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Author Topic: Mobile studio conversion  (Read 2696 times)
TimeForTheCrunge
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« on: June 21, 2010, 10:48:58 AM »

Howdy all.

Just beginning to embark on my first journey into the world of bus conversions, and hoping to get some advice from you fine folks. Let me tell you a little bit about what we're doing:

This isn't a personal project, and isn't exactly going to be a motorhome when we're done. I work for a company that does audio/video recording and processing, and we finally got the budget approved to start developing a mobile version of our studio. We're planning on stripping and converting a used intercity coach, but none of us have any experience doing this before, so I'm probably going to have plenty of questions over the coming months. First up: bus selection.

Things we know:
-Ideally 45' length, 102", the more headroom the better
-Going to be on the road full-time after completion (needs to be reliable)
-NO WHEEL HUMPS! The way our floor plan is (tentatively) laid out just isn't going to work without a completely flat floor.

With these in mind, we're currently shopping around (with fingers crossed) for either a MCI 102 DL3 (or EL3) or a Prevost H3-45 from the late 90s. It also looks like a Van Hool T2145 would have the space we need (at a more reasonable price), but I haven't been able to confirm anywhere whether this model has a flat floor or not.

Can anyone confirm for me if the van hool is indeed another candidate? Are there any other makes/models that I should be considering?


:edited for clarity:
« Last Edit: June 21, 2010, 01:50:52 PM by TimeForTheCrunge » Logged
jok
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2010, 12:55:31 PM »

The coach that I converted into a motor home was originally a recording studio bus for Manhattan Center Studios. The shell is a 40 foot 1990 Prevost XL that had an oversize side door on the street side about half way back. It came with aluminum steps that stored in one of the bays. It originally had 7 air conditioners and a 17.5 kW generator. They would tap into the sound system of live concerts. They did not use it much and we bought it when it was 10 years old and had 26,000 miles.

The front was the crews area with a small kitchen, fold out couch, dinette and small bath room. The middle and rear had the sound equipment and mixing board.

Good luck,
John
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2010, 01:05:07 PM »

I checked with Mr. Bowen because his shp used to provide service for some Van Hool's (1997-1999 models) a couple local charter operators had.  He said the Van Hool does have a flat floor.

The buses you are interested in aren't really what is generally used as a "transit" bus.  They are typically used as intercity buses and have floors high enough to avoid wheel well humps and have large cargo bays underneath.  Transit buses (like my RTS) usually have low floors and hence wheel wells.
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PCC
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2010, 01:09:39 PM »

Planning to use a coach for a studio, I would make sure that there is enough underfloor storage for all the equipment that will be used that is not part of the bus, but is used on stage, an between you and the stage.

A transit coach may not have enough storage for your needs, when the business gets going.

Keith
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TimeForTheCrunge
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2010, 01:50:03 PM »

Thanks so much for the speedy answer HighTech, and thanks for the correction of terminology (I'll get it down one day - i swear!). We are indeed looking for an intercity bus, not transit.


I thought of another question that might have a significant impact on which bus we select:

I know that our conversion is definitely going to involve the installation of a mid-entry door. Now I've heard that MCIs stand apart from other makes in that they have a "stressed skin" (think that was the term), where the paneling, and not just the framework, is responsible for maintaining structural rigidity.

Which got me thinking: are any of these models less likely to be destroyed by the installation of a mid access door than others?

:edit:

jok, you say you had an XL with this modification done, which is promising to hear. Any chance you have some photos of this door I might be able to use for referance? Also, we hadn't been considering the XL because we didn't want to struggle with their funky curved windows; I'm guessing yours was fully blanked out when you got it?
« Last Edit: June 21, 2010, 01:56:28 PM by TimeForTheCrunge » Logged
robertglines1
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2010, 01:58:19 PM »

lots of deals on entertainer coaches in the mid 90's now and would have a lot of the systems you want already...most have 4 roof airs a butt hut..and large gen set...bunks could be removed and equipment installed...happy busing
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2010, 02:06:52 PM »

I know that our conversion is definitely going to involve the installation of a mid-entry door. Now I've heard that MCIs stand apart from other makes in that they have a "stressed skin" (think that was the term), where the paneling, and not just the framework, is responsible for maintaining structural rigidity.

Which got me thinking: are any of these models less likely to be destroyed by the installation of a mid access door than others?


