Martha Quinn's RadioBu

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Having a custom-built personal studio was once a luxury that on-air radio talent could not experience. With the move toward computer-based digital recording technologies, more and more on-air talent are finding that owning their own personal studio is now within reach.

One such talent is former MTV VJ and current Sirius Satellite on-air personality, Martha Quinn. She and her husband, show engineer and former Fuzztone member Jordan Tarlow, were looking for a space to handle all the production work for her show, Martha Quinn Presents, that simultaneously would allow them to keep their own hours as opposed to renting studio space in Santa Monica. Jordan and Martha contacted my firm, Russ Berger Design Group, to design their own personal radio and post production studio in Malibu, CA, which they eventually dubbed RadioBu.

Bearing in mind that Martha Quinn Presents offers listeners a mix of music from the 80s along with interviews and performances by artists from that era, we anticipated a few design challenges involved in creating the new studio space to serve all these applications. For instance, it would need to be able to accommodate in-studio interviews as well as ones via ISDN, in-studio performances, and voice-overs. For Jordan's purposes, the space had to accommodate music production and his composition work for TV commercials and film trailers. We combined our knowledge of the design and operational needs of a typical broadcast production studio with some of the techniques used when designing smaller personal recording studios.

Since Martha's program is pre-recorded, transmission equipment did not factor into the design of RadioBu. However, the existing layout of the new space was not conducive to accommodating studio functions and their support spaces. As a result, changes needed to be made. A small storage area was built at one end of the structure and an entry vestibule at the other end, to tie it together with the traffic flow of the rest of the space. The bathroom and pantry were updated to better accommodate show guests and clients.

With this layout, we were able to make some of the rooms serve a dual purpose. The entry vestibule doubles as a separately conditioned equipment and machine room area, dedicating more of the larger room area to the studio where Martha and Jordan now spend most of their time. The completed 1,100 square-foot facility features a main control room, a large glass recording booth, a machine room, kitchenette, bathroom and lounge. In the control room, we allotted ample space for live interviews and performances, as well as recording musicians. Jordan can easily monitor the show at the console while the group is performing to the side. The control room area is also large enough to accommodate a custom broadcast table for multiple-guest, in-studio interviews.

We employed several different acoustical techniques to ensure recordings would not be affected by outside noise. The shell of the space was beefed up to improve sound transmission loss to and provide adequate isolation from neighboring areas. Field fabricated acoustical treatments were used for their superior control over sound propagation in the room and for their clean look. We used a combination of Part Science Space Arrays and Space Couplers to distribute and diffuse energy throughout the mix position and improve surround imaging. Due to the acoustical constraints of the existing structure's low ceilings, we deployed a Part Science Space Coupler cloud to improve the performance of absorptive ceiling material and to tame low-frequency energy at the mix position.

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