Designing a dedicated studio. Any advice greatly appreciated!

Hi guys, I've been given some land to build on, and over the next two years I want to build a dedicated stopmotion animation studio, in Taranaki, New Zealand.

The land I've been given restricts me to a build of 14m x 8.4 m. And my budget restricts me to a wooden pole shed (see design below), walls are plywood (note, there will be more horizontal studs, just haven't added them to the model yet):

I will change the position of the doors, I think, as having the most used door (the small one) smack bang in the middle kills a lot of useful wall space.

Because of the pole positions, it would allow me to add a mezzanine floor of 2.4m wide, and up to 14m long (in 4.6m increments). 

The studio needs to be 100% self contained, so it needs:

  • workshop space
  • Painting booth
  • Animation stages
  • edit/sound suite/dialoge recording room (thought maybe to make these all in one, then put the server rack outside of the room for sound reasons).
  • Office for my partner to do her photoshop work in (tiny office, like 140cm x 180cm or something)
  • Toilet
  • Anything I've missed?

I want to be able to work on multiple projects at once in the space, as I have a few personal projects I'd like to do that will take years, but also need to do music vids/ commercial work to pay the bills.

How big are those animation stages usually? The ones curtained off with black Duvetyne? I was thinking maybe one big stage on the far right side, and then a few small stages that are 2.4 x 2.4 meters. Theoretically, stages would be adaptable and changeable, but would prefer semi permanent at least, just for convenience sakes.

Other than lining the edit/sound suite, can I get away with not lining/ insulating the rest of the building? Or will the temperature variations mess too much with my animation stages and sets?

Here are some thoughts I had:

The design will develop a lot over the next few months, I'm sure, but would love some input to get the ball rolling. I've only ever used my own, very small, animation studio. So this is a HUGE step for me.

Thanks!

Harrie

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I built a studio at the back of my suburban block, so I did something similar - only slightly under half the size at 8.3 metres wide (external - about 8.1 metres internal) by 6.5 metres deep.

Well, I got the building built for me by a builder that does small cottages on a budget, and I painted it, laid a floating floor, and installed a special circuit for film lighting, and lighting bars hanging from the ceiling.  

I positioned my backdrop on the back wall, 4.8 metres wide.  That gives me some room on each side to position lights, and also for a rack for sheets of ply and particle board, and a vac former on the other side.  A shot from when it was a nice clean empty space, raising the frame for the canvas backcloths to be stapled onto:

 

I had previously worked in a space that had a similar width but was only 4 metres deep, and that was sometimes not enough, my camera was right up against the back wall.  I sometimes have 2 sets up at once, side by side, and a third one pushed up against the wall out of the way.  (I usually only have the lighting on one of them at a time, so no black curtains are needed.)  So I think your main animation bay has ample width for a large landscape set, or two smaller interior sets.  I don't know what the depth of the space is where the office/editing room wall is, but there is more room in the middle to move the camera back for the occasional wide shot, so it shouldn't be restricting.

I would have liked a 3 metre ceiling height, but for cost reasons settled for 2.7 metres.  With 16:9 widescreen, that height seems to be enough, but I like your 4.2 metres at the low end!

Having your workshop at the other end is good.  I would have liked to separate mine more but didn't have room.  I agree about moving your door to that end.

I like your enclosed room with loft above too!  The office could be up there, and editing, leaving downstairs for all the workshop tools so you don't have to carry materials up and down the ... stairs?  ladder?  

I've worked in an uninsulated space with a tin roof, and it got very cold in winter and unbearably hot in summer (Melbourne, Australia) so I considered full insulation and a reverse cycle air conditioner pretty important if I was going to make full use of it.  I haven't lived in Taranaki, but I did live in Christchurch and Wellington, and they get hot enough, and cold enough, to make it pretty hard to work in a space without insulation.  I would put in a layer of foil insulation in the walls, between the outer cladding and the inner wall lining, and batts in the roof.  

