Introduction to building a video creation studio
Welcome to our guide on “Building In-House Video Studios”! I am so happy you have found the time the starting thinking about designing a killer studio background for your videos. The process of finding your style and creating a background can actually take years for many video creators and it is our hope to speed you along the way to creating your next amazing video set! If you haven’t already, join our free UDEMY course on “Building a Video Studio” with free coupon code: “StreamingSet”.
What will you learn in this course?
- Follow along as we design our dream live streaming studio for under $1,000!
- Enjoy a behind the scenes look at setting up our in-house video production studio
- Review a well documented technology set up including: lights, cameras, microphones, cabling and software
- 8+ years in the Audio Visual Industry
- 5,000 students taught on Udemy
- 100+ Positive Reviews
- Host of weekly live show PTZOptics Live
Table of Contents:
- Introduction to the course/guide
- Designing the set
- Background – Vinyl wallpaper, chalk paint…
- Foreground – Table, stand-up desk
- Extras – Setting the mood, using Pinterest
- Planning for talent
- How many people will be on camera?
- Audio Setup
- Wireless vs XLR cables
- Microphone Types
- Wireless vs Cabled
- Remote Participant Audio
- Video Setup
- Camera Fields of View
- Multi-camera setups
- Camera Control Options
- Confidence Monitor
- Key, Fill, Backlight,
- Tripods and wall mounts
- Best practice to wall or ceiling mount crucial technology permanently
- Live streaming / video production software
- What’s going to power your system?
- The Essential tool bag for live streaming
- Frame Grabbers
- Joystick Controllers
- Document Camera
- Mixing a virtual set with a real set
- Virtual Sets allow you to make changes easily to your background
- Real Sets look amazing and you don’t have to deal with lighting or chroma key challenges
- Mixing both allow you to
Designing your video making set
I never thought I would become a serious Pinterest user but for saving ideas from a designer perspective the platform is perfect! Everyone has a different creative process. We decided to use Pinterest and share a “board” to pin ideas during the design process. As you can see we had a couple of different ideas for background colors, decor and knick-knacks to give the space a finished look. Here are a couple of ideas to think about.
- What is your core message?
- Who is your audience?
- What do they respond to?
- What physical object reinforce your message?
(Pictures of the Philip DeFranco Show over 10 years of YouTube Videos… Credit @AliJardz)
- Background – You want your background to make your talent pop!
- Vinyl Prints – Vinyl printing is becoming easier and more affordable than ever before. We had our 10’x8’ foot wall space printed and installed for less than $300!
- Shelves – Shelves are obviously great for placing different items on. There is no easier way to change up your live show background than placing different objects on a shelf. Check out the pictures below for a couple ideas:
- Foreground- A foreground can be a nice place to put products and other items on display
- Simple Desk – A simple bar height desk is always a good option. For us it provides storage and a place to hold a computer screen which we use as a Confidence Monitor (more on that later)
- A Bar Stool – For lower budget sets you can use a barstool without any desk. You can simply deliver you video in front of a nice background as many professionals do.
- Extras- This is your chance to have fun!
- Functional – Functional pieces are always ideal for a live show set if you can get away with it. A clock is great for live shows because it re-affirms the live time.
- Promotional – If you sell a physical product like we do that is a perfect place to start. We also suggest “Subscribe” Pillows and physical “like” buttons… We have even created a rotating light…
Planning for Talent:
Your on-set talent is perhaps the most important part of the set. Our job is to make sure our set does the talent justice and highlights their performance. When planning for your talent the best thing to start with is your main camera frame. Once you have determined which camera you will be using for your main camera shot, use it to frame out your subject.
Also, consider if your talent will be center in most cases or off center with an additional interviewee. Taking a few pictures from your main camera location in the design phase can help a lot as you layout shelves and other placements.
Setting up Audio:
Ask anyone with experience live streaming and they will tell you a story about the time the audio stopped working. Audio is hands down the most important part of your video production and special attention needs to paid to your product selection and layout. On our show we use D:fine headset microphones which connect to our 18i8 USB audio interface via XLR.
