One year ago, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the world’s third largest technological research university, founded in 1824, opened a new fully immersive audio/video/3D production, editing and mixing complex on its Troy, N.Y., campus. The new facility, designed by Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG), was conceived as an integral component to the school’s mandate of providing degree programs in engineering, computing, business management and information technology for next-generation technologists.
Mary Simoni, Dean of the RPI School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, says, “About three years ago, I learned that John Storyk would be visiting our campus for a guest lecture in our internationally recognized architectural acoustics program. John agreed to come early, gave me a dozen fresh eggs from his farm downstate, and then we toured these rooms. As I anxiously awaited his assessment, he simply stated, ‘It has good bones.’ At that moment, I knew we needed to come together to breathe the heart and soul into these spaces by filling them with the unbridled creativity that exemplifies the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. In short, rejuvenation!”
Joshua Morris, partner/COO/project manager for WSDG, says, “RPI presented us with a series of compelling design and acoustic challenges. We worked closely with Dean Simoni, Kim Osburn, manager of operations & administrative services, and project manager for campus planning & facilities design Robert Carney to provide the optimal balance of flexibility and acoustic quality within an ergonomic and aesthetic environment that fully supports their goals.”
WSDG’s assignment focused on the complete renovation of RPI’s existing 1700-square-foot space, and the design, construction supervision, and systems integration of a 1000-square-foot Audio Recording/Production Studio, a cutting-edge 300-square-foot Audio Control Room, a 100-square-foot Iso lab, a 160-square-foot Video Control Room and a 90-square-foot AV Lab.
With a 16-foot ceiling height, and sufficient space for ambitious audio and video programming creation, RPI’s Immersive Production complex provides students with a futureproof environment to create. Special attention was focused on the facility’s variable acoustic properties to compensate for the “deader” tracking environment required by immersive production techniques.
“Our objective was to optimize student creativity and access to recording technology, while providing instructors with teaching spaces calculated to enrich their capacity for sharing their skills and knowledge,” Morris continues. “Judy Elliot-Brown, our longtime AV Systems designer/collaborator, Marcy Ramos, our mechanical engineer, electrical engineer Mike Meyers, of Albany’s Sage Engineering and Albany-based contractors Uwe Kiss and John Moore of Sano-Rubin met every design and construction challenge. Their contributions were invaluable to the success of this project.”
Morris points to the new complex’s use of “dark” fiber optic connectivity, previously installed between RPI’s EMPAC and DCC buildings, as critical for assuring seamless audio/video connectivity. “The advantages of this technology include the ability to utilize RPI’s Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) as a sound stage with audio/video control in the Darrin Communications Center (DCC) and, enable live performances at the DCC to be viewed on multiple EMPAC screens,” he says.
“I first encountered WSDG’s expertise in designing audio/video production facilities during my tenure at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor,” Dean Simoni concludes. “The success of that project motivated me to recommend them to RPI.”
“Education remains a primary factor within the WSDG client base,” says company founder John Storyk. “Having lectured on acoustics and studio design at RPI and other colleges and universities around the country, and as a visiting professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, I consider teaching my avocation, and an important aspect of my own ongoing education. I often find that I learn as much from students as they get from my lectures. We are honored to have been retained by RPI to prepare their students for 21st Century audio production careers.”