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  • Writer's pictureBrett Ainslie

Soundproofed NYC Studios 2024

Updated: Jan 24

We often hear, "This location is terrible for sound!" which is especially true here in New York City. It's very difficult to find a good sounding location to shoot at and record sound in this city and many others. Consider how many old buildings there are that are not well insulated, have old loud pipes and vents visible and closed windows sound wide open to a city of 9 million people, workers and machines. You're doing a studio shoot, a sit-down interview perhaps, where the sound is by far the most important aspect. In fact, statistically speaking,

for every 1 minute of interview sound used, only about 18 seconds of the video from that interview is being used.

I can't seem to find my reference but I swear, I read this in a film textbook! So why are we constantly given bad sounding locations? Well, other than the obvious, I find that in NYC, the term, "sound stage" is thrown around more often than "where's crafty?" but I'm here to tell you about a handful of studio locations in NYC and LA in which sound department actually loves to work. In the event that those spaces are booked up or out of budget, I'll also tell you what to look for when scouting another location or studio space.


Table of Contents:

Just because they say it's a "Soundstage" doesn't mean it's Soundproofed

There are many studio spaces in New York City that advertise themselves as "NYC soundproofed studio" or "popular for video shoots, interviews, etc.;" those are often misleading. On one particular instance, I was recording sound in a "soundproofed" studio and the owner came to me and said "You're gonna be hearing our neighbors but you have a good microphone right?" Yes, I do, I have a great microphone that is great at picking up sounds with much clarity. It's a microphone, not a wand. Sorry, my sound-snark is pretty full right now, but think about this; most studio spaces I've been in in NYC have multiple studios next to each other where they rent them out to other loud film or photo shoots blasting music for a music video or fashion shoot, or they rent the space out to a dance team to rehearse. These are all 100% real experiences I've had and I 100% hear all of this. We hear outside, we hear the neighbors on all 6 walls, we often hear the A/C and electrical system INSIDE the studio room. Do not confuse "soundproof" with "sound stage" and be very skeptical of a sound stage in NYC because that term is probably being stretched.

Example of Acoustic Treatment
Example of Acoustic Treatment
The idea of a "sound stage" is that it is soundproofed well enough so sound cannot enter or escape the room.

To be honest, this is very difficult to find in New York City despite the studio labeling themselves as a "sound stage." On top of that, proper acoustic treatment such as foam, sound blankets, thick curtains or other sound absorbing materials are extremely helpful as well, yet rare in these studios and "sound stages."


How to Soundproof a Studio

diagram of the layers of soundproofing insulation

Acoustic treatment and soundproofing are two different things. Soundproofing a room is not just putting foam or blankets on the walls; it involves proper installation of proper insulation within the walls, often using dry-wall, fiberglass, caulk and other dense materials. Even ventilation and climate control can be designed and installed with sound-proofing in mind. Sound can travel through tiny cracks and pathways within walls and floors. If air can get in, sound can get in, and when it comes to soundproofing, you are only as strong as your weakest link. New York City is a tough task though, if you're going to purchase or lease pre-existing space that wasn't already built to be a soundstage.


Listing Sound Mixer Approved™ Soundproofed NYC & LA Studios and Soundstages

Digital Arts NY Studio
Digital Arts NY

I do have good news though! I have worked in some studio spaces and other locations that I really liked and have gathered more recommendations from other local sound mixers. A personal favorite studio space of mine is Digital Arts NY on W. 29th in Manhattan. It has soundproof A/C, Acoustic treatment, no windows, soundproofed doors and was very quiet. They had a green room right next to the studio for clients to comfortably sit in and watch the monitor on a big screen with a short cable run from the studio. The studio was small, however, so with cameras, lights, crew, etc, it might not be big enough for anything much larger than a two person interview. If that works for you, check them out; I personally don't know rates but it seemed it would be fairly priced.


