Ask the average Joe on the street to describe the interior of a radio station and he’ll probably give you some visual clip version of what he remembers from watching ‘WKRP’ or ‘Frasier’ way back when. Those TV sitcoms bring to mind a rather ordinary office environment with glass partitioned sound booths for a sound engineer and mixing desk in one, and a radio presenter seated behind a microphone in another.
If that same Joe were to visit the Yebo Radio studios at Vodaworld in Midrand, South Africa he’d be forgiven for believing he’d stumbled into a super-trendy cocktail bar or an up-and-coming ad agency instead.
Glass galore, gobos gliding over pure white floors and walls, and color changing lighting from Martin smartMAC™ luminaires … and a bar in the foyer! You wouldn’t automatically think it was a radio station. Until you glimpsed the DJs through the glass walls of their sound-proof broadcast suites.
Funky and exciting
The man behind the design of the studio is Gerrie Swart of Secelec Consulting Engineers, whose brief from Tom London and Umayya Theba of Yebo Radio was to make the studio a “funky and exciting” place for 12-25 year olds. “And it certainly has been the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on in terms of lighting”, said Swart. “The lighting was a key element and once I’d investigated the architectural lighting options available, it was obvious that the Martin gear could offer all the components the client was hoping for.”
Gerrie approached Martin’s South African representative, Electrosonic, with a CAD drawing of the concept and a request for equipment that would add color and light to the contemporary design. Electrosonic immediately arranged a demonstration for Swart and his clients, Tom and Umayya, as well as the Yebo Studio Design Engineer, Barry Geldenhuis.
“Electrosonic’s demo room was really impressive, and they showed us all aspects of the products before we made a decision on what to use. They also had some very good ideas and improvements on some of our ideas. Some of the things we wanted to do would have been too expensive and even though we pretty much had carte blanche, we still had to keep to a budget. In the end, I think we achieved a great finished product while still keeping the cost as low as possible. Barry and his team of designers were a tremendous help in making possible some of our more quirky ideas for the lighting of the studio glass walls and the equipment room. Electrosonic’s installation progressed smoothly and the finished result is truly impressive,” said Swart.
In selecting the right lighting for the application, Electrosonic proposed LED as well as Martin smartMAC™ moving heads and Stagebar 54s™. The smartMAC was an obvious choice for the environment because heat is not an issue with them and they are silent.
Robbi Nassi of Electrosonic, who programmed the smartMACs via a Martin LightJockey™ running off a scheduler, said “This was a very exciting project as it was the first time we’ve ever used moving light fixtures inside of a radio studio where the surrounding environment has to be dead silent. The smartMAC worked perfectly for this application. The programming was time consuming as one could not see all the smartMACS from the point of control as the LightJockey is installed in the main rack room. With the help of Kobus Visser from Electrosonic and a mobile phone, we managed to finish the programming with a satisfying result for the client.”
On entering the studio, visitors are greeted with “yebo” gobos creating patterns on the walls and floor. The smartMAC’s role as a promotional image projector with the ability to dynamically project an image, logo, or message onto any surface – and easily adjust that message to whatever the occasion - makes the entire space a canvas for a marketing message, raising the commercial value of the space.
The three smartMACs and two Stagebars installed in this area are programmed to change color slowly, creating great ambience. The main function of the Stagebars is to highlight the uber-tech equipment racks which are visible from the foyer through a curved glass wall.
LED tubes and FLEDs - for signage and creating movement through slow color changes - were installed between the double glazed studio windows, as well as inside the front face of the studio desks, behind the acoustic panels and in between the system racks.
The two studios - an on-air studio and a production studio - both have smartMACs programmed to move even more slowly than in the foyer area and in such a way that the movement of the gobos over the desks, walls and floor does not disturb the DJs or guests.
Gobos are also in play at the bar, which is additionally lit with LED FLEDs installed inside hollow white shelving with opaque Perspex panels.
The various stages of the installation had to be closely co-ordinated with regard to construction progress and were completed in three phases:
Phase 1 provided for all the power and data cabling to be installed, labeled and fitted with connectors. In phase 2, the flexible LED strips were installed. Custom aluminum channels were cut and bent to accept the flexible LED strips which were installed at the base of the glass walls surrounding the staircase and boardroom, as well as at the rear of the acoustic panels inside the two studios. This made for a strong, extremely aesthetically pleasing installation. A double row of FLED was installed inside the cavity of the studios’ sound-proof windows and hidden below an opaque Perspex cover in the base. Directly in front of these windows are a number of decorative hollow curved ‘ribs’, inside which a single row of FLED was installed behind the same opaque Perspex.
Then came the smartMACs in phase 3…
The ceilings in the foyer area were finished in a standard skimmed plaster board, and fiberglass acoustic tiles were installed in the studios. Extra steel support was bolted to the main roof structure to bear the smartMACs, thus giving the illusion that the fixtures were ‘floating’ off the ceiling.
And finally, the Martin LightJockey was installed on one of the PCs housed in the main rack room, but is also accessible from a networked PC situated inside the broadcast studio. A number of lighting scenes and chases were programmed to meet the client’s requirements. Power control of the lights, start and end times of the program, was achieved using the onboard Time Scheduler.
6 x Martin smartMAC™
2 x Martin Stagebar 54™
1 x Martin LightJockey™ Scheduler