How To Make a Business Vlog Studio in Your Office
An office video studio in a small room will allow for a great setup for shooting professional quality YouTube videos. Many businesses have an un-used office or supply area that can be converted to an office video studio that will work for almost all occasions.
Shooting video has become almost totally automated: once the camera has been turned on, it can take over doing many chores a human once had to, such as focusing the image or adjusting the color balance. However, because the room influences and affects the final video, you do have to compensate for things like light, sound, and perspective.
You have to put the foundation for capturing video and sound into place. You will also have to spend time gathering material and equipment. In the long run, however, there is a distinct advantage to having your own office video studio setup, since it will bring a level of professionalism and sophistication to what you shoot.
In a small office, the ability to shoot full length body shots may not be possible. Stick with half length or head and shoulder “anchorman” shots, for example, a TV newscaster setup where the talent is seated behind a table. So the next step is to create a “quiet place” in the room both for what the camera can hear and an “on-air zone” for what it will see.
Lighting Is Critical
Let’s look at light control first for your office video studio. Any external lighting must be eliminated. The biggest element is turning OFF those fluorescents that will make even the best video content go bad.
If you have windows, black them out with black cloth on a curtain rod that can go in front of the window shades to further cut off light. You might need to apply black fabric directly to the windows with tape to seal around the edges (painter’s tape, for example, is a temporary tape that won’t pull up paint or damage the material it has been placed against).
Sound Makes the Difference in Videos
Hard items in your office video studio should be removed to lessen sound vibrations in general, although couches and other “dense” items (not wood) will absorb sound rather than reflect it. Carpeting will help to deaden sound, but if there is no carpeting, carpet remnants can serve the purpose. The number of these required will depend on the volume of the floor in theory, but in reality, it will be a matter of trying different amounts in different locations on the floor while recording, then listening to how it sounds, and repeating with varied placement until the sound quality is desirable. You will be surprised how much of a difference sound absorbing material makes.
“Having your own office video studio setup will bring a level of professionalism and superiority to what you shoot”.
Loud noises from office neighbors can be dealt with by asking the neighbor making the noise to refrain from what they are doing or by changing one’s schedule to avoid the times noises are at their highest. Street noise must also be taken into account, shooting at the time when the lawn workers trim outside the office complex makes little sense when another time can be used instead.
With these physical liabilities dealt with, creating an aural “dead zone” can be accomplished through the use of sound absorbing panels. Similar in nature to those that go under a speaker or subwoofer to muffle the sound, these panels reduce the reflection of sound as it bounces off the walls. They are available from different companies, just check your local music store or Amazon.
The size and shape of your office video studio dictate the number of panels that will be needed, but more important than the number is their actual placement. Working with sound deadening panels which will go on walls and the ceiling, will require the same kind of trial and error as that of the rugs noted above.
The Actual Office Video Studio Setup
The physical items that will be on-camera should be chosen with care, for example, if a person is going to be seated behind a table, the table shouldn’t be one with a highly reflective surface. Chairs should be simple and also avoid having reflective qualities (wood is better than chrome) and should be of neutral color with no discernible pattern on the fabric. If the on-air zone extends to the floor, then clean, neutral low-pile carpet is best. Plain white or colored photographic rolls of paper that are hung at the back of the set and swept down and extended past the camera’s view can provide a floor as well (requiring replacement after a shoot, as feet/shoes will leave marks and indentations).
There are two choices here: traditional video cameras and DSLRs. Video cameras come in varying types, but most possess a zoom lens of some magnification. However, these cameras are notorious for not having good wide-angle coverage. What could be more problematic is whether there is enough space between the camera and subject.
This can best be determined by creating the setup in the office video studio, aiming the camera and seeing exactly what restrictions the view presents. Niceties such as creating a shallow depth of field with a wide f-stop or tight close-ups are a function of the camera, not the space. Some accommodation between camera and space might be necessary, with filters and creative camera angles taking up the slack, but in general, if there’s a problem between camera and the room, first see if there’s another room that can be used. Getting a new camera might seem like the last resort, but if it is unable to provide the desired results because it just isn’t capable, then it might be time to replace it with a model whose features suit your needs.
If a DSLR is to be used for shooting the video, there’s the advantage of being able to change the lens to suit the office video studio, rather than relying on the zoom feature. Typically speaking, a 50mm lens will provide a view that is well-designed for waist-up shooting and will not distort when brought closer. It also has a shallow depth of field that is well-suited for use when the background is close to the foreground subjects. DSLRs can adjust exposures manually with f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO. When space really becomes an issue, a wide-angle lens, like a 35mm lens, can make up for the lack of space. However, care must be taken against the image being distorted around the edges. An overall solution for many will be to get a zoom lens that provides a range such as an 18–135mm lens.
The basics of good lighting remain the same regardless of the size of the office video studio: for a standard single subject lighting scheme, the usual three-point lighting design is desired. You place two lights on either side of your subject at 45-degree angles and the third behind or above your subject.