The term generally used to refer to the "stressed skin" design is "monocoque".  It is usually best not to cut into them without the help of a professional engineer.  That said, some have done it successfully.  But you really have to know what you are doing in order to successfully put back the structural strength that was lost.

Prevost, Eagles and Setra's are frame based designs and therefore make good candidates for slideouts and adding side doors.  I don't know whether Van Hools are or not.
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James77MCI8
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2010, 02:41:18 PM »

From the standpoint of owning a recording studio and a mobile set up, plus 3 conversions I can atest to the fact that a truck conversion would be more suited to your mobile application. My experience has been that at most mobile venues space and power are hot commodities. Most of the recording mainly involved tracking only, not much gear involved. Acoustics usually rule out mixing and mastering.(Ambient noise and external noise from the generator, air conditioning, etc) are things to consider. I don't know what your budget is as far as fuel. maintenance ,etc but I do know that with the advent of the studios in a box(computer based recording) that the market has become very competitive and every penny will count. FWIW.
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TimeForTheCrunge
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« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2010, 02:59:48 PM »

Very encouraging to hear that so many of you have experience specifically with mobile studios! Since a lot of advice seems to be directed down that avenue, I'll try to be a little more specific w/ our setup.

This bus isn't going to be used to house the equipment for processing outside live performances, but rather we plan to install 2 good-sized acoustically isolated recording booths (one fore, one aft), with a control room between them, and the bulk of the equipment installed in the luggage compartments. We don't really need any capacity beyond single-channel tracking. All mixing/mastering will be handled on terra firma.

James, you bring up a good point with the issue of noise bleed. I've been playing with the idea of quarantining the gen (and possibly even a master A/C unit) to a towed trailer. Can you foresee any problems inherent to this sort of configuration? As far as considering the possibility of a truck conversion, can you recommend some possible makes or models as a starting point? Ideally we're looking for ~35' of usable floor space.
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Len Silva
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« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2010, 03:16:11 PM »

A consideration:  If you know that you will always be operating from a generator, consider commercial air conditioning rather than roof units.  Bard has a great reputation and many units in service  http://www.bardhvac.com/app_cntr_mobile.shtml

The only reason for using RV type roof units is because you don't always have 220 available in campgrounds.
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« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2010, 03:22:16 PM »

Having messed around a little with both coach based and trailer based units, I think a tractor trailer van would be a most viable alternative.

Up to 53 feet long, (45 and 48 feet popularly available) already square inside, a reefer model comes already insulated.

The generator may be simply mounted on the tractor for isolation, mounted in the trailer with a bit of work, and one or two of those Bard HVAC units mounted on the nose, ducted in the ceiling, returns/feeds dropped to the floor at the walls or kept in the ceiling, depending on geography of operation.

Mark my words, your business partners will quickly tire of constant rejuvenation of complex coach systems.

This gig is about the music, not about the vehicle. Broken down power unit? Rent a Penske or Ryder this afternoon. Coach breaks down? Next gig is doomed.

Proper captain's chairs may be installed in the tractor bunk instead of the bunk for a larger compliment of personnel.

let me know, if you want to know more!

happy coaching!
buswarrior

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« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2010, 03:26:43 PM »

Len and I were typing together...

I have a Bard in a 48 foot drop deck classroom trailer, and they are awesome!

Every office trailer has one mounted on it. Lots of AC, no trouble. Have to be ducted right if you need it to keep you warm in sub-freezing.

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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James77MCI8
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« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2010, 03:28:57 PM »

Our mobile rig was housed in a 20 ft step van with a room air conditioner for cooling. The equipment consisted of a 32 channel mixing console and ADAT hard drives and a boat load of compressors. We used a splitter snake to grab the signals from the house set up for tracking. All mastering/mixing was done at the studio. Near field monitors were used for listening. We always used power at the venue since generators aren't noted for steady frequency/voltage plus the noise and vibration is problem. Isolating the booths will become problematic since the bus is basically a huge skeleton with a metal skin stretched over it. Don't forget about the passer bys that will want to knock on the doors and have a look see.
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2010, 03:31:59 PM »

Ditto on BW's reply.
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2010, 03:38:21 PM »

I'd be thinking a UPS or inverter system can smooth out any fussy power issues with the generator?

A UPS would be a good thing for a power interruption as well as some power in the trailer during down time.

happy coaching!
buswarrior
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