You only need those small curtained-off stages when you have several animators shooting different scenes at the same time.  I've never done that, it's been two animators at the most and I've been able to light both sets without one interfering with the other.  But I can ask Tony Lawrence how big the curtained stages were on his Plasmo series - they had 5 or 6 cameras going at once for that, and I remember seeing the black curtains when delivering a sculpt to the studio, but I don't know the sizes.  I think it varied with the needs of each shot.   One thing they did - paint the ceiling black - I don't do.  I can still get deep blacks in my set with a pale ceiling, and I need some ambient light for when I am using the space as a workshop. 

Mine is built with conventional pine framing, Hardiplank exterior weatherboards, corrugated iron roof, and plasterboard wall lining.  I have double doors to allow large objects to go in or out, but no garage door because it is a suspended floor, up on stumps - the slope of the ground would have made a concrete slab more expensive, it would have been a metre thick at one corner.  But that does give me some storage underneath - and storage becomes a problem after a couple of years of making sets and props.

Wow, thanks for the incredibly detailed reply Nick! Been a big fan of your work and tutorials over the years, and used some of your guides for equipment etc when I was making DISAPPEAR.

I was afraid that I might have to line it. I remember shooting DISAPPEAR in my dad's engineering workshop in a room we built there (6x3.5m if I can recall correctly). We lined the walls with plaster board, just with an airgap, but not the ceiling. Covered all of the surfaces in black builders paper, stapled on, to kill reflections. However, the space proved to not be ideal. Perhaps the steel exterior walls contributed, but it got unbearably hot in summer, and really cold in winter. This, of course, also caused my sets to warp slightly. But most annoyingly, caused my hands to sweat, which is particularly bad when you are touching the puppet etc.

So perhaps I will have to go for a full insulated route. This is slightly problematic for a number of reasons however. Firstly, because going for a standard framing design will increase my costs dramatically (it requires much different foundation work. Pole sheds don't always have concrete floors, so the floor in my shed is not considered structural, which brings down cost a lot, as well as building permit requirement costs etc). Also, with the sloped roof, at a fairly big height, putting in a ceiling, with insulation, could prove to be a challenge.

My building site is level, so I have that going for me. If it comes to it, I could postpone the build for another year or so to save up the additional money to go for standard framing and a level ceiling if needed. However, I'd likely loose my mezzanine, due to reduced ceiling height. Each third of potential mezzanine space in the current design is 2.4m x 4.6m, so with the current drawing, I'd lose about 22sqm of office space. The building would however be substantially easier to line and insulate. If I went that route, I'd likely go batts in all walls, and some polystyrene insulation in the foundations/concrete floors. Reduced ceiling height may also help a lot with the cost of running air conditioning, which I expect to cost an absurd amount of money with a 4.8m high ceiling, in a space this big, regardless of insulation.

Maybe a double door of some sort would be a better option for me too. It probably helps a lot with insulation and such. The only thing that bothers me about it is that if for whatever reason I want to drive a vehicle in there, be it for a greenscreen shot or otherwise, I wouldn't be able to. But then, I could always use dads 18x22m shed for that. So not a dealbreaker at all.

I'm not in a massive hurry to build, as when I move back to New Zealand (am in Budapest now), I will have access to my old, small studio again. So I can make that work in the mean time. Not having office space is a killer though. But again, "it's all for the greater good".

In terms of lining, I was thinking Ply too, instead of drywall. Gib just seems so fragile. I want to be able to make modifications to the space as needed, and adding sheets of ply with screws (for easy removal), seems the way to go. I think cost wise it's not so different, as it doesn't need plastering/ sealing etc. Also, I could potentially paint or dark stain the sheets before they go up, saving on that hassle too.

Lots of things to consider. I think I'll have to get three phase power run to it too, if I want to run a 10,000 va online double conversion UPS (the power isn't very clean out there, being rural). I figured the max 8000w I'd be able to pull from that should be more than enough to run my computers and lights. Then put the aircon on a separate circuit. Not a big deal. There is already three phase power coming from a 50kva box on the property, so doesn't change too much.

