The audio post industry is booming right now. Three-room facilities are adding more suites. One-room shops have too much work and are adding pre-production spaces or duplicate rooms. Video houses are putting in full-blown mix stages or DAW-based finishing suites to keep agency work in-house. Nowhere is this more apparent, it seems, than New York City.
In an effort to stay a step ahead of the competition, the New York Media Group recently completed construction on Lower East Side, located on 12th Street in Manhattan. The ad community continues to migrate downtown, and NYMG, whose other facilities include East Side Audio, Superdupe Recording, Mixed Nuts Recording and Post Perfect, is out to make a splash on agency home turf.
Lower East Side, a 5,000-square-foot facility that currently houses two audio post rooms and has space for a third, represents ownership's ambitious attempt to create a new model for the industry, according to Neil Karsh, vice president of audio engineering. "We didn't want the same old studio thing," he says, "with equipment out in the open, dominating the environment. Instead, we were looking to create a living-room feel. Clients in this industry work under a great deal of stress, and creating a warm atmosphere that's friendly to work in was very important to us."
Working with the Carol Maryan architectural firm, NYMG came up with an art deco theme that is extremely soothing: pastel walls, comfortable seating, and plush carpeting make you feel like you're walking through a well-appointed 1950s home. The equipment that drives these rooms makes only a subtle impression on the first-time visitor. "That was exactly our intent," Karsh says. "Aesthetic considerations were paramount to us. In fact, we spent six or seven months looking for a space that had enough windows."
The emphasis on decor didn't make facility designer John Storyk's work easy, however. "John and I have known each other for a long time-since my days at New England Digital," Karsh notes, "and we've had some great experiences together, particularly in the design work he did at Superdupe. We looked at a number of people and chose John based on past experience and the fact that he's located in New York. His job was to make sure that the room sounded great and was easy to work in despite the weight we put on the aesthetic aspect of construction. It was a difficult one, but he did a great job."
The New York Media Group has a longstanding relationship with SSL, but after giving the matter serious attention decided to go in a different direction when it came to choosing consoles for the new facility. "When you buy a big-ticket item," Karsh says, "you're buying the people who make the product as much as the piece of equipment itself. The support we got from SSL over the years has been outstanding, and that's one of the reasons why it was so hard to go with another company.
"And yet, when we looked at the Soundtracs DPC-II," he adds, "we were really floored. In it we saw a new technology that offered as much-maybe more-at a more competitive price than any other product out there. This company is the new kid on the block with respect to high-end digital consoles, but after some considerable soul searching we decided to go with them. In fact, we bought their first board. After the purchase decision had been made, the coin was in the air. Since I pushed for these consoles, I could have ended up looking like a dolt six months later, or seeming like the smartest guy in the business. Fortunately, the way things have turned out, I don't look like a dolt!" In addition to the two DPC-IIs located at Lower East Side, the NYMG has since purchased another five for their other New York properties.
New-room construction pretty much has to be 5.1-capable, and that can present problems in a market like New York, where space doesn't come cheaply. "Obviously, everyone can't be sitting in the sweet spot," Karsh says. "We had John design the rooms so that the mixer is right in the center of the surround field. Producers can easily move around and listen to the full surround imaging whenever they need to."
The all-new facility also provided the chance to go with an all-new monitoring system. JBL seems to be making a move back toward the top of the speaker market, and Karsh was pleasantly surprised when he demoed the company's new line. "I really only decided to listen to them because I have friends at JBL," he admits. "I didn't expect to hear anything I liked, but the LSR 32s really blew me away; we're using them as our left, center and right speakers. We've also got their LSR 28Ts for the surround information, and an LSR 12P as a subwoofer. I've got to say that these speakers have turned out to be one of the pleasant surprises we've come across in our shopping spree. They sound amazing, especially when you factor in their physical size and cost."
On my visit to Lower East Side, I ran across mixer Bob Giammarco, and he enthusiastically seconded most of Karsh's comments. "Client comfort was our main concern," he says. "It guided almost all of our architectural decisions. And the rooms sound great!"
Karsh made special mention of two companies whose work helped Lower East Side turn out exactly as planned. "Taytrix is the wiring company we brought in," he says, "and they did a fantastic job. I put together the electrical design plans, and I'm personally pleased with the way that aspect of the installation turned out. The people from Taytrix were a pleasure to have around. And Chris Bown runs a company called CHBO, and it's one of the greatest construction companies on the planet! They're part of Storyk's team. One of the beauties of hiring John is that Chris' team becomes available to you."
Expansions, additions, upgrades, redesigns-the post market, like the stock market, is truly booming in New York. With the opening of Lower East Side, it appears that NYMG is well-positioned to capitalize on the resurgence-no matter what part of the island you find yourself on.