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Applied Technology: Studio Design - the Furniture
Admittedly, as furniture builders we're biased, but studio furniture clearly is one of the more important decisions facing those involved in outfitting a single studio, a suite of rooms, or an entire facility.
Furniture design and implementation is much more than providing a surface to hold up a console and some microphones. Done well, it supports the financial, strategic and personal goals of station ownership and management. Done poorly, it can affect sound quality, installation and maintenance costs and of course, company morale. It is the goal of the following discussion to highlight the role furniture plays in bringing quality radio to the airwaves, and a framework for making effective decisions about furniture design.
Financial, Strategic and Personal
In many studios, furniture is one of the main capital expenses after the console itself. Given the nature of the business, and even accounting for the rapid pace of change, in some cases it must be rugged enough to withstand the rigors of 24/7 use, with a life expectancy of a decade or more. And along with the cost of the furniture itself come those of assembly and integration.
The shape, the look and the functional design can go a long way towards advancing a station's strategic goals. While the equipment and technology is at the heart of any operation, the furniture is the first thing advertisers, sponsors and talent see when they tour a facility. Purpose-built furniture is more efficient to work at and matching quality electronics with quality furniture attracts quality talent. This can be achieved through color scheme, consistent thematic design, advanced materials and precise fit and finish.
Everyone involved in the station has a personal stake in the furniture. Station owners must feel they are getting value for their investment. Engineers - often responsible for assembling the furniture, installing equipment and maintaining the whole system - are the most directly affected by the furniture's design. And of course, talent, board ops, producers, screeners and guests are all directly affected by the ergonomics of the furniture layout.
New Construction, Remodel or Retrofit
Naturally, the nature of the project has a direct impact on the approach to furniture. New construction can be a station owner's dream or his worst nightmare. It presents an opportunity to get it right the first time, avoid problems created by a legacy environment, and take advantage of today's technologies and manufacturing efficiencies. But with the high cost of construction today, it raises the stakes in favor of careful planning and forethought. Thinking ahead about sound and sight lines, multi studio interaction and the omnipresent need for wiring interconnectivity will pay dividends all the way from a project's inception through to its completion.
Building a larger facility with multiple stations and a large complement of support studios affords the opportunity to purchase production furniture by right-sizing the studios. Scale can also work towards customized furniture at near production prices. Nearly all furniture manufacturers use CAD/CAM production methodology - driving down the costs of replication, mirroring or minor variations from room to room.
Smaller facilities present their own challenges as studios often tend to need to support multiple functions - on-air, production and interview all sharing the same space.
A station or studio remodel is a chance to correct the mistakes of the past, get more stuff in less space (today's studios tend to be smaller) and/or repurpose an existing space to accommodate new technology.
Lastly, a retrofit can be precipitated by new equipment, new management or a change in format. The new furniture must fit existing space, wire runs and sight lines. From a furniture design standpoint, it's the equivalent of playing the hand you're dealt and this is often the case.
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