When designing or renovating a facility, attention is primarily paid
to the facility's function. Generally, the desire to create a visually
appealing space is a secondary priority. When a company's prime
business is the visual attraction, form and function share equal
importance. Such is the case with , which
recently rebuilt the radio studios in its central Florida theme
The radio studios occupy a small space next to the Brown Derby Hat
Shop on Rodeo Drive, not far from the entrance to the Universal Studios
theme park. At first glance, the building facade blends with the
surrounding decor and could be easily overlooked as you walk down the
street. Once inside, however, the decor speaks for itself.
The room decor already carried a
futuristic, high-tech look. The new studio equipment complements this
There are five rooms for the studios. Visitors are first welcomed
into a green room with couches and a kitchenette. This area helps
visiting stations feel at home during their visit. It also allows the
station to handle large groups of people that visit the studio. From
the green room, a short hallway leads visitors to the remaining four
rooms: two on-air studios, a rack room and an office.
It's not the most expansive space, but it offers plenty of room for
The two studios have been given themes from famous Universal movies.
The smaller studio pays tribute to one of Universal's biggest stars,
the shark from the movie Jaws. The larger studio is a tribute to
the futuristic movie villain from the movie Terminator 2.
While not critical to the regular operation, the treatment from the
ceiling in both rooms is unlike any other interior decoration.
In the T-2 studio, a long metallic shaft curves downward with the
head of the T-1000 Terminator at the end. This can be positioned to
face anywhere in the room so that operators can have a captive audience
or a sentinel. On the walls are back-lit schematics of the 800 series
The Jaws studio has a recreated scene of a female swimmer about to
be attacked by the great white shark. What's unique is that the swimmer
and shark are above you, as if you were underwater. The detail of the
frothing and bubbling saltwater around the aquatic, life-size figures
is interesting. The only thing missing is the Florida license plate in
the shark's mouth.
The Jaws studio sees more use as a
production studio than an air studio. Despite this fundamental shift in
focus, it is well-suited for use on air and for interviews.
The studios were built in 1993 by Pacific Recorders and Engineering.
While only small changes have been made throughout the nine years of
faithful service, Universal felt that the time was right to perform a
complete upgrade. Now that the renovation is complete, the overall form
of the studios has not changed much from the original design, but the
technology behind the equipment certainly has.
The radio studio engineers were pleased with the work that PR&E
did originally. Over the years, Universal worked with Harris on
equipment upgrades as well. When Universal decided to renovate the
studios, the radio staff turned to the same people for help. Now that
PR&E is a part of Harris, the decision was simplified.
Replace or retain?
The new facilities are a combination of existing and new equipment.
Most of the regularly used equipment has been replaced with digital
counterparts to provide a digital foundation. Still, some analog
The new equipment selections were based on feedback from Harris'
systems division. Universal dictated the function and specified
operation while Harris developed the form. The studios themes did not
change, but Universal did update the room décor. The result is a
mix of technology and theme park.
One major design goal was to reduce visual clutter in the studios.
The previous layout had a cart machine overbridge. This placed the cart
machines in a convenient location for the operator, but sometimes it
got in the way of looking at guests. In addition, carts have lost their
dominant position as an audio source. A video screen can display most
of what an operator would need to see in significantly less space.
Equipment removed from the studios is still in working order. One
possible plan is to build satellite studios in the Islands of Adventure
park using the extra equipment.
The entire facility is designed for digital audio. The trunk cables
between rooms are CAT-5 cable.
Gepco supplied a cable made to CAT-5 specs in a traditional
mic-cable configuration. This provides flexibility and durability for
any exposed cable runs.
One unique element is the guest headphone controls. The guest panels
have a linear fader next to the mic cough button. This is a level
control, but not for the mic. It is the headphone level control for the
headphones. Using the same materials as the console, custom fabrication
of parts was eliminated. The panels also naturally match the
A CAT-5 cable connects the panels to the console and headphone
distribution system. This new system does not rely on the headphone
level control to dissipate excess power as heat. Instead, the level
control varies the signal at the headphone distribution box, minimizing
The monitors in the T-2 studio are hung from the ceiling. As part of
the attention to clearer sight lines, these monitors, Hafler TRM-6
active monitors, are considerably smaller than the monitors they
replaced. To enhance the sound from their diminutive appearance, a
subwoofer was placed on the floor under the studio furniture.
With so many other attractions seeking
attention in the park, the radio studio can be easily overlooked among
the buildings on the street.
