From a MakeShift Studio to a State-of-the-Art Production Suite

Published: October 5, 2023
Photo courtesy of Hewshott.

Founded in 1938, the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry (FOIGM) is dedicated to helping Jewish people affected by the Holocaust. They provide spiritual and physical support while promoting the importance of scripture and the land of Israel. Originally, they produced CDs and DVDs, but when COVID hit, they transformed a meeting room into a makeshift production studio. However, this space was far from ideal with its windows, low ceiling and insufficient lighting. Determined to improve the space, FOIGM made the decision to construct a custom-designed space to meet their specific needs.

“As a Christian ministry, we have constituents rather than customers. One of the lessons of the pandemic was our lack of preparedness to produce video communications. It quickly became evident that we needed a space designed to create audio and video digital content. Our goal for the new studio is to reach out to new people with our message while staying engaged with our current constituents and will be a tremendous resource to our ministry,” says Jim Showers, executive director and president of the FOIGM.

Download: 2023 House of Worship Deep Dive Report

Designing the Production Studio

Penn Valley Constructors were selected for the design-build. While Penn Valley has an accomplished team, President Jon Otto said that they did not have specific experience in studio building and knowledge of the highly technical systems that go in to making a great studio. After multiple referrals and an interview, Hewshott, led by Brandon Creel, came on as the theatre consultant for the project. From the very beginning, Hewshott was actively engaged, first in the needs analysis and space planning and later in designing the studio’s production systems. Also, acoustics was a critical part of the whole project.

“Penn Valley Constructors, with the guidance of Hewshott, meticulously designed and executed the necessary acoustical measures, resulting in an acoustically superior space. In partnership with The Friends of Israel and Hewshott, we were able to deliver a state-of-the-art audiovisual studio that exceeds expectations. The successful outcome of this project is a testament to thoughtful planning and solid communication,” states Penn Valley Constructors in a press release.

This purpose-built studio has several manned studio cameras as well as remotely controlled cameras suspended from a pipe grid that covers the entire space. The control room has a director’s console, audio and lighting control desk, and a graphics station, while the editing suites have motorized sit stand desks.

The facility is connected with vast wiring infrastructure to tie all spaces together to the head end equipment rack. This allows users to connect network, audio, and video anywhere and send to anywhere, which is critical flexibility in cases where they need to use the space for special events and configurations.

The Technology Powering the Production Studio

The equipment rack houses a Blackmagic ATEM 4M/E Constellation 8K switcher, (4) Blackmagic HyperDeck Studio 4K Pro recorders, Blackmagic Cloud Store, Blackmagic Teranex converters, Bittree patch panels, Netgear M4250 network switches, Shure QLXD4 wireless microphone receivers, Shure P9T transmitters for IFB, Allen & Heath AHM-16 digital signal processor, Allen & Heath AR2412 stage box, and related processing, amplification, and intercom equipment. Even the performance and architectural lighting processing equipment is in a climate controlled room.

Cameras include Blackmagic URSA Broadcast G2 with motorized Canon lenses and Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K Pro with studio converters. For future expansion or complex shoots requiring additional cameras, the system can support five more. Everything is shot and recorded in 2840×2160 UHD 4K over 12G-SDI infrastructure. Graphics and character generation are ingested by a Blackmagic Decklink 4K Extreme 12G and Mac Studio.

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All of the wired mic inputs connect to the stage box to be digitized and mixed by an Allen & Heath digital mixer. 16 channels of digital MADI audio then go to the video switcher to be embedded and recorded with video, allowing for post-production editing and remastering.

While the video is 12G-SDI and doesn’t travel via the network, the recorded video does and ends up in the cloud. A network of Netgear M4250 POE+ 1GB switches with 10GB uplinks and Netgear M4300 10GB switches allow for a mixture of 1GB and 10GB speeds and POE+, where needed.

A pipe grid has the lighting, studio monitors, cameras, track and curtains mounted on it and is designed to support a load of 10 pounds per linear foot up to10,000 pounds total live load capacity – hanging set pieces and video displays is no problem. Lighting, power and DMX receptacles are in the ceiling along with AV power and signal control receptacles. This allows the client the freedom to suspend mics, monitors, displays, or cameras in various permutations and combinations, rather hassle free.

A primary track system has heavyweight, black synthetic velour acoustical curtains and the cyclorama wall has a track switch which allows the FOIGM to easily reconfigure or relocate the curtains as needed. Additionally, scenery track carriers were installed to help the client suspend and move set pieces with ease. There is ample room in the studio for multiple sets and backgrounds at the same time, saving valuable time in set-up and tear-down of sets.

Production Studio Lighting & Controls

ETC’s Source Four Series 2 Lustr fixed lens spotlights were chosen as the primary key lights and some engines were fitted with fresnel adapters and barndoors for down lights. Chroma-Q Studio Force T 12 Phosphor luminaires were chosen for the fill lights and the cyc wall and green screen are illuminated by Chauvet Professional’s Ovation CYC 1 FC, a color changing fixture, all of which are DMX controlled by an ETC ColorSource 40 console.

Hewshott was responsible for the architectural lighting and controls in the studio, control room, corridors, the two editing suites and the storage room. The editing suites are built to be isolated from sound and hence the physical space was carefully designed so as to achieve the optimum acoustic criteria. The owner of the studio was concerned about employees working in there and losing track of time or receiving the wrong light at the wrong time of the day. Hewshott came up with a two-part lighting system that mimics the circadian rhythm using traditional 2×4 lay-in ceiling fixtures which are tuneable white and automatically adjusts color temperature from warm in the morning to cooling up until noon and back to warm in the evenings for sunset. The editing suites also have track (task) lighting, also tuneable white that follows the same circadian rhythm. The lighting system also has allowance for a user to pick a color temperature and hold it while doing certain color shading/ editing work. The studio lights and control room lights are controlled by wall switches but are also integrated with the DMX lighting board in a three-way latest takes precedence control scheme.

Power, Data and Speakers

Power and data are distributed throughout the space using a LynTec motorized breaker panel which allows the client to remotely de-energize subsystems when not in use. Additionally, all the AV is powered through an isolated ground power system that is fed from a double shielded isolation transformer. Critical equipment is on uninterrupted power supplies.

Ceiling speakers in the editing suites, control room and green room have Allen & Heath IP1 volume controls and source selections, to change what is played in any of the rooms and how loud it is played. The ceiling speakers can also be remotely controlled by the director using a Crestron control system.

A Purpose-Built Studio

Anticipating supply-chain issues, Hewshott ensured that the project was awarded earlier than it would have in pre-pandemic times so that integrators, contractors, and builders had enough time and so that they could ensure successful, on-time delivery of the project.

“Once Hewshott joined us, they opened our eyes to all the important elements of studio design; from sound acoustic management, to studio layout, to equipment selection and lighting design, they had the knowledge and understanding we lacked. Hewshott not only directed the studio’s technical design, but they were also gifted at explaining the design recommendations in a layman’s language we all could understand. They interfaced very well with the building design architect to create a great studio design team,” says Showers.

The FOIGM now has a purpose-built studio that goes above and beyond what they imagined when they started the process. Designed with state-of-the-art equipment, they now have greater flexibility and various functions, capable of live broadcasting as well as recording video for editing and production.

Click ‘view slideshow’ to view additional photos the FOIGM’s production studio. All images courtesy of Hewshott.

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