A year ago, the tables, student desks, file cabinets and moving boxes were stacked to the ceiling. The room was once a cozy computer lab until the building renovation saw it get a new coat of paint, only to be designated as a dumping spot as the new school year was upon us.
This was promised to be the home of the Broadcasting Studio for the school’s Arts Media and Entertainment (AME) Academy, so with the coordinated efforts of two principals, after four years of renovations, and watching four graduating classes pass our halls, we have managed to protect it from other uses.
At about the same time, the Dolby Labs Community Relations Department had connected us with Phillip Gerring, from their Software Development Department, because we were looking for guidance in getting our live studio set up, and he had been a video producer in the past. Through his involvement, we have taken great strides in acquiring professional broadcasting equipment and the sleek workstation that is the centerpiece of our studio. He has come in on his off days and weekends to set up the equipment, troubleshoot and essentially help me with documenting the workflows that the studio is capable of.
This Spring, Simone Price from Dolby Labs Community Relations connected us with Shannon from Hands On Bay Area who was coordinating the Dolby Cares Day. Shannon, Phil and Aldon, also from Dolby, formed the core planning group that took my needs assessment and asks and put them into action. Now that we had cleared out the junk and moved the equipment into the space, we recognized the poor acoustics of the room. The surfaces around the room produced rather harsh and cold recorded sound. We identified the need to create some sound absorption on the walls and floors without doing too much damage to the walls and integrity of the room. We also didn’t want to install something that would be too difficult to remove or swap out.HOBA and Dolby provided the tools, purchased materials and organized the dozen Dolby volunteers who came in this past Thursday to work on our studio.
The team arrived promptly in their bright yellow Dolby Cares t-shirts, a diverse group of volunteers who got to work right away. Aldon had researched the design and created clear instructions for the process. Whether or not they knew each other prior, the volunteers took to the task immediately and worked efficiently, all the while chatting and really enjoying working with each other. I was ready to roll up my sleeves, but they seemed to have everything under control. But they did encourage me to put up the last acoustic panel.
In no more than three hours, the Dolby team had created and mounted a set of six acoustic panels fabricated with insulation cores with wooden frames wrapped with black fabric. They also created removable screens along another side of the room to shield from the reflective whiteboard behind it. Lastly, HOBA ordered a set of matching carpeting to add to the ambiance but also provide much needed sound absorption.
And just like that, our studio had been transformed. I can now focus on creating the diagrams and step-by-step instructions for next year’s AME students who will be trained to operate and manage this space. I have so many people to thank. First, Phil, who has tirelessly provided the time, resources, and expertise in making this studio happen. I also thank Simone for thinking of us during this year’s Dolby Cares. I also need to thank Shannon and Aldon, who were instrumental in leading this project. And lastly, I am inspired by the team of yellow-shirted volunteers who demonstrated that work and fun could coexist. I hope to replicate that mood in the coming year with my students.