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How to Plan Your Home Video Studio

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This post is part of a series called How to Build a Home Video Studio.
How to Add Acoustic Treatment to the Floors in Your DIY Video Studio

Hi! I’m Adi Purdila and I’ve been a Tuts+ instructor for quite some time now. I started by doing screencasts, and recently I've been combining those with live presentations.

I’ve also been moving a lot. Since I started with Tuts+, I’ve changed three apartments and one house, and in each one I had a different setup for recording. Well, now I've moved again, and it’s time for another new recording setup! The difference is that this time I have a dedicated room for video.

Gone are the days of recording in my living room. Having studio space means I can come in anytime I want, and just by flipping a switch and pressing a few buttons I can be ready to record a video. The tricky part, though, is setting it all up in the first place.

Every studio starts with an empty room, and that's where we start with this series. Along the way, we'll talk through all the decisions that go into building a do-it-yourself video setup. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to plan your home video studio so that, eventually, you are ready to record a video any time you want without any fuss.

Turning a bare room into a video studio is a pretty big undertaking, so to make it easy we need to break the work down into parts. We need a plan. Here's what we'll cover in this series:

  • Acoustic treatment (how to make the room sound good)
  • How to create a backdrop or set
  • Adding a desk and demonstration area
  • Lighting
  • Audio recording equipment
  • Video recording equipment
  • Fine-tuning your recording workflow
  • Fine-tuning your studio

Now let's look at the big questions that come into play with each part.

1. Can You Add Acoustic Treatment?

Having good sound is essential for any successful video—it's the place to start. Most bare rooms create a lot of echo and hard sound. As you'll see, a nice clear sound is not possible in my example room without some special treatment.

Some studios, especially music studios, are acoustically isolated: they're completely neutral, and no sound from the outside world can bleed in. That kind of setup is out of the question for most people. It's just too complex and expensive to do unless you have a really good reason. Instead, we're going to focus on acoustic treatment: changing the sound of the room so that it is more pleasing. Doing this should also reduce some of the outside noise.

In the next tutorial, I’ll show you how to put a thick carpet on the floor. That’ll take care of most of the echo. To complete the treatment I’ll then use a few sound absorbing foam panels and bass-traps.

Let’s take a quick look at the room I’ll be using for this project.

 

2. Can You Install a Backdrop?

All the walls in my space are white, and while white is fairly flexible I know that a plain look is not what I'm going for. To fix that I’ll be painting the wall with a neutral-looking—but stylish—blue.

If painting is not an option, you could use a roll paper backdrop instead. Roll paper is handy to have anyway, even if you're planning to paint, in case you need to change the colour of your background. There are wall-mounted and stand-mounted roll paper systems, and depending on your space and budget you might prefer one over the other.

3. Is There Room For a Desk or Workbench?

In almost all of my previous tutorials I was sitting down. This time I’m switching things around and I’ll be installing a standing desk, made with relatively inexpensive parts from IKEA.

Depending on what you do, you might need a workbench, a counter top, a cooking surface, or whatever kind of working area you use. The key is to think about the space you need for the kind of demonstrations you might do, then add on extra room for lights, cameras, and audio gear. Will you have enough space?

Depending on the nature of your videos, you might also need some preparation space, like a make-up counter, or extra shelving to hold parts and tools. You'll also need space to store your video gear securely. You might be able to fit your gear under your workbench.

4. Can You Add Lights? What About Natural Light?

Quality lighting is essential for getting a good video quality. For this studio I’ll be using a 3-point lighting system, and that's the setup I recommend most. It's a steady, repeatable setup for most people.

On the other hand, a natural-light studio can create some of the best-quality lighting there is. The sun is a lot more variable, less predictable, and less controllable than artificial light, but if you do have the option to use natural light in your studio it's worth considering.

5. What Kind of Audio Gear Do You Need?

As I was saying earlier, good sound is essential. On top of the acoustic treatment you’ll need to us some special audio equipment to get great sound (and make your job easier). We'll cover the basics, including essentials microphones, amps, and recorders. Depending on your needs, solutions scale from a simple $40 lapel mic recorded with your smartphone, to pocket recorders (like the Zoom H1) in the $100 range, to pro-level mics and mixing boards.

If you really want to dig deep Dave Bode has some great courses on this topic. I recommend Audio Production for Interviews and The Art of Voice Recording.

6. What Video Gear Will You Use?

DSLRs with video abilities radically changed the way we record. These days, there's every chance that you already own a capable video-making machine. A new-ish smartphone, a camcorder, or a DSLR camera with video is definitely enough to get started. In any case, however, it's important to know the limits of the gear you have.

Coming up in the series I'll show you what camera and lens I'm using and how to get the most from your recording devices.

7. Can You Build Up a Good Recording Workflow?

There are a lot of little processes that go into making video. For example, I use an external display to make it easier to see what I'm doing on camera, and a tablet for controlling the camera. Cable management and ergonomics are also important.

We'll touch on these again later in the series, but the important question for now is this: will you be able to work in the studio on your own? If not, based on the specifics of your situation, what might you need to make your recording process smoother?

Here I am in my studio
A little greenery to help make the studio space more lively

8. How Do You Want to Fine Tune Your New Studio?

Finally, we’ll have a closer look at the setup and fine tune it to your liking. I’ll show you how check if the framing is right, if the lights are ok and adding finishing touches.

This step of the process is really about making the studio a comfortable and positive space to work. For today, I recommend you prepare by thinking about what your values are. What do you want in a studio? When you imaging a personalized recording space, what seems most important?

For example, our instructors use a variety of spaces. David Bode uses crisp lights on a dark background. By contrast, Jackson Couse uses a big soft window, with his office pinboard as a background. Although you can't see it on camera, Jordy Vandeput has a big superhero mural. I like having some plants. Think about what will make your space feel good.

The Next Step: Make a Work Plan

Now that you have an outline, start making a personalized building plan for your studio. Write down everything you need. In the next tutorials will dig deeper into gear, and then you can start assembling your kit. The very first thing you’ll do is to add acoustical treatment to the room by laying down carpet, and that’s coming up in the next tutorial.

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