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How To Setup A Video Recording Studio At Home (or office)

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Video production is big business these days. Producers are known to charge thousands of dollars per minute of the end product.

When I placed my first ever video inquiry to a studio, I was quoted $2500/minute. And it includes everything from music, script, animation, content flow, voiceover, editing, etc.

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With such a huge fee being charged in this industry, it is no wonder why many people are going into video production as a business or a simple way to freelance for a considerable side income.

The demand for video content is there. And it will only get bigger.

Whether you are setting up a video recording studio at home for your vlog or providing a service for end users, it is not as difficult a task as most people imagine. These days, you can get all the equipment you need online on places like Amazon and setup your own in-house studio in a week.

This is a guide to help you in that process.

Ideally you want to setup your studio at an area where you have full control of the surroundings.

This means that an ideal space will:

  • have high ceilings
  • have no windows
  • be big enough to not cause echoes in audio

So keep these pointers in mind when selecting a space at home or office to set up the studio. Basically, the bigger the better in terms of space.

What camera should you use?

One of the biggest misconceptions of people creating their own studios at home is about the camera.

You don’t need to use the type of cameras that Hollywood directors sit behind when filming their movies. You don’t have the luxury to indulge in a $100m movie budget here.

But I understand how high it could feel to be filmed by such high tech cameras.

You will be tempted to buy a new super cutting-edge camera to boost your ego. That is just a waste of money… at least at this point of your recording career. You don’t know enough about what you need yet. And when you buy an expensive piece of equipment without self-knowledge, you will most likely regret your purchase sooner than you think.

A simple camera will do if you are not vying for an Oscar

A simple camera will do if you are not vying for an Oscar

So it might surprise you when I suggest that just a simple camera is more than sufficient. In fact… the one on your cell phone is often good enough to make a good video with…

Don’t forget, a mesmerizing video has little to do with the quality of the motion picture. You can still make your videos look professional by applying some simple tips and hacks.

Anyway, smartphones these days come with high-powered cameras. Good enough for filming. Basic DSLRs and camcorders will also have the ability to record in high definition.

And remember, the camera should be placed (preferably on a tripod) approximately 6 feet away from the subject.

Lighting

One of those huge factors that render a premium camera unnecessary is with the use of lighting. It is like the flavoring you add to your food. Even the most tasteless pasta can be transformed into a delicacy when you add the right type and amount of condiments and spices.

You might have a little experience with how dramatically good lighting can change a picture.

For example, sometimes after snapping a few shots of yourself, 1 photograph will stand out from the rest. Somehow in that image, your flaws cannot be seen, the tone of your skin is perfect, and you suddenly find yourself with a chiselled chin.

Some celebrities also attribute their good looks solely to good lighting!

Even if you are shooting straight from an antique smartphone, the end product can look like you were using a $5,000 video camera if you know you way with manipulating lighting.

This is because a strategically light setup will make your videos clear, clean, bright, and neat. That is often enough for viewer to determine that the video was created professionally.

You will typically need 3 light sources:

  1. Key light
  2. Fill light
  3. Back light

studio layout

This setup is known as 3-point lighting. But any additional lights will do little damage. There will only be positives from more lights. Just be careful not to produce something that look like it was filmed in an explosion.

The fill light is often the one that works the hardest. It is the main source that brings focus and clarity to what is being filmed. And because of it’s key role and function, it has to be a powerful one.

At the very least, use a photo bulb harnessing 100 watts of “cool” white daylight. And since we all have a part to play in saving the world, go with an energy saving one to accommodate the planet. 🙂

If you are on a tight shoestring budget, be creative and let natural sunlight be the source of the fill light. This means that if you are recording indoors, you will need to position your setup near a BIG window… or do it outdoors. Improvise.

The back light can seem redundant to some people. It’s role is often neglected and misunderstood.

But it is something that can add a depth that produces effects that you’d think were photoshopped.

model pose with backlight

Softboxes and LED lights, although good to have, are usually unnecessary for a small production studio.

What if there are low lighting conditions?

The one simple thing that will reveal yourself as an amateur is to allow your videos to look dark, dull, and pale, with little to no lighting. You will then end up with fuzzy grainy videos that have a lot of “noise”.

The reason why this is so, is because the camera struggles to capture what it in front of it when there is not enough light. It is actually choking, and so will you when you see the end result.

But sometimes, it is not your choice. Conditions could cause you to have little light to work with.

In this instance, you can help alleviate the pain your camera is suffering from by:

  • Adjusting to the smallest aperture your camera allows
  • Slow down the shutter speed
  • Increasing the ISO settings

Audio quality

You would think that since you are not erecting a music studio to record music and snazzy songs, the audio quality is not as critical a factor as the picture quality.

That is totally wrong. And such a mistake will starve you of repeating clients.

The audio quality plays a very big role in video production. Much much more than most amateurs think.

Imagine an amazingly beautiful high resolution video being played with audio with a lot of echos and distortion. Viewers might actually feel dizzy watching such videos within 15 seconds. Don’t put your customers, subscribers and viewers through that type of agony.

The worst part is that all your hard work in recording and editing will be sabotaged by bad audio.

