Future Music has been resident in Chelmsford, Essex, for nearly two years now and for most of that time it has been operating as a normal music retail outlet. In recent months, however, owner Trevor Taylor has realised a personal vision and transformed this backwater store into a veritable musical emporium housing a vast range of instruments, a 24 track studio and comprehensive video facilities. And, says Trevor, it's still growing.
The shop itself has been extended backwards into what was once the garden. This extension now houses percussion instruments and rhythm machines and a walk from there to the front door takes the punter past an impressive display of home recording equipment, keyboards, amplification and guitars in that order.
To the rear of the shop the extension continues and provides the additional floor space needed for the studio. It's 20' x 30', with a 15' drum booth housing a seven piece Sonor kit, and the studio area is bright and comfortable. Pieces of video equipment lying here and there testify that this is not a mere recording studio and a Yamaha CP80 piano sidetracked this intrepid reporter away from the job in hand for more than a few minutes of boogie-woogieing. Users of the studio testify that it has a very distinctive sound quality and that, unlike some studios, what you hear through the monitors is pretty much what you hear through the home hi-fi.
The control room is situated upstairs which means that there is no direct visual contact with the man behind the desk through the usual glass partition. No matter - three JVC TV monitors built into the control room wall facing the desk mean that he can see you even if you can't see him. The monitors also act as a useful security system when the studio is unattended.
The control room was custom designed for Future Music by BBC engineer Gary Frost, resident engineer Mo Witham, freelance studio outfitter Spud Sperling and Trevor Taylor, and it oozes a mixture of professionalism and comfort. The desk is a Soundcraft 24 track with the addition of a Roland 16 channel computer mixdown. Master machines are by Studer, cassette copying is done on Nakamichi decks, a comprehensive effects range is housed in 19" rack units and audio monitoring is on JBL 4343s. Plush carpeting and two leather Chesterfields complete an environment that compares favourably with any of its more well-known West End counterparts.
A great plus is that the studio is attached to a retail outlet and this opens up the possibilities of using a large variety of equipment. If, for example, a band decides halfway through a session that a Prophet 5 would be nice it is only a matter of walking a few feet and bringing one in! There is no extra charge for this facility and anyone who has wasted expensive studio time waiting for hired equipment to arrive - and then paid through the nose in hire charges - will appreciate this attractive bonus.
Audio studio costs start at £20 an hour for block bookings of more than four hours. The regular rate is £30 an hour plus 10% after midnight and at the moment a special opening deal is being offered - £150 for 10 hours recording.
Trevor Taylor became involved in video production because he sees it as an integral part of the modern music scene. As he says: "I see an incredible future in video and I can see a situation pretty soon where record companies, agents and club owners won't even consider a band without some kind of visual presentation. The music is only half the story after all.
"In the good old days if you had a really good demo that was enough, but I can't understand present day bands that haven't thought about their visual effect. Loads of them have never worked on this in any way and they have no idea what they look like or what people think of them visually - I think competition is going to get so strong that people are going to be forced to think about it."
It was this faith in the video revolution that led Trevor to incorporate extensive video facilities into the studio set-up. Apart from the three JVC monitors already mentioned other video gear includes 5 Barco monitors, Sony, Hitachi and Ikegami cameras, the latest Sony VO 5850P U-Matic editing equipment, a colour vision mixer capable of all the standard effects (including chroma-key) and a Chromascope special effects generator. This last piece of hardware provides all those Top of the Pops' video special effects such as colour enhancement and flying picture boxes. Further extensions to the control room over the coming month will effectively double its size and house these video production and post-production facilities.
Videos at Future Music are made in two ways. The first is the "rock bottom budget version" where the band mime to the finished audio master in a one-off shoot which goes straight through the vision desk and onto video tape. With this system the band have to accept what they get - camera changes and all - but at £150 for a whole day's recording and three cameramen this is remarkably cheap.
The second system utilizes extensive post-production work with the accuracy of U-Matic, frame by frame editing and provides the opportunity for endless creative possibilities.
Storyboards (the promo video equivalent of a script), location work, special effects, props, backdrops and superimposing can all be utilised in this second option and the costs will depend on the amount of production and post-production work involved. This second option is obviously more expensive but the result is a truly professional promotional video.
For both of these video recording methods Trevor Taylor has his own regular camera crew and he supervises all stages of production himself. And if a video is intended for television broadcasting he will ensure that all the relevant union conditions are met (this is something many bands don't pay enough attention to when having a video made - if conditions regarding crew union membership and format aren't met to the letter no TV station will broadcast the tape).
It can be seen from the above that as a video studio, a 24 track recording studio or as a music store Future Music takes a lot of beating. Put them together and this combination of all these facilities in one music complex provides a unique service for the musician that is well worth checking out.
Future Music is at (Contact Details).
Feature by Alan Hardman
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