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How to Build and Setup a Video Studio

Dean Marsden

by Dean Marsden on 10th February 2012

FilmWhen the idea that Koozai would start producing digital marketing videos came up, we immediately started thinking big. We wanted our videos to be of professional quality but without the professional costs. Luckily we had already experimented with video in the past and we had a couple of softbox lights, a HD camcorder and a wired clip on mic in storage at Koozai HQ.

Set out your objectives and goals

Before rushing in to record our first video we took some time to analyse a lot of videos that are out there already, not necessarily in the marketing industry. Likes and dislikes were noted down and these lists grew to fill our whiteboard edge to edge. Reviewing other videos was a really good idea and we were able to put together a specific brief about what we wanted to achieve from our videos and how we wanted the Koozai brand to come across.

Equipment

Next on the list was to check if we needed any more equipment to get started. The editing software and hardware was to be critical to our goal of being able to quickly and easily turnaround videos. Although our current PC’s were not the slowest machines, we opted to invest in a new 27inch iMac and the included iMovie did the job for what we wanted.

Internet

Lighting

With a clear idea of how the videos should look, we started recording some test shots in one of our meeting rooms. We’d already decided the subject would not be lit by sunlight but it became apparent that with the blinds drawn the sunlight still drastically affected the light levels. This light was promptly blocked out using large black sheet.

When setting up the lights, we knew the traditional lighting set up would not work for our set up. We did not have the ceiling height or space behind the subject to deploy a standard three point lighting set up. We experimented with the two softbox lights in different positions; either side, one side and high and low to find what worked. An issue that caused particular difficulties was preventing the lights from being reflected on the shiny whiteboard. We squeezed in the lights either side and the shot was cropped to just the presenters head and whiteboard.

LightingSoftbox Lights - Image Credit

Publishing video

After a *few* takes, we published Mike’s first video:

 

We had already decided where the videos were going to be uploaded. We’d use Vimeo Plus to embed videos into our website and upload them to YouTube as the size of the audience there is too hard to ignore.  After posting a few videos on Vimeo we realised we would need to upgrade to the business package in order to use the service as a commercial publisher. The costs involved were much higher so we looked for an alternative, Wistia looked good and we signed up for an account. (This was at the time when Vimeo had not released their new, excellent value PRO accounts).

Wistia provides good video stats and more recently has a system to customise the video player style. We also spent some time setting up and customising our YouTube Channel.

Refining the set up

Throughout the filming of the first batch of videos we found that we were looking for more space in the video composition to be able to show hand gestures and expand on the whiteboard drawings. Instead of limiting ourselves to another whiteboard we found IdeaPaint, a special paint that works like a standard dry wipe whiteboard.

At this point we decided to move the set up into its own dedicated studio room. In order to create our whiteboard wall studio we needed to have our wall re-plastered and the paint professionally applied. If you are interested in using Whiteboard paint, make sure you budget carefully as it can become costly. But we would say this, IdeaPaintis just awesome, we love it so much that we’ve also used in it one of our other office rooms.

Why You Need Video
Having moved to a bigger room, we had the opportunity to add more lights to the set up.It also helped us to add a recommendation from the SEOmoz team who advised us to add as many lights as we possibly could!

This would allow us to better light the new, larger presenting area and whiteboard. For this we got 3 more, large 5 bulb softbox lights. We also upgraded to a wireless mic to help with the ease of filming and give the presenter the freedom to walk around without worrying about tripping over wires!

With the wider composition, we again had troubles with the lights reflecting on the whiteboard wall, however we managed to find a shot that worked well enough.

Another issue we had in our new room was the colour of whites on the video footage due to the colour of the remaining three walls of the studio being a pale yellow and the thus reflecting from the brighter lights. This was easily solved by simply applying a plain white coat of paint.

Despite the brighter room, we have still had to increase the exposure of our video camera to achieve the level of whiteness we wanted in the videos. Over time we developed a nice clear image, as you’ll see in this video for Tara. Notice how much more we can show by having the whiteboard paint, how clearer the audio is and how the whiteness levels are more even.

Follow Me on Pinterest To see Pinterest in use, follow Koozai.

The final set up

As it stands this is how our studio is set up and where everything takes place in one dedicated room.

Koozai Video Studio Diagram

Whether we’ve done it the way the professionals do or not, we’ve experimented and found a set up and process that works very well for us.

One More Thing

Don’t forget the importance of training your speakers. We invested in public speaking courses, which Sam looks at in more detail here.

Image Source

Film Camera Icon via BigStock

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden will be keeping you up to speed with video marketing and conversion rate optimisation. Dean excels at delivering video marketing solutions for clients and specialises in converting website visitors into customers.

16 Comments

  • Mike Essex

    Mike 10th February 2012

    Great post Dean, looking back on how far we’ve come it’s awesome to see the change.

    There’s a few videos in our archive that make me cringe – it took us a while to get the white levels just right so look out for the yellow / blue / green videos – but we’ve included them all so I like to think anyone whose watched our videos from day one can see the journey we’ve been on. Thanks to everyone who watched our videos.

