Asbjoern Andersen


Ever thought about giving your studio a makeover - or perhaps you've simply outgrown your home studio? Here's the story on how Alex Gregson from 344 Audio did a major studio rebuild, complete with tips, lessons learned, and thoughts on whether you should go about such a huge project in the first place:
Written by Alex Gregson. Images courtesy of Alex Gregson
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Thinking about rebuilding your studio? Here are some questions to consider before you start: First of all, you need to ask yourself why building a dedicated studio space is right for your creative business. Will it help you accomplish a goal or work with new clients? Will it allow you to provide a better service?

You will then need to consider your budget. Is your budget realistic? Have you built an itemised breakdown? Where can you save money?

Next will come your plans for building soundproofing, acoustic treatment, interior design and equipment. Will these add value? Can you do the building yourself? Do you really need the best piece of equipment on the market?

The sitting area of the studio

Once you have figured out the basics and accepted that you want to go on this journey, you will need a marketing strategy to promote your studio in a way that attracts the clients you want to work with there.

You will have to ensure you are ready to take such a big step for your business, in terms of time and financial investment

The number of people working in your facility will also factor into your planning, does your premises have enough space?

With all this considered you will have to ensure you are ready to take such a big step for your business, in terms of time and financial investment.
   

Rebuilding The 344 Audio Studio: The Planning

An empty construction area with only a plastic-covered couch

The reason we wanted to rebuild our studio was to provide a better service to the clients we currently have and to the clients that we want. Previously, we worked from a home studio and rented facilities for larger projects, which was less comfortable for both us, Directors and other members of the sound team. Having your own studio allows you to choose the gear, workflow and look that is right for your business.

We had a budget of £20,000, which had to cover everything from rental deposits to equipment costs and soundproofing walls. We managed to save a lot of money by building soundproofing and acoustic treatment ourselves. We came in under budget, which left space for future investments in our second room. Every piece of equipment purchased was carefully planned to create an ecosystem that allows for a faster creative workflow and a high quality signal path throughout, while remaining cost conscious.

Having your own studio allows you to choose the gear, workflow and look that is right for your business

We hired a marketing agency to help us get into both local and national industry publications, which has already provided some excellent opportunities for the studio. We also have a list of current clients to invite to the new facility and a list of clients that we would like to work with in the future who we will be contacting.

With a view for expansion, we have an additional room which will house interns and freelancers to help when working on larger projects. We have a financial plan to allow for a return on investment and aim to get the most out of the equipment we have purchased and the room that we have built.
 

Rebuilding The 344 Audio Studio: The Execution

A GIF of the interior design process

The construction process was by far the most difficult and time consuming part of the project. Soundproofing involved first of all, four days of research to discover the right methods and materials to use. Once we had established our battle plan, it was time to begin.

We hired a builder to construct the wooden batons that lay the foundation for our soundproofing stud walls. They had to be built with an air gap between themselves and the original walls. We then added Rockwool acoustic insulation slabs, which aided in sound absorption and helped fill the gap between the batons. After this, we fitted resilient bars which separate the next layer from the wood batons, as well as allowing the wall to flex and absorb longer wavelengths provided by the LFE speaker in the room.

The wall was very successful in reducing disturbance to us and neighbouring businesses

Finally, two layers of acoustic plasterboard were fitted to the resilient bars and painted to match the room colours. The wall was very successful in reducing disturbance to us and neighbouring businesses. There was still a quite severe noise leakage problem from the entrance, which had to be alleviated by constructing a double door followed by a heavy acoustic curtain.

 

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Once the soundproofing steps had been completed, it was time to move on to interior design. From the beginning, we wanted to create an industrial revolution themed studio, which has cultural links to our home in Manchester, England. We went for neutral colours in the wall paint, absorbers / bass traps material and shelving to allow more specific elements to stand out. We also built our own studio furniture to save costs and create a more authentic industrial look. Using reclaimed wood boards, coach bolts and scaffolding poles, we constructed a fairly basic structure to build upon. Adding wood stain helped blend the furniture into the room a little better and bring out the natural wear of the desks.

We wanted to create an industrial revolution themed studio, which has cultural links to our home in Manchester, England

Next, we searched for various antiques to place in the room to finalise the look. These included a chest from the 1800s, various industrial cogs, classic British books to place on our bookshelves, and of course, a plant. It was finally time to install our equipment…

One huge workflow element we wanted to implement was the use of four screens. We fitted two identical monitors, one for the Pro Tools edit window, one for sound effects searching and miscellaneous tasks. We also fitted a 58-inch TV for client video playback. Finally, we decided to choose the Slate Raven MTi2 for our studio mix controller, as it had the most features and forward thinking workflow in its price range, allowing for custom macros and a touchscreen workflow.

We also had to create a 5.1 mixing environment, which meant that we would need a suitable interface and monitoring. We chose the Presonus Quantum for it’s low latency thunderbolt connectivity, ability to group outputs for up to 7.1 monitoring and it’s high quality digitally controlled preamps. We chose the HEDD Type 05 for satellites and ADAM Sub8 for our LFE. After testing one of our mixes on multiple systems, we found these to be the most transparent and comfortable to work with by far. They also have a phase and frequency linearization plugin for Pro Tools to help digitally align the speakers.

One of the other largely important tasks was to create a workstation PC that could handle our heavy Sound Design sessions. We got a custom 3XS system from Scan computers, which had all the bells and whistles needed to bring the studio build together. We spent most of our money on the key components, including the CPU and Motherboard, leaving room for future expansion on the 2 SSD drives and 32GB RAM.

