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I know we're all generally creative types and what that means is that we all likely have our own very intricate and specific preferences as to how we like to set up, organize and decorate our workspace environments; not to mention how we manage and maintain them.

Some of us have practically OCD preferences for how we wrap and organize our cables, hard drives desktops, etc. and some of us have a giant rats nest of cables and piles of disks, paperwork and scraps of who knows what laying all over the place. Some of Us are minimalists when it comes to decorating and some of us love to have tons of figurines and memorabilia all over the place. Some are very conservative and some are more relaxed and personable.

What I'm wondering is what are your preferences and habits in regards to your workspace and why? How do you feel (or have experienced proof of how) it benefits your inspiration, process and work? Also, if you entertain clients in this space, how do you feel it effects that aspect as well?

Maybe we can all learn something from each other.

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When I saw this question I thought it was was going to be about the Pro Tools Workspace Browser. Hah. –  Utopia Mar 16 '11 at 22:21
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8 Answers

At the office I try and keep a tidy space, somewhere healthy between OCD and a rats nest. I can typically clean house in 5 minutes to get the room presentable for clients. But I must say, I do like piles. They remind me of what needs to be done, and eliminating a pile equals accomplishment.

At the console I always need a legal pad within reach. Sharpies, highlighters, pencils are usually strewn about. A work order usually sits atop a stack of Mix & EQ mags. But that's about all the desk space I have in my immediate area. To the right we have a client desk and that's played host to a pile or two in its time. Two guitars and a bass stand in the corner, next to the MIDI keyboard that I set up when the need arises. Guitar pedals line the floor just below the patch bay for when I either a) have a free moment or b) need some inspiration.

I try and keep anything that makes noise up by me. Only quiet items should fall into the client domain, coffee table books, Sudoku and other silent time-occupiers. But if we're done with a mix, and you want to kill some time while I'm making files or whatever, sure, you can play my guitar.

I do like to streamline things. Reaching awkwardly over my keyboard for a fader too many times resulted in a new, apple low-profile keyboard. That ache in my right shoulder went away when I unplugged my mouse and started using keyboard shortcuts. Direct result? I got faster both at editing and mixing.

In an attempt to focus my attention a bit I have started using "Spaces" on my Mac. Pro Tools and only Pro Tools gets space 1. Email, internet, and other eyeball drawing distractions get put away in one space. Productivity apps (calendars, ftp, toast, etc.) get another.

But the number one thing that is key to my workspace is a solid, sound-proof door. Not only because it shuts out the noise (distractions) from the hall. But when it's closed, I have my own experimental performance stage. It's total playtime, and nobody but me is there to judge it. I can make all the mistakes I need to in order to get to the right answer, and when I emerge a genius it's only because no one else heard all the failures. ;) Plus, no one wants to hear you rocking out during your free moment when they aren't as lucky!

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You bring up a god point that our "workspace" isn't just in the physical realm, but in the virtual as well. I like how you've attempted to remove potential distractions using the "spaces" feature. I'm going to have to look into that and maybe implement something similar. Those same distractions have been starting to concern me lately as well. –  Syndicate Synthetique Mar 16 '11 at 0:50
    
I tried Spaces at the house and ended up not liking it. Maybe I was doing it wrong. –  Rene Mar 16 '11 at 13:37
    
Spaces is not perfect and takes some getting used to. I can see how it could be frustrating to many. But it does get the clutter off my screen when I'm working. –  Steve Urban Mar 16 '11 at 16:43
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I like to keep my floor carpeted and clean. I get tired easily when I'm editing so I always end up taking a nap on the floor. For some reason I continue to tell myself that because the floor is hard and uncomfortable, I'll wake up at some point to continue working. :D

I like to put toys on my desk and speakers too. When I do some late sessions and the director wants to sit in, I ask them to buy me a Happy Meal from MacDonald's for me for supper, and keep the toy around to play with.

And when I'm starting out on a project, usually setting it up, cleaning the dialogue or whatever mundane task, I like to have a film running in the background. Usually with the director's, sound designer's or composer's commentary switched on. I think this kinda started when I was in uni and whilst attending lectures, I would listen till I got inspired by something and then start working on my project work then and continue drifting in and out of what was being said.

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It's almost as if the toys are your trophies of times you were in a position to make the director actually follow your silly directions for once. lol I kinda like that except I will very rarely eat fast food anymore. - While it seems it might be distracting, I can see why you'd specifically want to have a commentary running. They definitely do help with motivation and usually at those times are when you need it the most; during the mundane tasks. –  Syndicate Synthetique Mar 16 '11 at 3:25
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I aspire to minimalism but fail regularly, and I've heard people say things like 'tidy mind, messy workspace' and vice versa... which makes me feel better. But my goals of minimalism are thwarted by (cue technical term) 'doing stuff' - you simply do not find interesting sounds from a pile of metal (or whatever) through having a tidy workspace. Show me a tidy foley room and I'll show you someone who hasn't done much work lately.

Organised and seemingly chaotic, is different to actually chaotic. If you have to record ADR in your foley room (god/jah/buddha forbid) or have commercial clients or anyone who doesnt really appreciate that sound design is a messy, experimental business that requires you to get your hands dirty, then it is your job to educate them. Every director I've worked with gets a big smile on their face when I demonstrate some VERY random props that are going into their soundtrack, especially when they hear them in context.

