In June 2003 the Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG), an international architectural firm specializing in broadcast and recording facilities, was commissioned to redesign and coordinate reconstruction of the VGTRK Sound Recording Studios in Moscow. Today, more than three years later, the studios are complete.
A little history
VGTRK is Russia's TV and radio broadcasting company. The facility houses administrative offices, technical workshops and laboratories, and provides an access dock for the company's 5.1 surround-sound equipped OB mobile recording van. Originally built in 1938, the studios contain the entire national radio music archive, including more than 300,000 performances that were recorded there.
The facility is located just north of the Red Square and the Kremlin. The building has two sections: a north wing, originally built in 1938, and a south wing, which was added in 1968. In addition to housing Russia's national radio music archive, the facility also serves as rehearsal space for the internationally celebrated Russian Symphony Orchestra.
Before the redesign, the facility had not been updated since 1968 when Studio 5 was brought online. The new complex is dedicated to music recording, live broadcasting for radio drama production, overdubbing and Foley work. In addition, it is now available to independent producers and engineers throughout Europe.
Redesigning the studio
Studio 3, the multistory studio section of the complex, was architecturally and technically redesigned. The process required the complete demolition of the studio down to the outer wall, including the roof structure and the full reconstruction of a new audio production facility.
The new studio consists of a large live recording and Foley room, an acoustically dead isolation booth and a control room equipped with technical systems suitable for high-end music and radio drama production and for video and audio post production.
This major redesign required a successful collaboration between several groups. I.S.P.A. Engineering provided local construction management, materials sourcing, code compliance and engineering services. J&C Intersonic of Zurich, Switzerland, handled the technical systems design and integration engineering.
The U.S. and European offices of WSDG did the architectural and acoustical master planning, design development, construction documentation, and overall management and supervision.
VGTRK realized early on that acoustics were a critical factor in the future success of the facility. The unique combination of technical versatility and sonic excellence would be difficult to match anywhere in Russia. This distinctive design and construction represents an integral element for attracting and maintaining a substantial international client base.
Each acoustical space in the studio block features a classic room-within-room technique on a steel-spring loaded acoustical floating floor structure. This construction, complemented by a sophisticated HVAC system design, ensures world-class noise rating figures despite an adjacent subway tunnel. Background noise level specifications are extremely strict and do not exceed a noise criteria (NC) level of NC 10, 15 or 20.
Wall systems provide sound transmission class isolation rates in excess of 85dB. WSDG had resolved a similar site situation during the design and construction of the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex located at New York City's Columbus Circle, one of the busiest subway stations in the world.
All of the facility's acoustics were developed with the aid of CATT-Acoustic computer simulation software. The facility required ITU/EBU specifications for all control room spaces in terms of room acoustics criteria and geometrical setup parameters. The computer modeling approach ensured that the architectural construction drawings translated perfectly to world-class acoustics. The sophisticated software made it possible for the client to actually listen to music replayed in the virtual computer model before the room was built.
Movable panels provide the recording room with variable acoustics. The manual wall and motorized ceiling panels enable the room to meet a wide range of client recording styles. The studio also features four substantial Foley pits. The spacious isolation booth connected to Studio 3 via a sliding glass door houses six additional Foley pits.
VGTRK stipulated maximum quality and versatility for the entire facility. To meet the preferences of many prominent engineers, digital and analog equipment can be mixed and matched according to the need of individual productions.
The 5.1 surround-sound production room houses an all-digital AMS Neve Libra Post primary mixing console, which features a high tactility level while providing high-quality audio characteristics and operational flexibility. The console is complemented by a Fairlight DREAM mobile audio for video and film workstation.
An LCD projector with a motorized 16:9 screen facilitates the post-production work performed in the control room. Quested Q 212 loudspeakers, and a modified version of this loudspeaker for the surround channels, provide audio monitoring. A pair of Dynaudio AIR loudspeakers with embedded DSP and remote control serves as secondary stereo audio monitors.
The facility selected a Merging Technologies Pyramix DAW for its main recording and editing surface. The workstation can record and edit audio at both SACD and DVD-A resolution levels.
The room is also outfitted with a full Dolby Surround Sound encoding, decoding, quality control and monitoring chain. A multistation Clear-Com intercom system ensures communication to adjacent spaces. And a substantial collection of vintage and modern microphones provide clients with a fantasy bell-and-whistle wish list.
A number of issues affected the progress of the project, including design updates, technology and material changes, and an ongoing evolution of priorities. Fortunately, the deadline for completion was flexible. VGTRK was committed to creating a world-class facility, and it was prepared to wait until it could be done right. The company anticipates a steady flow of meaningful productions to originate from this amazing acoustical environment.
Images of the studio are on page 2.
Dirk Noy is general manager for Walters-Storyk Design Group Europe. Based in Basel, Switzerland, he served as primary project director for WSDG throughout the three-year VGTRK assignment.
Technology at work
AMS Neve Libra Post primary mixing console
CATT-Acoustic computer simulation software
Clear-Com intercom system
Dolby Digital Surround Sound
Dynaudio AIR loudspeakers
Fairlight DREAM mobile audio for video and film workstation
Merging Technologies Pyramix DAW
Q 212 loudspeakers
MC-Square amp rack system
VGTRK Recording Studios
Ivan Leonov, project leader
Boris Nekrasov, chief engineer
Yuri Butko, project manager
Vadim Kerukhov, project manager
Thomas Wenger, project manager
John Storyk, U.S. co-principal
Dirk Noy, general manager
Gabriel Hauser, senior acoustician