by Roy Scivally
KZPS-FM, Dallas, TX
Although some stations, in markets even larger than Dallas, still produce in 4-track, and even 2-track studios, I felt determined to acquire an 8-track studio. The demands on my department warranted it. For 4 1/2 years I've produced for KZPS/KAAM, and for 3 of those years, I've been pushing for new equipment.
When I started working at KZPS, we had only one production studio with an antique Auditronics console, ITC cart decks, ancient Scully 2-tracks (no counters), and an old MCI 4-track. Not a bad set-up when new, but add 12 to 15 years of constant use and you've got noise and problems, no matter how well it's maintained.
During my first year, we replaced the Scullys with new MCI 2-tracks (with counters, thank God!), and a year later, AM, FM, and Production converted to Pacific Recorders Tom Cat cart machines; another big step into the 20th century.
Our GM then decided to move the stations to a more prestigious location. The on-air studios were built around Pacific Recorders' BMX III-14 consoles while the production studio was merely transferred from one building to the next. Used on-air equipment went into outfitting a music dubbing studio.
Another year passed and with failing ratings and outrageous overhead, our GM sought new horizons. A replacement GM can be worse than the original, but not in our case. Our new GM is a man of vision. I've learned this through working with him and from things said by his past employees. Along with the help of a new Sales Manager, our billings increased within the following year to 5 times what they were.
4 1/2 years passed since my first day at KZPS/KAAM, and the only new additions to production had been a couple of Studer A-807's and an AKG-414 mike, but with every client's positive feedback to my work, my position as Manager of the Production Department grew stronger. I never stopped pursuing the upgrade.
...The key to getting a quality studio is research! ...Start out by knowing your facts...
Surprisingly, management became receptive to the idea of upgrading the production studio, and a meeting was set to hear my pitch. This meeting with the Chief Engineer and PD didn't go so well. The CE asked questions about the equipment I was suggesting, and having been caught by surprise, I was unprepared. I learned plenty from that experience. The key to getting a quality studio is research! Of course you've got to sell your GM on springing for the toys, but definitely start out by knowing your facts; not only price and quality, but how will it integrate with the rest of the station. Call suppliers and other production people, visit studios when you can, and learn from those who have traveled this road.
Many late nights were spent reading equipment brochures and sketching out the new studio. Several more meetings took place, and each time I was even more prepared.
Finally, one Friday in February of '89, we installed our new Otari MX-70 8-track with CB-118 and CB-120 controllers. The order has been placed for the Pacific Recorders ABX-26 console. The new Eventide H3000B Harmonizer, 2 Technics SL-P1200 CD machines, and custom built cabinets are on the way.
So, if you need to upgrade, it may take a lot of time, even years, but do your research, decide what you want, know the answers to the inevitable questions, prepare to negotiate, and "Never Give Up."
This is my first time out to design and assist in the installation of a new studio, so it's sure to be an education. I'm making notes as problems arise and solutions are found. When the studio is built and things get back to normal, I'll share those problems and solutions with you in a future issue of R.A.P.