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Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?

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Boe Beito
Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?
on Dec 1, 2016 at 6:59:02 pm

Hi folks,

I apologize for the lack of detail, but I'm working on budgeting a photo/video initiative for my company and I'd like to get a ballpark figure that I can include in my proposal. Here are the highlights.

We're looking at potentially creating a small studio space in our executive parking garage area (space is at a premium at the HQ). We have a space of about 12'-24' that we'd like to turn into a spot in which we can film short form videos and potentially do some catalog photography.

Our lighting and sound equipment is part of a different budget, but I'm trying to get a ballpark of how much it'll cost our building department to section off that space, wire it, and preferably add some low level sound deadening material.

Money is as tight as it's been since I've worked here, so we'll have to go relatively conservative with our materials. Even if that means buying some sound dampening panels on craigslist and installing them myself.

I'm sorry again, as I type this, I really wish I had more to go on - it's pretty vague. Any help or ballparks you might be able to provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks much.


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Nick Griffin
Re: Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?
on Dec 1, 2016 at 7:45:35 pm

I don't know much about pricing construction, but if you plan on recording sound here's a few things you need to know.

Parallel walls produce a short echo or slap-back type of resonance. If you're building this from scratch try to specify walls that are NOT at 90 degrees from each other. That can be done in an existing space just by putting in an extra wall that's off-angle where one end of the room is made shorter in width than the other. This could also be very useful for your ceiling. Now the hard part: carpenters HATE doing this because it's much simpler for them to build square or rectangular 90 degree wall to wall rooms.

One big issue on sound-proofing, particularly if this is being built in a garage where vehicles will be generating a lot of low frequency noise, is keeping that out. Ideally you should "float" a floor above the (presumably) concrete floor. The biggest factor in sound-proofing against low frequency is weight. It's not uncommon in studios to double or even triple the drywall thicknesses. Some add sand in between for even more weight. My friend and primary host of the COW's Audio Professionals, Ty Ford has sheets of lead covering the windows in his studio, because as I said weight is everything.

The type of typical sound-proofing foam panels can help, but only at mid to high frequencies. Un-even structures along the walls like panels of different depth can provide a degree of sound proofing and stopping a slap echo. Both can be very helpful as can a structure known as a bass trap, which can diminish low frequencies created within the room.

Helpful input? Probably not because it sounds expensive to pull off.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?
on Dec 2, 2016 at 3:21:47 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Dec 2, 2016 at 3:24:58 pm

You don't say what kind of products you sell, so I have to generalize.

Shooting product shots in the garage is easy and relatively cheap, if sound isn't an issue. And if sound isn't an issue, it may be that most of the walls are irrelevant as well, unless they are there to help control light and to create a visible backdrop.

If you plan to do all the audio as voice-over, then you really don't have a "sound problem" for the product demos. Not until you want to use an on-camera spokesperson. Have a conversation with the other stakeholders about that limitation, and how to work within it. You can record audio in a closet, heck, some people record it in their very quiet luxury car interiors, then add it in post - it's all a matter of what resources you have on hand.

No, your biggest problem is when someone wants to use the space for a conventional person-talks-to-camera bit. In your case, unless this is to be done more than once a week, and an office or conference room isn't available, I'd go find/rent a space for those specific jobs. You could even do those in a nearby hotel, if the room has the right characteristics. The concierge' may give you the eye, until you explain you're not there to stage an adult type of shoot. :-)

With that as a basis, let's talk construction. You need the back "wall". At a minimum. That could be a hung cloth curtain, or a hard wall, what they call a "flat" in the theater. The flat can be a simple 4x8 panel of press-board paneling for ten bucks or so, backed with a few 2x4's and c-clamps to hold it up straight. It can have a sturdier frame and wheels or skids to move it with, and corner framing so you can clamp multiple panels together and bend corners. There are books in the library and illustrations online for how high school and college theater groups can make simple sturdy, multi-purpose flats.

I prefer a medium gray cloth, because it's easier to store and move, and you can light it to make it any color you need. Stay away from trying to green-screen anything in the garage: I sense you don't have the budget or experience pool to carry that off yet. You *could* pay a sign company to make you a big logo sticker graphic for the wall, or you could use a video projector on the wall to add logos, etc. But I like cloth.

Cloth bought large enough will not show seams, whereas, building a flat with standard 4x8 panels WILL, unless you're using drywall. If you choose a drywall "back wall", you need a frame of wood or metal, anchored to the floor and ceiling, or braced from behind, which takes up a lot of room. I'd hire a drywall specialist to put up the wall and gather all the materials, and get it to the basic finished state, then you can paint it yourself. Or, buy the really wide cloth sold at Rose Brand in NYC, and just worry about hanging pipe at the ceiling and laying chain at the bottom of the curtain, to hang it. If I had to make the 24-foot by 10-foot drywall myself, I'm estimating 2-300 dollars for all the materials, not counting how to get them to the site. Go to Rose Brand yourself to pick out the cloth and estimate that cost.

Lighting should be a separate discussion, once the "set" is designed, and you give more details on the exact uses the set will be put to.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space? /The lighting and etc.
on Dec 2, 2016 at 4:46:01 pm

A separate discussion on the lighting.

If your catalog shoots are for clothing, you'll need wider shots as well as detailed closeups, and you need a setup that you can more or less "set and forget", so you can run a lot of product thru the set in a short time.

