Construction and installation first Dolby Atmos studio in Moscow
I would like to share with you my experience of participation in construction of studio complex in Moscow. I will go through this slowly, step by step, answering your questions after each part. I'm sorry for my English. I also probably will not answer for every construction question because my experience for that is not enough, but as for installation and equipment - welcome!
Few words about us - we are independent team of sound recording and mixing engineers with our own music post-production facility, well-known here in music industry. Our web site is Parametrika Studio | Parametrika Studio
It began almost 2 years ago when NTV Kino, russian biggest TV-series production company decided to construct their own post-production complex.
They asked our little independent sound team to participate in that and then work in new complex.
We agreed and that is photo of what we have now.
But let's start from the beginning.
First thing that you need to make after decision of studio construction - find someone who can design that.
We didn't thought about that even a second - it must be Philip Newell. We already had an experience of cooperation with Philip(he designed our music studio and Alexander Kravchenko built it) and we knew that the result will be brilliant.
So, head of our sound team, Sergey Bolshakov flew to Barcelona with directors of NTV Kino to meet Philip and visit some studios to listen and watch. Before that they already visited a lot of different studios in Europe.
After visiting Fig Tree studio they were shocked. The final decision was that main designer and controller will be Philip Newell.
The idea behind Philip's philosophy is that studios must be as best and precise as you can get. If you can hear everything and control every small detail, then you can fix all mistakes and your mix will be much more transferable.
We already faced that in music facility. As many mistakes we fixed in mixes - the more identical they sounded on radio, in cars, on tv etc.
That control can be achieved by two things - acoustic design with zero enviroment and precise monitoring system.
Anyway, place for construction was decided due to company's holding reasons. It was part of building of Gorky studio, former big studio complex in USSR.
There were initial design limitations with being on the 3rd floor of what was a redundant part of an old film studio complex that had fallen into very little use since the end of the Soviet era.
The rooms that existed were very tired and unsuitable for the use required of a modern studio. Isolation tests proved that things could be heard all over the building and even in the neighbouring film companies dubbing theatre.
Once demolition began we discovered that the rooms were very well designed (especially considering their age - 1960's) in terms of isolation, but were fatally crippled by errors made by the constructors where critical isolation points had been bypassed in an attempt to "make things stronger"
This is not unusual, and any studio designer who just sells a set of plans and wipes their hands of things usually leaves themselves (and their reputation) open to this kind of disaster. Many designers do.
Here the flaws were so many and so deep in the structure that the whole thing had to be stripped back to the skeleton of the building. Everything had to go, not one scrap of old wire or one old vent duct could pass through this floor.
Concrete floated floor now being levelled.
This was an interesting challenge as the owners of the building required that all floated floor structures should be level with the final building floor and that there should be no step or ramp into any of the rooms. This required a very careful survey and measurement of all floors, and careful levelling of the final surfaces.
Even the entrance to the floor had to be raised and an extra step added to the staircase to the 3rd floor to compensate for the whole levelled arrangement of the floated floors.
Two separately isolated floated concrete slabs between two adjacent rooms.
Cable ways to the console sunk beneath the floated slab and isolated from it.
Detail showing where floated concrete slab is isolated from the separately floated outer concrete bunker.
Studio designer gets stuck in space between floated concrete block bunker and the building.
Some remains of the old building electrics being used for site power distribution.
One edit room was next to an admin office, so the decision was taken at a later stage to totally float this room off and add a filled block bunker around it to avoid torturing the admin with endless editing noise.
Office areas beginning to take shape.
Holes cut through structures for ventilation and cable access.
Machine room walls now have rendering in place.
Projection floor is now in place and windows are cut
Ventilation extract from projectors to outside are now cut.
Particle board fixed directly to concrete slab to provide a working base for the acoustic control shell.
a 1:1 scale plan is transferred to this base
Detail of particle board floor laid over dead-sheet membrane.
Error found in Studio 2 Bunker isolation.
Old plaster drying out had separated from the building and rested on the isolation bunker. A 6sqm area of bunker had to be removed to get to and remove the plaster to prevent sound transmission into the building.
Section showing how deep the isolation floors are below the finished floor surface
Studio 3 showing under floor cable ducts for console, here you can see how deep the flooring will be.
How do you get big heavy beams up so high?
With a big winch!
Under floor cable runs for ADR studio 3
This will be the central power room holding 90KW (180KW peak) of battery back up systems.
The projection room floor beneath the projectors taking an extra set of bracing to avoid projector movement when somebody walks on the 1/4" plate steel floor near the projectors.
Some ventilation equipment arrives.
This is what's known as getting the most out of your gear... Very ecological!
A tiny bit of dead-sheet arrived.
