Studio Build out
We will be building a small studio in our office space for a 2 camera setup. We do a lot of field videos but want to start doing more in house backdrop and green screen videos. I'm looking for your advice and feedback on items that you know I'll need and your experience with building out a studio. Here's a little insight into what I know I need:
• Sound dampening
• backdrop storage
• mounted lighting
• media storage
• On site editing (I'd love to be able to edit on the fly between 2 cameras and come out with an almost final product. Having said that, I'd still like the raw footage from the 2 cameras - is there a way to accomplish this am I dreaming here?
Items I have:
2 Lowel Softboxes
Arri light kit (150,300,650)
Backdrops (green, white, black, 3 marble variations)
4 Sennheiser lav mics
Any advice or direction on your experience or products is greatly appreciated.
Thanks - Jon
Well, with 2 cameras, you add a video switcher and a recorder, and that cuts your edit time dramatically. You also continue to record onboard each camera, retaining what we call an "iso" (Isolated) from each camera, as a back-up source of raw original footage to use in editing-out any mistakes you made during the live switch.
Decide if you'll add all graphics during the edit, or if you really need to add graphics online during the live switch. My guess is that this is an area where you can cut costs by doing the graphics all in post.
What kind of switcher to get will depend on the cameras and your budget. You can get something HD that will work in the low 4-figures, or spend more to get more. A lot of people in your position get one of the all-in-one devices like a Tricaster, but there are other ways to go as well, some of them cheaper.
Get a real teleprompter head, one with a mirror that goes in front of the lens, and make it as large as practical/affordable.
Get a Varizoom zoom controller for the camera lenses, for more precision slow zooms. I would say that's more useful than jibs or sliders or even a dolly, for most corporate work. Rent the sliders and jibs when it makes sense to use them; too many people over-use those tools.
At some point you'll get called on to shoot a boss of some kind from inside their corner office, with the big picture windows open to show an impressive view. To light such a room requires extensive color correction and ND gelling of the glass windows, ( a tedious process) or an abundance of daylight color temperature light, so I'd suggest a Joker Bug HMI for those gigs. You can probably rent it only as needed, but be sure to budget for it.
A couple of LED based multi-color PAR can lights are inexpensive, but let you wash the backdrop with many different colors of light.
For the sound dampening, assuming your office has typical drywall construction, you could add a layer of Durock cement backer board to the existing walls, or if you don't have the budget or weight allowance for that, add regular drywall with an air gap between it and the existing wall, and sheet rubber between the wall and floor, rubber washers under all the screws used, then cover the inner room surface with carpeting or acoustic tiles. The inner walls should be slightly turned or angled so no 2 opposing walls are exactly parallel.
Your biggest expense will actually probably turn out to be the storage system. Lurk the COW forum about storage systems to soak up knowledge on those, but assuming you're making a lot of videos for the web and for an online catalog, a third or more of your budget may go to buying a NAS or other centralized storage server of some kind. It has to be fast, or everything you do will bottleneck at that point.
Mark this is a fantastic start! Thank you!
I'll be doing all the graphics in post and our CEO does a lot of speaking events and wants to get much better at reading a prompter so going real shouldn't be a problem. Hadn't thought about the Varizoom controller - that's a great idea!
The CEO in the office...yeah, we did that and it's turned out ok but I have to go about it by covering all the natural light (view wasn't impressive) and lighting it all. It turned out ok but he realized that sitting behind a desk wasn't the look he wanted.
LED PAR can light - are those recessed into the ceiling? Just thinking about lighting the backdrops for depth and evenly lighting the green screen.
Sound - we are in a corporate industry building with the typical metal framing and drywall. I don't think that they'll want to, or even get approval from the build to add cement board. It might end up being the acoustic tiles on the walls. Most of my issue seems to be doors slamming.
I figured the storage would be pretty expensive, I also want to roll in an asset management system.
In the big office windows shot, the real answer is the HMI lighting, but if the person stands or sits very still, you can sometimes get away with shooting two takes where the camera is "locked down". Expose the first take to get the person talking in a good lighting, and never mind that the window is "blown-out" Then let them leave the shot, remove the chair and leave everything else the same, but now adjust the iris to favor the exterior view. Take these two shots and composite them together on the timeline or in a compositor like Motion or AE, and you get the best of both, but this is only good if the person doesn't move around.
The PAR Cans are like the lights DJ's use at weddings and dance gigs. They are shaped like big soup cans or coffee cans, but you put them on a stand or hang them from a grid. Check out some from American DJ. The ones we have have a built-in DMX controller to adjust or even animate color changes.