Red Line Studios | Studio B
Red Line Studios | Studio B

Red Line Studios in FiDi came in recommended and looks fantastic to me. They state, "Our walls, floors, & ceilings have been treated with three layers of sound containment. Double sided sheet rock, sound proof green glue, roxul, and sound proof foam have been applied to provide as much sound isolation as possible." Check them out, but remember, the Cyc is not the "sound stage," only Studio B is properly soundproofed.


Bravo Studios | 28th Street
Bravo Studios | 28th Street

Bravo Studios in Manhattan seems to be popular and I'm certainly not the only one raving about it. They have three stages, all of which are acceptable. The studio on 28th street is their best one in terms of soundproofing though, but the two on 27th street are fine with enough sound blankets. See if the location provides furniture pads or if your Sound Mixer can bring some.


Kitchen Sets

MCM Stages | Studio C Kitchen Set
MCM Stages | Studio C Kitchen Set

It's difficult to find a good sounding Kitchen set for numerous reasons. There are however a few decent ones that come to mind. Keep in mind that our expectations for quality sounding kitchen sets is lowered. With that said, Home Studios Inc Studio 1 on 15 E 18th Street Manhattan has a kitchen set that is isolated from the rest of the set, so with some blankets, it should be decent enough. In addition, MCM Stages has a kitchen set listed as soundproofed. I recently recorded voiceovers here and it is indeed quiet and well insulated, as long as there isn't a literal party in their lobby. The kitchen set is likely one of their quietest sets as it's deeper in the center of the building. And hey, a truly quiet kitchen set is hard to come by! There doesn't seem to be windows or possibly even walls shared with the street unlike most studios and especially kitchen sets including the one listed above. The 3rd floor Kitchen set and it's Studio C White Cyc w/sliding curtains are both Sound Mixer Approved™ and located on the 3rd floor.


Alternative Quiet Venues for Film Shoots

Strange Weather Recording Studio
Strange Weather Recording Studio(ClosedJune2023)

I've added a few other locations at the end of this article, but if you can't book any of these studios, other great ideas are looking for different types of spaces such as a music recording studio as no soundstage will be any better sound-wise. Digital Arts NY listed above has been moving more towards this direction, as Strange Weather Recording Studio is recently closed its doors unfortunately.


Another idea is a hotel conference room, preferably in the basement. Basement or below ground locations are fantastic because the earth around them acts as a very effective sound insulator, plus there's no windows to street noise. I've done a shoot in a restaurant where they had seating below ground along with above ground. Albeit, this is certainly no sound stage and I still heard the subway and a little traffic, but being below ground was much better than shooting upstairs. Downstairs was an above average location for me. Of course, being a restaurant, they had a kitchen with prep workers still making noise at all hours and loud industrial refrigerators that can't be shut off for health code purposes.


I've even worked in big popular expensive studios or "sound stages" in NYC where our studio wall is being shared with the wall of one of their kitchens. These studios get so big and popular that they build a restaurant for their high end clientele, but of course, that brings a million new noises on their client's soundtrack. Then what do they do? Blame the sound guy of course ; )


Sorry, I can't end an article with "Blame the sound guy," so let's try this; there are indeed some great locations to record clean sound in; a short-list of Sound Mixer Approved™ (trademark pending) sound stages is below for your convenience. Book away and happy recording!


NYC

MCM Stages (Has kitchen set)

Soundtrack New York (ADR, Foley, Small Interviews, Also in Boston)

NEP Group (For large talk shows/audience shows, global)

All Mobile Video (For large talk shows/audience shows)

Media Mix Studios (Drive-In, In Allendale, New Jersey)


LA

Ben Kitay Stages (now BLT Studios)


 

Brett Ainslie, NYC, New York Sound Mixer posing for a portrait on set of a reality show

Brett Ainslie is a NYC based freelance non-union Production Sound Mixer owner/operator.


He has been mixing sound on location for Film & TV since 2010 for narrative feature films, TV commercials, corporate videos, musical and corporate event live streams and broadcasts, digital content, documentaries and network reality shows. Brett has mixed sound for TBS, HBO, Showtime, Bravo, Disney ABC, Discovery, Food Network, Fox, VH1, A&E, ESPN, MTV, National Geographic, Bloomberg, Vice and more.

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