Designing Their Own Studios to Meet Demand for Content


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Ann Duskus and Vicky Vuong, sneaker artists in San Francisco, met on Instagram early in the pandemic, a time when Ms. Duskus was giving Zoom classes on topics like how to take apart a Nike Air Force 1 basketball shoe and Ms. Vuong was gaining a following for embellishing footwear with paint, embroidery and fake pearls.

When they decided to rent an office together in 2021, they equipped it to function not only as a workshop for making their creations but also as a camera-ready studio for giving online classes, taking product shots and recording unboxing videos.

“We make the shoes. We make content,” said Ms. Vuong, whose company is Cestlavic.

Americans threw themselves into producing photos, videos and podcasts for social media during the homebound portions of the pandemic. Now, as workers return to the office, businesses are turning into content creators. And many are adding in-house production and broadcast facilities to pull it off.

Companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfit office space with acoustical paneling, lighting rigs and recording equipment, and some are building broadcast studios modeled on the ones news stations use.

Media companies have long had such facilities, of course. And it’s no surprise that social media companies have them, too. YouTube and TikTok built studios in their Manhattan offices where top creators can make videos.

But now firms in a wide variety of industries — even ones not known for being trendy, like banking — are getting in on the act. In the process, some are saving millions of dollars that they would have spent for others to create content for them.

“A significant portion of the business world is engaged on some level with content creation,” said Gabe Marans, a vice chairman at the real estate services company Savills, which recently added a soundproofed studio in its New York office. Mr. Marans has used the space himself to make podcasts and videos that he has posted on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s a new frontier,” he added.

In the past, many companies farmed out content creation to production studios or creative shops. But the pandemic forced them to rely on their own devices, even if the results were not quite as polished. And the widespread embrace of social media — Americans spend more than two hours a day on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms, according to recent data — gave rise to the idea that everyone and anyone can be a creator.

Then, too, there is the speed at which content is consumed these days — often there’s just not enough time to outsource the task.

“It’s important to do this on the fly,” said Michelle Cleverdon, a vice president in the workplace advisory practice at Colliers, the commercial real estate brokerage firm.

The National Hockey League acquired that agility when it set up a 600-square-foot broadcast studio in its new headquarters in Midtown Manhattan. The space, created with the help of TPG Architecture and other designers and fabricators, is lined with LED screens and light-box arrays that can be programmed to, say, orange, if the Philadelphia Flyers happen to be visiting, or red, when the Carolina Hurricanes arrive.

Staffed by a content creation team that in recent years grew to more than 60 employees, from just a handful, and equipped with 18 routable monitors, four robotic cameras and a control room that can seat 12, the studio has enabled the league to start programs on YouTube such as the magazine show “NHL Mash-Up” and the gambling show “NHL Puckline.” A so-called whisper room for audio mixing was just added to the facility.

“We changed the philosophy of the entire business to be more media- and entertainment- and content-oriented,” said Steve Mayer, the chief content officer and senior executive vice president for the N.H.L.

The language-learning app Duolingo — which turned its mascot, a plush, green owl, into a TikTok sensation and invited social media influencers to a “Creator Day” last year — added a production studio when it recently expanded its headquarters in Pittsburgh. The space has enabled executives to give television interviews without traveling to a network’s facilities, and the company has been doing its quarterly earnings calls as webcasts from the studio.

But the addition of an in-house studio by a national sports league or an educational tech company is one thing. Perhaps more surprising are the many financial firms that are building podcast rooms — sometimes called content rooms — even if some are not quite sure what they’re going to do with the new spaces.

“It’s a trial thing for them,” said Lisa Lombardy, a studio creative director at TPG, which has been designing lounge spaces in offices where companies can host guests for recorded round-table discussions. “They’re trying to figure out how this is going to work for them.”

Citizens Bank still does business with outside creative agencies but recently set up a production suite in a new building designed by SGA in Westwood, Mass. The setup includes a photo studio with a curved white wall that functions as a seamless backdrop — good for taking staff headshots — and two video studios with motorized blue and green backdrops and a video-editing area. A recent addition: a podcast room with a sound booth used to record voice-overs, animations and in-store announcements for the bank’s retail branches in supermarkets.

Truist, another banking company, went all out on a 5,000-square-foot production and broadcast studio at its headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., created with the assistance of architects at Perkins & Will and some lighting and acoustical consultants.

The space has a newscaster-style desk in front of a backdrop made of movable light boxes with LED backlights that can be changed to display photos or the company’s logo, depending on the segment being filmed. There are editing bays for postproduction work, a makeup area and a green room. The studio’s staff is part of an in-house creative agency.

Most of the 200 or so videos made in the studio last year were for internal use, with the occasional social media post thrown in — like one the company quickly pulled together and posted on LinkedIn to celebrate National Intern Day. Truist expects to do more social posts in the years to come, said Vinoo Vijay, the bank’s chief marketing officer.

Mr. Vijay declined to disclose how much the studio cost to build, but he did say the company had saved $3.5 million that it would have had to pay outside agencies to create content.

Such sophisticated studios often require additional electrical power to operate the lighting rigs and other equipment and, because the machinery heats up, supplemental air-conditioning. Costs for creating these spaces can range from $250 per square foot to well over twice that, real estate experts say.

Ms. Duskus and Ms. Vuong, the sneaker artists, did not have that kind of budget — or even room for a separate studio in their 350-square-foot work space.

But with help from the commercial arm of the furniture company Room & Board, they picked out pieces that would be practical and look good on camera. Ms. Vuong, for example, was initially drawn to white marble for her desktop, but when a Room & Board expert advised her that glare on the hard, shiny surface might be an issue when video lights were on, she opted for wood instead.

The studio has worked out so well that the artists have been experimenting with a podcast in which they discuss issues they face running their footwear businesses.

The only problem is that their recordings sometimes pick up loud noises from the metal shop on the floor below their studio. But they just try to accept the “audio challenges” that come with their space, said Ms. Duskus, whose company is Studio Duskus.

“Sometimes getting it done is better than getting it perfect,” she added.


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