The competitive nature of the higher education market has made it imperative for universities to offer the very best technical facilities to support students on degree and post graduate programmes. With this in mind, the University of Gloucestershire has invested heavily in its Music Technology provision by building a state of the art Sound Lab and dubbing theatre on its campus in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Acoustic design consultancy White Mark Ltd, which has extensive experience in the education sector, was recruited early on in the project to help the University write the technical specifications for the rooms. These were included in the tender process and adopted by tWO (a member of the Workplace Futures Group), when it was chosen to project manage and build the new facilities.
“Getting it right from the start is crucial for any project and we were delighted that the University of Gloucestershire adopted such a sensible approach to the design and build of their new facilities,” says White Mark’s Managing Director David Bell. “By working closely with tWO, we ensured that these facilities properly met the needs of the end user. They also significantly outperform the ridiculously low standards set by building regulations which, sadly, many educational facilities still use as their only guide.”
The University of Gloucestershire’s new facilities are on the top floor of an existing building and isolating them from other teaching spaces was the main issue White Mark had to overcome.
Dr Matthew Lovett, the University of Gloucestershire’s Academic Subject Leader: Music and Media, says: “We have music spaces underneath the new rooms so it was important to achieve full isolation across all of our work spaces. There were also some initial challenges in terms of ramp access for disabled students and creating a floating floor on an existing concrete structure. However, White Mark’s design overcame these issues and we are delighted with the end result.”
Dr Lovett adds that the University initially contacted White Mark because the company has such a strong track record in studio design.
“After our first meeting we were very happy to include them in the tender process for the brief,” he says. "The standard of their work is very high and their absolute professionalism came through from outset. We are also pleased with how quickly and smoothly White Mark and tWO pulled this project together – we started building at the end of May and the rooms were ready to use by the beginning of the new academic year.”
The University’s new Dubbing Theatre is being used to teach sound design and sound for screen media to students on its BA Animation, BA Film and BA Television degree courses along with MA Film Making. The studio, which has a separate vocal booth and can accommodate up to 20 people, is equipped with an Avid S3 desk and Genelec monitoring that can be configured for either 5.1 or 7.1 surround.
Sound Lab, the second new facility, has been developed for the University’s BA Creative Music Technology course and the MA in Creative Music Practice. This large, flexible space can accommodate up to 50 people and has been isolated, acoustically treated and equipped with a special truss system so that 22 Genelec monitors can be mounted in any number of configurations, along with two subwoofers. This critical listening environment is ideal for students studying immersive audio, sound design, live streaming and spatial sound for VR. It is also a great space for students studying live sound as there is plenty of room to set up a PA system and desk.
“Both rooms are amazing and sound incredible, but we are especially proud of Sound Lab because there are so few spaces like this within the UK education sector,” Dr Lovett says. “We carry out extensive research to ensure that our courses meet market demand, and our investment in these new facilities is part of that process. For us, it’s essential that course design integrates with emergent technological developments, ensuring that our students are more than equipped to meet current and future creative and commercial opportunities head on.”
Dr Lovett adds that it is vital for students to have access to state of the art facilities so that they can develop the skills they will need to be successful in today’s job market.
“Students and their parents do shop around when it comes to choosing the right University and we want to make sure that the University of Gloucestershire is at the top of the list for music technology,” he adds. “It will also help us strengthen relationships with overseas universities, where we are collaborating at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.”
About White Mark:
Established in 1997 by David Bell, John Dunnill, Derek Buckingham and Alan Cundell, White Mark Ltd specialises in production facilities for music recording and the film and television industries. Over the last twenty one years it has designed and supervised the construction of over 600 production suites worldwide. The company’s impressive client list encompasses some of the world’s most famous music recording facilities including Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in the UK, Germano Studios in New York, Hit Factory/Criteria Recording Studios in Miami, Strongroom in London and private studios for producers and musicians such as William Orbit and Damon Albarn. Most recently, The Sanctuary complex at the Albany Resort in Nassau, the Bahamas has been opened to wide acclaim. In the area of audio post production, White Mark has completed over 180 audio studios and many broadcast and video editing facilities for more than 50 companies in Soho alone. The list of clients includes Grand Central, Hackenbacker, Envy, De Lane Lea, Scramble, Lipsync, Molinare, DeLuxe, 750mph, NBC/Universal, Wave, Unit, Soho Square and Boom. Advertising agency clients include worldwide facilities for Hogarth International and AMV/BBDO on four continents.