December 4, 2022


Capturing Magic Moments

That’s why you need a sound stage to take your videos to the next level

6 min read

When we think of video, we naturally think of moving image as the main component. However, a comprehensive study for the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society found that audio quality had a significant impact on how viewers rated a video. In the experiment, study participants liked a video with poor audio quality rather than a clip with poor image quality. To achieve that high-quality production feel, many directors choose to rent a sound stage. This allows them to block out external noise and (depending on the studio) have better control over the acoustics.

Table of Contents

Sound stage definitionWhy rent a sound stage?What to considerChecklistBudget

A soundstage setup for a shoot.

soundstage definition

A sound stage is typically a large indoor studio that has been soundproofed to keep outside noise from entering the production. Walls are often lined with thick, sound-absorbing material to keep sounds from reverberating. Floors are typically empty, making it easy to wheel cameras around. Some sound stages are or have adjacent green stages that allow you to overlay backgrounds. Like standard studios, many also have lighting facilities, rooms for cast, crew, hair and makeup, and offer catering.

For example, the Backstage Centre, a recording studio in Purfleet, UK, has an 875m² sound stage with a 60 tonne rigging system. John Sheehan, its interim General & Technical Manager, says

A sound stage is an acoustically designed and versatile space. It ensures that whatever the project, the desired results can be achieved. Our space is a blank canvas that can be used for anything and everything. Every aspect has been designed with flexibility and accessibility in mind.

Why rent a sound stage?

Many directors who plan to record the sound while filming (instead of dubbing it over the video later) choose to rent a sound stage to ensure the audio quality is perfect. Other benefits include not wasting time pausing to stop outside noise or spending money removing unwanted noise in post-production. It also means no filming permits are required as is the case for most outdoor locations.


We spoke to Saam Gabbay, an accomplished Los Angeles director and photographer, about why he uses Soundstages.

The primary use for a sound stage is for projects that require uninterrupted, clean sound recording. So the main difference between an average photo studio and a sound stage is that in a photo studio you usually have to stop recording when you are filming with sound and an airplane is flying overhead. But in most sound stages, you won’t hear any outside noise unless the grip truck crashes into the building. I still shoot on a sound stage, even if sound isn’t essential, depending on price, size, location and availability. Some sound stages come with packages that really support our productions. On my last two shoots we didn’t need any soundproofing at all, instead using a large sound stage because it happened to suit our Goldilocks needs. Disadvantage: no windows!

Thanks to his unique experience as a director and photographer, Saam has worked on a number of projects that combine both disciplines. In these cases, it is both inexpensive and efficient to capture the video and photos in one place. If you’re doing this on a sound stage, make sure you have enough space and the right setup to capture all the recordings you need.

Saam Gabbay and his team are working on a multidisciplinary campaign for Zozo. He was able to produce video spots, GIFs and photos for the project all in one place using a sound stage.

Saam explains how the space of a sound stage can be useful for certain recordings,


Soundstages can sometimes be cheaper than an equivalent sized photo studio. So when clients need a lot of setups in one place, we often end up in one sound stage. On my last shoot I split a large stage in half where I shot green screen video on the left and over white photos on the right. We made 24 master stills that were featured in entire subway stations, bus stops and billboards in six major US cities. For the video, I photographed the talent dancing on a green screen. I actually danced with them with a light gimbal and it was a blast. We made 12 videos and 24 stills in one day. Jumping between the two stages was quite an accomplishment and we definitely needed the extra space of a large sound stage. It was also the only way to do everything in one day.

What to look out for

It should be noted that larger stages in particular are not always absolutely soundproof. In some you can hear planes and even traffic. The better the sound stage is equipped, the more you can immerse yourself in the creative process.

Max Berger, a producer at MCM Creative, agrees. He says,

Perhaps the most important thing is to confirm that it is indeed fully soundproof and that the sound quality of the room is adequate. Also, if windows let in natural light, make sure blackout curtains or something similar are in place to control unwanted light.

John’s advice?

Look for flexibility. The room should be a blank canvas. Studio staff should be adaptable and ready to help with any project. Creativity should never be limited by the size of a room.

As with hiring any service and venue, it is crucial to do some prep work. You must research the facility you wish to rent, check recommendations and, if possible, pay a visit.

Jen Ubil, Director of Studio Development at Expressway Cinema Rentals, has extensive soundstage production experience. She says,

It’s important to realize that every production is unique and has different priorities. When looking for a sound stage, consider what equipment best suits your content. For example, a car shoot may require special attention to ceiling height, background width, and drive-in skills. And always make sure that the domestic electricity can cover the needs of your production.

A sound stage provides the space and equipment a photographer needs to take pictures of a large product – like a mini SUV.


Recording studios can vary greatly in terms of what they offer – from basic equipment to full service and catering. Jen has some sage advice when it comes to looking for rental space,

The best way to find out which studio is best for your production is to first make a list of what you need and start researching from there. When making inquiries, don’t be afraid to ask questions about what’s included with your rental or if the studio has a special product that your shoot requires.

Here’s a checklist to make sure you’re covered:

Is the stage completely soundproofed/isolated from the outside? Have you verified this yourself or through reviews and recommendations? Is the stage big enough? Are there windows/natural light? Can these be covered if necessary? What lighting technology is available? Is there rig/lamps/etc? Is there a green screen/green room if you need one? accessible to cast and crew? What type of catering (if any) do they offer? Are the doors big enough to fit through if you have large gear? Can you get additional gear if you need it? Does the sound stage have the necessary permits available? Do you have/is the sound stage insured? Does the building have sufficient electrical capacity to power all the lighting your shoot will require?


There is a wide range of soundstages to choose from, from very small and simple to state of the art stages with rotating floors. That’s why the price range is huge and depends entirely on size, soundproofing, location and equipment. Rates range from $20 an hour to $100,000 (think Hollywood soundstage) per week.

Especially as a photographer-turned-director, it’s easy to have a penchant for the visual aspect of a moving-image production. But just as important as good picture quality is good sound for the reception of a film, so it is important to invest a reasonable part of the budget in sound quality, including a suitable sound stage if necessary. Only a production in which the sound is right does the optics justice.

This touch screen system is used to control the electronics of this sound stage.This soundstage includes a white surround and green screen with overhead lighting controlled by a touchscreen.

No matter how much effort and resources you put into filming, bad sound can ruin a video or movie, so it’s worth investing time and a budget to make sure the sound is right, too.

About the author

Sonia Klug is an inquisitive writer specializing in writing about digital technologies and is fluent in three languages. In addition to her work as a writer at Wonderful Machine, she also writes for The Independent and various print magazines. You can learn more about Sonia on her website and connect with her on LinkedIn. This article was originally published here and shared with permission.

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