Finally, running water. I don't want to build a septic tank system, as that costs too much. I was gonna go with a compost toilet. But in terms of running water for making molds etc, I still need to run my water off somewhere, perhaps into a plant bed of sorts, but I can't do this with plaster. In the past I have just used large buckets for this, and discard the plaster water on the gravel driveway. I don't mind doing this again. Perhaps for any chemicals, I could just have some 22 or 44 gallon drums to dispose of those. But a septic tank system is well out of my budget.

Lots to think about.

I guess the main question is for now, do you think it's worth loosing 22sqm of office space, and some ceiling height (new height will likely slope from 3.6m to 3m, I'd have to do the math), in order to keep the cost of insulation and running costs of climate control down? 

Also, just for fun, here is the view from the studio. Will have to put some windows in my office I think!

Hi Harry

Sounds great. Funnily enough I am just constructing a shed/studio in my garden at the moment. It will have a 3.1m high ceiling and is approx 5m x 5m - my wife wants a bit of greenhouse space too, otherwise it would have been a little bigger. 2 walls are lightweight concrete block, and 2 will be wood. Solar panels on a slightly sloping roof.

Definitely insulate, if only to protect against condensation, which can wreck delicate electronics and of course, warp sets etc. The foil-backed stuff is worth the extra money.Floor insulation - apparently insulating the perimeter does as much as insulating underneath - not intuitive but look it up. So the cheapest route is to just do the perimeter with up stands of insulating board.

As you have such great headroom, I would look at getting the most out of the upper floor space, make sure you don't clutter it with roof framing, except where there is to be a wall. Perhaps you could have  half the area on two storeys and reserve one end for big sets?

For lining the walls, I find OSB board very good, and quite cheap. Don't forget a vapour barrier to keep the damp outside!

And keep the loo outside... a lean-to or something like that?

Wow, that view!  Is that Egmont?  I'd like to put in a Japanese garden with that in the background.

I have a 5000va double conversion UPS for my lighting circuit, hard wired in to the main power. (About A$5000 with installation by an electrician.)  But with the new forms of low voltage lighting, or even the lower light requirements with halogens when shooting with a DSLR instead of film, I really don't need that much.  I could have stuck with the plug-in 1500va unit I borrowed for testing.  (More like A$1600 with no installation costs.) The only reason really is that I had already put in the lighting circuit, and power points on the ceiling, and that would have been wasted.  If I had it to do over, I would just run extension cords across the ceiling, and go with the smaller plug-in unit.

All other power is unfiltered, the variation of 1 or two volts doesn't cause problems for the computer, camera, work lights, or power tools.  It's only the halogen and LED filming lights that need steady power to prevent flickering.

I don't think you need to lose that much ceiling height.  We are looking at an extension with a a high sloped ceiling, it will be insulated but I think it only adds 100 to 200mm to the thickness.  So 4600mm at the high end, 4.000mm at the low end.  (Not 3.6 - 3.0 metres, did you mis-type?) That is below the minimum 2.4 metre ceiling height per storey, but still room to stand up on both levels.

With drywall, I have to find the studs to put up shelving - which I have a lot of, high up around 3 walls, to hold my stuff.  I can see where ply would be attractive.

I have running water and a sink with a drain, but they found it needed a pump to get the water uphill to reach the main drain, so I can't let any plaster get in it either.  I still have to use the buckets and throw out the sludge and bits of dry plaster.

Hi Simon and Nick, thanks for your inputs! Really useful. A long road ahead, and I want to be putting my best foot forward.

Yes, that is indeed Mount Egmont! 30-45 minutes drive, for some of the most beautiful hikes in the known world. Speaking of Japanese gardens, Egmont was used as mount fuji in "The Last Samurai". So seems more than appropriate .

Ok, so I will definitely go with insulation then. It seems to be a lot more important than I'd initially considered. Perhaps I was clouded by my attempt to save some cash.

I'll talk to my father about construction methods to facilitate the insulation. And also about losing as little square meterage as possible. Perhaps an answer would be to consider a two story structure. Although I'm almost certain this is out of budgetary reach, particularly with the lower level needing headspace of at least 3m for lighting purposes.

