What we learned about soundproofing, acoustic treatment and more
Over the past year, our video capabilities here at Matter Solutions have grown from a modest studio set up to a multi-camera, multi-light, professional level studio environment, capable of delivering all sorts of video and media for our clients’ digital marketing needs.
But that wasn’t enough. We needed to get bigger. And a big vision for video means you need the tech to back it up.
It meant changing around our office a little. What you used to see when you first walked into the Matter offices was a lovely medium-sized meeting room. Now, this room has been transformed into the hub of video, photography and media. Call it the Tardis, the Death Star, the bridge of the Enterprise, it’s where all the magic will happen…
Well, it wasn’t a couple of months ago. We needed to change a few things first.
If you’re thinking seriously about creating a professional-level studio environment, there are several things you need to consider.
Soundproofing and acoustic treatment
There’s an old saying in video, that a viewer will put up with bad video quality if the audio is good, but if you give them beautiful visuals with bad sound then they’ll turn it off in an instant. It’s a shame that most people underestimate the real value of good audio, and it’s often seen as less important than the video side of things. Naturally, this means getting a high-quality microphone setup. But in the studio environment, it has a lot more to do with the space you are shooting in.
The truth is, every room has its own unique acoustic signature, whether we realise it or not. Call it a fingerprint, a way in which the sound bounces around the room and off different surfaces. If you’re shooting in a room that hasn’t been acoustically treated, you will hear this in your final video, most obviously in the form of echo, reverberations, and sometimes strange hums or background noise.
In the creation of our new studio, we discovered that to “deaden” our room acoustically, we had to alter the way the sound was bouncing off the walls, ceiling and floor by adding surfaces that absorb the sound, and/or surfaces that disrupt the way it bounces around.
Acoustic foam is fairly easy to come by, and although not cheap (depending on the type), will really do wonders for your studio. We bought sheets of this strange nippled foam and applied them to the walls of the studio at about 2-foot intervals.
Our room also has a strangely abnormal ceiling structure already where an air conditioning duct runs above, so we also added foam to those areas where sound was likely to get caught and give us ugly echoes.
The difference in sound was noticeable instantly. Rather than an echo-y, bland space, we now had sound that was crisp and intimate.
Of course, you can’t go sticking foam to your walls willy-nilly and hope it will work. Make sure you do your research about which acoustic treatment techniques will be best for the space you are working with – each room will be different!
What is also very surprising is how bringing different objects into the room can change the way it sounds. When orchestras and choirs rehearse in concert halls they have to prepare for the unexpected and dramatic change in the room acoustics when it is later filled with people (note to self: the human body is a great sound absorber!).
In the same way, adding objects to your studio, especially sound absorbent things like couches, can dramatically change the acoustics. Assuming your green screen runs the length of one wall and is created from fabric, the same rule applies.
What will you be shooting in your studio? Will it mostly be pieces to camera? Will you need the ability to key or composite different elements around the subject later (ie green screen)? You need to consider these things when thinking about the space you’ll be working in and which direction you’ll be shooting. For green screen, for example, you need enough space to fit the number of lights you need to get a good key, but also enough to get your subject far enough away from the screen to avoid colour spill around the edges.
For us at Matter, there were a few things we needed to be able to do. The ability to green screen means shooting down the long side of the room to give us enough room. Our boss Ben also holds regular training sessions for SEO and WordPress websites, so we needed the ability to have a whiteboard and projection (which we put on a table that can be wheeled into place – easy!)
It’s really important to carefully consider what you’ll be using your studio for, and come up with a layout that optimises the space for your needs.
Noah never had to deal with this!
Of course, making a professional-level studio environment isn’t without its setbacks. Especially during storm season when your office is in the subtropics. Needless to say, all it took was one fairly standard afternoon storm to flood about half of our office as some pipes got clogged and stormwater came in through our windows.
Yes, you heard right. Flooded. Through our windows.
So we got new floors! Hooray! Your choice here will depend on taste. While wooden floors will echo some more, they also add a “natural quality” to the acoustics of the room (most recording studios have wooden floors).
The final reveal…
So here it is, after about 2 months of work planning, shifting, drilling, gluing, testing and adjusting, here it is – the new Matter Solutions studio!
No doubt over the coming months as we shoot more projects and experiment a little, there will be some more adjustments to be made. But for now, this is one heck of a studio!
And here’s a floorplan for you uber-nerds out there…
To find out more about what sort of video we do here at Matter, have a look!