The Big Room features a rotating platform dubbed the Wheel of Amusement.
The home studio that John Storyk designed for Michael Rachap is built into a loft in an 80-year-old building in Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood. The studio is the home base for Rachap's Readeez Company (www.readeez.com), which creates and markets entertaining, educational films for kids.
“People ask me what we do and it's tough to give a simple answer,” says Rachap. “I like to say we make short films for small people. Our business plan includes producing hundreds of such films on a broad array of topics.”
Readeez's films show, for example, an animated father and daughter, very simply drawn on a white background. While the daughter reads a nursery rhyme to her father, each syllable appears in large type as she speaks. Voices must be (and are) clear as a bell to reinforce the sight-reading that the piece teaches.
“Kids can be taught to read without even learning the alphabet,” Rachap says. “The one-syllable-at-a-time method is something I haven't seen anywhere else. When people do read-along things, they usually have large, colorful images and very small words at the bottom. Kids need big, clear type and clear audio.
“The sound component of so much online video seems like an afterthought,” Rachap continues. “You end up with videos that are only a few megabytes, but they use 8-bit/22k audio or worse and they sound terrible.” According to Rachap, all Readeez videos are 16/44.1 and commercial-free. Right now, they are available on the Readeez site or via iTunes. Rachap is currently working on the first Readeez DVD compilation, which will include about 25 of the minute-long movies.
Rachap's home studio effectively incorporates every room in the house. Storyk and systems integrator Judy Elliot Brown spec'd wiring/infrastructure with audio tielines to the kitchen, bedrooms — everywhere. “I can and do record audio from every space,” Rachap explains. “I'll go into the control room [adjacent to the living room] and do some narration where it's nice and quiet, then go back into the kitchen and edit, and go to my daughter's room and do some recording. It's all living space, and it's all work space.”
Rachap's living room, known as the Big Room, includes a rotating platform — 11 feet in diameter — supporting three red-velvet seats that came from Radio City Music Hall. The motorized platform, which Rachap calls the Wheel of Amusement, can be turned to face a 61-inch plasma display. “The 18-foot ceiling of the Big Room is gently domed,” Storyk says. “Evidently, the space enjoyed a previous incarnation as a ballroom. The result is a natural reverberation that imparts a sonic signature.”
Gearwise, Rachap's studio is centered around Pro Tools HD, a 24-fader ICON D-Command and Genelec 8050 monitoring. Outboard gear includes two API Lunchboxes, a Summit DCL-200 compressor/limiter and TC-Helicon VoicePro. His go-to mics are a pair of Neumann U87s, as well as models from Sennheiser, Shure and AKG.
Until five years ago, Rachap worked primarily as a copywriter for a New York City-based advertising firm, but personal interests in music and education inspired him to dream up this new enterprise. “I give Michael credit for envisioning this space and making that dream a reality,” Storyk says. “He has a lot of good ideas.”