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WSDG Designs Casablanca Multimedia Studios in the Hollywood Hills

WSDG architect/acoustician John Storyk, CMS owner Matt Buguy (seated) and producer/engineer Eddie Kramer in the Casablanca Multimedia Studio control room.

Photo: Matt Buguy

Singer/songwriter/musician/photographer Matt Buguy contracted the Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG) to provide professional design and acoustic advice for Buguy’s Casablanca Multimedia Studios in the Hollywood Hills. Buguy’s studio is 18×12 feet and totals 216 square feet.

Buguy sought to create a facility for composing and producing a wide range of music, from pop songs to film and video scores, that is capable of recording guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals (though not simultaneously). It also has to accommodate the basic printing, scanning and editing equipment required for his photography assignments.

“When I described the studio I hoped to build and explained the physical realities of the space, John Storyk explained that small, powerful, personal studios had evolved into a serious trend,” Buguy says. “He pointed to a number of ‘vest-pocket’ rooms, which WSDG had created over the past few years. Within 15 minutes of his initial site visit, he came up with three variations on my original concept. It was clear that I had retained the right architect/acoustician.”

Storyk describes the challenge was to take a somewhat oddly shaped trapezoid space with clearly defined, unmoveable boundaries—e.g., the side of the hill—and refashion it as symmetrical. “In architecture, the steel beam is god,” Storyk explains. “There are existing elements which will not move, and we had to deal with a few of those to wedge Casablanca into place.”

A portion of the hill was excavated, and new walls carefully waterproofed to create a niche for the Pro Tools HD2 workstation. The main studio is comprised of a single stereo/5.1 surround sound room. The multi-purpose workstation area serves digital audio, video and photo editing and printing. The entire 4,000-square-foot home, which Buguy has owned since 1983, was originally built in 1927 by film star Irene Manning.

“Because the acoustics of many rooms lend themselves to ‘live recording,’ we wired the screening room; the living room, which features a 9-foot Knabe grand piano; and ancillary rooms that will be used as iso booths, with direct MIDI and microphone recording connections back to the main studio,” Storyk says.

Casablanca Multimedia Studios features a Pro Tools HD2 system

Photo: Matt Buguy

Given that the studio is adjacent to the living and dining rooms, and directly below the screening room, sound containment and isolation were prerequisites. WSDG used double-wall construction and acoustic isolation throughout the design. Fortunately, the floor is concrete slab, and the north wall concrete. The west and south walls are older Spanish home construction—thick, with plenty of space for insulation. Because the studio previously served as a pipe organ chamber with an open tone chute into the theater above, particular effort was devoted to sound isolation between those rooms.

Electronic infrastructure planning was well thought out, as the studio is designed as one of the electronic hubs of the home. This results in a surfeit of data and power lines that either originate in, or pass through, the space via conduits. Additionally, many audio and video sources are routed to and from the room for remote monitoring of content.

Casablanca Multimedia Studios offers a set of Roland V-Drums, visible at the far end of the room

Photo: Matt Buguy

In addition to Pro Tools recording, CMS will employ a Tascam 38 8-track reel-to-reel deck to maintain the warmth of analog recording. Integration with Avid Xpress Pro for video editing is also built into the system. The current drum set is electronic (Roland V-Drums), but may be replaced in the future with an acoustic set.

“I knew this home’s musical history when I found it in 1983,” Buguy says. “It’s heartening to know that we’re perpetuating that tradition, and also, that thanks to WSDG’s acoustic expertise, that we don’t need to worry about disturbing the neighbors when we pump up the volume.”

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