30 Jun 2021

Behind the Scenes at Klarman Studios


by Dorian Salinas

While 2020 created a production halt in the entertainment industry, Klarman Studios at HBS continued to produce content. Run by Studio Manager/Audio Engineer Craig McDonald, the three studios had to adapt to changes for both in-person and remote recordings. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at some of the biggest highlights from this spring as they began to ramp up in-person productions.

Studio One: Soundstage

Klarman’s soundstage, with its 1,700 square-foot black box, can be adapted to any setting for a full-scale video production. For the last two years it has also been the home to HBS’s graduation recordings. One notable moment for Studio One was what has since been termed “Deans’ Day”: On May 14, 2021, Dean Srikant Datar went into the studio to practice for his live graduation address. Coincidentally, Dean Nitin Nohria was also in the studio, recording a recollection about former Dean John H. McArthur. “Everything happening in the studio that day was around HBS deans,” recalled McDonald. “To have two deans physically present and one in spirit, it felt like the studio was getting its own graduation, too.”

Dean Nohria’s soundstage setup on “Deans' Day”

Studio Two: Webinar

The webinar studio is the most-used studio for internal recordings at HBS. On some occasions it’s used for external guests. On May 6, 2021, while on campus for a case discussion regarding their $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity, JP Morgan Chase’s Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon (MBA 1982) also visited the webinar studio for a recording with local CBS affiliate WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben. From set-up to take-down, the CBS session took around 45 minutes. “Paula showed up with a camera man, we gave them some lights and a place to sit, and they set up their own mics and cameras to record with,” said McDonald. A snippet of the recording was shown on that evening’s newscast, with the full interview on their website.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben interviewing Jamie Dimon

Studio Three: Podcast/Audio

One of the first faculty to return to in-person studio recording was Assistant Professor Emily Truelove. Her Cold Call episode, which aired on June 29, is a discussion about her case on Kathy Fish and Procter & Gamble. Ensuring that guests returned to a socially-distanced space required a full revamp of the studio setup. “Changing our setup required a lot of moving pieces,” McDonald explained. “Since only two people are allowed in the studio during a recording session, the audio engineer is no longer allowed to sit in the room. We had to install a camera (as well as multiple cables) and connect it to the audio control desk, where the engineer would sit, so that they could have control and the ability to speak to guests.” Among other changes for the studio is an increase in equipment sanitation: every surface is disinfected before and after each session, headphones are covered with disposable sanitation covers, and microphones are cleaned after every session before going back into storage.

Views from the audio control desk of a Skydeck podcast recording with producer Dan Morrell

With in-person recording in Studio 3 just starting to pick up, previous guests from the past year have had to find ways to record their sessions remotely. For McDonald, one of the most memorable is Robin Smith recording the names of the MBA Class of 2020 from a closet in her home. “You need a private and quiet space to be able to record such a thing,” said McDonald. “The graduation ceremony was virtual, so any background noise in the recording would have been obvious in comparison to the other recordings.” Smith recorded over 800 names in that closet. For 2021’s recording, she was able to go into the studio for three hours to record the 785 names of the MBA Class of 2021 graduates. “I am so grateful to have been able to record in Klarman this year, it was a dream. HBS is lucky to have such an amazing space on campus,” Smith said.

The content being produced in the lower-level concourse of Klarman Hall shows no sign of slowing down. The three studios are primarily available to HBS staff and faculty. For more information on how to schedule a session, reach out to the studio manager, Craig McDonald, at studios@hbs.edu.

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