Alternately, if you have one light with a softbox or diffused light source, you can set it slightly to the side near the camera position to create an overall diffused lighting scheme. Both the soft box and individual lights might have good success at being bounced off a wall or the ceiling. Whether this works or not requires trial and error. In any case, the separation of the person from the background must be such that any shadow can be eliminated, such as being “thrown” to the side (this will be evident with green screen). Test your exposure levels, move the lights forward or back, depending on if you need more or less light, then place some gaffer’s tape on the floor, marking the lights and camera tripod position for future shows.
Incandescent light sources can be purchased locally or online, and most producers will find buying a kit that consists of a set of reflectors and stands is better than going a la carte.
Although they cost more, LED lights provide a stable and consistent light source without any of the heat issues of incandescent. Heat can become a serious issue for incandescent lights and should be monitored closely.
Changing the intensity of the lights can be done by physically moving their position or through the use of dimmers, which must be rated for the voltage that will be coursing through them. In either case, do not tax your AC power by having all the lights plugged into the same AC outlet and, if possible, a separate surge protector extension should be used. Additionally, high-quality extension cords are recommended to ensure stability and safety.
A decision on which type of lighting to use for the YouTube studio must be made. Tungsten lamps generate greater heat than LEDs, and both types of lighting can be dimmed to alter their intensity. Also there are many LEDs that can be had with dimming built into the product. LEDs have another advantage; they also have a greater shock resistance and are less likely to be damaged from being moved over time. Filters to convert the 3200K of tungsten to 5500K (daylight) are readily available but will require mounting on holders placed in front of the lights. These filter holders will also need accessories, such as barn doors, flags, etc. to allow for control of the light.
Another source of broad lighting for a YouTube studio can come from daylight-temperature fluorescent light strips. These can be suitable for casting light on backgrounds or from walls to provide ample illumination in small areas. However, unlike stand-based lights, these lighting strips will need to be solidly attached/mounted to the wall and are far more invasive. But when the room has low ceilings that preclude the ability of raising lights up high, having these light strips attached can be an effective solution.
Your Sound Recording
Sound is as important as video, and since only limited adjustments are possible with a camera’s built-in microphone, you should always use an external microphone.
Using your camera’s microphone will ensure you come off as not professional and may actually hurt your brand instead of helping it. External microphones start at about $30 and decent ones are still under $100.
As to which microphone to get, it depends on where the mic is to be positioned.
Shotgun mics, with a supercardiod pickup pattern are great since it’s designed to gather in sound from only one direction and can avoid unwanted sounds. Using a shotgun mic will require a stand so as to control placement, and making sure that it doesn’t cast any shadows on the subject is an obvious concern.
A lavalier mic, on the other hand, has the advantage of being less noticeable while also picking up the sound from the person wearing it, if carefully placed. These mics vary in price and sensitivity. Some people like wireless setups because these then permits the subject free movement without the constraints of wiring to deal with. However, wireless lav mics can be finicky and more expensive and are overkill in most situations.
Generally, condenser mics will work well in a small office video studio environment. Though more expensive than dynamic, they are well suited for indoor use and their output is louder and better detailed.
Since there is no single standard for the quality of the audio that will be transmitted from YouTube to listeners, or the speakers or headphones on which they are heard, the mic must capture clean and clear sound with as little distortion as possible.
It’s important to note that what the camera sees behind the person should never be distracting. This includes furniture, posters or family photos on the walls, doors, cupboards or anything that isn’t intentional for the theme of the video you’re shooting. For instance, if you’re shooting a video on a DIY home improvement expert, strategically placed tools can add to the look, as long as it's not overdone.
Background material can be taped to the wall temporarily or through the use of spring clamps and C-stands if the surface can be held together.
Another option is to have a multi-purpose background. The basic background can consist of a paper roll (white or any color desired as gotten from a photo supply house or art center), that is attached to a curtain rod. Savage makes fairly economical paper and has great colors that are not boring. Check out their creative ideas here. The sides of the rod can be held in place with clamps attached to tall photographic stands. If you don’t have stands, but need a background solution, wooden rods that are taped to dumbbells or which have been encased in a pail that has been filled with quick-drying cement can hold a paper roll. The paper can also be covered with stylistic touches, such as fabric, or have streamers or balloons attached to it to create an entirely different background.
If you are planning a virtual background, there are a variety of green screen options. The easiest are fabrics, being fairly easy to handle in larger sizes, the main disadvantage are wrinkles in the fabric, as they must be ironed out or they will cause irregularities in the lighting. If you don’t care that it’s green, you can find special chromakey paint to use on a smooth wall for a permanent setup.
By using a green screen, most editing software can take the final video and insert a background of your choosing—be it a simple white wall, a window view into a garden or a scene from Star Wars. Unlike years past, green screen technology for home use has reached levels that do not require a stiff learning curve or cost thousands of dollars.
Finishing Your Office Video Studio
Having a dedicated room to shoot your business vlog videos is a luxury that many will not be able to afford. But even if the paraphernalia must be assembled and then disassembled each time a video is to be made, there’s no getting around the need for creating a visual and acoustic environment that makes what is being shot the center of attention. This can be done by approaching each of the problem areas that video and audio will encounter in the room and solving them in a patient and straightforward manner.
If you would like some tips on video, we offer a free business video strategy session and would be happy to leave you with some tips based on your goals. Call us at 813-200-8795. Or simply click here to schedule.