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Author Topic: Live rooms that really ARE  (Read 5528 times)

wwittman

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Live rooms that really ARE
« on: August 25, 2006, 01:14:20 am »

Fran,

All of my favourite recording rooms (the old Record Plant NY Studio B, Abbey Road 2, AIR 1 at Oxford Circus, to name a few) are, or were, noticeably LIVE.

Genuinely, unquestionably, almost unmanageably reverb-y.

Yet, studio designers NEVER seem to build rooms like that.

I suspect this has a lot to do with fear that the client doesn't REALLy want what he thinks he wants in this regard...

but leaving that aspect aside, is it more difficult to do that? or to do it well?

It always seems a battle for me with the designer wanting the studio ultra-"controlled" and me wanting it more OBVIOUS, acoustically

any thoughts, comments?

have you done rooms like that?


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William Wittman
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sui-city

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2006, 03:40:12 am »

Sorry William, I'm not Fran,

but i totally relate to this.

We are doing a studio rebuild and the acoustics consultant i met with couldn't believe that i wanted a room that was a little more alive. We would fit a few Gobo's and other movable panels if we felt we needed to calm it down a bit, but at least we had the option.

He's been in the business for around 30 years, and was quite intrigued with the idea. Needless to say, we are no longer dealing with him.

I LOVE the sound of a great room. When everything is too controlled it just ends up sounding sterile to my ears.
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dcgzr

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2006, 05:48:50 am »

I think live rooms can be cool.. if they are big  well designed live rooms. I seen only a few good one's in my days of recording(25yrs and counting) but, I have yet to like a small live room. I'm sure great small live rooms do exist....just have'nt worked in one yet.

There used to be a studio I've done some work at that I thought had a wildly awesome sounding stairwell in Manhattan called Celestial Sound on 2nd ave & 49th st.

best guitar sounds I ever got came out of that stairwell. Have not been there in 20 years. Is that place still open?
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2006, 12:43:53 pm »

1940s and '50s studios were designed to blend sounds at the musicians' ears after disastrous experiments with the "dead" studio designs of the early '30s.

The invention of "punching in" along with the need to record loud rock and roll live during the mid '60s created an obsession with  "separation" in studio designs. This at first was largely an attempt to differentiate independent studios from the older "live" label-owned facilities.

The introduction of enough tracks to overdub everything made this idea utterly obsolete by the early '70s but it lingers on due to a remarkable lack of original thinking about the relationship between production techniques and acoustical design.

franman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2006, 04:31:18 pm »

okay here goes>>> I really like live rooms too! I was an engineer and producer in a previous life, and I really like the sound of drums in a big live room!! I have actually designed a few live rooms that clients told me were too live!! Always did this when there were enough booths to cover the "other" acoustic needs.

When designing a live recording facility my philosophy is to provide an acoustic "palette" of flavors you can use in a variety of ways. This may be a large room with a live end and a more absorptive end (ala Egan Media Prod or Ochoa in San Juan), or it might be a large really live room with a mix of isolation booths (like Barber Shop or Stratosphere in NY)... You have to know what the client is looking for.

Unfortunately the "big" live sound fell our of vogue for quite a while in the mid 90's and only recently do I hear popular recordings with what sounds like real ambience on them regularly. Many engineers I have met and worked with don't have a clue how to record in a live room! This is another problem. You've got a bunch of guys who have done vocals, DI stuff and mixed HUGE records but wouldn't know how to mic up and record a drum set to save thier lives.... (none of you guys of course!!)

So... yes, to some extent I don't design really live recording rooms unless I have a heart to heart with the owner/client and make sure they understand what they are going to get. I'm not kidding when I tell you that at least twice in the past year or so, we've completed projects and had the owners come back to tell us that their clients think the room is "too reverberant" and they can't cut vocals in there... This is with at least two other iso booths with great small room acousticss!! Go figure.

So... I'm with you guys. Nothing beats a real live room, as long as you've got acoustic options in the studio. Also, most of the projects we do DO NOT have the space to build a really nice reverberant live room *unfortunately... but, when they do... WATCH OUT!!
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compasspnt

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2006, 06:15:39 pm »

Wm,

You are so right about the scarcity of good live rooms.

Working at Abbey Road would quickly spoil you!

Of course 2 was great, but 1 was a bit live as well!  And 3 nothing to sneeze at (DSOM).


This is one of the main reasons I came down here to Compass Point.  The rooms are absolutely awesome sounding.  For instance, just speaking or clapping in the larger of the two might lead one to believe that it was "too reverby;" but once on mic, it is just great sounding.


The concept of the blending is right on as well.  That is really one of the important keys to good recording.  If it blends well within the room to the players' ears, then it will also be blending well to the microphones.


