Building a Home Academic Studio

Now that we all will be teaching and meeting from home for a while, I figure I should share my approach for building a home studio.  I have pictures of my studio at the end.

This list is kind of in priority order – the biggest wins are near the top and the more difficult and less necessary items are further down.

10-Inch Pro Studio VILTROX 2000LM Bi-Color LED Lights ($129)  – It is important to set up the lights asymmetrically and adjust the light level to model your face so it looks 3-dimensional – look at this – if you only have two lights – just do key and fill. Have your fill light less bright than your key light to the point that you can see a very soft shadow of your nose.

If you have a window, it is probably best in front of you or to one side – I would make my key light the same side as your window if it is to one side. Put the shades / blinds down – eliminate as much of the window light as you can – you want your night recordings to look like your during the day recordings and you don’t want your recordings to look weird as clouds cover and uncover the sun.

If you want to scribble on your screen recordings Wacom Cintiq: ($694.93) i – I have used a lot of scribbling software – sadly the best software (OmniDazzle) is no longer available so I just PowerPoint’s pen and don’t change colors. It is easy to code the Wacom’s buttons to turn the pen on and off, clear the screen and page up / down.

Also replace all the lights in the room you will be originating from with daylight balanced LED bulbs available from Lowes/Home Depot, etc.  – Often the room lights will be behind you and give you back light.  If you can put a dimmer on your lights that is nice.  If you have three adjustable LED lights at night you can turn your room lights and end up with a really sharp look and let the darker background be a little darker.

The Mac built camera is a lot happier with daylight balanced lighting and a nice key/fill setup. If you use a built in camera, either put your laptop up so the camera is close to the level of your face or if you have a desk that goes up and down – adjust the desk or in a pinch and for a short period of time – move your chair down. I use my adjustable desk more to get my camera at the right level than I use it to stand up :)

The Logitech 920 is a little better than the built-in Mac camera and you can put it on a tripod to be at eye level.  I would avoid using the LogiTech microphone. It is too far from your mouth and since it points at the wall behind you so you will get echos.

Microphone – Audio-Technica ATR-3350IS Lavalier – A clip on mic is important to reduce echo in a non-soundproofed room and limit background noise – in a non-sound proof room, how close the mic it to our mouth is more important than a fancy microphone – I buy two because there are so cheap. Also the built-in mac mic is surprisingly good and interestingly it points upwards which is an advantage when it comes to hearing sounds bouncing off walls. The built-in mac mic will generally be better than the Logitech mic.

Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adapter – I can never get audio-in work on any of my computers so I use USB – this unit is rock solid.

These are more for the advanced setups:

If you are doing audio only and you want sound like butta, my favorite setup is a Shure PG58 microphone, adjustable microphone stand, and XLR-to-USB adapter.  Like Butta.

You can splurge and get your own Teleprompter ($700) – I like the UltraLight 12 iPad Pro Teleprompter with the HDMI reversing monitor from Prompter People.

If you have an HD Camcorder that has an HDMI out you can use it instead of the Logitech and digitize the video with this USB 3.0 HD Video Capture Dongle Model make sure your camera can turn off its data overlay to its HDMI out. I use a Sony CX560 – which is only available used but I like it and know how it works.

Here are some pictures of my setup.