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How to Develop In-House Video Competency, Part 1: Studio Setup

In this five-part series, we'll examine all the elements you need to consider when developing an in-house video competency at your business or organization, beginning with studio setup in Part 1, then moving on to staffing, investment, gearing up,, content and marketing strategy, and concluding with the elements of a video publishing program that you should continue to outsource.

The Pop-up Studio

You can actually set up a studio in an office with some basic soundproofing for as little as $5,000. The studio layout shown in Figure 1 (below) uses a four-point lighting scheme. This approach works best if you're doing primarily head-and-shoulders shots, talking heads, and so forth. You blow out the back with two lights, and then you have two Tota-Lites, perhaps, or LEDs, and then your fore-lighting in front of the talent. Obviously, this setup also includes your tripod and your camera. There’s also a pop-up background, which you can pick up for $150 and mount to the back wall or hang from a post.

Figure 1. A pop-up studio layout for talking head shots. Click the image to see it at full size.

We've had some real success, believe it or not, with a $500 consumer Sony camera that captures incredible HD video. You don't have to spend an awful lot of money to get started; obviously, you need some basic things like a boom mic or a lav mic. Typically, we recommend the boom mic coming over the top of the head so that you get a really clean shot and you don't get any mic in the shot.

Going Bigger

Figure 1 is what I recommend for your basic setup. Obviously, if you have the resources and needs, you can go much bigger. We recently built the setup shown in Figure 2 (below) for a client in New York.

Figure 2. Studio setup for multi-point interview. Click the image to see it at full size.

In this case, the company already had a webcam studio set up, but it wasn't actually set up for video production. We needed to make a number of modifications because it was a four-person panel sitting around a curved table like the one shown in Figure 2, with a two-camera setup, and double teleprompters.

One of the things our technology provides, via our cloud-based video creation platform, is a virtual teleprompter on there. So, we set up a virtual teleprompter for them through our technology. You can also accomplish something similar using a ProPrompter, which you can buy for say $150 and load right onto your laptop.

In this setup, you’d have two laptops and two cameras to get a wide shot with a multi-person panel. You want to have two cameras on two people so you're getting two different angles. Then you can inter-cut the footage in post.

If you want to soundproof your studio, for $200 you can buy foam that can be applied directly to the walls and to the ceiling. Alternatively, you can get purchase more sophisticated wall-mountable felt panels, which is a little bit more costly, but potentially worth the investment, depending on where you want to go with it.

You also might want to consider creating a grid for lighting so that everything's mountable on the walls and on the ceiling. It's actually much nicer when you don’t have to deal with lightstands, which gives you a lot more control and flexibility in your setup.

Desktop Video

In our business, the fastest growing area is desktop video. We probably get calls on this about 15 times a day asking, "How do I set up an in-house studio right at my desktop?" For this, we recommend the Logitech C920 webcam, which is a peripheral mounted on top of your computer. It's just a slightly better webcam than anything that may come embedded in a Mac or Windows laptop.

If you’re doing this sort of video for professional purposes, you’ll want to create a locked-down setup in your office space with a background and lighting right at the forefront on your desk and lighting the background. Not everybody is going to go as far as the lighting setup shown in Figure 3 (below), but at the very least you need a high-quality HD webcam that captures HD and clean audio feed. The reason we recommend the Logitech C920 is because it has a better pickup on the audio than the embedded webcam on a MacBook Pro, for example.

Figure 3. DIY desktop studio. Click the image to see it at full size.

To make sure you get good audio, you can use an external microphone plugged into your laptop. But make sure that's sitting on your desktop so you getting good-quality audio, because audio quality in user-generated video needs to be good enough that it's not distracting from the actual content. Obviously, the content and your presentation are the most important things, but if the production value is not there, it's going to limit your audience’s engagement. This desktop setup shown in Figure 3 can be assembled for as little as $250 (laptop not included).

 

In Part 2 of this series we’ll move on to staffing and investing in your new in-house video operation.

Related Articles
In this second segment of our 5-part series on best practices for developing an in-house video operation at your organization, we'll look at staffing needs and the level of investment you should anticipate as you build your video program.
In this segment of our 5-part series on best practices for in-house video operations, we'll focus on cloud-based technologies for multi-point content creation and distribution.
In this 4th segment of our series on developing in-house video competency we'll look at content production and strategic issues surrounding it: How much content should could you be creating and what types?
This final installment of our 5-part series on in-house video is focused on outsourcing. What functions or roles should you consider to outsource to vendors after you bring much of your video competency and production in-house?