Design casts Stereo D’s new facility in low light

Post-production studio needs movie theatre-like darkness to make films 3D
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
By Michelle Ervin

At a time when organizations are pushing meeting rooms and private offices into the middles of floor plates, Stereo D Canada has done just the opposite. It’s a strategy which upends current thinking about giving employees equal access to outdoor views, observed Ted Shore, principal at Quadrangle.

“Interiors, through the ‘80s and ‘90s, was all about the democracy of light,” said Shore. “We spent an awful lot of time convincing clients … if you do need a private office, then move it off the outside, have some interior glass and let the light be open to the workstations, so this is an interesting reversal of that.”

In fact, the work that occurs at Stereo D’s new Toronto outpost in Liberty Village demands darkness as visual effects artists convert movies into 3D, as Stephen Gallop, general manager and vice president of Stereo D Canada, explained.

“The images that we’re looking at here, you’re then going to go see in a theatre,” said Gallop. “Those things are very bright, very dark, they’re going to be under scrutiny.”

Locating its Canadian outpost in Toronto gave Stereo D the opportunity to recruit students out of schools that are internationally recognized for animation and visual effects, such as Seneca and Sheridan. Since employees are of a younger demographic, selecting a site in the trendy Liberty Village neighbourhood, with its live-play-work options and proximity to transit, was seen as a strategic move in attracting and retaining talent.

Around 240 employees now occupy phase one of the space, which spreads 45,000 square feet over a split level. With phase two complete, the studio is expected to accommodate more than 400 employees as it eyes adding animation to its offerings.

Uplighting mounted on widely spaced columns satisfies the mandated minimums for illumination without casting glare on the dual monitor-equipped workstations. For similar reasons, said Shore, this area features a fairly muted, primarily grey colour palette offset by spirals of fire-engine red coil that drop cabling from basket trays to BIVI by Steelcase workstations, which were specified in walnut.

“When I started looking three years ago, it was nearly impossible to find dark frames,” said Vera Gisarov, senior associate at Quadrangle. “You can find the walnut, but it’s hard to find all the dark finishes together because everybody’s doing white.

“I went to NeoCon this year, and all the showrooms are starting to show this.”

Providing a reprieve from the dim work area are a boardroom with views to outside, a sky-lit “central park” and a spacious kitchen with 20-foot ceilings.

“You get pools of light looking down corridors and views,” said Shore. “It was a way of breaking up the otherwise dark studio.”

In these spaces, a combination of industrial and theatrical accents contribute to a steampunk look. Steampunk, with its roots in science fiction, is inspired by the Victorian era, which is appropriate given the 1900s vintage of the heritage building — previously home to the Canada Bread factory — in which Stereo D Canada’s facilities are located.

Most notably, an artist reimagined old boiler end caps as clocks, which are repurposed in the central park, where they are set to the time zones of the company’s three locations, including its outpost in Pune, India, as well as its headquarters in Burbank, California.

The boiler end caps aren’t the only relic of the facility’s past to be incorporated into its new use. The kitchen, which, incidentally, used to house the boilers, retained its concrete flooring, except where the floor had to be raised, said Shore, pointing out the seam where the old concrete meets the new concrete.

“It was all part of the character of the building that we wanted to highlight, not make go away,” he said.

In the meeting rooms, Edison-style bulbs extend from custom light fixtures and replicas replaced circa-1940s factory windows comprising a grid of panes, which easily integrated privacy frosting across its centre row.

In a living room-esque space off reception, lounge seating is anchored by gothic-patterned, moss green rugs, which Gisarov noted were created using carpet tile.

Although the facility is not a client-facing one, it does present well if celebrated directors ask to stop by, as they sometimes do when they’re in town, said Gallop.

Blackout curtains pull back to reveal a room with a 13-foot screen used to review movies in detail during the 3D conversion process. This redundancy is required of studio in order to maintain its security status, which involves audits by high-profile clients.

“With the caliber of the movies that we handle, we have to protect our clients’ material,” said Gallop.

Stereo D Canada’s past credits for 3D conversion include the block-busting kids’ film “The Big Friendly Giant,” Oscar-nominated “The Martian” and super-hero movie “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

In addition to the blackout curtains, there are similar redundancies that place multiple barriers in the path of sight lines to sensitive areas, which are also covered with security cameras.

“Even if someone happened to be looking into the floorplate, they aren’t able to see directly into workstations, they are looking into a secondary space, whether that is an office or a kitchen,” said Gisarov.

In addition to four review rooms, there is a fully accessible main theatre featuring a 26-foot screen and 30 lounge-style seats.

Movies are projected onto either the silver or white screen, depending on whether 2D or 3D material is being viewed, from a 2K Barco. The sensitive machine sits on its own stand, which penetrates the floor, grounding it on the concrete to ensure a crisp image.

The theatre is also acoustically treated and wired for sound in case the post-production studio ever branches out in audio work.

“This is the best room in the house, as they say, and was the last room finished here because the theatres take the most time and effort to complete,” said Gallop.

Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.

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