Studio equipment has evolved dramatically in the past few years. Consoles are now control surfaces. Audio is delivered primarily via computers. Air talent and their supporting casts depend heavily on access to the Internet for audio bits, news and other content. As their need for more computers and monitors grow in the studio environment the studio furniture must be designed to address this.
Studio furniture must now have cabinetry designed to hold multiple computers, flat-screen monitors, keyboards, and mice in addition to the usual collection of broadcast equipment. Where there is a computer there is generally heat and noise. Because it's not always possible to house the computers in the technical center and extend the keyboard, mouse and video we have to provide a stable area for the computer that includes baffling for noise in the room and usually inside the furniture. This requires the computer to be sealed inside the cabinet. Sound-deadening insulation is often added within this space to minimize fan noise, even though current computers have come a long way to minimize noisy fans. Many are now available with passive cooling systems or quiet variable speed cooling fans. Regardless of the cooling system within the computer the studio furniture must provide adequate ventilation for the computer to prevent heat build up and component failure.
The rack or cabinet that houses the computers can provide cooling via passive or active ventilation. Passive ventilation allows the heat to escape through vent holes in the cabinetry. Be sure to keep the warm air from ventilating into areas that may affect other equipment or even the people working around the furniture. Active ventilation uses low velocity fans to force air through the cabinetry. Air from a low-velocity studio HVAC can be ducted into the furniture to provide cooling. This solution usually requires an elevated floor to accommodate the HVAC ductwork.
The computer and all equipment must be accessible in the front and back. Some manufacturers use specially designed drawers that pull out and turn, while others use access panels that are strategically located — usually out of sight — to access the rear of the equipment.
Cabling to and from the equipment must be taken into account to minimize cable runs. Penetration points should be well planned to keep the cabling neat and unobtrusive.
The widespread use of computers for audio delivery, Internet access and now console and router monitoring has dramatically increased the number of monitors in the studio. Luckily, the bulky CRTs of years past are quickly being replaced by flat-screen monitors. Although flat-screen monitors take up significantly less desktop real estate, they still pose a challenge to the studio designer. The ever-growing number of monitors in the studio can cause serious problems for the talent and their guests. Consider the placement of the monitors. Improper placement can block sight lines between talent and guests. A monitor too far away from the talent will prevent him from being able to read the screen. A monitor too close may be in the way of the console operator. The proper monitor arm can go a long way to alleviate these problems.
There are many brands of mounts available to address specific needs at each position around the furniture. Telescoping and articulating arms are common. As more monitors are added a method of ganging becomes necessary. Monitors can be ganged vertically, one over the other, horizontally, in a curve around the operator if there are more than two, or in a matrix two over two or three over three. The proper monitor mount will depend on placement, specific use and the operator's preference.
Perhaps the most challenging problem for the inclusion of computers in the studio is the placement and management of the human interface devices as well as the automation control devices. Keyboards take up a lot of the counter area just by nature of their size. A smaller, or mini, keyboard can be used for many applications, but these miniaturized keyboards can be frustrating for some people. Keyboards are often mounted on pull-out drawers beneath the countertop, if the console installation or furniture design will allow it. Keyboards can also be mounted on the monitor arms, depending on the style of mount.
Another application that can help simplify the computers in a studio is a touch screen. Modern LCD touch screens are still rather expensive, but can help the operator because it can act in a heads up manner for the operator. Because Windows is probably the most common operating system in use, adding a touch screen to most any computer is as easy as running a serial cable from the touch screen monitor to the computer and installing the proper drivers. RS-232 can run for several hundred feet. New touch screens can provide for serial control as well as USB connections. Also, the touch screen can be used in conjunction with the mouse. The mouse now can be left to the side and only used when absolutely needed by the application.
Kramer is director of engineering for Reach Media and The Tom Joyner Morning Show, Dallas. Rice is engineering director for Bonneville International's St. Louis Radio Group.
Manufacturers of furniture, racks and mounting accessories
Advanced Furniture System
Balsys Wood Arts
Chatsworth Products (CPI)
Efron Computerized Studios
European Cabinetry Unlimited
Innovative Office Products
Middle Atlantic Products
Murphy Studio Furniture
Nigel B Furniture
Progressive Marketing Products
RAM Systems and Communications Inc
RCI Custom Products
Solutions Custom Furnishings
Spacewise Broadcast Furniture
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