When it comes to microphones, it seems like everyone has their own preference choosing between: handheld, headset and lapel. Some studios also prefer “shotgun” microphones mounted on tripods just outside the camera view. Permanently mounted microphones are the easiest to maintain and allow the talent to walk right in without special audio setup.
So, without digging into the weeds I will explain our setup and why it works for our live show and video recordings. I prefer headset microphones because they are almost always guaranteed to pick up the speakers voice without obstruction. Years ago we used wireless lapel microphones and as a power user we had inconsistent results due to the lapel placement. Lapel microphones are directional and many times we had to re-shoot video footage because a lapel microphone was attached to shirt in-correctly. Lapel microphones also pick up unwanted noise from shirts when your talent is not being mindful about what they are wearing. So the headset microphone has worked wonders for us.
We also stopped using a wireless microphone system mainly because of batteries. Our wireless Shure lapel microphone system is great for mobility but 99% of video are recorded with the talent in a single place. Again we found that forgetting to replace batteries would cause us to have to re-shoot video footage. When we started live streaming more often we also had times when the batteries died half way during the broadcast.
So the direct XLR connection to our Scarlet USB Audio interface which provides phantom power to the DPA D:fine headset microphones has provided outstanding audio quality for 100’s of video recordings and live streaming for us over the years. I cannot recommend the DPA D:fine headset microphones enough. The audio quality and lack of signal noise is incredible.
So, let’s assume you have your audio sounding great. If you’re like me you may be having guests on your live show. We have had guests join our live show with great quality audio and others that sound absolutely horrible. We recorded a YouTube videos series comparing microphone quality we use to prep our live show guests. It’s an interesting group of audio recordings that show: a laptop microphone, a lapel microphone, a shotgun microphone and headset.
TIP: If you are bringing audio from a remote participant via Skype or Zoom… Consider using a noise gate and the audio compressor. These tools in your software can help improve the audio quality coming over the public internet. Often times I find the compressed audio coming in from a video conferencing software is usually much louder than it needs to be in a normal live stream mix.
Finally, almost everyone is using some type of USB Audio Interface these days and the good news is these devices are very affordable. We did a review of three top USB audio Interface manufacturers: Behringer, Focusrite and Presonos here: . Look for a USB interface with enough XLR inputs to fit your studio and provide phantom power when needed. You may want to consider an audio output for checking levels with a headphone set as well.
Listen our microphone audio test recordings on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyY0t7zWqRQoVyeNJOvI8VLP-5nxVAIFl
Listen to our USB audio interface recordings on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fazO0xxJ1JM&
The Video Setup:
Let’s start with a simple concept. Who is going to be your camera operator? If you are like me you might be running the entire video production yourself. In that case, it’s very nice to have a system with built-in camera control like vMix or NewTek. If you have a dedicated camera operator, you may want to consider using a joystick controller with the ability to control multiple cameras. Finally, many users only need to setup a simple webcam or a few static cameras to capture the video angles they need.
First let’s talk about composition. Your talent should take up at least ½ of the screen and usually ⅔ is acceptable. The beauty of a PTZ camera is that you can pre-program camera presets in various positions to capture different views. These camera presets can then be remotely controlled by an IR remote or software like vMix. The ability to zoom in optically is key for professional productions. It adds production value if you have a nice scene to move around in and it also allows your production to naturally move into the preferred ½ or ⅔ view on your talent.
Depending on your talent’s preference you may want to consider using a Teleprompter. TelePrompters can easily be setup on a tripod and to allow your talent to read a script while looking directly into the camera. We have a quick video on a teleprompter setup we did with a $120 teleprompter from CaddyBuddy. Teleprompters are great for video recordings when your talent wants to make sure they hit every word in a complex speech or sales pitch delivery. In live video, we usually suggest your talent prepares with notes and bullets points for use without a teleprompter.