In terms of mezzanine. I'm not comfortable going under 220cm per level, if the space is to be useable. I'm 195cm tall, so anything less feels like I'm going to hit my head. 2 meters would mean crouching while I walk. 2.1 or 2.2m ought to be doable though.

I'll see if fully lining a pole shed is a reasonable venture, as this would still be by far the cheapest construction method. Lining with plywood also ought to help with insulation, as well as the vast practicality of adaptability it provides.

My main issue with low voltage lighting is that high CRI lights are still very expensive, and all tungsten lighting is very cheap - and provides high CRI natively. However, this is something I need to look into further. But the lack of heat produced by low voltage lighting certainly is appealing, particularly when having to run air conditioning etc. That being said, in the past I lit mostly with birdies (par16 cans), with 20,35, and 50w bulbs. I'd be looking to add some fresnels this time around, but maybe just some 150w arri knock offs or something, so not massive amounts of power. 

I think you make a good point regarding individual power conditioners. It's less money upfront, and it's scalable. I can also add a dedicated UPS to the server rack for the edit room that way, that can run 24/7. And not waste any on things that don't need it. LEDs have their own transformers anyway, so I may even be able to create my own double conversion system, if I figure out a way to build my own high CRI led lights. Love building my own equipment.

I think also, I could consider using mostly Tungsten, but going for a 12v lighting grid, as most halogen bulbs, Leds, and tube lights all use 12v anyway. The advantage of going for a 12v grid, is that I can legally do all the wiring myself, and I could use solar energy supplies to build stuff. I need to think about that though, because it makes things a little tricky, but totally doable. I kind of like the idea of 12v grids though. It does mean making/ modifying all off my lights myself, but that's fun, so I'm not bothered by that idea.

Perhaps the pump idea is a good one for me too. That way I could have a flushing toilet inside the building also, and then send the waste up to the properties primary septic tank using a pump. Solves a lot of problems. I remember a SPFX place I was in once had a special plaster trap under the sink, which would filter the water before draining. It just needed emptying every so often, but it worked really well. I could look into that too. I don't mind the bucket system, but would prefer a functional sink, provided it doesn't cost the world.

Do you consider having a hot water cylinder or infinity for warm water to be useful too? Not sure what that would add to cost, but if I put a full bathroom in the studio, it means I don't have to build a small house to live in. I could just live in the studio (although quasi legally).

Just to facilitate my thinking on structure design for the building, what do you guys consider to be the bare minimum ceiling height for the animation stages? I have a few other ideas for how to design the building to cut cost on insulation, lining, and climate control, but it's slightly dependant on minimum ceiling height. I think in my mind, 3m is the minimum. Perhaps 3.6m is a good compromise? I could consider going for a level ceiling, instead of stepped, as it would provide better insulation with the air gap above the batts. Than creating a step in the roof for the office portion, and having two levels of 2.4m height. Workshop space bellow, office (and potentially a small living space) above. I'd consider running the second story the full length of the building, i.e. 14m x either 2.4 or 3.6m, then having the remaining stage area to be 14m x 6 or 4.8m, respectively. Moving the workshop space entirely along to the backwall gives me roughly the same square meterage of animation stages as what I have now, as currently the bay on the far left is entirely workshop space anyway.

For larger woodwork stuff, and metal work, I'll be using my fathers engineering/ wood workshop (22x18m), so my personal studio and workspaces are only for detailed work, painting, finishing, mold making, puppet construction etc. So the space required is less.

Anyway, rambling now. I'll think on it all, talk to dad, and see what's possible.

Thanks again!

 

I do have a hot water cylinder, a small one.  Good in winter, actually better for washing paint and stuff off my hands all year round.  I went with electric, so I didn't have to run natural gas to the studio.  

I had a trap installed under the sink in my workroom at the ABC, after an assistant washed out plaster buckets and clogged up the drains.  an open tank where the sludge could settle to the bottom, with outflow coming from higher up.  I think it worked, but really I was very careful after that about what went into the sink.

