Food Network has been creating tastefully prepared, highly entertaining programming since 1993. Originally owned by Providence Journal, and then A.H. Belo Corp, the innovative network was acquired by The E.W. Scripps Company (now Scripps Networks Interactive) in 1997. After establishing such household icons as Emeril Live and Iron Chef America, it has gone on to create such signature programs as Alton Brown’s GoBod Eats and Rachael Ray’s Thirty-Minute Meals. Food Network currently serves its appetizing 24/7 menu of recorded programming to over 99 million households around the world.
Bill Jarett joined Food Network as the VP of Engineering in March 1994. His mandate: to lead the engineering development of the initial production facility at 1177 Avenue of the Americas. As a loyal viewing audience began to build, so too did demands on the studio. By 2003 there was a clear need for more room and upgraded facilities. A 110,000 square foot space was found at 75 Ninth Avenue, Chelsea Market, situated near the heart of the West Village’s rapidly gentrifying Meat Packing District. A new digital/HD ready facility was designed, featuring studios, control rooms, audio and video post-production facilities, including a fully functioning 3,500 square foot support kitchen.
While 5.1 was on the agenda at the outset of the expansion program, audio remained a stereo format throughout the migration to an HD video system. “Our intention was to move to 5.1 when demand reached critical mass,” Jarett explains. “The initial game plan for Ninth Avenue was to shoot primarily in SD mode using Grass Valley components including signal routing, cameras and a video switcher, while recording on IMX video recorders and posting in Avid NLE rooms. We shifted to more HD production with each passing year and eventually moved to recording HD iso camera feeds on HD CAM video recorders and posting in our HD NLE rooms via an Avid ISIS storage system. The process worked until 2008 when we rebuilt the Audio, Flex and Production Control Rooms and became fully HD compliant in our studio operation,” he adds.
The Walters-Storyk Design Group had been engaged for the initial Food Network Ninth Avenue move, and was the natural choice to develop the new control rooms for the continuation of the expansion program. “I had worked with John Storyk on another project back in the early 1990’s, and again in 2005 when we turned our DAW room into 5.1” Jarett reveals. “I knew his professionalism and attention to detail would guarantee a great job. I remember attending a seminar that John gave concerning his methodology for designing audio facilities and found his approach to our project reminiscent of his classroom presentation. He comes prepared, knows his subject, and is a confident team leader.”
WSDG project manager Joshua Morris describes the assignment as one that took advantage of the full range of company services. “Systems integrator Judy Elliot-Brown worked to ensure that the infrastructure was not only correct, but future proofed for additional expansion. Brown also assisted in making sure the proposed design was consistent with how the rooms were to be utilized. Construction was supervised by Chris Harmaty of Technical Structures, a long-time WSDG associate who specializes in studio control rooms and acoustically demanding production environments. “Company co-principal Beth Walters and interior design project manager Kathryn Boland devised a color palette that would complement the Network’s established design. The entire WSDG team collaborated on selecting wall treatments and ceiling panels capable of addressing existing internal acoustic problems, and recommended lighting fixtures and modifications to existing millwork,” Morris adds. “Our team has collaborated on hundreds of challenging space, time and noise sensitive projects,” John Storyk says. “Food Network was particularly exigent as we had a locked completion date. Bill Jarett needed to have these rooms online within a single month, including positioning the surround speakers and rebuilding and replacing equipment furniture to accommodate the new sound field. Scheduling the various components of this assignment sometimes approached NASA launch proportions. On the plus side was the fact that the control rooms had been well planned initially. We didn’t need to raise the ceilings or reformat them dramatically. This is where experience and teamwork play a deciding role.”