NEW YORK: In 2009, when veteran sound mixer/designer/composer Damon Trotta joined the Northern Lights editorial/graphics/production team, the boutique’s goal was to substantially step up their audio services with a high-end mixing suite. For Trotta the ‘dream studio’ he envisioned was a Walters-Storyk Design Group room.
Launched in 1995 by co-owners, David Gioiella and Mark Littman, Northern Lights has attracted a growing client base of commercial, promo, show open and feature film post work. In 2008, borrowing additional space on the 7th floor of 135 West 27th Street, from Mr. Wonderful, their graphics division they added a second audio mix room. By 2009 the partners decided a 5.1 mixing suite would position them for more technically demanding and higher budget projects. They carved a “small
but workable” space from this new territory for Trotta’s suite and then called WSDG.
“We were confident that the more services we could offer under one roof, the more useful and convenient we would become to our clients.” says Northern Lights business manager Beth Cummins. “During the construction period Damon used our original 8th floor mixing room while mixer Ted Gannon occupied the 7th floor studio. In fact, Damon worked on his Emmy-winning History Channel 9/11 documentary during the time his suite was being built.”
“The ‘Vest Pocket Studio’ trend is well-established throughout the industry,” says architect/acoustician John Storyk. “We’ve designed dozens of compact, extremely versatile rooms. The new Northern Lights studio is a textbook example of optimizing every square inch of available space. Considering we had barely 330 sq. feet, for the entire studio, the 5.1 sound quality of the room is extraordinary. This was achieved with a combination of innovative design elements and proven acoustic treatments such as ceiling membranes and Helmholtz resonators, which enabled us to provide the room with an extremely low reverb time. The sweet spot was expanded by placing the Focal 5.1 speakers 2/3rds back towards the rear wall.
“To gain significant interior space for the main room, Romina Larregina, our Sr. Project Manager, recommended Noise Barriers sliding door access to the iso booth,” Storyk adds. “Floating floors, custom millwork, which enabled almost all the surfaces in the control room to work as a single unconventional low frequency unit, and flawless room-within-room construction by our long-time contractor, Chris Harmaty and his Audio Structures team, resulted in a handsome and extremely accurate, flexible, and efficient studio.”
Larrengina emphasizes the extreme physical challenge associated with the build. “Our client stipulated a number of conditions before awarding the job,” she says. “The construction needed to be completed within traditional 8AM to 6PM hours, and could not interrupt the workflow of the other studio and creative offices on the 7th and 8th floors. “This required Harmaty’s team to work in extremely tight quarters behind a closed door and without windows. It was almost as though they were laboring in an underground mine. “Noise needed to be kept to an absolute minimum, as did the unavoidable problems of plaster dust and traditional construction debris. This may be one of the most challenging construction projects we have ever encountered.”
“I have wanted a John Storyk-designed room for as long as I’ve been in the business,” Damon Trotta says. “David (Gioiella) and Mark (Littman) went the extra nine yards to make this studio as comfortable as possible. We’re outfitted with Millenia mic pre’s, Neumann U89’s, Empirical Labs Distressors, Dolby 160A, Focal 5.1 monitoring, Dorrough metering Protools HD and Logic Pro 9. They even commissioned a custom desk instead of a prefab job. Driving a top-of-line room definitely impacts on my creative thinking, And,” he adds, “our clients have been extremely complimentary. This investment will pay dividends for Northern Lights for years to come.”
With a staff of 25 editors and artists, the multi-service post boutique designs, creates, edits, mixes and finishes a wide range of projects including commercial campaigns, promos and graphics for such clients as: Continental Airlines, General Mills, US Bank, and promos for such TV series as Burn Notice and White Collar. The firms’ award-winning Mr. Wonderful motion graphic division recently completed the show open for Comedy Central’s acclaimed Colbert Report . Northern Lights also offers three audio micing studios, six editing suites, two Smoke suites and a Flame suite.
Working with John and his WSDG team was seamless and creatively-driven, exactly like we are,” says Littman. “We felt this project was a true collaboration and now have a showcase studio that we can utilize to help ourselves and our clients shine.”
Photo 1. Northern Lights WSDG-designed mixing suite (front view)
Photo 2. Northern Lights WSDG-designed mixing suite (rear view w iso booth)
Photo 3. Northern Lights sound mixer/designer/composer Damon Trotta
Please credit all photos to Beth Cummins
The Walters-Storyk Design Group www.wsdg.com has designed over 3000 media production facilities in the U.S., Europe, the Far East and Latin America. WSDG credits range from the original Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Studio in Greenwich Village to NYC’s Jazz At Lincoln Center performance complex, broadcast facilities for The Food Network, Interlochen Public Radio, CBS and WNET, and corporate clients such as Hoffman La Roche. Recent credits include private studios for the Goo Goo Dolls, Jay-Z, Timbaland’s Tim Mosley, Tracy Chapman, film composer Carter Burwell, Aerosmith; Green Day, Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen and Alicia Keys. WSDG principals John Storyk, Beth Walters, and Dirk Noy lecture frequently at universities and industry events, and contribute regularly to industry publications. WSDG is a six-time winner of the prestigious TEC Award for outstanding achievement in Acoustics/Facility Design. The firm maintains offices in NY, SF, Miami, Argentina, Brazil, Beijing, Mexico City and Switzerland.