Walters-Storyk Design Group Turns Home Into Comfy Production Complex
ATLANTA: "The 'wow' factor is fairly high," says Michael Rachap, founder of The Readeez Company www.readeez.com , about the just-completed AV facility which also serves as his home. Situated in Atlanta's booming Midtown, the studio blends historic ambience with eye-popping innovation.
Renovations to the company's loft in the 80-year-old building began in 2005. This included having a new main floor laid atop the original one, with a layer of sound-damping material between. Also implemented was a wiring topology that runs gigabit Ethernet and fibre channel throughout the house, plus an overhead conduit to escort cabling between the control room and a server closet that lives beneath the stairs.
“I have followed architect/acoustician John Storyk and the Walters-Storyk Design Group www.wsdg.com for years,” Rachap reveals. “WSDG was a natural choice when we decided to build this studio. The place is perfectly suited for developing our entertainment-based educational videos. It‘s comfortable, kid-friendly and the atmosphere is truly inspirational.”
One of the studio's more prominent innovations sits at the center of the Big Room. It's a rotating platform nearly 11 feet across, upon which rest three red-velvet theater seats, late of New York's Radio City Music Hall. The motorized platform can be controlled wirelessly, along with the home's other automated systems. The theater chairs and couch can be turned to face a 61-inch plasma display, flanked by an imposing pair of Genelec 1038B speakers.
"People ask me what we do and it's tough to give a simple answer," says Rachap, who, inspired by the likes of Dr. Seuss, “Calvin & Hobbes” and “Peanuts,” began work four years ago which evolved into Readeez. "I like to say we make short films for small people. Our business plan includes producing and marketing hundreds of such films, on a broad array of topics, for children of all ages.”
Audio quality is crucial to the success of Readeez in its approach of using multi-sensory input to impart reading skills. "The sound component of so much online video seems like an afterthought," Rachap says. "It's the first place producers skimp to conserve bandwidth. You end up with videos that are only a few megabytes but they use 8-bit/22K audio or worse, and they sound terrible." Readeez videos are provided commercial-free on the Internet at CD-standard 16/44.1, and the company plans higher bit- and sample-rates for its DVD releases.
"The Readeez Audio Kitchen acoustics are fascinating," says John Storyk. "The 18-foot ceiling of the Big Room is gently domed -- evidently the space enjoyed a previous incarnation as a ballroom. The result is a natural reverberation that imparts a sonic signature. I haven‘t heard anything quite like it."
The control room presented Storyk with his biggest challenge. “Space was at a premium -- just over 160 square feet were available at the outset,” he says. "We stole some footage from the Big Room, creating a sort of bay window that brings the mix position out amongst the players. Isolation was also an issue. There are neighbors below and next door so we built a room within a room. It may not be as quiet as a purpose-built studio, but you can definitely mix there with confidence. And,” Storyk adds, “the control room can be used as an iso booth to record narration and other program material.”
In addition to animating, filming and producing audio for Readeez, The Kitchen also serves as a first-rate music room. Rachap's band, The Omnivores, has been using it as a practice facility for over a year. Atlanta's chart-topping R&B community already has the facility on its radar. "An engineer friend mixed some hip-hop sessions here, but the studio is primarily dedicated to in-house work," says Rachap, who studied Music Production & Engineering and Songwriting at Boston's Berklee College of Music.
A trove of instruments old and new litters the premises. But the star is clearly the 6'1" satin-finish Yamaha grand, outfitted with the company's versatile Disklavier system.
As to recording gear: Principal converters are Prism Sound's Dream ADA-8XR, routing high-def audio to and from Pro Tools HD. A 24-fader ICON D-Command unit anchors the control room, framed by a pair of Genelec 8050s, with a Bryston amp sending signal to the Big Room.
Outboard equipment includes two API Lunch Boxes, one that floats around the house and one tethered to the control room's patch bay. A Summit DCL-200 Compressor Limiter and TC-Helicon VoicePro are also hardwired to the 96-point bay. The big guns of the microphone arsenal are two Neumann U87s procured from a local Guitar Center. Mics by Sennheiser, Shure and AKG round out the cabinet.
Most of the Readeez animating work takes place in the studio's eponymous kitchen. An 8-processor Mac Pro, packed with over two terabytes of on-board storage, sends audio through one of the home's four Digi 002 interfaces. Genelec 8040s, a Dave Smith Poly Evolver synth and several tons of virtual instruments complete this tasty setup.
Flexibility is the hallmark of the complex. "I work in different rooms throughout the day," says Rachap, "bouncing from machine to machine so it always feels fresh." Audio tie lines to the two upstairs bedrooms, plus fast network connections, allow the entire house to function as a seamless creative tool.
Rachap has nothing but praise for the WSDG team, which included John Storyk as well as Systems Integrator Judy Elliot Brown and Project Manager Joshua Morris. He also singles out the work of Atlanta‘s Wisdom Properties (construction); Comprehensive Technical Group; Atlanta Pro Audio; and Audio, Automation and Theater. “Everyone did a brilliant job putting this complex together. I couldn‘t imagine a better place to live and work.”
"I give Michael credit for envisioning this space and making that dream a reality," Storyk concludes. "He has a lot of good ideas. It'll be interesting to see what gets produced here."
Readeez Audio Kitchen Control Room designed by Walters Storyk Design Group