The one thing that keeps viewers hooked to a video from the start to the finish is a clean and clear narrative voice. That is unless.. you are filming some weird content which you mother would disapprove of.

You can do a test if you want. Just try recording a simple video with the built-in microphone on your computer. Listen to it, and look me straight in the eye and say that it’s great audio.

You can’t. Obviously I’m not in front of you. 😀

You might not know how much difference a proper microphone would make as you don’t have one. But I can assure you that you will be stumped by the difference in quality.

You could then come to terms with the notion that quality audio, instead of quality pictures, makes a good video.

Get a lavalier microphone. They are those that clip onto your shirt.

They can be pretty cheap yet produce great quality. Taking into account how it can totally transform your videos from good to great, the price is pretty fair with the amount of value it brings.

The only annoying part is the wiring that runs beneath your clothes if your lavalier is a wired one.

If you have a big budget, you can even go for a wireless lavalier or a shotgun microphone

passionate use of microphone

No matter how modern your equipment are, there will always be areas that you can improve the recordings on. Seldom (if ever) will you be able to record and publish without editing sound.

We are talking about setting up a studio here.

You should at the very least remove noise from your audio which can be easily be done with software like Audacity. Just avoid going berserk with removing noise. Sometimes, silence can be louder than noise.

Green screen

Green screens (sometimes blue) have been used in Hollywood productions for decades. It is only in recent years that it has entered the homes of the public by the masses… simply because of the what it can do.

Green screen technology is behind the special effects (CGI) of the superhero movies we all enjoy. And you have probably seen countless parodies of it in weather forecast videos.

When a file is recorded with a green screen as backdrop, software can erase it and replace the background to anything or anywhere you want.

I wouldn’t say that a green screen is absolutely necessary for a home studio. However, once you have one, ideas will pop up in your head frequently on how incorporating the use of it can help create a more entertaining and engaging video.

You can find a lot of these green screen setup packs on the internet. They will usually include:

  • Backdrop support systems
  • Chroma key green screens
  • Light stands with lights and bulbs
  • Carry case
  • White back drop

And if you like the do-it-yourself (DIY) style, you can also easily buy each item separately for a custom setup. And remember to go for a 100% cotton screen.

If you don’t want to spend the money, painting the wall behind you bright green will do the job as well. I’m serious!

When filming with green screen, do take note to iron out the ceases or stretch it out with clamps and pegs to eliminate all wrinkles. For best effects, also ensure that the screen has 1 consistent shade of green throughout the whole piece. This also means that there should be no shadows on it while recording.

To eliminate shadows, add a couple of light source to shine on the screen behind your main setup

studio layout green screen

Sometimes, bad setup can cause spooky effects that leave the subject with a glowing green outline. This is cause by bad lighting from the back.

If you are recording a video from the waist up, place the light right behind you and below the screen capture area. And if you are doing a full body shoot, place the back light behind you and above the screen capture area. This should help you avoid the eerie glow when the chroma key effect is applied.

If you feel that a green screen is too extravagant at this stage, no problem. Just go with the typical white backdrop. These days they come in various shapes and color. Many are very portable and easy to use.

Teleprompter

If you think that reading off a script is easy, you have seen nothing yet.

Reading off cue cards can be sufficient if you have a script of about 50 to 100 words. But for long presentations, you need something else. You need a teleprompter.

There’s no need to bruise your ego over this. Even presidents use them. Why shouldn’t you?

Modern teleprompters can cost thousands of dollars. This is how much public figures value them.

The good news is that you are not running for election and making a speech with millions watching from home. This means that you can get away with cheap teleprompters that are more practical than brandable.

There are teleprompter apps that you can download onto your Android tablets and iPads.

Just type out your script, copy and paste into the app, and set up the scrolling speed. Place your device on a stand at an appropriate height beside the camera, and you are good to go.

A problem you might encounter is the glare and reflection onscreen that affects your reading. A method to counter this is to use the mirror effect setting on the app and place a mirror above/below your device. You will then be reading off the mirror. This eliminates the problem of glare affecting your presentation.

Video editing

The amount of time editing videos will come as a surprise to most people. Because this is where the bulk of your time is spent.

And you think the filming part is the toughest?!

Some of the video editing software that the professionals use are:

  • SONY Vegas
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Premiere
  • iMovie
  • Final Cut Pro

There could be a steep learning curve if you are new to this. But there is some good news if you are new to creating your own videos at home. Because there are some “non-pro” software that does the basics of editing very well.

  • Camtasia
  • Filmora
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Videopad

This is not all… because you need a heavy-duty computer to work smoothly with these software.

Get used to seeing such time lines

Get used to seeing such time lines

When I first started with videos I did not understand the magnitude of CPU and graphic requirements of these software. I bought After Effects and cannot get it to work on my computer.

The amount of time it takes to render a video can drive you insane on a low-to-mid performance computer. The rendering time will take even longer if you are creating lengthy videos in high definition.

A good computer will probably be the biggest investment you have to make to start your home studio.

As different people will have different requirements, I will restrain myself from recommending the specifications you need.

If in doubt, go for a gaming PC. Yes, that’s how powerful it needs to be.

I also suggest that you play around with basic editing tasks before undertaking huge overhauls. Only start with the more complex stuff when you have a good feel of the basics of video editing.

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