I've written here about this before, but once again:

A few years back I was recording at Windmill Lane in Dublin, when they were in the old Guinness Brewery property with gigantic thick stone walls everywhere.  The studio was beautiful, but they had put so much carpet and absorbers and diffusers everywhere, that it was actually quite dead.  They thought I was crazy, but we spent almost a week with load after load of plywood, and several carpenters, covering the walls and floors with wood.  By the end of that, it sounded great.  I think they ended up redoing it to a more live situation after we finished.


The one thing I HATE is the places ("Somewhere in Nashville" comes to mind) that have a so-so medium-sized main area, and then 20 little individual booths all around "for the players."  Everything is compromised.
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wwittman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2006, 08:10:00 pm »

I also loved Record Plant Studio B... and that room was only medium sized at best.

perhaps 36x25 at its BIGGEST (it was an irregular shape, slightly) and with only about a 12ft ceiling (that was 'waved' not flat)

but super live, and especially so for its size.

so the net result is what Terry describes at Compasspoint... you could almost have troble hearing what someone was saying form one edn of the room to the other, it got so scattery... but damn did things sound BIG in there.


The thing about big rooms is that you hear the sheer volume but often not noticeable reverb.
In Record Plant B you heard that splash.

Stratosphere is a nice sounding room for some things, but in NO way what i would call "live"


I remember Tom Hidley telling me once that if some owner said to him "I don't care if the piano booth isn't total isolation" for example, he'd put in the deal memo/specs "drums to be audible in the piano booth" and seeing it in writing would scare them out of it and they'd spend the money for the isolation.

but I also think that sort of worry ends up creating acoustically BLAND spaces that someone might call "flexible" but really they're not.
They're just bland.

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William Wittman
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2006, 04:18:58 pm »

It's stupid easy to set up a screen or even a few coats hung over a boom behind the vocalist to do vocals in a live room. What you don't want is the voice bouncing around the room and then off the back wall into the live side of the vocal mike.

The original Motown Hitsville studio in Detroit was a brilliant RCA live room design. It spoiled me forever! Part of me screams when I think of that room now being part of a museum rather than still making records.

rwj1313

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2006, 08:07:48 pm »

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 26 August 2006 15:18

It's stupid easy to set up a screen or even a few coats hung over a boom behind the vocalist to do vocals in a live room. What you don't want is the voice bouncing around the room and then off the back wall into the live side of the vocal mike.

The original Motown Hitsville studio in Detroit was a brilliant RCA live room design. It spoiled me forever! Part of me screams when I think of that room now being part of a museum rather than still making records.


Bob, Terry, William and Fran........why don't people building studios just copy some of these great rooms you guys have mentioned?

Thanks,

Rick
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franman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2006, 09:25:50 pm »

copying existing rooms is kinda a no no for me.... copying a "classic" room is usually difficult as they are possible only in the building in which they exist (a lot fo times)... copying contemporary rooms is a no no because it's kinda like a copyright infringement (of the acoustic design variety).. That's how I always felt about it.

I get a lot a calls from folks who say "I really like studio abc on the website. How much to buy the plans for that place from you?"..... I have to tell them #1 we don't sell plans from other projects to new clients. It's not fair to the original client, and #2 very very very rarely can these plans be used in other locations.
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jetbase

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2006, 02:48:41 am »

i used to have a studio with a very live room. i found that i didn't compress things anywhere near as much as in dead rooms. i don't know if it was just this particular room, but there seemed to always be enough sound going into the mic without having to squash in every last drop. there also seemed to be a nice "air" around everything.
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maxdimario

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2006, 08:19:42 am »

I think this is part of the compression craze... dead rooms.
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2006, 07:22:40 pm »

Dead rooms, the use of headphones, not hearing the entire arrangement while you play and using compression while tracking can all create a need to repair dynamics problems after the fact.

compasspnt

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2006, 02:02:17 am »

Bob Olhsson wrote on Sat, 26 August 2006 16:18


Part of me screams when I think of that room now being part of a museum rather than still making records.


Sad, indeed.

But even worse, they tore down the Stax building, and then had to "build it back" for that Museum.

The Museum is quite nice, but the recording room(s) are not the same space at all.
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wwittman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2006, 11:58:16 am »

well, also Record Plant, NY,
AIR Oxford St,
Trident,
Columbia 30th St.,


too many great rooms gone.
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William Wittman
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stevieeastend

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2006, 03:56:57 pm »

Well, actually my studio got a really nice room. Really big, very high ceiling.(14meters long x 5m h  x 8m b, I have no clue what´s this in ft.) I cannot imagine loosing it, but I will sooner or later as the ground actually owned by the local train company will be sold in about two years.
I have no idea what I will do then cause I gotten so used to it.
It´s so easy to get almost any kind of drum sound out of it just by moving mics. IMO it also makes a great difference recording amps in a bigger room. Piano, vocals... man I will really miss it..
I plan to get something similar but in a city it´s really not easy to find as one can imagine...

cheers
steveeastend

Juergen

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2006, 04:39:30 pm »

steveeastend wrote on Sat, 02 September 2006 15:56

.(14meters long x 5m h  x 8m b, I have no clue what?s this in ft.)