An alternative if you can't get the added walls built, would be to make your own sound-absorbing panels from sheets of a lightweight board called "homasote", covered in burlap-like cloth. These can be made cheaply yet look good if you pick nice colors for the fabric from the fabric store. Black is a smart choice as it will reduce bounce and spill reflections from white walls. You studio walls should be black or dark gray everywhere where you're not shooting. Medium gray is not a bad choice for a shooting wall, as you can make it any other color by hitting it with the right amount of colored light. making a white or green limbo wall is easy by hanging a sheet of rolled vinyl kitchen/bath flooring (backing side towards the camera) and priming that with latex primer called "Killz" brand. Anchor the sheet at the top, it drapes into a nice limbo curve all it's own, and it's much more durable than a paper photog's roll.
See if you can quiet the slamming doors, by using those little self-stick rubber or felt "feet" from the hardware store, used to put on the bottom of lamps or other desk-top objects. Put the little dots in an innocuous spot in the door frame, high and low corners, also, adjust the strength/speed of the "closure" devices at the top of the doors, to slow the speed at which they self-close. This worked for me in one case, and it cost like a dollar.
To add to Mark's comments:
•Get thin carpeted floors, to help with sound absorption.
•Use LED/HMI lighta. Stay away from the old tungstens, which can cause a room to get very hot.
•Doors are a major sound leak, and should be thick. Ensure that the door clearance at the top & bottom is tight, and use a sound-blocking door-sweep. If you feel like the door is still lacking, you can apply a sound-dampener to the back. SoundproofCow.com was a good resource for me.
•A high ceiling would be very helpful
•HVAC noise will ruin your day. Ensure that any loud HVAC components aren't within the confines of the studio space.
We've just built new studio space with the company that I've recently joined, and it should do the trick. Keep in mind, in-house corporate studios are almost never 'soundstage' quality, but it can be made to work very well with the kind of work we do.
Thanks Guys - very helpful.
My expectations for the studio aren't grand given the space but I know I can do a lot with it - I just want to make sure it's done right and with room to grow.
Thanks for the link Joe - that helps!
Just to add to a lot of already good information, one of the most common problems in building out a studio is making the room "dead" sound-wise. Almost always builders consruct walls that are parallel and therefore prone to create a mild to serious echo / room tone.
An almost simple fix is to make one or more walls NOT square to the opposite side of the room, but built so that instead of the corner being the typical 90 degrees it's 75. When this wall is built it can also help by putting a second layer of sheet rock on top of the first. Weight is your friend, especially for low frequencies. The COW's Ty Ford, for example, has sheets of lead covering the small windows in his studio.
Other things that can be added rather than the typical consumer-grade acoustic tiles are thick foam panels. Sonex is one of the most popular, but there are many cheaper copy-cat versions on the markets. You should also look into, and seek professional advice on having a "bass-trap" that's appropriate to the size of your room.
Thanks everyone for the replies! I have a couple questions that hopefully you might be able to help me with.
Mark - you mentioned the switcher and a recorder. I have very limited experience with switchers, basically I can use one but have never set one up. I've looked in to the Tricaster and Datavideo. Where i'm struggling is understanding everything that I need to be up and running. I know I need monitors, BNC cables, some come with keyboards or boards, do they record to an internal drive or do I need that? You said "recorder" is that a separate unit?
Also, I won't be adding graphics until post, having the option to transition to a presentation or their computer. For example, of they are giving a tutorial and I want to transition from them speaking to their powerpoint presentation or what they are show on their computer. Possible?
Zoom Controller - I'm looking into this as I also think it will be very beneficial. I'm running a Sony HXR-NX3 but can seem to find anything that might work.
The PAR Can lights - they seem to just be RGB, I'm assuming they can't be used to fill white like I would with Kenos or my Arri kit? Should I really be looking at LEDs that are white and control color with gels?
I want to hang a grid or something from the celling to hang some semi-permeant lights. In the past I'v just mounted some coping/metal piping. Any other recommendations? Ceilings here are over 10ft, but probably not higher than 15ft.
Currently the walls are white - would you recommend painting them dark to control lighting.
Still looking into storage options - My company understands that a lot of the budge will go to this. Any recommendations? Had cloud storage progress enough to be able to actually use it for video?
Sorry for all the questions - I've built sets in the past but never something that needs to be a "catch all" type studio - mostly talking heads, interviews, training and talk radio type stuff.
Q- you mentioned the switcher and a recorder. I have very limited experience with switchers, basically I can use one but have never set one up. I've looked in to the Tricaster and Datavideo. Where I'm struggling is understanding everything that I need to be up and running. I know I need monitors, BNC cables, some come with keyboards or boards, do they record to an internal drive or do I need that? You said "recorder" is that a separate unit?
