functions – extracting hot air from the Mac into the void behind the baffle, and isolating the control room from the Mac’s fan noise (the Mac Pro fans are pretty quiet anyway, but it will be great to have the option of perfect silence in the control room for vocal/guitar takes etc). The guys are going to build a mini-door at the front of the Mac box ‘cupboard door’ so visiting musos can plug hard drives straight into the Firewire socket on the front of the Mac. So now that we’ve got a custom-designed computer area built into the architecture, I’m hoping Apple don’t change the design of the Mac Pro any time soon!

The studio features as a specially-constructed coleslaw cooling area.

This studio preserves coleslaw.

Jeff’s away for a couple of days, checking on other jobs and doing some family stuff. Artis is pushing on with more rockwool, the power sockets and the green hessian wall coverings. It’s a blistering hot day in Bath, but the wall/ceiling insulation is so extensive that the studio interior is a good 10 degrees colder than the summer’s day outside. The Mac hole is currently working as an improvised fridge – it has preserved a tub of Co-op coleslaw for two days now…

It’s a bass trap… (and you been caught)

Live room air inlet

Live room air inlet

The air ducts are nearly completed. The system will work like this;

  • Refrigeration unit will cool the entire lobby area
  • Fans will blow the cooled air down the silver ‘sandworm’ pipes
  • Cool air will come out at the front of each room (through the ceiling baffles)
  • Warm air will escape into the lobby via ventilation holes at the back of each work room…
  • …and be cooled by the refrigeration unit
  • There will be a fan switch and speed control in each workspace, so the occupant can just switch it on whenever cooling is needed

The air path is broken up into zigzags to prevent bass frequencies from travelling; the ducts are lined with rockwool & fabric. My 8-year-old has pointed out that in the event of anyone,  er, ‘trumping’, this air will be circulated round and round the building at slightly different temperatures. So we will need to open the lobby door occasionally.

Ceiling duct, drawing air into the live room air supply pipe

Ceiling duct, drawing air into the live room air supply pipe

The cunning part is concealing all the ducts necessary to achieve all this. As mentioned before, the cool air enters via the ceiling baffles, having made its way through the soft pipes that run alongside the ceiling. In the lobby area there are two more ducts. This is the one for the live room, in its pre-covered state – you can just see the silver pipe emerging from the back and carrying the cooled air off to the right.

The second foyer duct – the one supplying the control room – is practically invisible now because it’s built into the door frame, so here are a few photos of it under construction.

Door frame air duct - under construction

Door frame air duct - under construction

Door frame air duct with chipboard covering

Door frame air duct with chipboard covering - the upright rectagular hole in the centre will extra warm air from the control room

The basic construction of the control room bass traps is now complete. The principle of a bass trap is that it stops particular bass frequencies from being accentuated by the construction of the room – here’s an article about the physics of listening spaces. This is to ensure that the monitor speakers are giving an accurate sonic ‘picture’ of the instruments/sounds in the mix.

Control room bass trap, viewed from the doorway. Rockwool panels will hang in front of the plywood, and hessian will be stretched over the whole thing.

Control room bass trap, viewed from the doorway. Rockwool panels will hang in front of the plywood, and hessian will be stretched over the whole thing.

Because low frequencies have a longer wavelength, they can only be broken up by large objects. Howard’s design of bass trap, from what I can tell, combines a ‘membrane’ and ‘broadband’ method of construction – plywood panels, with air gap, rockwool and fabric covering. All this means that we need some very large bass traps in the control room. So I may end up with a slightly smaller sofa than I originally thought!

On other news, Artis has been getting me and Jeff into Latvian folk-metal. Here’s Skyforger – chanting a 500-year-old folk song on the beach, then straight into some driving speed-metal riffery. Check out the bagpipe solo!

True colours

Don't mess with the Sandworms - they can bite your arm off.

Don't mess with the Sandworms - they can bite your arm off.

Firstly, a quick thank you to everyone who’s made suggestions about bringing the studio and phone box projects together (see ‘categories’ on the right hand side). The best suggested studio-related uses for the phone box include shower for sweaty musicians, vocal booth for agrophobic session singers, and banjo booth (need not contain an XLR socket).

The aircon tubes have gone in (the silver snakes that look to a man of my vintage like David Lynch’s sandworms from Dune). These will carry cooled air in from the refrigerated lobby area along the side walls, inside the baffles, and into the live and control rooms respectively. Today also (day 2 of phase 2) Jeff and Artis have constructed the front wall that will eventually have the fake garage doors stuck to them. The original plan was for this exterior wall to be made of concrete, but we learned that the asphalt driveway outside the original garage doors has no foundations under it – so eventually a concrete wall would, er, sink!

Jeff told me a story about a client to whom this had happened a few years back – the guy had assured him that the foundations were sound, so Jeff dutifully constructed a heavy exterior wall. After a few weeks, it sank ever so slightly during one of the client’s studio sessions, preventing the heavy acoustic door from opening and locking the client and his musicians inside. Jeff was called from another site to come and let them out – he had to cut through the door to get in; they were stuck in there for around 7 hours, and apparently got really bored (lightweights – I can spend that long editing a vocal!).

So, if I’m to be potentially imprisoned, what colour should my cell walls be? Now that we’re well on the way to choosing a sofa, here’s another chance for you, dear reader, to influence the design of the studio. Essentially, we have two colour decisions to make (walls and ceiling) and four colours of hessian to choose from (these are rough photos of the fabric rolls, and the colours don’t come up great, but you get the idea – for info the green is slightly deeper than this). The walls and ceiling have to be different colours – a single block of colour will look ‘orrible. Scroll down, and vote now!

Light grey

Light grey

Red

Red

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Light blue

Light green

Light green

Aircon pipe feed on the left-hand wall of the live room, seen here from the lobby.

Aircon pipe feed on the left-hand wall of the live room, seen here from the lobby.