PC Music was recently invited by Yfm to have a look at their new production studios. The two suites, which will be primarily used for radio advert and jingle work, are part of the station’s new squeaky clean, superbly located and state-of-the-art studio complex at The Zone, in Rosebank.
There was a dual-purpose to the visit. We wanted to have a look around and see them for ourselves in order to write this feature, as well as chat to the engineers about their new gear. However, Yfm’s management also wanted our opinion as to the role of the production studios in the broader business plan for the station.
This was a refreshing approach for us on the part of Yfm. Journalists’ opinions are not usually sought after, and we appreciated being able to share our thoughts. It is very clear that Yfm are looking to use the new studio complex as far more than just a broadcast center, and the production studios are an integral part of the overall vision. They will also have to pull their own weight by bringing in additional revenue and the investment into quality equipment is proof of how serious they are about it all.
I think to best analyse the new studio concept, we need to break it down into a number of separate issues.
Location, Location, Location.
The move to Rosebank, in our view, is nothing short of a stroke of genius – and although it cannot have been a cheap choice, it is one that should begin to pay very tangible dividends over time. There was also a moral dilemma, and the decision to move to the suburbs rather than investing in an area like Newtown is one that the station came under fire for. However, the argument for moving to the Zone is very compelling.
I remember the first time I went to the SABC’s Radiopark complex; although the setup of a canteen between 5fm and Metro FM’s glass studios has merit, the fact remains that most people will never have the need to head anywhere near Radiopark during their day to day business.
On the other hand, Yfm’s new premises create a space where the mighty voices of radio sit slap bang in the middle of a bustling and upmarket shopping centre. Rosebank is centrally located, and is a place that has always associated itself with the sassy, trendy youth market since the days of nightclubs like the Viper Room and later Picasso’s.
With anchor tenants in the building like Woolworths and Ster-Kinekor, Yfm can be guaranteed high volumes of traffic. They are also located between CD Wherehouse and a relatively new nightspot and bar in The Yard – it doesn’t really get better than that in terms of positioning.
Cutting edge Technology and experienced staff
Although we will focus on the production suites, the broadcast studios are worth mentioning. The studio complex as a whole cost a whopping 6.5 million rand – and it shows! From quality wiring and construction, all the way through to the broadcast consoles themselves, it’s a very impressive facility.
Production Suite 1 is based around Pro Tools and the massively popular Digi001 solution, along with a Yamaha 01V digital mixing console. This studio’s resident guru is Travers Solomon, who PC Music interviewed earlier this year. When asked about using the Digi001 rather than the larger Pro Tools solutions, Traver’s said the reason was simply that “The larger solutions need way larger budgets.”
That said, the Digi001 is ideal for this setup. Travers gets true 24-bit recording as well as the Pro Tools program interface he knows so well from his time as an apprentice to Tully McCully. Costs are also kept relatively low.
Undoubtedly the coolest piece of kit in Suite 1, and the thing Travers loves most about his new location, is an Eventide DSP4000B Ultra-Harmoniser. This application-specific audio effects processor for radio and TV production is nothing short of a monster in quality and possibilities.
The second studio is home to Shabba, who is also one of the station’s DJs. This suite has a lot of equipment from the old studios near Ellis Park and is based around a Soundscape digital multitrack system. Shabba does however have a new Yamaha O1V mixing desk to play with.
“The processing power of Soundscape is real power for me,” commented Shabba when probed about sticking with a Soundscape solution, “My creativity is not based on software based programs and I use mostly external effects units.”
Both suites have an accompanying vocal booth equipped with Rhode 1 microphones, and playback facilities are catered for by Denon CD players (C630) and Denon Minidisc recorders (1050R).
The studios are well laid out, spacious and very clean, which creates a nice working environment for both the engineers and their clients. “I think that that the quality of our productions has improved since the move,” added Travers.
Travers’ description of the production situation in the old studios makes one understand why he is so happy with the all new Y-Lab. He and Shabba used to share a single noisy production “room”, where they used a broadcast console as a mixer. They now have their own suites and can be far more productive within a professional environment built specially for them.
It is also worth pointing out that there are over 20 years of experience among the staff who run the studios from a technical standpoint.
Speaking to the youth
The new studios have a lot going for them. They are superbly located and the engineers have all the latest tools at their disposal. What remains to be seen is if the combination can bring in an extended client base for radio jingle work, even beyond the advertisers who are running campaigns with the station.
In time, it is quite likely that Y’s studios will play host to all sorts of clients who want to tap the youth market. The people at the station are certainly qualified to understand what makes this market tick and how to create material that will carry the message. Shabba and Travers also have access to the high-quality sample and effects libraries ensuring they can cater to any client’s taste.
There are plans to use the production suites to uplift music development and perhaps record some hot and upcoming DJ talent in the future, which can only bode well for the image of the studios as a whole.
Our view is that Yfm have set a precedent here, and depending on the success of their shopping center experience, a number of other stations might soon move themselves to more public venues.
“These studios are a very strong pillar in generating revenue for Yfm,” said Shabba having the last word, “The power of Yfm’s influence can now be felt through the jobs we do as we inject life and energy into all our production work.”
Contact the Y-Lab
Tel. +27 11 880 7070
Fax. +27 11 880 7556