Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hot Studio – Cold Studio

As I was getting ready to write today I was thinking about how hot it is this week. Well, maybe not so much hot as it was humid. How did we ever survive before air conditioning? My mind’s eye looked back on the times that I’ve been in radio or television studios that were not the most comfortable. One would think that with all that expensive equipment in a broadcast control room that great care would be taken to make sure the room was maintained at a temperature that was best suited for man and machine. But it was not necessarily so; sometimes, temperatures for one reason or another could not be maintained in the comfort range. That brought back images of all the studios in the hallways of my memories.

The first was WUSC-AM. It was located on the third floor of the Russell House on the campus of the University of South Carolina in the older part of the west wing. The three studios, On Air, Production and News Booth were all in the central core of the building with no outside windows. I never remember a time when those studios were not comfortable.

At WCOS, there were three studios on the second floor of the Cornell Arms Apartment Building; AM On Air, FM On Air which contained the automation system and the production studio. During the summer, except on very warm nights the building’s central air conditioning system was cut off during the overnight periods as the folks who lived there opened up their windows for the night air. There was a window in the AM control room but we could not open it because the music from the air monitors would disturb the tenants living above. So it got a little toasty in there. The central heating system was a “hot water” type. The pipes for that system were located in the floor. So sometimes at night, the DJ’s feet were uncomfortable.

Then there were the DJ booths at Doug Broome’s Drive-Ins. I did only a couple of shows in the one on the roof of the restaurant at Main and Confederate. Those were in the spring time so I have no memory of being hot or cold there. But the cinder block building in the parking lot at the Doug’s on Two Notch near Beltline was a different story. That was my on air home for several years in the late 60s. There was a big old Amana window air conditioning unit installed in the back wall and it did a great, although a bit noisy, job keeping the equipment and me cooled, once I got it started up. I made sure that I was there at least 15 minutes early to get everything up to speed before spinning that first 45 at 8 PM. During the winter, there was enough heat from the tubes in the console, turntables and cart machines to keep me comfortable.

The TV Studios at WIS-TV and South Carolina Educational TV were filled with hot lights that kept things toasty winter and summer, but the control rooms at both stations were just about the right temperature. The same could be said for all the different remote trucks that I inhabited doing sports of all kinds as well as events such as debates, news conferences and yes, even a funeral or two.

WIS-Radio was interesting in that the transmitter was in the room next to the master control room. The only thing between it and the DJ was my desk and workbench and a glass swinging door. With a west facing picture window behind the DJ’s position in the control room it got a little warm from time to time as sunlight streamed through it right on the back of my neck. The other two control rooms had no windows. The bigger of the two had a large desk and several microphones for talk shows and interviews. It would warm up when there were a lot of people in there. The production room was actually a bomb shelter since the station was the main Emergency Broadcast System control point for the state of South Carolina. With the hardened walls and underpinnings of that studio I don’t think the temperature varied more than 5 – 10 degrees summer to winter.

When I converted the carport space to what would eventually become my home studio for both the live and prerecorded shows that I do today I made sure that I had plenty of air flow across the room. The supplies are under my feet when I am at the console and the returns through the mud room back through louvered doors to the main part of the house. Even so, I have to make sure that during afternoon shows, I have the blinds on the west side windows closed to block the sun. I love doing morning shows there because of the great view I have of the neighborhood.

When the west wing of the Russell House was extended into Davis Field, WUSC, now an FM station, was moved into new studios on the north side of the extension. That control room, like the one that was there before, was in the core of the building, I did a couple of shows in the 90s from that studio and it was always comfortable. Sometime before I got re-involved with the station, the studio was moved to the south side and located near the outside wall where it has an incredible view through splayed branches of a magnificent live oak tree of the patio below. Spring, winter and fall are glorious in that control room, but summertime is a pretty warm time there. There are two air conditioning supplies and a return all located in the ceiling within ten feet of each other. There is a pretty good airflow in that room, all within a foot or so of the ceiling. Contributing to the stuffiness is the fact that with few student DJs in town, the studio doors are closed most of the time each day. I wonder if I can talk someone into installing a ceiling fan in there!

So the first thing I do each Monday morning is to pull the shades in the window down to block the sunlight from heating things up, and prop all the doors between the studio and the hallway open. Fortunately the nearest water cooler is in the hallway outside, close enough for me to make it there and back while a song is playing, even those short oldies that are my stock in trade. So, if I don’t answer the studio line right away, call back, I’ll catch you next record. I’m out gathering a quick swig of heavenly nectar from that life saving fountain. I’ve often said that I loved a crowded studio; that is even truer on warm days. Every time someone comes to visit, they swish in a cool breath of hallway air. I can’t wait until next month when the student DJ’s happy faces pop in and out to say “Hi” as they head to and from classes.

Bottom line, be it summer, winter, hot, cold, or just right, a radio studio is still my “happy place.” Oh MY!

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