Insight of the Month - The Home Studio
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
COVID19 has had a massive impact on everyone. It's changed the way we socialize, the way we work, and the way we teach. Many of our partners are educators, and we teach in many classrooms, so we have jumped headfirst into figuring out successful video conferencing and remote teaching set-ups.
We all have different needs when it comes to our online audio/video (A/V) set-up. In this blog, we will attempt to speak to a number of scenarios, and provide our best recommendations. Technology is a changing landscape, so if there is something you've found that is a great asset to the new normal, please drop it in the comments!
Many laptops these days come with webcams that will get the job done when it comes to chatting with your colleagues and friends, but if you prize video quality, or want some more visual clarity for your students, here are a couple of options.
As far as we can tell, this is the golden standard when it comes to webcams. We haven't used it ourselves, so check out the reviews and ratings before purchasing.
It is possible to utilize the DSLR or Mirrorless camera you have on hand as a webcam. This allows you maximum control over the image and quality. You will be able to set exposure, white balance, and achieve a shallow depth of field not possible with a webcam. You will need a few accessories to make it work.
This device allows you to pipe a high-quality signal from your camera to your computer via HDMI.
You're going to need an HDMI to make the video card work. Make sure you get the right size that comes out of your camera and a length that is convenient, and versatile for your needs.
It never hurts to have a tripod, but you are definitely going to want one to keep your hands free and camera stable while you are talking.
Check out the Amazon Basics Tripod - $25.99
If you have room on your desk behind your monitors, this RetiCam Tabletop Tripod - $29.99 may be more useful.
Make sure to look for power adapter solutions to be able to plug your camera into the wall so you don't need to worry about swapping batteries during a long call or lesson.
No matter what camera you end up using, we highly recommend a separate microphone for increased audio quality. Nothing derails an online class or video call like bad audio!
This is a classic USB microphone that comes with a desk stand.
This is a robust USB microphone that comes with some great additions. You can control the gain, mute the microphone, and choose presets for various uses all right on the microphone. It also comes with a desk stand but can mount to a boom arm such as the Auray Broadcast Arm - $99.00
It is important to consider the lighting of your home studio. When we have to turn our dining room into a studio all of a sudden, there is a high chance the lighting will not be optimal for video conferencing and teaching. Making sure your back is not to a window, and that you are facing a light source (lamp, window, etc.) can often help, but clouds and other unforeseen circumstances can create less than optimal conditions.
Consider purchasing some additional lights to augment your lighting. You can start minimally with some Clamp Lights - $8.97 from Home Depot, with a little wax paper clipped over the top to soften the light. Make sure you go with daylight balanced bulbs.
If you are planning on creating videos in addition to remote teaching or video conferencing, we highly suggest purchasing a three-light kit that will be useful in multiple situations.
This is a great kit to get you started with lighting for your home studio, and for filmmaking. We suggest putting two sources in front of you to light-up your bright, smiling face, and the third off to the side, behind you as a hair light. This will give you some separation from the background. The wall power supply is sold separately.
There are a ton of software options out there when it comes to remote teaching, video conferencing, and live streaming. Most have free versions, which you can pay to upgrade.
It seems this is the go-to video conferencing app. Its free version allows up to 100 people to tune in for a 40-minute meeting. After that, you have to pay.
This is what we have been primarily using at Story Gorge. It takes the place of slack and zoom. The only drawback is that it is only available to GSuite customers. However, anyone can be invited to join a chat or meet set-up by a GSuite customer. Many of the schools we work with are on GSuite, so we are exploring it for their use as well. It integrates well with Drive and other google apps.
Another classics video conferencing app. We haven't used this option at all.
Live streaming software allows us to mix multiple video feeds into a broadcast. Some places you can live stream are YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, etc. This could be great for someone doing a live tutorial that wants to switch between screen sharing software, their webcam, and a picture-in-picture of their webcam and screen share.
Open Broadcaster Software is a great place to start for live streaming. It is free to download and use.
With all of these new devices, etc. It's a good idea to expand your USB capacity on your computer so you can plug-in cameras, mics, and hard drives.
Make sure to find a UDB hub that has the connections you need. On MacBooks, you may need something that goes to thunderbolt or USB-C.
Well, there you have it. These are our suggestions. Most people should be able to open their laptops and get to work, but if you are looking for a bit more robust, and comfortable performance, look into these options and start building out your studio. The good news is you can do this piece by piece.
Let us know your thoughts, questions, or resources in the comments!