The wide shots will show some floor, so budget for a roll of vinyl sheet flooring you can roll back up when not in production and someone's parking there. The grease and oil on the garage floor will eventually damage a sheet vinyl floor from beneath, unless it is shielded somehow. Another way to go is to paint the floor with garage floor paint. Pick a medium gray color, flat, not gloss.

If the shots are all table-top kind of stuff, the floor is likely never going to be seen, and the lighting can be brought in closer.

In both cases, you're going to need a base of soft lighting that doesn't create harsh shadows. I suggest translucent shower curtain material, stapled to a simple rectangular wooden frame, with some slotted-in removable feet at the bottom to make the panel self-standing. These will store flat against a wall somewhere and take up little space. Behind this, you place your lights, shining across the entire expanse of material, to create 2 large softlight panels. Two panels, one on either side, angled at 45 degrees, shine into the shooting space. The back wall gets it's own lighting, from some cheap PAR can lights or strip lights washing along/across the edges, plus, you'll want a light mounted high and to one side on that back wall, shining on the backs and heads/hair of the models, giving them a "rim light" to help them stand out from the background.

Because of angles for lighting and camera-to-subject distance issues, your 24-foot wall is really the short side of a trapezoid, viewed from above, with the largest side (camera side) taking a horizontal space up to 60 feet, 40 at least.

Budget as described:
Two DIY diffusion "butterfly" panels@ $30 each.
Eight parabolic reflectors with clamps using 200-watt soft white incandescent bulbs for the curtain or wall: $100
Main lights for the diffusers: Two, 1-K halogen spotlights, ebay used $50-$200 each. Or, 2 Joker-Bug HMI lights@$900 each.
Back/Rim light for talent: one used 1K spotlight, PAR can acceptable, Approx. $100.
Light stands and assorted stingers and power outlet boxes/dimmers optional. Assume $150-$300.

Ballpark estimate, assuming everything breaks the cheapest way for you: $1,500.

If you don't have adequate 120-volt ten-amp service in the parking area, you could get a generator, as long as you're not recording sound. LED or Flourescent lighting is much easier on the power requirements, but can cost more. We need to really know much more about what's being shot, to make better and more on-point suggestions.

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Boe Beito
Re: Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?
on Dec 9, 2016 at 12:49:40 am

Nick and Mark,

I can't thank you gentlemen enough for taking the time to reply. I apologize for the delay in responding. There are a lot of things going on at work but this project is still in the works (hopefully). I'm going to marinate on all of the information a bit, and definitely catalog it for when we hopefully get to the decision making stage.

To give a bit more information, we will need to record live audio in this space. The parking garage is in the basement, only a couple of our executives park there, and it's usually quiet all day.

Fortunately, I do have some equipment and lighting, a handful of C-stands and clamps from the previous regime. We have a decent 5 piece ARRI tungsten kit with a softbox. I have a GH3, a single wireless LAV kit,and a nice manfrotto tripod.

The content will vary a bit. Talking head stuff, standing near a product (snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle), and the photography would be clothing for our catalog.

Thanks again, I'm going to take some time to parse through all of the info and see if I can arrive at a cost estimate. $1500+ it would seem, and I'm sure audio considerations will add to it significantly.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?
on Dec 15, 2016 at 7:43:24 pm

My rough calculations were based on the premise that audio would not be done on the set but all in post. Your costs will easily triple if you have to construct a real soundstage and not just a video insert stage. You think you might get way with less, and you probably will, for a time... until some crucial point in a recording is ruined because of noise leaking in. It's going to happen, not a question of "if" but "when".

And when it happens, the Big Man you're interviewing, who's time costs hundreds per hour or even minute, is going to turn to you and ask:
"How come this is happening? What can we do about it?"

And your answer will be:
"Um, it was the result of corner-cutting on the sound insulation budget, and at the moment, there's nothing we can do but wait out whatever is making the sound until it goes away."

Sound insulation is expensive to do right because you have to address both conduction and propagation thru the air. To cancel out sound coming in thru vibrations contacting surfaces, you have to "float" the walls and ceiling with rubbery elastomeric material gasketing every edge. To counter air vibration, you need multiple air gaps layered with soft, sound absorbent materials... or a thinner wall made of super-dense material like concrete board, faced with softer absorbent panels. All designed, measured, and cut to install in a non-square, non-typical installation like an underground garage -and still meet HVAC and fire codes requirements? It's gonna be a lot more. That's why I suggested going offsite to a hotel or other studio rental spot for the gigs where sound is crucial, and just create a minimal non-audio insert stage for your B-roll and demo footage in that spot.

This is how you present the issue: you ask how much money the company wants to generate or save by utilizing the studio. Then you subtract the costs of doing it right, and ask if it's still a worthwhile thing to do, to build this, or to rent at someone else's studios. I'm going to guess it's less convenient but more financially sustainable and practical, to rent the studio time. At least for things that need live audio.

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Greg Ball
Re: Approximate cost of creating a 12'-24' studio space?
on Dec 14, 2016 at 11:04:47 pm

Hi Bob,

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in Air Conditioning. Where are you located?

Early in my career I worked for a large insurance company. Our studio was located in the parking garage. Although we had AC, the studio was quite stuffy. Also when ever the door was opened, we had some car exhaust enter the facility.

That was not good. The sound was decent unless someone was revving their car.

I would think that you need a minimum of 24' with tall ceilings, and lots of sound baffling on the walls and ceiling, even the door.

Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.

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