Finally someone else that speaks in meters.  Very Happy  Very Happy

45.9ft long x 16.4ft high x 26.2ft wide.

I don't have any experience workin in any place that was mentioned before nor in any place that closely resembles the quality of those rooms, though I'd have to say that I really enjoy reverbarating rooms myself. In a dead room, the instrument just sorta sounds like it's in a vacuum (sometimes just sucks, but sometimes also blows)

However, you put an instrument in a nice space, record its interaction with the real world, and voila. Lately I've started considered building something that will sound live when it needs to be. I'm glad I am at the right place for learning.

Edited: Grammatical errors.
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franman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2006, 11:58:22 pm »

This simple idea is lost on many a young engineer, musician, home recordist:

A good instrument, played by a talented performer, in a nice natural sounding environment makes for a recording that's difficult to mess up (unless you really try!! Talk to Fletcher, and I'm sure he'll be happy to give you some advice that will mess things up totallY!! [hey Fletcher!! How about those t-shirts for my kids LOL]}...

A natural sounding room doesn't have to be huge. It has to sound "natural".. in other words, comfortable to talk in, with no blatant acoustic issues like flutter, bass build up or "bulbous" low mids and with a decay that fits the size of the room.... These are the goals we have been discussing in many of the posts. Some are more oriented towards "specialty" rooms; the small "diffuse" room or the totally dead booth when you have other acoustic spaces to work with...

USE YOUR EARS guys!! If the recordings all sound honky or muddy is it the room? Does the stuff sound that way in the room? If so, look at your room before you buy and patch in another eq, or plugin!! The room is an equal contributor to both the "production" of recorded sound and it's "reproduction".... think about it! [Fletcher>>> just kidding buddy, really... no put down that 1176!! no... no... don't hit me in the........]

fm

o
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wwittman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2006, 11:50:10 am »

without meaning to seem contrary, Fran,

my original point in starting this thread is that all of my favourite rooms are/were anything BUT neutral

in fact one of the ways i used to describe Record Plant NY B to people was that it was UNCOMFORTABLE to talk in there... it was so ambient that it was almost difficult to hear someone form the back of the room.
THAT made for the best drum room in the world.

everything in that room sounded bigger than life
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William Wittman
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organica

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2006, 08:16:13 pm »

wwittman wrote on Sun, 03 September 2006 11:50

without meaning to seem contrary, Fran,

my original point in starting this thread is that all of my favourite rooms are/were anything BUT neutral

in fact one of the ways i used to describe Record Plant NY B to people was that it was UNCOMFORTABLE to talk in there... it was so ambient that it was almost difficult to hear someone form the back of the room.
THAT made for the best drum room in the world.

everything in that room sounded bigger than life


was that what they were going for  ?
was it designed like that or an accident ?
do you think that room would translate better to tape than say to HD  ?

-AC
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wwittman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2006, 12:37:10 am »

I think the original intent (in the redesign) was to add some additional absorption at some point, but Shelly Yakus walked in one day and "no, stop. You're DONE."


and it was so,

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franman

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Re: Live rooms that really ARE
« Reply #21 on: September 04, 2006, 08:34:32 pm »

I think this type of room would be useful for some, but not the most useful for the most folks, and in a commercial studio, you really do have to try and cater to everyone. If you have six rooms then you can have an OUT OF CONTROL suite, etc... but if you have one or two rooms, then you have to be a little more sensitive to the mass appeal... Look, there is a recent project we completed that (I probably mentioned this above) the client wanted me to tame down the room, as it was too live to do vocals in??? I mean, there are two iso booths, large gobos to create a vocal hut... and it's pretty unique these days to have a decent size "Live Room" that sound good... but, it's not my studio.

There was one engineer who worked there a lot in the first few months show said that if I changed anything, he'd want to take it down when he recorded because it was one of the most kick ass live rooms he's ever worked in . Cool   that's what makes it a horse race...

so to answer the original question:  When FM Design takes on a large live room design OR remodeling job, and it comes out awesome, that's exactly what we meant it to be , by design... When it comes out so-so or crappy, then it's all the clients fault... make sense??   Very Happy    Twisted Evil



sosa wrote on Sun, 03 September 2006 20:16

wwittman wrote on Sun, 03 September 2006 11:50

without meaning to seem contrary, Fran,

my original point in starting this thread is that all of my favourite rooms are/were anything BUT neutral

in fact one of the ways i used to describe Record Plant NY B to people was that it was UNCOMFORTABLE to talk in there... it was so ambient that it was almost difficult to hear someone form the back of the room.
THAT made for the best drum room in the world.

everything in that room sounded bigger than life


was that what they were going for  ?
was it designed like that or an accident ?
do you think that room would translate better to tape than say to HD  ?

-AC


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