Some of the flame ******ant chemical that was applied to all flammable materials such as wood and acoustic felt. (It seems I can't say r_e_t_a_r_d_a_n_t on here.... LOL)
Main vent feed and extract to the floor. All studios source air from the climate controlled corridor, as it got to -35 C during this construction it would be mad to draw each studio's air from outside.
More vent gear.
One of 24 low velocity ventilation / AC modules.
This is a filter, fan, and water battery. We don't use refrigerant based AC as it ruins the air quality and is a nightmare for vocal artists. These units use heated / chilled water which has a far closer temperature to the air we are cooling so it maintains the moisture content.
Machine room air intake.
The filtered, temperature controlled, air will be fed into a channel below the equipment racks and will flow up through the perforated racks into the room. This will ensure that the racks are kept clean as they will be at a positive pressure to the air outside.
Cables to the console will also pass through here and into the studio through the hole you see in the wall.
We still can't move for felt.
Back breakers. 12v 200AH deep cycle gel batteries... 72 of them.
Now they're sitting on the racking.
The racking had to be firmly bolted into the wall because as we're on the 3rd floor just putting 5 tons of gear in such a small space would have strained the hollow cast slabs they are sitting on.
Finally the cable tray has started going in.
This is going to be tight!
Wanting to keep the ceiling height as comfortable as possible we're really tight up to the ducting. The guys are going to load the trays about 4" lower than they will finally be then jack them up on the threaded bar when they are full.
Data / audio / video is on the basket tray and power on the perf tray.
Data contractors arrived and started first fix. All copper networking is Cat6a 10gb/sec capable, and there are 500 lines of it in total, there are also 200 optical lines.
We sourced all racks from one supplier for the whole project. this ensured that it will look right and we won't end up with a whole load of different racks.
These units are marine power supplies, more commonly used now in off-grid applications.
There is a very serious reason we don't use computer grade UPS units and that is that they are hopelessly inadequate, and to be honest, junk.
The main problem is lifespan. Most datacentre installs are 5 to 8 year life expectation and the equipment is designed with that in mind. The units with integral batteries often use specific non-standard batteries which you'd be hard pressed to find in 8 years time. The units are often "value engineered" to close specifications especially with regard to lifespan, but also with regard to load. All too often the inverter output is less than ideal, and hates dynamic load changes. We've blown many computer grade UPS units trying to drive serious power amplifiers from them.
These units are off-line UPS units. That means when the grid is running fine they just sit there maintaining the batteries with a hardware bypass. they will kick in in less than one cycle and do not affect any equipment connected to them, they are also synchronous.
Another issue is trying to find a 100KW SINGLE PHASE UPS system.... no chance, they're all 3 phase when you get to that power.
Our power cleanliness relies on a direct feed from the 11KV transformer. Quite simply with a 600A feeder direct from the 11KV you just won't get brownouts or surges, or anything imposed upon your neutrals or earths.
Power conditioners are just sticking plasters on a bigger problem, it's far easier to fix the problem in the first place than use some bodge of a solution that is only half effective. Most power conditioners just transfer the problem somewhere else.
No inverter is as good or as solid as clean grid power, no inverter can even hope to deliver the peak load current that clean grid can.
Our measured short circuit current capacity on the audio supply (from grid) was 7,000 amps!!! So was the short to earth capacity!!
All power circuits are over specified cable wise. in many cases we have used 6mm cable on 16A lines. There is a good reason for this, induced currents can't flow easily in a line that has a very low resistance, also a line with little loss and very low impedence will not have a big electromagnetic field. So, over-spec all the cables.
I can't believe how "angry" electricians get when you ask them to do this.... NOOOOO they say, "you don't need such a cable", but what do they know, they fit heaters and lightbulbs, 5v loss is fine for them, they don't care that the cable is radiating a huge 50 or 60Hz EMF. We do.
These inverter units are connected in parallel, we have 9 x 10KW units each capable of a 200% peak load capacity, and all happy with highly dynamic loads such as power amplifiers or motors. With all connected in parallel we have a 180,000 watt peak current delivery from battery.
Power clenliness tests at the end of the project proved that we had no measurable noise at all. Measured S/N range on the 54 loudspeakers all running in the dubbing theatre was 110dB, totally unheard of in such a large installation.
It is also ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to manage cable layout over the entire project and avoid every possible loop in power or grounding runs, remembering that audio, video, and data cables are also part of the grounding circuit. Running power cables down one side of the room, and audio, data or video down the other side is just daft and is asking for problems.
The inverters are programmable as to kick in and out thresholds. We have set them at 200 to 245 volts. Within that range they stay offline, anything out of that and they kick in and stabilise the voltage to exactly 220. They are also programmed to kick in if there is any frequency variation.