FNG Italy Studios: 3D sound in the heart of Rome
The realization of the Fox Networks Group Italy studios – an authentic “domus” in the centre of Rome – represents one of the most innovative and exciting projects of which we have been creators and witnesses!
The conception of one the most state-of-the-art European broadcast facilities began officially in 2017, with a brief which was, to say the least, “challenging”: planning for the construction of an entire audio facility (acoustic installation and treatment, equipment), located in the middle of open-space offices, as well as soundproofing the server room, located on the upper floor and also meant to have neighbours on contiguous floors. The design of the audio facility, composed of four mixing rooms (twin and independent), two recording rooms and two editing rooms, was entirely based on the Atmos Home Entertainment technology, the immersive 3D audio system made by Dolby and intended for the domestic and mobile market.
All according to plan (so to speak) were it not for the fact that, at the time of the design and construction of the studios, Dolby had not yet released design guidelines nor an official certification procedure.
Our work team was in charge of this daunting task, in direct collaboration with Dolby and Genelec, who provided the audio system. Certifying the studios, even before having official certification guidelines, required a team effort with Genelec R&D in order to achieve a compatible and flexible electric-acoustic system, able to cope with any deviations from the future official Dolby regulations.
Cecilia Torracchi and Donato Masci from Studio Sound Service collaborated with us, Proaudio Construction, to finalize the design process, in one year.
THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Achieving a 3D sound for the Fox “domus” was “just” one of the project’s goals. During the entire design and construction process, we laid down several milestones.
The road that began with the renderings by Studio Sound Service and ended with the construction of the studios is full of anecdotes, concepts, discoveries…
Once the design stage – begun in 2017 – was completed, we presented our ideas to Kathryn Fink, Fox Networks Group Italy’s CEO, in order to give shape to what would be the first certified Atmos Fox facility.
The mass required to guarantee soundproofing was the first major challenge for the realization of this concentration of technology on the third and fourth floors of Palazzo Marignoli – a building of the late 1800s in the heart of Rome’s historic centre. An important structural reinforcement was necessary before construction could begin. The audio facility area’s bearing capacity was increased to 800Kg/mq, while the server room bearing capacity now amounts to 1400Kg/mq. An aeroplane could almost land there! 🙂
The project’s backdrop, District 1 Trevi in Rome, is as exclusive as it is off-limits, where the charm of its fountain is combined with the complexity of access and transportation of materials and workforce into the area, one of the most protected limited traffic zones in Europe and a fulcrum of events of all kinds.
The exclusive location required that building materials be delivered at night, and no later than 6 am; then transported to the floors by crane and… hands.
That’s why the crane played a leading role during construction of the studios… 🙂 and so also its operator, Jimmy.
The materials meant to build the Fox studios enjoyed a unique view of Rome, thanks to their necessary pre-storage at “high-altitude”. The roof of Palazzo Marignoli gave us a “penthouse” with a privileged, breathtaking view of the wonders of Rome.
Maurizio Raffaeli (Director Broadcast Operations), Giulio del Prato and Stefano Maccarelli (Senior Sound Engineers) have played a leading role since the beginning of this remarkable project. They “closed” the design phase of the project by settling on the final location of the “twin” rooms of the studios, according to Studio Sound Service designs.
The impressiveness of the project was also due to the workforce. The building site resources had to take into account a remarkable quantity of “Fox” stickers, which were necessary to identify our team during the alterations of the building.
Once the reinforcement of the building had been completed, the beginnings of the mixing and control rooms took shape.
Soundproofing was guaranteed by walls made of Lecablocco and by floating floors over concrete, which in turn rests on a grid of elastomers, correctly spaced from each other.
The charm of these elastomer cubes (the elastomer, in its various forms, is a small part of the soul of soundproofing), was exceeded only by the precision with which they were positioned, depending upon the mass to be supported and the attainment of an optimal “damping” performance.
During the design and the construction of the project, a sword of Damocles hung over our heads. Or rather, it hung from the ceiling of the floor below the audio facility! A 500Kg crystal chandelier (property of a well-known tenant that we cannot mention yet) was located in a critical position: practically at the precise place that marks the midpoint between the front of the four control rooms, each of which is equipped with subwoofers… The challenge within the challenge was to never let the precious chandelier on the floor below vibrate. Challenge accepted… And won!
Each phase of construction was supervised – on site – every day. In our on-site office, (pictured above), Francesca, as the area project manager, and our project supervisor Sam Costa moved their office lives to the huge construction site that would give life to Fox studios.
