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Creative Remodeling

Creative Remodeling

Apr 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Ron Bartlebaugh

Creative studio remodeling became the mandate at community/high school radio station WSTB-FM in Streetsboro, OH (near Akron). The station operates on a minimal budget with almost all of its income generated by its annual on-air fund drive. The old 10′ by 14′ on-air studio had become outdated physically and technically. Required improvements included not only broadcast-related equipment, but also lighting, furniture and seating, floor, wall and ceiling materials and electrical power distribution and protection. With an initial budget of $5,000, WSTB’s part-time IT Director Dan Kuznicki and Contract Engineer Bill Weisinger, along with volunteers and student assistants, created a remodeling project that focused on form, functionality and cost effectiveness and yet yielded a futuristic high-tech appearance.

The door (just visible on the left) and window are now visible to the operator.

The existing door was re-used. A vanity light was adapted to serve as an on-air light.

A production studio temporarily served as the air studio during the remodeling.

The custom generator panel provides flexible control of ac power.

Painted silver, PVC pipe was used to route cable from the ceiling to the furniture.

The new operator”s position after the remodeling.

To continuously serve its 30,000 weekly cume audience, the station’s modern rock/Sunday Oldies program origination was switched to one of the station’s two production studios during spring break. The existing on-air studio, in excess of 10 years old, was gutted in one day � including the old patch bays and wiring as well as the removal of the old kitchen cabinets being used for studio equipment support furniture. The existing double-layered drywall with internal insulation was determined to be adequate and therefore left in place. As part of the remodeling project, the walls were covered with a heavy grade commercial carpet purchased at a close-out price of $0.44 per square foot from a local building materials retail chain store. Rather than gluing the carpet to the wall, the WSTB remodeling team elected to use roofing felt nails along the top and bottom of the walls to keep the carpet in place. This method of installation allows the carpet to breathe and flex, which greatly improves its low frequency acoustical absorption abilities. In addition, the nails are easily removable when the carpet needs to be replaced. The old 2′ by 4′ suspended ceiling tile was removed and replaced with a new 2′ by 2′ suspended ceiling tile with a nice reveal edge costing $1.77 each. The new ceiling with its tile reveal edge and the loose mount wall carpet mutually contribute to an acoustically good sounding room.

The original studio entry door, a modified good quality, residential exterior door with a large window, was left in place. Its modifications include a tight weather strip seal at the top and sides of the door and a weather threshold at the base of the door. Those seals serve as sound isolation barriers in the already relatively quiet WSTB studio/office complex.

The studio window that provides the WSTB announcer with a view of the two production studios was also deemed adequate and left in place. The old studio design positioned the announcer’s back to the window and to the door; however, the new design places the window at 90� to the announcer and places the announcer facing the door. The new orientation creates a take-charge sense of ownership of the room for the announcer, which was one of the many project goals.

The concrete floor received a new coat of paint. An inexpensive carpet remnant was then placed over the floor and is held in place with an appropriate tape for easy removal and replacement when required. The HVAC system was deemed adequate and therefore was not updated.

What you see

A new lighting system design was an important goal of the project. A combination of track and recessed ceiling fixture lighting using low voltage halogen floodlight lamps make up the majority of the room’s lighting design. Four colors of rope lighting are encased in a newly constructed wood frame soffit around the perimeter of the room at the top of the 12′ high walls. The open side of the encasement is covered with a translucent cloth that provides ventilation and light diffusion. Each announcer has his choice of the colored perimeter lighting scheme and overall room brightness using inexpensive lighting control products that are readily available from Internet vendors. Because WSTB operates on a minimal annual budget, like so many community/high school radio stations, the cost of replacing expensive light bulbs is minimized by taking advantage of the voltage limiting and soft ramp up features of the lighting controls.

An inexpensive on-air light was created from a three-bulb bathroom vanity light fixture that was found on close-out for $1.00. Repainting it red and installing three clear red bulbs for $2.40 each yielded an aesthetically pleasing light. An identical fixture using inexpensive adjustable speed DJ strobe bulbs with colored gels provides a three-lamp wall mounted annunciator panel for EAS, telephone and doorbell indications.

Two gooseneck style desk lamps occupy part of the furniture countertop. One light is always on and aimed at a large wall-mounted write board located just slightly to the right of the announcer. The other light is located just to the left of the announcer. That light, controlled by the on-air light circuit, comes on with the microphone to illuminate the copy board in the event the announcer does not otherwise have sufficient light to read the copy.

The main support

The focal point of the studio is the newly constructed U-shaped studio furniture that supports much of the broadcast equipment and provides two guest positions in addition to the announcer position. Using inexpensive design software, the 40″ high stand-up operation furniture was designed for proper operating ergonomics. The heart of its construction is a 2″ by 4″ stud frame covered with plywood and carpet. The countertop, made of durable plywood, is painted a futuristic silver-gray color and covered with 30 coats of polyurethane varnish for durability. A similarly painted 4″ diameter PVC drain pipe routes vertically from the left rear corner of the furniture to above the ceiling for the cable paths. The furniture unit features open door access at both ends of the U for storing equipment and other operating essentials.

Following the same color scheme is a large custom-made cabinet mounted high on the wall in front of the announce position where it can easily be seen. This unit, with its angled front, provides a surface mount area for five LCD video monitors that cost $140 each. The monitors are used to display security, weather and other pertinent information. Each monitor is driven by a video game jockey unit costing $30.00 each and mounted using inexpensive LCD monitor mounts purchased on the Internet for $6.99 each.

A newly acquired 19″ widescreen LCD monitor, used for program automation, sits on a newly purchased highly stable three gooseneck LCD mount located to the right of the Dynamax audio console that was brought in from the former studio. To the left of the announce position and adjacent to one of the two guest positions sits a 14″ LCD monitor that is used for Internet access and station database acquisition. All computers and other noise generating devices are located outside of the studio but sufficiently close by so that expensive extender devices are not required.

Readily available power conditioning and monitoring equipment is used in the studio along with UPS units to ensure proper power filtering and distribution. During the remodeling, we paid close attention to the power distribution scheme to ensure that all electrical receptacles in the studio were connected to the same phase and were properly filtered. Power demands on the pre-existing standby power generator had to be carefully calculated as well. The on-air studio termination to the WSTB facility-wide star ground system was also upgraded as part of the overall project.

The entire project was completed over a three-week period for a total cost of $7,353 using all volunteer labor. The breakdown of the expenses is shown in Table 1. All locally purchased off-the-shelf items were on clearance and received an additional 10 to 15 percent favorable discount from the retailer. Creative shopping over the Internet also yielded many good deals. In addition, a locally based microphone manufacturer generously donated three new studio grade microphones. Other items purchased for the project included two used RPU radios from Ebay, two custom control/interface boxes from name brand manufacturers, a multi-output headphone amplifier, a combo CD/MP3 player and logging software.

The combination of careful planning and design, creative shopping and the use of skilled volunteer laborers familiar with local building codes has yielded a studio facility that includes many features typically found only in more expensive facilities.

Video wall, wiring, display and distribution $1,120 Total cost for new �island� countertops and support structure $940 Electrical components, wiring, power filtering and protection $735 Primary lighting fixtures and control devices $675 Equipment upgrades, cd player, mic boom, misc $550 Color changing decorative “mood” lighting $375 Outside consulting and assistance $360 Computer equipment, webcam and related hardware $330 Automation system hardware upgrade $325 Wall coverings, carpet and mounting hardware $325 19″ widescreen automation monitor upgrade $220 On-air lights, bulbs, telephone flashers and alert strobes $196 Additional studio digital telephone $175 Ceiling tiles, ceiling supports and frame upgrade $165 Misc hardware store pieces and parts $155 Weather satellite video extension $145 Misc expenses $145 Misc. mounting hardware, monitor arm and LCD mounts $135 Floor paint and carpet remnants $125 Food for volunteers $92 New keyboards, mice and related peripherals $65 ________ TOTAL $7,353 Table 1. The cost breakdown of various items for the remodeling project.

Bartlebaugh is director of engineering for the WKSU stations, Kent, OH, and president of Audio and Broadcast Specialists, Akron, OH.