An overview of the backside of the studio

The inclusion of a large MIDI keyboard, synthesizers and microphones were a crucial inclusion for creative purposes. We picked up a Korg Minilogue, mixer and guitar pedals for creating ominous drones and synthesized effects. Microphone-wise, we grabbed an NTG3 for Foley/ADR, an Aston Origin for Voice Overs and a Zoom H6 for recording sound effects, along with some contact mics and coil pickups. We also grabbed a dynamic mic for creating dialogue futz effects through the guitar pedals.

Finally, for acoustic treatment, we built 4 soffit bass traps to control low frequency build up in the room corners. These were made from thin timber wood uprights and particle board panels for the top and bottoms. The interiors were filled with acoustic rockwool. We then covered them with a breathable fabric. Our absorbers were a similar approach, with staples to attach the fabric tightly around the wood.
 

Rebuilding Your Studio: Tips and Shortcuts

Some of the lessons learned during the build process were invaluable, and we would love to share these with you. Most of all, the larger lesson here is that doing things yourself can garner much more worthwhile results, whereas hiring others can be overly expensive and may not save much time.

There has been no better time than now to build your own studio

Finding the right space from the beginning, in a good location with minimal traffic noise and disturbances will stand you in good stead for the future of your build and business operations.

Materials are cheap, and the internet is an unlimited resource for acoustic treatment advice, product reviews and the like. There has been no better time than now to build your own studio.

A crocodile head and a lightbulb full of nuts, bolts, and screws

Another piece of advice to readers would be to make your studio unique to your business. We included an industrial revolution theme as it’s something that we and many others are fascinated with in our local history. Use that as inspiration for how your studio could stand out from the crowd.

One element that we really underestimated was the soundproofing, which all in all took about 2 weeks to complete and was incredibly stressful. If we could go back and do it again with the knowledge gained, the process could likely have been reduced to less than a week. Do your research well in advance, and be realistic about the results you can achieve.

Please feel free to get in touch with us if you want any specific advice on materials or the build process. You can get in touch via 344audio.com.
A comfortable, professional workspace at 344 Audio.

A big thanks to Alex Gregson for giving us a tour of their new facilities over at 344 Audio!

 

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  • Destruction & Impact The Vault Play Track 12743 sounds included, 1249 mins total $599.99

    The whole 9 yards.

     

    Comprised of five heavy hitting libraries, this bundle includes GEARBOXSORCERYHEROBROKEN, and MELEE. Save by bundling all FIVE in a single library.

    GEARBOX:

    Boutique analog mechanical contraptions, steampunk gadgetry, gizmos and machines big and small.


    SORCERY

    Spells, deflects, casts, blocks, beams, and more. Unrivaled wizardry at your fingertips.


    BROKEN:

    Car crashes, explosions, crumbling buildings, earthquakes, ripping earth and metal, to debris, and more.


    HERO:

    HERO – Sword fights, stabbing, guillotines, impaling, battle cries, shields, drawbridges, armor, foley and more.


    MELEE:

    Punches, kicks, blocks, bodyfalls, grabs, slaps, bone breaks, blood splatters, and more.


  • Mechanical Gearbox Play Track 3551 sounds included, 279 mins total $149.99

    We've ventured to obscure boutiques, prop houses and vintage shops to capture mechanical contraptions from around the world. Ranging from bizarre creations, to steampunk gadgetry, gizmos and machines, GEARBOX clocks in at over 10 GB of high definition, precision mastered sounds spanning across 2987 construction kit sounds and 584 designed sounds.

    GEARBOX equips Sound Designers with a literal toolbox of mechanical gadgetry. Ranging from tiny to huge, GEARBOX's machines and gizmos provide coverage for interacts, mechanism, machine or device in your scene or game.

    INTRODUCING BUILDING BLOCKS

    In addition to CONSTRUCTION KIT and DESIGNED SOUND content, GEARBOX features BUILDING BLOCKS. This category of sound consists of designed phrases and oneshots utilized for our designed machinery, empowering Sound Designers with maximum flexibility when trying to get that particular phrase from an existing DESIGNED SOUND. GEARBOX features over 468 BUILDING BLOCKS ranging from levers, hits, grinds, snaps, and more.

    Video Thumbnail
  • Military M16 Halftrack Play Track 313 sounds included $299

    The World War II American M16 Halftrack anti-aircraft sound library features 313 sound effects in 18.86 gigabytes of audio. Based on the M3 Halftrack, this “multiple gun motor carriage” showcases 20 takes of up to 42 channels of performances from a White 160AX, 6-cylinder, 128 horsepower engine.

    Twelve onboard perspectives present the vintage vehicle in slow, medium, and fast speeds with steady idles and ramps. The twelve exterior perspectives include 26 channels of the halftrack starting, departing, passing, reversing, and arriving. Includes over 18 fields of Soundminer, BWAV, and MacOS spotlight metadata.

  • Cars VW Polo 2003 Play Track 228 sounds included $249

    Recording of a Volkswagen Polo from 2003 with a 1.4L straight 4 cylinder, 16-valve petrol (79 horsepower) engine.

  • Cars Volvo P1800S 1966 Play Track 363 sounds included $249

    The 1966 Volvo P1800S sound fx collection features hours of recordings of a vintage Swedish sports car. 16 perspectives detail the B18 in-line 4 cylinder ohv 115 horsepower engine also similar to the models 1800S, 1800E and 1800ES.

    The sound library includes 363 sounds from 17 exterior and 12 onboard channels totalling over 15 gigabytes of audio. The performances include departure, passes, and approaches at slow, medium, and fast speeds while accelerating, with ramps, gear shifts, and at constant RPMs. The collection also has idles, horns, an Altiverb impulse response and an extensive range of performed effects.

 
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