    100,000 views and counting.

    Reply to this comment

  • Dean Marsden

    Dean 10th February 2012

    Yeah its fun to look back at the first videos. We have come a long way!

    Reply to this comment

  • Libs 14th February 2012

    Hi Dean. I enjoyed reading reading your post. I am a novice to online marketing, but having a look at other peoples videos, I realize the importance of making videos look professional e.g. lighting, sound editing etc. Would you be able to recommend any websites or have you come across any other good videos on how to film / photograph your product, that you would recommend I look at. There are lots of articles on key words, search engine optimization etc, but I am struggling to find information on how to film / photograph your product on the cheap (I don’t have a big budget), but still make your product look good.

    Reply to this comment

  • Dean Marsden

    Dean 14th February 2012

    Hi Libs, Well for tips on filming composition, lighting, etc I would recommend reading the tutorial posts at the Vimeo Video School blog: http://vimeo.com/videoschool.

    Some of those techniques transfer across to photography. If you are focussed on photographing products, then I found this video which may help with that: http://vimeo.com/31457269

    For product photography for a catalogue, I highly recommend getting yourself a light tent. These can be picked up relatively cheaply. I hope this all helps, good luck!

    Reply to this comment

  • libs 16th February 2012

    Hi Dean, thank you for the info and links.

    Reply to this comment

  • Anna Lewis

    Anna 20th February 2012

    You forgot to mention the box that short people stand on!

    When you have a background image that more than one person uses you could risk bad positioning without things to stand on, like I did in this video: http://www.koozai.com/blog/videos/christmas-video-countdown-day-6-google-analytics-changes-in-2011-and-2012-predictions/

    Reply to this comment

  • Rich 13th July 2012

    Thanks for your post. I’m looking to get a basic video setup – any chance you could list out the kit you’re using (and rough pricing for each) I’m thinking of a camera, tripod, couple of lights and shotgun mic to kick off with – does that sound ok?

    Reply to this comment

    • Dean Marsden

      Dean 13th July 2012

      Hi Rich, thanks for stopping by. We use a pretty standard HD JVC camcorder at a cost of around £400-£500. This is of course supported by a tripod. As our setup is completely static so we opted for a budget tripod that was tall enough (some are too short). This cost about £30, but you may want to explore the option of a lightweight one if you have plans to do on-location filming.

      As for lighting, two softbox lights is enough to get started. We have more to give the illusion of a pure white room. You could spend about £40-£80 per softbox light.

      For sound we use a high quality wireless lapel/lavalier mic. We opted for this to prevent unnecessary background noise creeping in, after all the Koozai studio is part of our office buildings and there is sometimes background noise from our busy bees! This costs around £400-£500. You can get wired ones for a lot less cost. A shotgun mic would be a good choice if you need to record several people or sounds at once, but a clip-on mic provides best voice ‘warmth’.

      Hope this is helps.

      Reply to this comment

      • Rich 16th July 2012

        Yes, totally helps – thanks Dean! Yes i’ve heard a shotgun mic is the way to go – cuts out background and can be targeted at the speaker. Much appreciated and pretty much supports what I thought. Nice one :)

  • Scott 10th January 2013

    Great post! One question: can you give me the size of the room you are using or give me an idea of how large the room should be? I have an empty room right now but it is only about 9 ft wide and I’m just trying to figure out if that is wide enough by the time you set the lights etc up. I do have other options if this is not wide enough. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply to this comment

    • Dean Marsden

      Dean Marsden 10th January 2013

      Hi Scott, Our room is not large by any means. It’s about 12ft by 10ft. Where 10ft is the length; camera positioned one end and the whiteboard at the other. The width of 12ft means we are able to fit in large softbox lights in the sides with them only just not creeping into shot.

      You could get away with 9 ft wide if you use more compact light setup I’m guessing. Hope this helps.

      Reply to this comment

  • scott 11th January 2013

    Great reply. That really helps! I also thought about looking into ceiling lights since I only have about 9ft. Any thoughts on that?

    Reply to this comment

    • Dean Marsden

      Dean Marsden 11th January 2013

      We tried to mount one of our softbox lights to the ceiling but they were just too big. Provided you have ‘soft’ lights that dont appear in shot then experiment with that, it may make your video look more natural. If you have spot lights, you may need to have quite high ceilings.

      Reply to this comment

  • Dyana 21st January 2013

    Hello! Was wondering.. do you think Egg crates on the wall or needed if the office is a relatively loud or busy one?

    Thank you – your posts are wonderful.

    Reply to this comment

    • Dean Marsden

      Dean Marsden 22nd January 2013

      Hi Dyana, Thank you for the nice comment. We are lucky to a have mainly quiet setting for our videos but know noise can be annoying and un-preventable. One option we use to minimise any external noise is to use a good lapel clip on microphone. You may also see good results from other directional microphones and microphone windstoppers.

      Egg crates would mainly be useful to prevent echo within the room, but if you have no option for moving to a quieter room or space give it a try. Be warned the work required to do this to a room is quite significant! I recommend trying different microphones first if you haven’t already.

      Reply to this comment

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