I started with 12 volt halogens with transformers - actually downlight kits that I mounted on tilting boards to make movie lights.  But the electrician that installed my UPS explained that they were less efficient, the transformer lost a lot of power as heat, and direct 240v halogens would use less power for the same light output.  So I have gradually added to my stock of 240v 50 watt PARs, sourced from disco lighting shops, and retired some of my downlights.  I have tried a couple of LED replacement globes - they come in both 12v and 240v - but are usully rated as equivalent to 35 watts, not 50w, and like most of those "equivalents" are not really as bright as they say they are.  A cool blue one does replace a 50w halogen with full Colour Temperature Blue gel, which took away almost that much brightness.  It ends up about the same brightness and blueness.   But where I once had a 2000 watt Blondie for my sun in outdoor daylight scenes, I now get away with a 500 watt halogen, or sometimes a 300 watt one if the area is not large.  

Yes, you could get one small double conversion UPS, and add another if needed, and they would be portable as well if you wanted to hire one out or shoot somewhere else.

It seems to me, you could keep the poles for roof support, but fit insulation in between the poles.  Or, some friends built a house in a remote area on a budget.  What they did was buy a very large stock shed with steel frame supporting the roofing.  Because it was a shed, not a dwelling, and a standard kit, it was cheap. Then instead of cladding it with corrugated metal, they built the walls from Hebel aerated concrete blocks.  (Available in NZ, but the NZ site is down for maintenance at the moment so I can't check price.   http://www.csrhebel.co.nz/  ) They are thick, and naturally insulating.  Also lightweight, so easy to lift and lay quite large blocks, so quicker than laying 4 times as many bricks.  The house is open plan - most of it one very large space, much like a studio, with separate rooms for bathroom and bedrooms at one end.  But very thermally efficient, one wood heater keeps the whole place warm.  There is ceiling insulation, and maybe something in the floor slab, but the blocks themselves are the wall insulation.  They are also good for areas at risk of bushfire, since they don't burn, and the insulation properties slow down the heat getting through them to more flammable materials inside.  But NZ not as fire prone as Australia I think. (Damn, they should give me some blocks for carving after that commercial!)

I prefer your design of the upstairs loft going only part of the length, not all the way to the end, with 3.6 wide rooms, not 2.4.  I like keeping that main studio area at the end with a high ceiling if possible.  Are you working with a maximum length to the poles, or could you put another half a meter on the height?  Or have the roof a little higher over the loft area?  It would need some more structural poles in line with your office wall to support the change in roof angle I expect.   (At only 1.7m tall I could manage perfectly well with 2m ceilings, so I see it's different for you.)

Minimum height:  As I said, I manage ok with a 2.7 ceiling, with my bacdrop extending right to the top.  That was what I had at the ABC, and shooting 4:3 PAL TV format I often wished I could extend my backdrop a little higher, or at least raise the lights out of the way.  But switching to 16:9, it suddenly wasn't a problem any more.  But if I wanted to light a scene as outdoors at noon, with the sun overhead, I'd be in trouble.  Maybe put a mirror on the ceiling and bounce it off?   Or cut a hole in the ceiling and make a box extending into the attic space for a light, fitting between the trusses.  (So it's never noon in my films!)   But you don't have an attic space, so I would say, 3 metres minimum ceiling height for a big space like you have.

What an amazing view. Definitely good windows in the office /dreaming area!

Just thinking about the construction side. I used central supports when rebuilding the barn at the back of my house. This has a pitched roof and is less than 2 full storeys high - it had to fit within the original shape. The 'poles' were topped with a flitch beam that runs the length of the barn at its apex. Made from 10mm x 200mm steel with 50mm wood both sides. This provides a spine for the building, and transfers a lot of the weight of the roof onto the poles, keeping the load on the walls down. Rafters were fixed onto this flitch beam, and a short cross-piece fitted underneath the flitch to join the rafters, so making an A-shape. The underneath of the A took the plasterboard for the ceiling of the upper floor.

