Using a Storage Unit as a Soundstage

By Logan Livers,

With creative people come creative solutions. That’s why it’s always intriguing to see how artists of all sorts utilize storage unit spaces. Whether it’s an area for band practice, a gallery to show off artwork, or a crafty woodworking shop, there are plenty of creative ways to use self storage.

For videographers, both recreational and professional, a good soundstage is always needed yet hard to come by. But with the right amount of passion combined with enough know-how, you can turn almost any storage unit with electricity into a functioning soundstage for capturing high-quality audio and video.

Finding the Right Storage Unit for a Soundstage

When it comes to building a soundstage at a self storage facility, it definitely matters what kind of unit you rent. It needs to have enough space for any action that needs to be recorded, but the acoustics need to be just right as well. A facility like 448 Studios in Pittsburgh, Penn., is a prime example of this type of space.

According to Jesse Ament, marketing manager at STORExpress Self Storage, which owns and operates 448 Studios, the facility was created for artists, specifically bands who wanted to rent rehearsal spaces. “It started as an experiment in our flagship facility and quickly sold out,” says Ament.

STORExpress consulted with several bands before finally crafting the ideal rehearsal space. “We used tamping walls, heavy-duty doors, 20 amp power, [and] we have heating and fans and soundproof walls,” Ament adds.

A facility like 448 Studios is perfect for videographers looking to rent a storage space to create a soundstage. However, there aren’t many facilities like 448 Studios around, as the concept is still fairly new to the storage industry. A regular storage unit will do as long as it has the necessary features for creating a soundstage.

Making sure you have electrical outlets in your unit is something you’ll have to ask each facility about, especially since you’ll have lights and audio-capturing equipment that need power. It’s also important to talk with storage operators and explain how you intend to use the space, as some of them might not be okay with using a unit for video recording.

“It all depends on the facility itself, so it’s pretty much case by case,” says Ament.

As for using a storage unit as a soundstage, Ament has a few words of advice. First, he suggests finding a facility that has security features like video surveillance or individually-alarmed units. This is an especially good idea if you intend to store your equipment in your unit. Another tip is to avoid indoor facilities that don’t have ceilings.

“We don’t recommend using our indoor facility, as [there’s] a concern for sound,” Ament explains, mentioning that their main STORExpress facility doesn’t have ceilings above units.

Also, there’s the issue of controlling the climate in your storage unit so electronic equipment doesn’t get ruined and the unit doesn’t get too hot with all of the lighting. Climate-controlled storage units—that is, units that allow you to set and maintain the temperature and humidity levels inside—are available at most storage facilities, which is something you’ll want to look in to when creating your soundstage.

Turning a Storage Unit into a Soundstage

Building your own soundstage is all about creating the best environment you can. When using a room that wasn’t built to be soundproof, you’re already at a slight disadvantage.

Mathew Piccolotto, a product specialist at RODE Microphones, says creating your own soundstage rests largely on compromises based on budget, location, and available materials.

We were lucky enough to do a quick Q&A with Piccolotto about the best ways to turn your standard indoor storage unit into a soundstage by using temporary materials for sound absorption.

Q: What are the best materials to use for soundproofing metal surfaces? Are there non-permanent solutions that are effective and could be used in a rented place?

A: “Soundproofing” is a very vague term and often confused with the more common and simple “sound absorption,” which is basically minimizing and absorbing the sound reflections inside a room. Especially when dealing with very reflective surfaces like metal and glass. Proper soundproofing is generally more permanent and extensive and must address both outgoing and incoming sound.

Generally speaking, for effective soundproofing, you will need to use heavy or high-mass materials with high soundproofing ratings, such as thick carpets or insulation bats. The heavier the better. You’ll also want your room to be structurally isolated from all external structures and walls, as sound will travel through the structure.

If absorbing reflections inside a highly reflective room (i.e., metal and glass surfaces) is the main aim, there are many types of absorption panels available on the market that will mount to the wall and reduce the surface area of the highly reflective surface. Foam or blankets are often used as a budget, DIY alternative here. They will be effective in absorbing high frequencies but won’t do much for low frequencies, like traffic outside the room.

Q: Do you need to put down any material over a concrete floor in order to help produce rich sound?

A: Yes, concrete will be highly reflective just like metal and glass. A large, thick rug or carpet on the floor will reduce these reflections greatly, but again, it will mainly absorb high frequencies only and not stop low frequencies travelling through the floor. These low frequencies will travel up into any microphone stands or sound equipment on the floor, so extra layers of foam should be placed under any audio critical gear.

Q: Any advice on soundproofing a metal garage door, which some storage units have?

A: Tricky, as this is probably where the majority of external noise will be coming into the room. The main factors here would be to seal the door area as much as possible with the aim of it being air tight. Again, heavy materials should be used to absorb as much sound as possible before it hits the highly reflective metal door.

Q: Does it make a difference if you’re near an external wall as opposed to a completely indoor room?

A: Yes. Ideally, you would want your room to be structurally isolated from all external walls. The best soundstages are basically rooms within rooms with floating floors and double walls and ceilings. This is hard to replicate in a storage facility, but any additional walls and space between walls will help to diffuse sound as it passes through each structure.

Q: If someone wanted to store their cameras and sound equipment in a storage unit, what are some precautions they should consider?

A: Moisture and humidity are big problems for audio and video gear, and we always suggest storing your gear in a sealed container with moisture absorbent silica gel packs inside with the equipment. You can find silica gel packs at most hardware stores if they haven’t been supplied with your gear. Of course, packing your equipment into locked cases or bags when not in use is good practice, and keeping your room locked and secure at all times is a must if you decide to leave your equipment inside the room.

It’s important to understand that unless you have about $10,000 to spend on a custom-built soundstage, you aren’t going to be able to create a perfectly soundproof room. But you can make a space that successfully absorbs plenty of unwanted noises and produces rich audio quality.

The quality of your storage unit soundstage is based on the budget and location you’re comfortable with. So if you need a soundstage for your video production, consider turning a storage unit into your creative space.