Confidence monitors are a great way to help your talent understand what’s going on during a live show or video recording at a glance. A confidence monitor is essential a video monitor displaying exactly whatever is live or being recorded in real time. In our course, we review two different setups for confidence monitors including a HDMI monitor and a networked laptop using the NewTek NDI. Ideally a confidence monitor is large enough so that your talent can easily read 12 point font on the screen. Therefore your screen either needs to be fairly close to your talent or be fairly large depending on your placement. We have a chart for reference below.
|Furthest Viewer||Suggested Display Diagonal||Approximate Display Price|
Lighting is essential to good video. In our studio, our main lights are from Brightline who specialize in video conferencing and broadcast lighting. The problem with traditional fluorescent lights is that they are meant for task lighting, meaning they are built to provide light on a given surface for work. In video production, we are looking for lighting that is more directional towards our talent to complement the downward lighting. In my 8 years in the industry, I have never seen a better video explaining lighting than this one by Brightline. They clearly explains, the need for backlight, key, fill and backlight.
In our studio, we have regular fluorescent lighting providing the basic lighting in our retrofitted conference room. We then had installed 2’x2’ brightline fixtures with directional LED lights designed for our space. The Brightline fixtures allow the cameras to focus on the light shining on our faces rather than downward light shining on a table surface. Finally, we have additional lights to provide the ever important backlight. After playing around with lighting for countless hours, I can tell you the backlight is the trickiest to get set up in my opinion. But, done correctly this is the light that really sets your talent up for a hollywood level production feel.
Finally, I just wanted to show our wall switch for scene selection. Depending on the mood you are trying to set you can actually try out different variations on lighting. We have 7 scenes to choose from that have been pre-programmed and adjusted to our background.
Tripods and wall mounts:
Most studios are a perpetual work in progress. As technology advances and new challenges confront our team we are constantly changing and improving our video production systems. Keeping things as organizes as possible in a technology space like an in-house video production studio is extremely important. If possible label everything! I would also highly recommend installing anything you can permanently to a wall or ceiling. If your studio is anything like ours, it is littered with camera gear and tripods. Slowly we have been able to organize our equipment and improve efficiency. Wall or ceiling mounting cameras can help save floor space where you used to use a tripod. Consider every possible way to maximize the space you have with mounts, shelving and anything else you can think of 🙂
Video Production Software
So I will keep this section short since we already have over 10+ course on live streaming software. If you are starting from scratch you have quite a few possibilities ahead of you. The big new wave seems to be building custom computers for video production. The draw here is maximizing value and performance with the latest and greatest processors, motherboards, hard drives and graphics cards for video production. On the other hand you can purchase fully configured ready to ship (and supported) video production systems like the livestream boxes, Wirecast Gears and TriCasters. These units are highly advantageous for beginners because they require minimal setup and they are pretty much made to be plug and play.
Whatever setup you choose, thinks about choosing the right software for your goals. I always say the more powerful the software the longer it takes to learn. Consider how much time your team will need to learn how to use a given system. We have created the chart below to outline the “learning curve” for various platforms and the ROI based on advanced functionality. I believe this is a fair chart that represents the easy of use of the most basic live streaming and video creation software vs the most advanced systems used in professional broadcast.
The Essential Video Maker / Live Streaming Toolkit:
Let’s first talk software. You can tell when a live show has someone on the team with a Photoshop skills. The ability to create custom graphics is a huge advantage for video productions because Wirecast, vMix and the NewTek Tricasters can only go so far with custom titling. Eventually you will outgrow the features built into the software you are using (I hope) and you will start looking for more interesting ways to add customized media into your videos.
Photoshop is your goto software for static images. Take for example the sidebar I use for our weekly live show. This was originally designed in Photoshop and then each week I only need to update the agenda topics and import them into our live streaming software. Photoshop is a great place to start designing the look and feel for your show. Once you have piece made that you like, you can customize and change them whenever you need to.
