Off-Nominal Studio West – A Renovation Story (Part 4)

December 31, 2018

It’s been a while since I last updated the story of the new studio renovation. Two months in fact! The truth is, I ended up getting really sick in November with a bad viral infection.

The face of death.

I missed three weeks of work and struggled to keep up with…anything…really. Thankfully, that’s behind me now, and so are the holidays. I’m easing back in to studio renovation and wanted to share a short but super cool update on some products that arrived in the mail.

Acoustics Matter

Of course, if I want to record audio in the studio, the acoustics of the room are super important. This became painfully obvious as I recorded a few episodes of Red Planet Review in the empty room with laminate floors. Everything echoed.

It will get better with furniture and a rug or two, but as I went over the design I realized there will still be a giant flat wall behind me at my desk. Without treatment it would become a strong source of second bounces that I wanted to eliminate (first bounces will be off the wall in front of me).

The Bouncer

My good friend and podcasting life partner Anthony from Main Engine Cut Off recommended a company that makes acoustic panelling called ATS Acoustics. They make all shapes and sizes of panels but are pretty plain and wouldn’t really lend any thematic support to my space studio. This was especially important because this wall would appear behind me when I streamed or did video conversations with guests.

Their stock panels look like this:

Boring Panels

However, I noticed they also make custom art-print panels. This meant I could pick any kind of image I want and have them stick it on a panel. Perfect! That’s easy, there are tons of amazing space pictures to choose from. In fact, there are so many, it’s actually its own problem. How do I even choose?! Well, first I had to figure out the format, and for this I turned to my trusty Discordians in the Off-Nominal Discord.

Picking Panels

I started with three options for layout.

Option A could make for some really nice panoramas. I thought about picking two great Curiosity panorama made using its Mastcam, like the awesome one that was printed along a huge wall at LPSC last March.

Option C would give me the largest canvas to work with. It would be great for a super high res image, like maybe some of the great Pluto shots from New Horizons, or a beautiful HRSC shot from Mars Express, like the recent one making the rounds of Korolev Crater:

Korolev Crater, Mars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

In the end, I settled on Option B with the help of my patrons in the Discord. It would offer me lots of space for high detail, but give me the flexibility of having two separate images. Each panel would be two feet wide and three feet tall. Now I just had to pick the images.

A Space for Space

One image processor I’ve always been a fan of is Seán Doran (Twitter: @_TheSeaning) out of London, England. Seán does all kinds of incredible work with publicly available image data, like portraits of Mars, rendered flybys using digital terrain modelling of places like Jezero Crater, and even stitched Juno images of Jupiter to create a simulated video of a perijove.

I settled on the idea of using the two frames to create a juxtaposition, a duality of places that I think fits well with the podcast themes: The Moon and Mars. One, a place we’ve been and hope to go back to again, and another, a place on the horizon. These two worlds have lived in contrast to one another for a long time and I wanted to encapsulate that debate behind me.

Seán has done work on both places, so I was in luck. I picked out two of my favourite pieces and contacted him about licensing. Just my luck, he’s super cool and let me print the pieces for whatever licensing price he thought was fair. I was happy to send a little cash his way, because it was totally worth it when these showed up at my door.

Fresh custom acoustic panels. My cat Admiral Fitzwallace was not interested.

Mounting the Planets

Now I had the fun task of getting these puppies on the wall. Started with some painter’s tape to get a rough idea of where I wanted them. This is a useful skill my wife taught me to easily visualize things.

ATS sends great templates to help with mounting. So I stuck it to the wall and levelled it. Then you just drill the holes out where they say to!

Each hole was fitted with an anchor and then the special included Z-clips were affixed to the wall. Rinse and repeat for the second panel. It was extra fun lining up the anchors so they were not only level but matching themselves in height.

The backs of the panels are then fitted with the same Z-clips, but flipped upside down. This way, they slot in to each other.

And just like that the hard part was over. The two panels went up super quick and were steady and level.

Voilà! Now it not only sounds good in here, but future WeMartians guests will stare at Seán’s lovely work throughout their interviews. That should improve the content, right?

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