Part 4: Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio

We take you inside an actual home studio, and provide ideas and inspiration to help you build out your own audio, video and lighting setup.

In Part 2 and Part 3 of Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio, we moved through evaluating your home studio and optimizing your existing gear to recommending specific audio, video and lighting products.

In Part 4, we wrap the series with an up-close look at author Evan Sadler’s home studio for ideas and inspiration to help you build out and refine your own studio setup over time. All of the products Evan calls out below are included in the wish list we built on B&H Photo Video. (Note: We do not have an affiliate partnership with B&H, and do not make revenue from any purchases.)

A Video Producer’s World

As a producer, I worked behind a camera until February 2020. I never expected to work in front of one. Like most of you, I joined online meetings using my laptop. While it did the job, the setup killed my neck and back, and the video and audio were mediocre. So after just a week of online meetings, I focused on creating a sustainable, personalized, pain-free home studio setup worthy of the robust multi-camera, virtual broadcasts that Worktank was producing for our clients.

Building a home studio is an iterative process. For months, I tweaked my studio layout, including adjusting my desk based on how light changed throughout the day, finding the position for my backdrop and camera, and experimenting with headsets and mics until I found the most comfortable combination. Perfect is the enemy of good, so as you reimagine your space, take your time, experiment, and most importantly have fun. Be playful and think about how you want your space to represent you.

Up Close and Marimekko

Surrounding myself with a few personal items that bring me joy was key in building out my home studio. I prefer a desk space that is open, uncluttered, and where every object serves a purpose. Yet making space for my favorite things – a hardy air plant, a favorite painting by an old friend, a pad at my feet for my two dogs – feels as essential as a keyboard or monitor, and it helped me balance the technology with lived-in comfort.

For my video background, I chose a framed stretch of Marimekko fabric I found years ago at a thrift shop. The print pops amazing colors on screen and stands alone as a great single set decoration focus. By first placing the Marimekko print on the wall, I was able to easily determine where my desk and camera needed to be positioned. Using a favorite print, painting or object behind you is a highly personalized set piece and a great conversation-starter. Remember, everything scales based on the size of your studio, so if you have a small space, choose a smaller object as your backdrop.

Lighting Up My Home Studio

My primary light source, positioned in front of my desk and beside my camera, is an Aputure Light Storm LS C120d with a companion Light Dome II softbox that includes a diffuser and batting that attach to the fixture and help spread a more even light across my desk and face. The setup is rigged onto a Matthews Hollywood c-stand, and hoisted above my desk and tilted down about 20 degrees. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it light with a simple on/off switch and a dial to adjust the light up to 100%. When competing with light from my window, I dial it up, and when the space is dark, I dial it back. Aputure lights can also be operated via a Sidus Link app on your smartphone.

To complement my primary light source, I placed two incandescent lights – a table lamp and a floor lamp – behind me on opposite sides of the desk to create depth between me and the backdrop. Attached on a small adjustable light stand behind my chair is an Aputure MC Mini LED light that lets me splash any color on the wall behind me with a flick of the dial.

Scrapping the Headset for Mic & Speakers

For months, I cycled through a variety of mic and headset combinations until I landed on the right setup. I found headsets fatiguing over a long day of meetings, and earbuds felt weirdly claustrophobic. Now my everyday go-to is a Rode Podmic attached to an Acculite Podcast Pro arm that allows me to adjust as I’m sitting or standing, and then push it out of the way while I’m working. I ditched a headset altogether and use the onboard speaker of my Microsoft Surface Pro laptop. Pay attention to cabling and connections. A lot of mics connect via XLR (like the Rode Podmic) and you may need an adapter to work with your computer.

Not Your Average Web Cam

I use my six-year-old field camera – a Sony FS-5 – and while it may feel overbaked to use a professional rig as a web cam, it looks amazing and shows off a depth of field you won’t find even in a high-end web cam. Also, you can find a really good video camera second-hand for about the same price as a web cam. If you’re a photographer with a DSLR that has an HDMI or USB-C output, your camera will most likely work as well. All you need is a video converter, like the Atomos Connect 4K, and a tripod to set and level the camera in front of your desk.

Your Home Studio is Here to Stay

One thing we unlocked during the pandemic is that virtual meetings have greatly expanded our reach – and at a far lower cost per participant than in-person events. Even as the world opens up in the months and years ahead, and people return to offices in our new hybrid world, virtual meetings will remain an integral part of the way we connect and communicate.

Investing time and money to make your home studio personal and comfortable will help you stand out. Just remember, it’s okay to pace yourself when building your ideal setup. Shop around, add your gear over time, and maintain a sense of play – that’s part of the adventure. You’ll find tips to assess and optimize your existing audio, video and lighting equipment in Part 2 of this series, and our top gear recommendations for all budget ranges in Part 3.

Ready to take your video broadcasts to the next level? It helps to work with a seasoned Worktank producer. For assistance setting up your desktop studio, as well as content creation, engagement tools, presentation skills, and more, give us a call 877-975-8265 or contact us online.

Evan Sadler, Evan Sadler,

Evan Sadler, Director of Content Solutions

As Director of Content Solutions, Evan leads the content creation and production team to build and deliver the highest quality onsite and virtual broadcasts. Learn more about Evan.

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