Adobe After Effects is your goto software for moving images. Take for example our intro videos. These have been made from purchased template in Adobe after effects. A basic understanding of after effects can go a long way for video producer. Everything from simple animated lower thirds to intros and outros are made in Adobe after effects. If you are looking to add some jazz to your live show… Adobe after effects can make it happen.
TIP: Don’t use huge .AVI files unless there is a good reason why… Compress your files into MP4 to save processing and hard drive space. Want your files to have a transparent background? Consider using a green background and using the chroma key feature.
Frame grabbers are some of the most useful tools for video production studios. They can be used to troubleshoot video issues but more importantly they can capture any digital video source and convert it into USB. Once you have a Frame Grabber in your tool bad, you will be surprised how often you find different uses for it. One day I am using it capture a camera via HD-SDI and another day I am using it to capture a presenters laptop.
Another invaluable piece of hardware we use is a document camera. Sometime we use a document camera during our live show to demonstrate detailed views of products. But more often we use the document camera to record a short video clip for opening of the box videos. Preparing short video clips before a live stream is a great way to have goto content during the show.
Finally, joystick controllers are a great goto item for camera operators. With the latest joystick controllers, users can now operate multiple camera from a single controller. There is something about a joystick that allows pretty much anybody to understand how to use the controls. Simple joysticks are now paired with keyboards which can call camera presets and switch cameras easily.
Virtual vs Real Studio Sets
We recently did a Facebook Live reaction poll that showed most of our viewers prefer a real set over a virtual one. A real set is perhaps the simplest way to add professional background to your video production. The real set does not require a green screen and elusive chroma key tweaking that comes with it. If you have watched our live show you know that when done right a virtual set can look very good. Professional virtual sets can include reflections, impressive camera movement and precision screen control.
A perfect example in our live show with Stream Monkey was the way we used our real set invite the monitors of our real set. Trying to use monitors in a real set can difficult because of reflections but inside a virtual set the picture is always perfect. Check out the setup we have in our main conference room (retrofit studio) where have a pull down green screen and a real studio in the same space below.
Running a multi-camera system with one virtual background and one real background allows us the flexibility to enhance our video production with limitless possibilities. All of the benefits of virtual sets and backgrounds are available to use with the option to use either platform (or both). I enjoy virtual sets because they are easy to change scenery with the click of a button. There are plenty of professional virtual sets available and they can easy be altered to fit our branding and theme for a given project.
I also enjoy a real set for the “analog” feel. There is a something powerful about watching a analog clock tick in the background of live show with the current time. A real set is versatile in it’s own way that virtual sets cannot compete with. The ability to switch products being displayed on the shelves in the background is something we plan to do regularly. The foreground also presents a multitude of possibilities for detailed videos reviewing various items on display in front of our talent.
Finally, the ability to combine both worlds when needed adds a new layer of professionalism we are honestly only beginning to tap into. I believe our new “real” set will become our prominent video presentation background. But for professionals who know what they are doing, virtual sets won’t fail to impress.
I sure hope this guide has been of some help to you and aided in your creative process thinking about a new studio layout where you create amazing videos. If you’re dedicated to using video as a medium for communication then creating a professional background becomes imperative to your mission. Just remember it takes time to develop your style. Maybe, starting with a green screen is your best option as it allows you to try limitless configurations with chroma keys. In fact, our live show now includes a balanced mix of green screens (to create a virtual set) and a real set used inside the virtual set (kind of overly complicated right)?
Take our complete couse here: https://www.udemy.com/live-video-studio/learn/v4/overview
Try new things. Test, test and repeat… And look around to see what other people are doing in your space and online. Don’t be afraid to copy a good idea. Heck… Copy as many good ideas as you can find. Pin all your good ideas together on a board and start to think about how you can create the best possible background for your next studio!
Until next time,
Chief Streaming Officer
Email: [email protected]
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Image Credit – Philip DeFranco Background – https://medium.com/the-creative-landscape-of-youtube/your-background-sucks-production-design-for-vloggers-edc84f076cf9#.1uu0k0cir