New Media Commons studio opens, provides professional audio equipment

By Brittney Nadler

University students and staff now have access to a new audio recording studio equipped with high quality, professional equipment, said Eric Kurt, Media Commons coordinator. 

Kurt said the project first began in January 2013 after staff of the Media Commons, located in the Undergraduate Library, began to look at ways for professors to make simple audio recordings of lectures. 

Prior to the studio’s installation, the Media Commons offered video production and digital media, but audio production was not yet available for those who wished to work on higher level projects.

Retrofitting classrooms into audio studios by adding sound insulation and microphones was an option, but after Kurt discovered the Beckman Institute was looking for a new home for their audio studio to reclaim space, he immediately took action. 

As long as the UGL could move the studio over, it was theirs, Kurt said.

“Each of the components weighs anywhere from two to 600 pounds, so you can’t just carry it up and down the stairs,” Kurt said. “We’re underground, so what ended up happening is they ended up dropping it with a crane into the courtyard, which was really cool to watch. Then they just took it into the doors and built it in place.”

The audio studio has two rooms — one is roughly 6-by-6 feet and the other is 12-by-12 — that are connected through soundproof glass so that patrons can look between both rooms, said Jake Metz, Media Commons tech support specialist.  

Metz is in charge of planning what type of technology is needed to support the Media Commons’ mission of helping patrons create media, he said. 

“We’re helping them create higher quality media,” he said. “A lot of times when you hear a podcast, someone’s just recorded it on their computer or their phone, the audio quality’s not that great. You might have a lot of background noise going on, … so really what this will offer is a chance for people to do very high-quality professional audio recordings.”

The audio studio could eventually compensate for music recordings, although Media Commons staff are not yet sure how that would work in a small booth as opposed to a larger recording studio, Metz said. 

“If you could possibly bring instruments in there, that’d be pretty cool,” said Zack Zlevor, freshman in FAA. “I know for a lot of the art and design majors, people who are going into filmmaking, it’s really important that they have perfect sound because it can make or break a project.” 

Zlevor said the Media Commons has more equipment than the School of Art and Design, which could allow he and his peers to create higher quality projects. He also thinks the studio is an important tool for professors. 

“Recording the lectures is a really great idea because the professors can record all of their lectures, which I know most of them probably wouldn’t, but if you missed a class, that’d be really nice,” Zlevor said.

While the glass is not certified soundproof, it reduces the volume level significantly. Both rooms will be outfitted with two broadcast microphones as well as a four-channel recording interface, a four-channel headphone monitoring system, headphones and a recording computer.

“We’re also going to try to make kind of a kiosk-style recording booth using an iPad so that you’ll be able to record directly onto the iPad, mix your whole project and then e-mail it or Dropbox it to yourself,” Metz said. 

Patrons can also bring their own microphones, recording interfaces, headphones and even computers, Metz said. 

“We will be fully outfitted to do two channel at first — audio podcasting or audio interviews, (when) you have two people at once,” he said. “That might expand eventually, but this will be kind of the initial offering.”

To use the studio, Kurt said they are looking into implementing an automatic form, but for now, staff will ask potential patrons questions about their project pertaining to what the project is, how many people are involved, what kind of interview will be conducted and when.

“The reason we ask these questions is just so that we can provide some advice in how you set up the recording or the equipment that you use,” Kurt said. 

The Media Commons is expecting to work further with audio production, including being able to do simple recordings in which students can obtain their footage instantly without the complexities that go along with a video studio, Kurt said. 

“We want to expand,” he said. “We’ve got a video studio, we’ve got an audio studio, we’re looking at building some smaller self-video and audio studios, so very small rooms that are completely autonomous that you can come in and check out.”

Metz hopes that patrons come out to make use of the new studio and its equipment as well as the Media Commons’ staff. 

“We have staff here who will help people learn to use this equipment and we can also answer a lot of questions for people who are creating media projects for the first time or people are working on a project and want to make it better,” Metz said. “We hold a lot of expertise in the available equipment and also the available techniques that people might not be taking advantage of to create superior media projects.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]