It seems to me that with some cunning ergonomic design you can fit your upper floor into the building (with windows!). You don't need standing headroom where there is a desk, just in the central area, so use the lower sloping part for shelves and storage. And do you need the upper floor to be 14m long? That is pretty huge. You might divide it for storage, or keep a much higher ceiling height in one area for those shots that need it.

I have also designed my own boat, which is another challenge in getting a quart into a pint pot. For this I looked at things like aeroplane design, where one can get away with less than standing headroom, and the concept that interior space is heavily perceptual. It might actually be quite small but feel large because of windows, light walls and ceiling etc etc.

For construction, if you are doing it yourself, go with your strengths. If you are a good woodworker, then use that method. I am a lousy bricklayer, but my wife wants a greenhouse with a low brick wall, and the back walls of the studio need to be in lightweight concrete blocks because they are against an original wall. Can't wait to get doing the wood!

Think about making use of passive solar gain for heating - i.e. a south-facing (oops, in your case, north...) area of glass that will warm up the air in the building for free. This works even on cold days. Have a glass lobby before you enter the building - on a sunny day keep the door open to allow hot air through.

Building codes have been created by clever people for a reason, and represent the minimum standard. Try to build for the worst weather you can imagine. In the middle of a storm when the wind is trying to rip your roof off is the time to reflect on how saving a few pennies leads to sleepless nights and worry.

Avoid depending on something like a pump for shifting the sh*t. It will break down and require you to strip it down, usually in winter in the dark, with all that stuff stuck in the pipes just waiting to flow back under gravity. (That image alone should persuade you!!) Situate your loo at a higher elevation that the tank. Aim for simple solutions that do not break and can be fixed easily. They tend to work best. Anything mechanical will go wrong at some stage....

By all means fit a plaster trap. We had one at the BBC, and I reckon it saved a lot of blockages. BUT it will stink, as it will have stagnant water and rotting plaster in it. I find the easiest solution these days is to use plastic washing up bowls and let everything settle there before pouring off the clear water and cracking out the residue. 

Hot water cylinder? To have a tank of hot water standing around... I think these have had their day, and most boilers are on-demand. I would certainly have something to heat water if you are doing plasterwork etc, so you can wash your hands. Keep it simple!

Finally, on insulation. Bear in mind that it will keep you cool in summer as well as warm in winter. It saves money all round, usually paying for itself in a few years. Fit as much as you can to minimise heating costs. Other simple measures like having a double set of doors and a lobby, or a curtain across the doorway, will also save money and heat. Wooden construction makes insulating easy - just jam the stuff between the uprights. There are plenty of super-insulated lightweight concrete blocks around these days if that is the way you are going. And roof spaces need rigid boards to be fitted between the rafters. Always bear in mind that insulation costs effectively less than nothing after several years!

Oh, one more. I found that walls can be very useful. You would think that spaces are best left open plan, but then you have nowhere for shelves, to put desks against etc etc. Even in a big space like yours, it would be worth having some nooks for this sort of thing, I'm thinking of the workshop station. And you can heat a small enclosed space without having to heat the entire building.

Hi guys, thanks again for all of the replies! Really got my brain running. Great stuff.

I have decided to build a smaller studio, for now, and allow the small studio to pay for the extension/ second building.

This is because I want to build it right. I understand insulation pays itself back, but without a mortgage (which I can't get), it's still too much up front to build a building like in my initial designs scale.

So basically, what I'm looking to do now is: Build just over a third of the building. Let's say approximately 8.4 x 6 meters (maybe slightly less than six, but more than 4.8), keeping the 4.8 meter height at one end for a 2.4 meter deep mezzanine running the full length of the tall side. Having the workshop underneath, and the edit bay/ office above.

Funny you should mention boat building! I've been designing a 10m2 tiny house for a while now. I'm almost at the point of having a design I am happy with. It's amazing what you can fit into a small space. I want to use some of that design philosophy in the studio workshop and offices. 