A- As an example, the Tricaster can also internally record as you are live switching, leaving you with a finished master, ready to go. It can also live stream that show, or stream it from the recording. It's kind of a Swiss Army knife. The down side of a SAK is, if you lose the knife, you've lost ALL the tools with it, and some people like to mix and match tools for different functions... so some people prefer to have a switcher separate from a master recorder. These days, what the cool kids use is a hard-drive-based external recorder, with an SDI or HDMI input (I prefer SDI). The AJA KiPro is one we use and like. Blackmagic sells a nice one too, and there's a teensy tiny portable one from Atomos, as well as others. A switcher from Edirol or Datavideo will need to have it's output recorded to one of these kinds of units, whereas it's already on the internal hard drive of the Tricaster.
As to accessories to the switcher, you want one that has a multiview output: connect a large flatscreen TV to the multiview, and you'll get a display with separate mini-screens for each camera and source,plus scopes, a graphics view, etc. It replaces a wall full of separate monitors and makes you look like a total video-switching pimp:-) I use this model switcher in the field:
Q- Also, I won't be adding graphics until post, having the option to transition to a presentation or their computer. For example, if they are giving a tutorial and I want to transition from them speaking to their powerpoint presentation or what they are show on their computer. Possible?
A- This is exactly what a switcher is for. Depending on what switcher you get, you can feed the video-out from a laptop running the powerpoint and even things like a skype connection, google hangout, or you tube video playback, right into the switcher, and call it up at any time, as if it was a third camera.
You have to know, in advance, if the switcher has the right input to handle the specific laptop, generally, either a VGA connector or an HDMI, I think. When you read the brochures for the switchers you're shopping for, they'll tell you if and how they can receive and synchronize the output of a laptop. Not to sound like a salesman for Newtek, other products are also good, but their products like the Video Toaster and Tricaster can at last in some cases be pre-loaded with the powerpoint slides into what's called an "internal still-store". From there, you call up the images at will, again, as if they are another camera, and you can wipe, dissolve, do a split-screen or picture-in-picture effect, whatever.
Q-Zoom Controller - I'm looking into this as I also think it will be very beneficial. I'm running a Sony HXR-NX3 but can seem to find anything that might work.
A-See if this will work: http://www.varizoom.com/product-p/vzrock.htm
Q- The PAR Can lights - they seem to just be RGB, I'm assuming they can't be used to fill white like I would with Kinos or my Arri kit? Should I really be looking at LEDs that are white and control color with gels?
A- the LED PAR cans can make white light, or any other color. The original suggestion was to use one to "wash" the rear wall of your set or location with color. This is cheaper and easier than a regular light and a huge folder full of colored gels, which never contains the exact color or number of sheets you find that you need on set, anyhow.
Q- I want to hang a grid or something from the ceiling to hang some semi-permanent lights. In the past I've just mounted some coping/metal piping. Any other recommendations? Ceilings here are over 10ft, but probably not higher than 15ft.
A- My favorite tool for this is called the auto-pole. It's related to the spring-tensioned shower curtain rods in bathrooms, but scaled up to be able to hold heavier loads, yet not mar the walls. You can makd an overhead light bar with these and eliminate tripods and stands for shooting in any direction. They can also be used vertically from floor to ceiling, and you can often se them used like this in large department store displays where they need temporary signage. Extensions are available to cover a wider space, but the more you extend them, the less weight you should load onto them. back in the day, I would hang up to four Lowel Omni's or tota-lights on one of these, without a problem. If you want to guarantee they don't collapse, support them at the wall with a vertical wooden board of the weight you want, with a v-notch cut in one end to capture the pole and keep it from sliding down the wall. But that's never happened to me in years of use.
Do NOT try to make an overhead lighting grid with PVC pipe.
If you have a gridded tiled ceiling, you can hang individual instruments from it using a "scissor clip". Check Markertek or B*H Photo-video for that.
Q- Currently the walls are white - would you recommend painting them dark to control lighting.
A- I did, in my first post. Dark to medium gray in a flat finish will help your job, without making the room too weird-looking to civilians. If you don't paint ALL the walls, paint the wall behind the talent and the one directly behind the cameras, to kill spill and reflections. You can kill two birds with one stone here by using thin carpet tiles to cover the wall instead of paint, and help with room reverberation. A light gray painted wall can be turned into other colors by shining colored light on it.Preferably with a gobo breakup pattern of some type. Or you can have a gobo made with the company logo, and project that on the wall for "branding".
Q- Still looking into storage options - My company understands that a lot of the budge will go to this. Any recommendations? Had cloud storage progress enough to be able to actually use it for video?
A- I don't know enough about it but I know there are some genius - level experts on it in the Archiving and backup or storage forums on the COW.
Mark - you're amazing man! thanks for all the support. I'll have to post a pic when it's all said and done.
Sorry I missed the paint feedback - my heads spinning with all this and my deadline is like now.
If I can leave you with one last piece of advice while you're spinning.
