Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tech Note: Setting Up a Video Studio

It's been a while since we had a Tech Note entry here on the Heath Post.  I blame myself for that.

Anyhow I just got through building a video studio and I wanted to capture here how we set it up.  What equipment we bought, etc.

I was tasked with the job of turning a small 14' x 17' space with 9' ceilings into a video studio.  Having had no experience ever shooting video I reached out to others for advice and read up all I could on the internet.  One video I saw on youtube in particular caught my eye.  You can check out the video here.  What struck me in particular about this video was the setup they had in their studio.  In the video they have a dedicated green screen studio.  We were not going to have that, but what they also had was a truss in front of their screen to hold their back light and their lighting for their backdrop.

My task was to design a studio space that would be used by faculty, by students, and by our communications director.  He's the only one that is a professional at this and so I needed to create a space where we could have all of the lighting we needed in place but people couldn't mess with it.  A truss I thought would help with this tremendously.  Also as I said we couldn't have a dedicated green screen space, so we needed the ability to change backdrops.  With space being a big issue for us I decided to go with paper instead of cloth and use a wall hanging system to help save as much space as possible.

This led then to the first two items we would purchase for our studio.  The truss we bought from Trusskits.  The kit was very easy to put together and is very sturdy.  Next we bought a wall mount kit and paper.  We bought a few different colors including the basics of white, black, and tech green.

OK now we had our backdrop and we had our structure for lighting next we needed lights.  We had decided that we wanted to go with LED lights.  Mostly because of ease of use since this space would be used by such a variety of people and because it was a small space.  I found a few products on the market and I came down Dracast or Ikan.  Pricing varied a bit and so we ended up with a mix, but I would say this would work fine.  For the back lighting and backdrop lighting we went with the Dracast LED500 Pro Bi-Color LED lights.  For the key and fill lights I chose the Dracast LED1000 Pro Bi-Color LED light along with a softbox.

OK now we had our lights, our truss, and our backdrop.  Next we needed audio and video.

I first looked to audio.  I wanted a shotgun microphone setup in place for the students.  I also wanted to have lavaliere mics for anyone who wanted to get even tighter sound.  For the shotgun mic we went with a Rode NTG1 along with the Rode Blimp Windshield and Rycote Shock Mount.  For the lavaliere mics I went with two Shure MX185s.  For a mixer I went with a ShureSCM268, though in retrospect I may have preferred to go with the Rolls MX410.  The Rolls has both a left and right channel out.  I've used one of these Rolls mixers before and like them quite a bit.

Now with the sound figured out it was down to the video.  After much hemming and hawing I went with the Blackmagic Design Micro Studio Camera 4K.  I also bought a Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm lens and a DigiPin13 WL1 LANC controller.  This last piece is great for our space as you can easily set the talent in front of the camera and then get it focused and opened up the way you want.

OK we had everything now in place to light and shoot video.  But we had a few problems still.  The echo in the room was terrible and we had no way to capture the video.

We wanted something very simple for video capture and we had a decent computer in place, so we bought a Blackmagic Design DeckLink Studio 4K capture card.  I then bought an SSD drive for the computer as a scratch disk.  This allows us to capture the video straight to the computer, then the users can simply copy off the files they've created to their portable media and the machine is ready for the next patron.

As for fixing the sound problem in the room we went with a room kit from Primacoustic that was quite easy to install.  We also changed out all the ceiling tiles in the room with Primacoustic tiles, that was a pain to install.

OK now everything is in place and working.  I've learned a lot on this project and had fun putting it together.  Hopefully it will get a lot of use.

Here is a short video I shot just for this entry on the HP.  I did not clean up the sound or the video.  Does lead me to think I've still got a little echo issue in the room that we have to work out, but all in all not bad for a start.  Now the fun small tweaking work begins.  Oh boy.