In June, Mix's “Class of 2006” design feature announced the expansion of this month's cover studio, R!OT Atlanta. Serving the booming Atlanta TV advertising and broadcast community since 1988, the studio has grown and evolved along with that market.
A little history: Formerly known as Editworks, R!OT was an independent studio that was acquired by venerable post company Todd-AO in '96. Much of the Editworks staff stayed, but when a faction moved on, managing director Buddy Hall and senior mixer/composer Chris Basta were hired to create the audio department. In '96, the studio had one audio room, but within the year added another room and another engineer, Matt Melberg. In 2000, Liberty Livewire (now Ascent Media) purchased Todd-AO, and in 2002, Editworks was renamed R!OT Atlanta.
With ad clients such as J. Walter Thompson and the Turner and Discovery networks, and backing from its corporate parent, business grew beyond the facility's physical capabilities. “We had cannibalized every square inch of space that we had,” Hall recalls. “We built additional Avid suites and [Discrete Logic] Smoke suites and reached our limit.”
R!OT's parent company first considered moving the facility from its home on the second floor of a Buckhead office complex to a dedicated building in Midtown. Bret Thoeny's L.A.-based BOTO Design was hired to create a new, expanded space for R!OT. “Ascent wanted to do some upgrading and remodeling,” Thoeny says. “We designed from California and hired a local architect, Kennedy & Associates, and then at the eleventh hour, the decision was made to take over the floor above where they were.”
Thoeny and his team came up with an elegant design that places all of R!OT's visual effects design, animation and communal spaces on the second floor of the building, and three enlarged audio suites, editorial/finishing bays, administrative offices and machine room on the third floor.
Melberg says that one of the main improvements the R!OT staff sought from the remodel was “true isolation,” which proved challenging for the designers. “We're in a traditional office space, and if something really loud happens on the seventh floor, you'll hear it on the second or third floor,” Melberg says. “If you're situated on the ground floor when you build a studio, it's easier to get great isolation because you can just use mass. We couldn't do that in this building because the load would have been too great.”
“Marshall Long [of Marshall Long Acoustics, Los Angeles] did the calculations on the floor system so we could balance the weight and the acoustical requirements with the structural engineer in Atlanta,” Thoeny adds. “The rooms are floated and all the air conditioning is separate-zoned with sound dampers to kill the sound coming down the ductwork.”
Construction had to be timed to allow the busy facility to keep operating — a nearly impossible feat that was accomplished through careful planning and the staff's dedication.
“We started demolition in January of ‘05 on the floor above us,” Hall explains. “Naturally, the crews had to work odd hours. Then we built it out, got everything to a finished state and had an integration company come in — part of the Ascent group — that pre-wired everything, pre-qualified everything, and over Memorial Day weekend of ‘05, we moved upstairs six Avid bays, two Smoke bays and a Flame bay, had them up and working on the following Tuesday. The next Friday night, we commissioned our new Fairlight Constellation consoles, and over the weekend moved all the outboard gear, all the monitors, had everything hooked up over that weekend, and Monday morning, we were rolling with all three audio suites hot.
“We never missed a beat, and I think our clients were very patient throughout the process. The staff really hung in, too. We had 18 guys here over Memorial Day weekend to help with that move — that's 18 people out of 37 in the entire shop on a holiday weekend!”
Simultaneous with the construction of the new rooms, Fairlight's local rep, Media Gear, sent trainer Michael Haprov to help engineers get up to speed on the new Constellations. “He lived with us for a week, got the consoles assembled and commissioned, and got us up and running,” Melberg says. “The thing I love about the Constellations is everything is in one spot. You never have to leave the sweet spot to edit, to mix — to do anything. And for the most part, it's one button per function. The way the Fairlight edits audio is truly amazing. The automation runs really well. It's very intuitive. The machine control is superb.” In addition to the new consoles, R!OT installed new ADAM Audio 5.1 speaker systems in each suite, the winner of an elaborate shootout that started months before the rooms were built.
Thoeny feels that at the end of the day, the studio ended up better situated without a new building. “They have a better location,” he says. “They're in the heart of the Buckhead financial district, and there are hotels right there. It works well for their clients, especially those coming from New York, where they can basically walk across a lobby and walk into the facility.”