Video studio at home: video blogger set

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A camera is enough to start shooting your blog, but to get a high-quality picture, you need a few more devices. What? Read our article. Photo: Karolina Grabowska/pexels.com

If the answer to the question “how to become a blogger” is “of course, create a home video studio”, then this text is for you. Home video studio will provide you with high quality videos. With it, both the picture and the sound will be of a high level.

At first, creating your own video studio seems like an almost overwhelming task, but in fact, everything is not so difficult! Today we will walk you through step by step how to get started and what set of equipment you will need to shoot cool videos.

Camera

We recently talked about the most relevant cameras for vloggers. There we looked at cameras that are equally suitable for different shootings: both “sitting” in a home studio, and “on the go” on the street. In general, any model from this list will be suitable for our purposes. The exception is action cameras — usually they do not have enough aperture for high-quality shooting indoors.

In this text, we will narrow down and concretize a bit, and also tell you what is important to pay attention to when choosing a particular model.

If you already have a camera, then start shooting with it. The camera is not a decisive element on which the quality of production depends. Solves a combination of factors and equipment, and not each individual element.

Let’s see what we need from the camera:

Swivel touch display. Very convenient when shooting a selfie blog, but you can get by with the application. The problem is that not all applications for remote shooting are convenient — for example, the application may not support the desired format or crash.

External microphone port. If you don’t have an external audio recorder (more on that below), being able to use a separate microphone instead of the built-in one is critical.

4K video recording available. Resolution is not the main characteristic of video, and even shooting in 4K is not necessary (for now it is quite possible to limit yourself to 1080p), but having 4K video in your camera is a guarantee that the picture, in general, will be acceptable. Of course, there are exceptions here too (like cheap Chinese fakes, on which the coveted 4K is drawn), but they are extremely rare.

The next question is the format of the matrix (and the camera itself, respectively). Of course, the smaller the camera, the more convenient, but since you work at home, this point is not fundamental.

Full frame mirrorless cameras

If you can, get a full frame camera. I repeat, this is not a prerequisite, buying a full frame will just make your life a little easier. Let’s see why.

Firstly, full-frame cameras have a wider field of view than compact 1-inch and crop cameras (APS-C, Micro 4:3). This can be important when working in confined spaces. Let’s say you have a rather small room, and it is physically impossible to move the camera away from you. But at the same time, you need to capture yourself and the whole table in the frame. In this case, the combination of a full frame and a wide-angle lens (more on that later) can help you out.

Secondly, full-frame cameras are better in aperture ratio — you can get the picture you need in darker lighting. This will come in handy if you don’t have very bright lights. Also, this way you can shoot at a suitable shutter speed to create a «cine blur» when moving (if you want this effect). On the one hand, any problems with lighting need to be solved by buying illuminators, on the other hand, you definitely won’t get worse from expanding shooting opportunities.

Which full-frame cameras are suitable for a home studio? There are tons of options, but if you need specific advice, then buying a Canon EOS R6, Sony A7 III or Nikon Z6 II, you definitely can’t go wrong.

We will not dwell on professional video cameras, as this is a topic for a separate long conversation. And this is definitely not an option for beginners. Full-frame mirrorless cameras, which we talked about above, although they can be classified as professional cameras, are much more user-friendly.

Compact cameras

If full frame isn’t your thing, here are some smaller camera options that you can’t go wrong with either.

If your camera screen can do this, your blogging life will be much easier. Photo: amateurphotographer.co.uk

The one-inch Sony ZV-1 is specially designed for beginner bloggers, it has many convenient automatic modes. Sony ZV-E10 is essentially the same Sony ZV-1, but with a larger APS-C sensor and the ability to change lenses. This becomes an indisputable plus, because you can put a fast lens on it and get a cool blurry background that Youtube loves so much (the Sony ZV-1 has this effect much less pronounced).

For people more immersed in video, there is a dedicated Micro 4:3 format camera (slightly smaller than APS-C, but larger than 1 inch): the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5. Take it if you want to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of color correction and color grading, and then, without changing cameras, start making independent films.

Personally, I shoot with a cropped Fujifilm X-T30. In general, the model suits me, but it has a couple of objective disadvantages. Firstly, the audio jack is only 2.5 mm, which means that a standard microphone with a 3.5 mm plug must be connected through an adapter.

Secondly, Fujifilm has a serious problem with the app. At the same time, the screen of the X-T30 is inclined — it will not work for a selfie vlog. So, the application periodically crashes, and the camera itself hangs, and tightly, so to reboot you have to remove it from the tripod and pull out the battery. The video you were shooting at that moment is not saved.

But that’s not the only oddity of Fujifilm’s «legendary» app. It also does not support 4K video recording (maximum Full HD), and you can only shoot at 29.97p (this is a big drawback for fans of the «cine picture» at 24 fps).

NB! These restrictions apply only when shooting remotely through the application; in normal mode, the camera can do everything.

Therefore, if you do not have an operator, and the screen is not swivel, read reviews in advance about how stable and convenient the application is.

