'Vest pocket' units provide sound alternative

Responding to Gotham’s production glut, “vest pocket” studios — small, specialized sound studios — are popping up around the city, becoming an increasingly popular alternative to the larger, more expensive facilities.

Instead of making the haul to Los Angeles or to New York-area biggies Silvercup, Steiner and Kaufman, filmmakers now can remain in Manhattan.

Two such Gotham studios have been designed by John Storyk — who created Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady studio as well as studios for Alicia Keys and Green Day — and are currently handling projects for Gus Van Sant, Rosario Dawson, Todd Haynes and Scott Rudin.

Despite their limited size, these shops can still pack a punch, offering big studio tools such as ADR gear and Foley rooms.

Storyk points to his $1 million, 800-square-foot Ovasen Sound studio near Union Square. “It’s small but very tight,” he says. “People are shocked when they go through the door. They don’t expect it. It’s another world. Big-room acoustics and performance in a relatively small room.”

The lure of these microstudios, according to Michael Croiter, whose Storyk-designed Yellow Sound Labs is housed on the first floor and basement of a former hair salon, are personal touches and comfort.

“I think it’s a much more intimate and cozy environment,” says Croiter, whose East Village studio is named after his 10-year old yellow labrador Tyler. “You walk in and you’re in a home. There’s a full kitchen, espresso machine, plasma TV, wood everywhere. A lot of times people finish, stay for two hours and watch TV and hang with the dog.”

Business is good. Since opening in August, he has turned a six-figure profit while juggling the mortgage and design, construction and equipment costs of $500,000 on the property.

“It started really strong,” says Croiter. “It’s profitable and it was all paid for by December.”

Croiter thinks Gotham’s aggressive production tax credits may have helped boost the business of the small shops in Manhattan — the city and state saw more than $300 million in new film and TV revenue last year.

Margaret Crimmins, who operates Dog Bark Studios in the NYU area, focuses on documentaries, which have included “Jesus Camp,” “My Architect” and “Mad Hot Ballroom.” She just wrapped sound editing on “Dream of Life,” an avant-garde documentary on singer/writer Patti Smith and has two films that passed through her studio showing at the Tribeca Film Festival (“Tootie’s Last Suit” and “Taxi to the Darkside”).

Most of her business comes from repeat clients or word of mouth.

“Now it’s really picking up,” she says. “Documentaries are doing very well.”

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