Auckland Film Studios—Sound Stage 5

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group provided mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, communications, and acoustic engineering services for Sound Stage 5 at the Auckland Film Studios in New Zealand.


  • Size: 2,000 square meters (21,530 square feet)
  • Construction Cost: NZD$7 million (USD$4.41 million)
  • Client/Owner: Oracle
  • Architect: Auckland Film Studios
  • Contractor: Tony Tay Group
  • Completion Date: 2004


The Auckland Film Studios is one of New Zealand’s largest studio complexes. Previously known as the Henderson Valley Studios, it provides world-class facilities to the local and international film and television industries.

The 10.5-acre studio and workshop lot consists of five sound stages plus six large, multipurpose office buildings annexed to provide undercover, all-weather walkways.

After a cost-benefit review by Tetra Tech, air conditioning was deemed to be outside the project budget.

Dual-purpose heat and smoke removal was provided with two high-level extract systems designed to clear the building of theatrical smoke in 15 minutes to allow quick resetting for filming. The ductwork was designed to be usable if air conditioning becomes required later.

Fire Protection
Smoke and heat detection systems were implemented throughout the building. Because of the 18-meter (60-feet) ceilings, isolatable beam detectors were used in the studio area to allow film crews to deliberately generate smoke for filming while also providing a reliable alarm system when the building is unoccupied.

There also is a manual fire alarm system throughout the building.

Electrical and Communications
The electrical and communications part of the project included:

  • A dedicated incoming HV supply separate from the rest of the complex incorporating two mini-substations each with a capacity of 750 kilovolt amperes (kVA) to provide a total capacity of 1,500 kVA, or 2,170 amperes
  • Power distribution centers (PDCs) located at ground floor and gantry levels to provide power for the dimmer racks, theater lighting, and other power services
  • Highbay lighting to the sound stage with distributed control so that the lighting can be switched from any one of the four entrances to the sound stage
  • Computer-monitored emergency lighting system that incorporates wireless communication with the emergency lighting and exit luminaires, automatically tests the status and condition of the luminaires, and provides a computer report
  • Communications distribution system for telephones and data incorporating fiber-optic links from the sound stage to the existing offices
  • Local and remote power monitoring system at each of the PDCs so the load on the local PDC and the overall power consumption of each substation can be monitored at each PDC

A dedicated trade waste removal system with interceptor was implemented to facilitate set construction.

The studio was in a challenging location, with the North Island Main Trunk Rail line next to the site. Tetra Tech’s vibration and acoustic design controls noise from the train activity to allow continuous sound recording even during heavy freight train traffic.

With a need to maintain a noise level of NC25 within the studio with large trucks starting up and noisy set construction going on outside, an innovative, double-layer Speedwall system was modified to minimize the structural support costs but still achieve a high sound transmission class (STC) rating.

The full interior walls and ceiling of the studio were lined with reverberant products to provide maximum flexibility to sound mixers during recording by controlling echoes.

While hinged doors are commonly used to provide high STC ratings on large openings for set movement, space restrictions meant that vertical sliding doors were desired. Tetra Tech became intricately involved in the specification and detailing of counterweighted, 7–10-tonne (15,000–22,000-pound) doors, the largest and highest performing sliding doors in New Zealand. On-site testing confirmed noise reductions of 45 A-weighted decibels were being provided across both doors.

The fresh air supply was designed to meet the noise and vibrational tolerances to a level of NC25 or less across the studio floor. Fresh air systems also controlled duct noise intrusion from external noise sources such as trains and trucks.

To allow mass reticulation of temporary cabling, piping and other systems through the building walls without compromising the insulation, Tetra Tech introduced 30 acoustic labyrinths around the perimeter to provide easy-to-use and reliable sound reduction.