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CBC's storied Studio 212 closes up for good

Kate Taylor tours the facility’s eclectic collection of foley props, dedicated spaces, and beds, bolts and squeaking doors

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The studio included entire rooms used to replicate sound environments. This kitchen had running water, a beeping microwave and a humming fridge. Other rooms produced the aural environment of a car, or could isolate an actor who was supposed to be speaking from the other end of a phone line.

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Along with a frame of dangling wooden pegs that stood in for a marching band, and a duct-taped box of cornstarch (when squeezed, it sounded like footsteps on snow), the studio stocked a pair of coconut shells that went clippity-clop.

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In the quest for nuance in background sounds that would create a believable setting for listeners, the studio included ceilings and walls whose different baffles allowed for degrees of reverberation, as well as a balcony and two acoustically distinct staircases.

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‘You don’t notice on a conscious level a change in sound, but your ear and your brain will pick it up,’ explains Julie McCambley, CBC’s director of radio production. Managers have yet to decide where all this equipment will go – perhaps into the CBC’s own museum.

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Sound effects are also used to indicate scene changes: in Rumours and Borders -- The 1990s show ... a comedy about a well-to-do family forced to take in lodgers that ran for 263 episodes -- a swinging door told listeners the action had moved from the kitchen to the living room.

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A ‘dead room’ dampened all reverberation, and was used to record scenes supposed to be unfolding outdoors and to which appropriate sound effects would then be added. It was there that trays of gravel, sand and rocks awaited the furtive footsteps of actors or technicians.

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A mattress atop squeaky springs was a classic Studio 212 prop. ‘[It’s] the death of a medium, another loss of a way of sharing Canadian stories,’ says Beverley Cooper, a producer and editor on the long-running show Afghanada. ‘Radio drama has such a rich and varied history.’

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