With the smaller size of the new building, I'll be able to get the whole thing up and running in under 18 months, possibly under 12 months. The bigger size would run more like 4-6 years with all of the needed upgrades to the original design (my income is not particularly good). Seems like a worthy compromise if it means I can start working sooner. If I run out of space, I still have an extra 3.5 x 5m stage less than 30 meters away.

I figure, once I grow out of the space, I ought to have enough savings to build the next phase. Either attached or detached with a walkway or foyer in between.

I'm looking at going into business with my father doing CnC wood routing too, so if that business grows well over the coming years, it will allow me some more disposable income to build the second building as a full two storied structure. This would give me even more square meterage than the initial design, even with the pathway in between.

I figured the CnC routing would be pretty useful for the interior of both the studio and the tiny house too. As well as for making braces for animation stages etc. But I digress.

Will take both of your advice very much to heart in designing the new, smaller layout. Will post new design images once I get that far. Sorting out my partners VISA to come to New Zealand currently, so my spare time is divided in the next week or so.

Thanks again!

Harrie

Glad to be of any help. Your smaller building still sounds pretty big to me, so it should be very useable. Having the chance to build both is real luxury. Hope it goes well!

And DON'T FORGET what I said about the uphill septic tank!!!! Think syphon...! (There's a subject for a little film in there!)

Yeah, I think I'll go with a compost toilet outhouse or something. Your story about midnight poo antics scared me off good and proper!

It's still a very good size, I agree. If I'm doing smaller stuff, I could still theoretically fit 4 small interior sets on the main stage area at a time, perhaps curtained off. Who knows, may end up being big enough for the extent of my career! Especially with access to a bigger wood/metal workshop space for building etc. Time will tell.

I visited McKinnon Saunders in Manchester, a long time ago, and they had what I thought was the ideal setup.  The set construction area was in a room next to the studio, but there were big doors so you could wheel things through easily.   Both rooms must have been at least 8m x 8m.  Another big room had all the workstations for the puppet makers to do the detail work, and other things like mouldmaking and casting had their own areas, but all were connected.  I just had the one 8m x 4 m space at the ABC, it was a raised loft that had once been the tea room for the workers in a timber joinery, and had narrow stairs going up.   but I did manage to store some stuff downstairs underneath by unofficially taking it over, which helped.  So even my current 6 1/2m x 8m space is a pretty good size.   There are some huge sets in Corpse Bride or Peter and the Wolf that I could not fit into my studio,  but most sets will.  I think I could still find a way to tell the story with the space I have.  Digital compositing can extend sets in a way that was not possible when I first shot in my 8x4m studio, and I was able to get a much wider shot using the one scale of set for my short L'Animateur (shot on DSLR) than I could do with my 16mm Bolex.  Back then, I had to build smaller scale sets to get the wider views in a limited space, then cut to larger scale sections of the set with my puppets.  There are more options now.

 I think if you can start with a 6m x 8.4m space, that will serve you very well, you can do a lot with that.  Actually generating a regular income from animation production is difficult, but if you can, it makes sense to let the work pay for the next section.

Been pretty busy, but had a change of thought. I want to build it as an attachment to the existing engineering workshop (22x18 meters), with the new design being 18x5.5 meters. Means lower ceilings, but it also means direct access to the metal and wood workshop. This is very useful, as it means when it's raining etc, I don't have to walk to the other building just to drill stuff etc.

Also makes permissions and electrical much cheaper (workshop has 50kva 3 phase power).

Here's a quick sketch of my proposed floorplan:

Even managed to get a photo retouching office in there for my partner, and have enough space for a well treated AV room.

The wall attached to the workshop will have 3m ceiling height, with 2.4m height on the low end. Sloped ceilings everywhere, except for a 2.4m level ceiling in the AV room (which will be double layer with an open cloth covered rockwool ceiling to give it more virtual height in terms of how it sounds).

The shed also has one spare room that I can potentially use either as a CnC machine room, or a mold making room. So that saves even more space in my own studio area.

A few compromises for sure, but I think it's worth it in terms of workflow. Just hope the stage area is big enough .

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