Don't buy stuff only because it is cool. Buy things that are cheaper to own than rent, buy used when it's as good as new, rent the specialized things which you use very infrequently. Build a network of freelance talent, hired guns to fill in gaps on specific projects. Think about amortization: the way the accountants think, something you buy now is written off in four years, so, it had better pay for itself in less than 2 years, or you should reconsider the purchase. Every decision you make, you need to be able to point to a return on the investment: that doing x enables you to generate product Y and that generated or saved amount Z for the company. Objective numbers, statistics. Nobody but you will keep track of what you have done, the best you can hope for is a general impression of "usefulness", but since you're not working on the assembly line, or out making sales, it can become easy to be thought of as an irrelevant frill that can be phased out or outsourced. You're on trial every week to prove your value, consciously or not. So for each project you contribute services to, keep track of how that project contributed to a success for your client and the company, whether that metric is increased calling volume in regards to an 800 number, reduced complaints after a new training video, uptick in sales after a demo video on youtube, etc. Your job isn't specifically to make videos, even though that's a lot of what you'll do. Your real job is to solve someone's communication problem, however you need to. You are solving somebody's communication problem, document that you did, and what the result was, and how that adds value to the company. A year from now at your review, you will be able to show how what you do generates more money than it costs, and you won't just keep your job; you'll likely get a bonus or promotion out of it. On the flipside, if you can't point to objective results a year from now, video is one of the first things a company tightening its belt usually dumps. And that's a pity, because the time they need it most is when they ARE in trouble, but that's not how many manager or accounting types think. Good luck!
Having lived some of the results of what you're talking about I can say that this is very sound advice and shouldn't be taken lightly. It also speaks towards your experience in the industry/market and not just your skill set.
Thanks again Mark!
ok - so I really like the Panasonic AG-HMX100 Digital AV Mixer. I think it has everything that I need as well as the ability to grow with our production. I'm looking at recorders now - any that you recommend? Are these are the same or similar to the type of DVRs that security cameras use? Can I uses something like a Drobo to record straight to? Also I noticed that the mixer output is SDI, and most recorders don't have an SDI in, it seems to be mostly USB in - is there a SDI to USB converter - is this problematic?
Paint - I'm going dark gray, I'm assuming flat and not semi-gloss to control the lighting? We also have a drop ceiling and we'll be changing out or painting those as well.
Drobos, AFAIK, are not rated to be used as AV drives, only as holding tanks for files once already acquired. I don't know of any Drobo that has the speed to work as a real-time AV drive; that requires a dedicated RAID. Then again, I could be out of date about that.
Be careful if you think you're going to use a consumer DVR as your master recorder - the ones used in security work are generally not going to be compatible with your needs. You'll want to think about the recording duration: how long is the longest thing you'll be expected to record, like a board meeting or something - and look at what the cost of the memory modules or drive modules is. You'll want to have enough recording modules around to be able to hot-swap in new ones as old ones fill up, and enough on hand so that you're under less pressure to immediately offload the recorder to storage and erase/re-use the modules. This was a problem early in our adoption of P-2 cards: too expensive to leave around on a shelf like you would with a tape: there was constant pressure to dump off the files so the cards could go back into the cameras for the next thing coming up. I've never been a P-2 fan; I prefer class ten or better SDHC type cards in terms of value for money.For a smaller setup like yours, you might look at a recorder like something in the line from Atomos. Or the Hyperdeck series from Black Magic Design. Just make sure your entire signal flow is considered, from how it comes out the camera, to how it comes into the switcher, to how it get into the recorder and finally, into the editing system. You could do HDMI as a standard, but the cool kids are all doing things via SDI: the connections are more robust, cable runs are easier, the audio's embedded, it's very clean.
We chose the Panasonic switcher because end-to-end we have Panny cameras that put out SDI; we keep an all-SDI signal flow for everything, from the camera to the satellite uplink dish. The recorders we use are the AJA KiPro, with removable storage modules. We also have stand-alone P-2 reader/recorders, which can also be used to directly read the P-2 cards used in our cameras, and import footage into the editing system. If HDMI is your flow, maybe the Roland switchers are more your speed:
A consideration when debating what switcher to get: you're going to use and own the switcher much longer than you will the cameras. Cameras these days get swapped out around every 2 years as better ones come out, though of course you can hang on to yours longer if they still work well for you. But from an accounting standpoint, 2 years, maybe 3. Don't necessarily limit your switcher choice to compatibility with the CURRENT cameras you own, but rather, imagine what the next replacement cameras will be, what standards those may require, and choose the switcher that can keep up with changing types of inputs.
Regarding the ceiling tiles; depending on how you paint them, it may become a fire code issue. As installed, they are fire-rated. A paint coating over the top might void that rating. Work on the walls first. Flat non-gloss gray is right.
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone, especially Mark, on your guidance with this. Update on this project - we start the build out in 2 weeks. We ended up having to get permits but it's for the better. Most if the equipment is already here. It's very exciting. I'll try and post before and after pictures for everyone to see.