For the construction of a work of this magnitude, everything was meticulously planned and calibrated – since the beginning of the project – thanks to daily on-site coordination meetings…
…a Gantt chart, held under spasmodic control by our construction site supervisor Sam…
… and the teamwork carried out with Fox (with CBRE’s invaluable support for general project management, Sabrina Quagliani and Valeria Guzzo), one of the most involved and hands-on Clients we’ve ever had!
In all this, there was no lack of need to resolve unexpected work site difficulties in a timely and effective manner, such as the drilling required to connect the server room to the studios below. An impressive number of cables had to cross the audio facility (the only communication point between the third and fourth floor, the two dedicated to Fox), from the server room to then be distributed within the whole structure.
… also the Pythagorean Theorem is back in vogue!
After the design efforts – the picture below shows a detail of the “shell” plans that will contain the fittings and equipment, including the one for Novec gas, a cutting-edge completely non-toxic gas used for fire extinguishing – the construction has begun to reveal the forms of the rooms.
In the picture below, you can already see the geometry of the server room, net of acoustic isolation.
After building walls and counterwalls by stratigraphy…
… and once the soundproofing is completed…
… the fittings entered the scene, or rather, they entered the server room.
The points on the floor, which fill the room with polka-dots, represent the “untouchable” points on which the floating floor will be anchored.
A little bit of “trivia” on the Fox server room: today, it is one of the few server rooms that receives natural daylight.
This is thanks to the windows overlooking the wonders hidden in the historic centre of Rome, such as the Church of San Silvestro in Capite.
As the project continued, the rooms took shape and eventually received their official names.
Meanwhile, an immense amount of construction material, furnishings and equipment was transported to and transferred within the studios.
The crane, controlled by the trustworthy operator Jimmy, brought everything up… Whole pallets of rock wool, windows, doors, pieces of furniture…
The handling of these materials was an important factor that influenced the project’s time management. Their unloading, storage at the top of the building and transfer within the studios under construction… all the logistics worked perfectly, thanks also to the collaboration of our team with the Ing. company Enrico Pasqualucci, the general contractor for the whole building: and on-site for them and with us, Andrea Giannitelli.
The unloading of materials in the courtyard.
The server room and its floating floor during the last phase of construction.
The transfer of the machines to the studios.
The server room with its machines.
The “hands” required to move the machinery.
Kilometres of cable provided by Custom Cable, thousands of screws and weeks of continuous work brought to life the functional and aesthetic charm of these perfectly designed studios.
The choice of the wood flooring and the allocation to the rooms.
The choice of the wood flooring and the allocation to the rooms.
The last phase of the soundproofing was the installation of the silencers, authentic air flow breakers, indispensable for optimal soundproofing.
At the end of construction, “a 16bD silence” was recorded by our technicians. Typically, the background noise of any room, in silence, is 30dB.
Soundproofing completed, construction began on the acoustic treatment designed by Studio Sound Service.
The whole design was “tailor-made”, including the choice and construction of soundproof and fireproof doors.
As always, technical perfection went hand-in-hand with aesthetics research to bring the “Beautiful Italian style” into Fox’s “domus”.
The filling with polyester fibre confirmed completion of the structure of the rooms. In no time, these rooms would be set up according to the approved renderings.
From cabling to consoles, everything was customised and millimetrically calculated, thanks to the hard work of our Maurizio “Ringhio” Menghini.
Here’s one of the six consoles, each of them custom-made for Fox’s Roman “domus”, designed by Studio Sound Service and produced for us by Matteo Caldarola’s MC2Lab.
The last aesthetic touches to the rooms are completed by carpentry details and… Lights in Corian®. In fact, inside these rooms, aesthetical “form” follows acoustical “function” and nothing is left to chance, including the tailor-made “dress” to “brand” the studios.
The Fox Core room completed by carpentry details.
In the picture above, here’s the room fitted-out, and operating with the recording rooms. In fact, each control room can work independently with each of the two recording rooms because they can work via IP, talk-back and video-back.
Here’s a pic of the pre-commissioning day, with John Johnson of HHB-Scrubs, for the completion of these amazing studios.
Over this two-year-long project, we, at Proaudio Construction overcame every kind of challenge together with our team. True teamwork that required competence, coordination and… Motivation!
After enormous design and logistical efforts came the ultimate satisfaction: seeing the first Dolby Atmos Home Entertainment studios, built in the heart of Rome, completed.
Everything’s operational and ready to go… “on air”.
Thanks to these studios, Fox will continue its operation of sound branding, bringing Atmos into every house and device!
Here are all the other articles from the press release: