A few years ago I was asked to give a talk on the topic of mobile video production using my smartphone.
I had been using smartphones for creating videos for a while–with one video created using an iPhone 5s alone to shoot, edit and post on YouTube–and gaining 34k views gave me a little bit of credibility. I wanted to create a course on how I managed to create this video: all that went into it and what we should all be paying attention to when shooting video.
I decided to shoot the course using my DSLR cameras, which I had been using for short films and documentaries. I knew all the things that took to create a beautiful shot.
When I started laying out the groundwork and setting up the equipment, it took me nearly 2 hours to set up the lights, the camera, the backdrop, and the microphone. It was a big ordeal.
After it was all set up, my son came down asking me for dinner. I had to put everything on pause and take care of the kids, thinking that I’d try again the next day.
The next day rolled around. I had all the things in place, and I thought, “Now I can make this happen!” I turned on the cameras, lights warmed up, a microphone was attached–let’s go!
This time, when I hit record, I was frozen. I had no idea where to start the conversation. I simply stood there staring at the cameras.
What I needed was practice talking to the camera. I needed to get better at speaking to the points I was going to make when teaching the lessons. I needed practice–and fast. But I didn’t have the time to not only set up the equipment every time, but also think about the conversations. So, I put everything back and practiced my points and conversations.
Luckily for me, I had my podcast going with lots of guests wanting to tell their stories and share their journeys down the path I wanted to go. I surrounded myself with experts, entrepreneurs, authors, and like-minded achievers that had done what I wanted to accomplish.
For two years before I set up the studio I spent time listening to experts and learning from their journeys. I took courses and watched these experts teach their knowledge. The more I listened, the more I got better.
So how did my setting up a studio help?
I no longer had to worry about the equipment or settings because I created a space for myself where I simply had to step in and press the button to record my course and my talks, as well as to guest on other folks’ podcasts.
Setting up the studio space gave me the confidence and the time to really work on the content.
I was now ready to build my studio. But I was still months away from realizing this dream.
I had very little time to spend in the office since I was commuting back and forth to DC for work. Stories of Covid-19 in China started to arise, but we didn’t pay much attention to it.
A past colleague called me up and asked if I’d be open to interviewing for a UX position that was 100% remote. I had been looking for an opportunity as such, and said a resounding, “Yes!” After a couple of interviews, I got the job and gave my notice to the previous one.
Around the same time, we were getting some work done at the house that was going to help with better insulation all around to keep the house more comfortable. One of the major changes that got done was upgrading the windows in my basement office and bathroom to new more efficient and functional windows (the previous ones didn’t open and were the original windows when the house was built). The new windows were closer to the interior. I decided that I wanted to set my desk so I’d face these windows and get to see the outside world.
The second thing I wanted to do was to add wood paneling on one of the walls so that I could create a look that was inspired by my mentor Pat Flynn.
This wall changed the way I looked at my room; it created a dimension that I hadn’t thought of before. It is immediately inviting to anyone coming into the room. It catches people by surprise, and then as they look around the room with the lights, microphone, and speakers along with walls covered with sound absorption foam, it all gives the room a look that’s unique.
Over the past two years, I’ve incrementally added more details and customizations to the room.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to build a studio–or, rather, where it all starts.
The first thing is to analyze the space you have access to.
Are you going to be in a bedroom, dedicated room, library, or open living space? What parts of the room do you want to showcase (“staging”) vs. what parts do you want to hide (“blocking”)?
In theater and film sets the scene and the stage is defined by two terms: “blocking,” outlining where you’ll move within the scene, whereas “staging” represents the position of the actors/talent within the frame and the movement of the camera.
We essentially want to set the stage and the scene that the audience will see. This will be what the camera sees. Blocking out everything else in your room.
Once you’ve analyzed our space and figured out what’ll be in the scene, you can rest easy and start laying out the foundation for your home studio.
The first step is to decide what’s going to be in the frame and in your background. As you experiment with bookshelves, frames, and plants, these elements add personality to your video as well as make the entire space efficient and usable.
I initially had one set of cabinets in my room that was facing the camera. These were deep cabinets that held my printers and books. I added a wood wall to the room to get that look from Pat Flynn’s courses. I knew what I needed, so after much research, the wall came together. This added dimension to my room which not only invited me to create more content, it also gave me confidence.
The star of the show is you, and we want to make sure you are lit up properly.
We want to light up your face properly with the softest light source possible. In Hollywood, the key light is paired with a hair light which brings the outline to your body and creates a separation from the background.
There’s a total of 3 lights that will help you stand out:
Key light: this is the main light that’ll fill in and show your face
Fill light: this will fill out the rest of your face and body + background
Hair light: will shine above your hair and shoulder and further separate you from the background
Capturing your voice is more important than any video at all. People can get away from watching your video, but if they cannot hear you, there is no message to share.
A good microphone goes a long way! Depending on your situation, you can either use a dedicated mic that sits in front of you, or a wireless lavalier mic that you can use when you’re moving about your space.
Any camera will do a decent job when you pair it with proper lighting.
There are several options when it comes to cameras. Cameras are found in all of our devices, from smartphones and tablets to dedicated cameras such as webcams or digital interchangeable lens cameras. Each camera brings with it different features, larger sensors, and a longer range of lenses. It all goes back to your room analysis to see which camera and lens are in your budget as well as which one will work best for your room.
If you have more questions about home studios you can reach out to me over at junaid at hacksahdhobbies.com
Junaid Ahmed @junaid
Home Studio Expert with 20 years of experience in user experience design. Over 400 podcasts on the topic of growth mindset as an entrepreneur.