Northern Lights' WSDG-designed mixing suite (front view)
Photo: Beth Cummins
Post-production house Northern Lights in New York City recently opened a 5.1 mixing suite for mixer/sound designer/composer Damon Trotta that was designed and built by the Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG). Trotta is a member of Northern Lights' editorial/graphics/production team.
Co-owners David Gioiella and Mark Littman launched Northern Lights in 1995. With a staff of 25 editors and artists, Northern Lights designs, creates, edits, mixes and finishes a wide range of projects, including commercial campaigns, promos and graphics for such clients as Continental Airlines, General Mills and U.S. Bank, as well as promos for such TV series as Burn Notice and White Collar. The firm’s award-winning Mr. Wonderful motion graphic division recently completed the show opener for Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Northern Lights also offers three audio mixing studios, six editing suites, two Smoke suites and a Flame suite.
In 2008, borrowing additional space from Mr. Wonderful on the 7th floor of 135 West 27th Street, they added a second audio mix room. By 2009 the partners decided a 5.1 mixing suite would position them for more technically demanding and higher budget projects. They carved a “small but workable” space from this new territory for Trotta’s suite and then called WSDG.
“We were confident that the more services we could offer under one roof, the more useful and convenient we would become to our clients,” says Northern Lights business manager Beth Cummins. “During the construction period Damon used our original 8th floor mixing room while mixer Ted Gannon occupied the 7th floor studio. In fact, Damon worked on his Emmy-winning History Channel 9/11 documentary during the time his suite was being built.”
Northern Lights' WSDG-designed mixing suite (rear view with iso booth)
Photo: Beth Cummins
“The ‘Vest Pocket Studio’ trend is well-established throughout the industry,” says architect/acoustician John Storyk. “We’ve designed dozens of compact, extremely versatile rooms. The new Northern Lights studio is a textbook example of optimizing every square inch of available space. Considering we had barely 330 square feet, for the entire studio, the 5.1 sound quality of the room is extraordinary. This was achieved with a combination of innovative design elements and proven acoustic treatments such as ceiling membranes and Helmholtz resonators, which enabled us to provide the room with an extremely low reverb time. The sweet spot was expanded by placing the Focal 5.1 speakers two-thirds back towards the rear wall.
“To gain significant interior space for the main room, Romina Larregina, our senior project manager, recommended Noise Barriers sliding door access to the iso booth,” Storyk adds. “Floating floors, custom millwork, which enabled almost all the surfaces in the control room to work as a single unconventional low frequency unit, and flawless room-within-room construction by our long-time contractor, Chris Harmaty and his Audio Structures team, resulted in a handsome and extremely accurate, flexible and efficient studio.”
Larregina emphasizes the extreme physical challenge associated with the build. “Our client stipulated a number of conditions before awarding the job,” she says. “The construction needed to be completed within traditional 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours, and could not interrupt the workflow of the other studio and creative offices on the 7th and 8th floors. This required Harmaty’s team to work in extremely tight quarters behind a closed door and without windows. It was almost as though they were laboring in an underground mine. Noise needed to be kept to an absolute minimum, as did the unavoidable problems of plaster dust and traditional construction debris. This may be one of the most challenging construction projects we have ever encountered.”
Northern Lights sound mixer/designer/composer Damon Trotta
Photo: Beth Cummins
“I have wanted a John Storyk-designed room for as long as I’ve been in the business,” says Trotta. “David (Gioiella) and Mark (Littman) went the extra nine yards to make this studio as comfortable as possible. We’re outfitted with Millenia mic pre’s, Neumann U89s, Empirical Labs Distressors, Dolby 160A, Focal 5.1 monitoring, Dorrough metering, Pro Tools HD and Logic Pro 9. They even commissioned a custom desk instead of a pre-fab job. Driving a top-of-line room definitely impacts on my creative thinking—and our clients have been extremely complimentary. This investment will pay dividends for Northern Lights for years to come.”
"Working with John and his WSDG team was seamless and creatively-driven, exactly like we are,” says Littman. “We felt this project was a true collaboration and now have a showcase studio that we can utilize to help ourselves and our clients shine.”