The monitors in the Jaws studio are not placed on either side of the
console. This room is used for production more than for on-air use, so
the monitors were placed on either side of the Orban Audicy. This
placement is not a problem during on-air use because the monitors are
not used for critical listening at that time.
While studio furniture is not usually considered a high-tech element
of a new studio, the furniture Universal chose includes several new
design elements. First, the laminate material on the surfaces is
something that is not commonly found on furniture, but it may sometimes
be found under it. The surfaces are covered with a material called
Marmoleum, manufactured by the Dutch linoleum manufacturer Forbo.
Because of its design for use as a floor covering, it is durable and
can withstand the use and abuse of serving as a cabinet fish. It comes
in rolls measuring 12' wide, so it is possible to create seamless
surfaces while using materials that are less expensive than some
Once cut and covered, the surface edge is fitted with a flexible
T-molding to withstand bumps and provide a smooth edge.
While the furniture in the Jaws studio is functional, the furniture
in the T-2 studio offers a unique characteristic. Using the same
construction materials, this furniture implements Harris' Hydraflex
feature, which debuted at NAB2002. This allows the furniture height to
be adjusted from 30" to 38" at the push of a button with a hydraulic
lift system fitted into the legs. This allows the operators the
flexibility to adjust the furniture height to their liking. At the 30"
height, the furniture is also ADA compliant.
To maintain the open feel of the T-2 studio, the furniture support
has open spaces with cable raceways instead of having a solid-block
construction. Although subtle, the room does have a more open feel and
the design helps with ventilation.
Behind the scenes
In the rack room, the biggest change was the removal of all the
patch bays and the installation of an SAS 32KD router. Because of the
demand for flexibility in 1993, the patch bays were a natural and safe
choice. While the demand for flexibility has not changed, the digital
router handles this need with less effort. The router is also
integrated into the Harris consoles so input scenes can be recalled and
input source labels can be changed.
The original installation also used PR&E Molex blocks for
termination. A few still remain for analog sources, but several rows of
Krone blocks have been installed for digital audio and data uses.
The fourth room is used as an office for the radio studio staff.
Affectionately called the dungeon, this room can be used as a studio if
needed. It has the necessary cabling to make it an active space with
the addition of the required audio equipment that can be rolled in as
Interaction between the operators in the studio and the park
visitors outside was important to Universal in the planning process, so
monitor speakers were placed over the windows to feed audio. PZM mics
were also mounted outside to pick up street noise or to allow the
studio to talk to park visitors. To add to the interaction capability,
a wireless mic and IFB system is available with enough range to cover
the street in front of the studios and well beyond the visual range of
Because this is a self-contained campus, the Universal IT department
can install ISDN lines anywhere on the Universal grounds. Visiting
stations can also broadcast from anywhere in the park with a portable
mixer and ISDN codec.
The park is open year round, and during the peak season the studios
are used almost every day. The associated parks offer visitors plenty
of entertainment, and the new radio studios offer visiting stations a
modern and efficient space from which to broadcast. It truly has
combined form and function in unique way.
Thanks to Harris and Universal Studios for their assistance in
preparing this article.
Interested in broadcasting from ? For
complete details contact Ross Marvin at (407) 224-7291 or Ross.Marvin@universalorlando.com.
AirTools PH-500 Mic Preamp/Processor
BMXdigital 30 console
Denon DN-M991R Minidisc player/recorder
Eventide BD-500 delay
Eventide DSP-4000B+ effects processor
Fostex D-5 DAT player/recorder
Fostex RM-1 rack mount powered monitor speaker
Hafler TRM10.1 Active subwoofer
Hafler TRM-6 Active monitor speakers
Harris Hydraflex furniture
Harris/Henry World Feed Panel
Harris-Pacific 3×6 headphone amp
Harris-Pacific producer turret
LPB silent mic boom
Middle Atlantic rack panels
Orban Opticodec 7000
Orban Opticodec 7400
SAS 32KD Router, interfaced to BMXdigital consoles
SAS AXC-8 XY Router control panel
SAS DSS-8 single output router selector/monitor panel
SmoothLine custom cabinet
Symetrix/Airtools 6100 delay
Tascam 202MKIII dual cassette deck
Tascam CD-RW2000 CD-RW player/recorder
Telos 2×12 broadcast phone system
Waves MaxxStream codec
Visit the Studio Spotlight at www.beradio.com for photos of the Universal Studios
radio studios before they were remodeled as well as a special look at
the construction of the new studios during the remodeling.