But I aspire to minimalism. I would LOVE to have the budget to have someone design my dream minimalist cliff top studio.... but two weeks later it would be cluttered with inspiring (to me) sound generating props directly relevant to my current projects/obsessions....

c'est la vie

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@Tim, once again you inspire me and make me smile! –  Jay Jennings Mar 17 '11 at 7:16
    
@Time I agree that if I was doing foley at home, the place'd be a mess, but currently at home I'm only really mixing or working on stuff in the box, no recording (all done at uni). So the tidiness thing works there....for now. –  Joe Thomas Cavers Mar 17 '11 at 7:59
    
Ha! This sounds just like me. I aspire to the same but it doesn't always work out too well since productivity is more important. You can see traces of the aspiration behind the strategically placed piles of CDR's, Props, Misc Electronic gadgets and stacks of papers (not to mention the post-it notes). Except my dream minimalist studio is on the side of a mountain here in Denver around 200 yards from my dream house. Pretty close to the cliff top concept though. –  Syndicate Synthetique Mar 17 '11 at 16:26
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Oddly, the only thing I find a real constant is that I'll rearrange my setup from time to time. This varies from simply removing a MIDI keyboard so I have more space on my desk, to mounting my iMac and monitor on a shelf above my interface and hard drives.

I THNIK this helps with my creativity but in honesty, I might just be imagining it!

Apart from this, I make sure the rest of the room is clinically neat and tidy (but not necessarily clean, a bit of dust doesn't disturb me), making sure everything is tidied away.

Would love to hear about how other people approach "studio feng shui"...

Joe

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Agreed, I rearrange my studio setup pretty regularly. I'm always trying to keep track of what works and what doesn't, what tools I need closer and what things I rarely reach for that can perhaps go into a cabinet. I probably do a "strike the whole room and put it together from scratch" about once every 18 months or so. –  Joe Griffin Mar 16 '11 at 16:40
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I've recently converted from sitting to standing up, something I've been wanting to try for many years. It came about mostly because I find myself either seated or laying down for the majority of my life, which just can't be good. So far I've had mixed results, partly due to the fact that my space as it exists right now isn't really designed for standing, so it's a bit Mickey-Mouse regarding monitor height, speaker distance and angle, etc. However, I do find my energy is WAY up and mid-afternoon slumps to be diminishing, and my feet are finally starting to not ache so much (the 1st 2 weeks were killer!).

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Standing takes a while to get used to, but I think it's really good for overall energy and productivity, as you've mentioned. I use a sit-stand, which is great because I can stand in the morning, and sit in the evening. Or... y'know... after GDC or SXSW standing while you work sucks... so it's nice to be able to move it down again. –  ragamesound Mar 15 '11 at 23:23
    
This is really interesting. I've come in contact with several musicians who work this way (and I've never given it much thought until now), but I've never seen it in a post environment with the exception of Field Recording or Foley. I'd love to be on my feet a bit more everyday (as sitting and doing post all day doesn't really help keep you in shape). Any way you could inform us a bit more with some examples of how you're making this work? –  Syndicate Synthetique Mar 15 '11 at 23:23
    
I wouldn't be surprised if 20 years by now standing is the standard way to work. –  ragamesound Mar 15 '11 at 23:23
    
@ragamesound, is a sit-stand a chair-ish product? –  Steve Urban Mar 15 '11 at 23:27
    
@Jay I think it makes perfect sense to have your work space modified according to your standing height. With a high-seat height adjustable chair one can have sit-stand rotation without worrying about cons of either situations. –  Rishi Dani Mar 15 '11 at 23:49
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My studio is in my bedroom and I always work better if I have the bed made unless I'm really putting in some hours and then the rest of life kind of vanishes/disappears.

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LOL!!! That almost made me spit coffee out my nose. I wish it were only a made bed to satisfy me. –  Syndicate Synthetique Mar 16 '11 at 0:47
    
Lol, I wish I had more stuff to call a studio! –  Chris Mar 16 '11 at 1:10
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I think I currently work in an environment that is a notch or two more clinical than I would like for sound design, but works really well for hosting clients.

Like Tim, I believe that the tools in front of you greatly influence your creative flow. As such I'd love a sound design specific space that was moderately messy. keyboards, mics, props, patchbays, cables, etc. All out in space and ready to grab.

Actually messy is a bad word to use for what I'd like. More like hyper-functional.

  • I like a clean desk, especially behind me.
  • I'd like a nice mic on a radio boom arm that I could swing around to record stuff on said clean desk.
  • I'd like a small keyboard controller on a rolling surface that I could push in and out as needed.
  • I'd like another controller device or two within arms reach
  • I'd like a mediumish cabinet in the room that I could use to house props
  • I'd like nice variable lighting that I could use to set "vibe"
  • I'd like a couple of "beater" computers in the room with their own video monitors and keyboards. Maybe even laptops. I could use them for specific processing tasks or to try experimental software on without worrying about my main rig.
  • I'd like a DSLR on a tripod in the room to videotape stuff with
  • I'd like a couple of speaker systems to check mixes on, and a laptop monitoring rig as well.
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I absolutely MUST have the area to the left of my keyboard clean so I can put stuff there, like whatever bricabrac I'm playing with, or whatever I'm drinking. I'll pile things on my midi keyboard and turntables (like they are now) before I let that area become unusable.

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