There’s a lot of reality TV shows focused on building small living spaces, and a few have made episodes out of constructing petite recording studios in recent years. We wrote about Treehouse Masters on Animal Planet a few years ago when it built an airborne facility for Bear Creek Studios in Woodinsville, WA, and a backwoods studio retreat for country stars Florida-Georgia Line. Now another building-on-basic-cable program, Tiny House Nation on FYI, has gotten into the recording racket, building a 700-square-foot studio for rapper/producer Lil Jon.
Tiny Houses have become a hot property in recent years. The micro-dwellings are the result of a movement towards homes that are architecturally designed to promote living simply. While living that way may be difficult for many people (as evidenced by the fact that the average home grew from 1,780 square feet in 1978 to 2,662 square feet in 2013), it works for some and is a source of fascination for others. After all, who doesn’t want a simpler life?
With modern existence often making us both curators and caretakers of our stuff, the idea of cramming all of one’s worldly possessions into a miniature home has a certain appeal. TV never misses a trend, so now there’s a slew of shows that trace the creation of these often ingenious little homes, from DIY’s Tiny House, Big Living to FYI’s Tiny House Nation. The latter of the two stretched the Tiny House concept to the max recently when it created Lil Jon's studio, seeing as A) Tiny Houses are generally defined as under 500 square feet, and B) it’s a studio. But why quibble? The resulting show (Season 4, Episode 8, tellingly titled “700 Sq. Ft. Tiny Recording Studio”) is an amusing way to spend an hour.
Hosts John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin are enlisted to build the space, so they meet with Lil Jon at Patchwerk Recording Studio in Atlanta to plan it out. With a budget of $120,000 (the typical tiny house runs more around $20,000-50,000), they envision an edifice with a small kitchen, full bathroom, sleeping loft with a queen-sized bed, main studio space and a vocal booth. Throughout the episode, there’s an ongoing, goodnatured debate between the rapper and his wife as to whether the tiny house is a guesthouse with a studio, or a studio with guesthouse trappings to it.
Soon the builders put the small studio together and the rapper’s existing audio set-up gets moved in, including his “lucky speakers.” Though the logos are covered up, apparently he works with a pair of Yamaha NS-10Ms (natch) and hulking big left-right PA stacks based around KV2 ES1.5s and ES1.0s. Meanwhile, over in Lil Jon’s mix area, eagle-eyed gearheads will spot an Avalon Design U5 1-channel active preamp/direct box; a Universal Audio 710 Twin-Finity tube/FET preamp and DI; an expanded Avid Artist Control compact control surface; a PreSonus Monitor Station 2 monitor controller; and more.
As the show progresses, Weisbarth and Giffin go on to supplement the existing audio gear with new additions—an Audio-Technica AT5040 vocal mic and ATH-M70x pro headphones for the vocal booth; D.A.S. speakers; Kirei EchoPanel Wave Tile acoustical treatments; and other goodies.
Of course, what is appropriate for a work environment isn’t always pretty enough for TV, so when it comes to the final reveal of the finished studio, there’s some decisions that may have been made for visual reasons rather than practical ones. The punchline, however—and true resolution as to the guesthouse/studio dilemma—comes with the final moments of the program, when cameras return to the Tiny House two months later to see how Lil Jon and his family have finished off the building. Rather than spoil the ending, you can catch the episode online at http://www.fyi.tv/shows/tiny-house-nation/season-4/episode-8.