Today, you can shoot not with a traditional camera, but with a smartphone with good video capabilities. For example, the iPhone 13 Pro has a special software mode to automatically blur the background during video recording. Smartphones are much easier to use than most cameras (except that the blogger Sony ZV-1 can argue with them), so shooting video on them is very convenient. Shooting with a smartphone limits your creative decisions — the smartphone decides for you the parameters of colors, brightness, blur. And shooting in poor light with a smartphone is much worse than shooting in poor light with a full-frame camera.

Lens

In confined spaces, a wide-angle lens is useful. In addition to a suitable viewing angle, the wide one visually adds depth to the picture — unlike telephoto lenses, which “compress” space. The background will appear to be further away than it really is. To enhance this effect, try to move away from the background as much as possible, so the picture will be more interesting.

The focal length of a wide-angle lens is less than 50mm for full-frame lenses or less than 35mm for crop lenses.

For beginners, I advise you to use a zoom lens. This will make it easier to find the right focal length for you and your room in practice. I have an 18-55mm lens and shoot for a blog at 20-30mm.

But if you know exactly what focal length you need, or you can freely move the camera, choosing the distance, then a lens with a fixed focal length, all other things being equal, will create a more beautiful picture than a zoom.

«Shirik» will solve many problems with limited space. Photo: Terje Sollie/pexels.com

Given that we are talking about shooting indoors (even with studio lighting), faster lenses are a priority. With them, it is easier to get background blur and achieve the desired exposure.

My lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, which is very good for a zoom, but even with that in mind, I wouldn’t mind a lighter lens like f/1.4.

Tripod

For a home blog, a tripod first of all requires the ability to adjust the height and tilt of the camera. If you can put a tripod on a table, go for a more compact model like the GorillaPod. If you are going to put the tripod on the floor, then you need a higher model, for example, Raylab Travel 63.

At the same time, you can save money and instead of a tripod, buy a regular studio stand of a suitable size. But the stand does not allow you to adjust the tilt of the camera, so it will be more convenient with a tripod. Yes, and removing the camera from the quick-release plate is much easier than twisting it from the stand every time.

Shooting video at the table? You can get by with a mini tripod, such as the GorillaPod. Photo: Anete Lusina/pexels.com

If you are going to shoot not only stationary selfie vlogs, but also cutscenes with shooting on the move or shots with movement, then a steadicam is a good option. Choose a steadicam depending on the weight of your equipment. Consider the weight of not only the camera, but also the lens and the microphone.

And if you plan to dive deep into video production, then with a reserve for the future, you can purchase a video tripod with a smooth turn of the “head”.

Lighting

Good vlog coverage is a must-have given how much production has risen on Youtube.

You can shoot just by the window, if you cover it with curtains or tulle — they will help scatter the bright daylight. But be prepared that the lighting will constantly change (even if you have a cloudless or evenly overcast sky) — on the cuts during editing, the picture can jump around the exposure. But if you shoot in one take, the change in lighting will not be very noticeable. You will depend on the weather — on cloudy days there will be not enough light, and on a sunny day it may even be too bright. Shooting will be affected by daylight hours.

Ordinary home lamps will not work as video light. Household lighting lacks brightness, light bulbs have a poor color rendering index (CRI). On video with such light there will be an unaesthetic picture and flickering.

For video filming, constant light sources are used. The best option would be an LED illuminator and a softbox.

LED illuminators are very convenient: they do not overheat, they are more difficult to break if accidentally dropped, consume less electricity and, on average, are more compact than halogen or fluorescent illuminators. Therefore, for a home studio, it is better to choose them. As the main light source, I recommend taking a lamp with a power of 50 watts or more. For example, Godox SL-60W would be a good value for money option.

Whether it is worth taking a bi-color illuminator with the ability to change the color temperature (cold / warm light) is a more individual question. I use a Raylab RL-60 Sunlight with the ability to adjust the color temperature from 3200 to 6500K, but in the end I ended up shooting at the standard 5600K all the time. In general, the power of this lamp is enough for a selfie blog, but you have to put it quite close to your face.

A studio light needs a light modifier that will diffuse hard light, making it softer and more beautiful. Softboxes are suitable for this task — a classic rectangular or octobox. The bigger the softbox, the better. For myself, I consider the 90 cm octobox to be optimal, but be prepared that this is an overall accessory.

When buying a modifier, you need to find out in advance whether it is compatible with the mount (bayonet) of your illuminator. At the moment, the most versatile mount is the Bowens mount.

Light creates atmosphere in the frame — this is equally true for photos and video. Photo: Vitaly Gorbachev/pexels.com

The number of light sources depends on what kind of picture you want to get. Here in this article we analyze in detail the popular schemes. Unfortunately, theory often doesn’t agree with practice, so it’s a good idea to rent a few sources and see right at home which scheme is right for you. It can be difficult to take into account all the nuances in advance. Personally, the scheme with one source did not suit me because of too sharp shadows.

I myself use another classic scheme — with three sources. I put the main large source a little to the side — harsh shadows form from the other side, which I fill with the second source. Here it is no longer necessary to take a large studio illuminator, even a small LED panel will suffice. I use a Boling BL-P1 (it has a handy bracket with which you can easily adjust the angle of illumination), which I additionally pass through a diffuser (for example, a translucent diffuser from the kit will do).

The third light helps separate the subject from the background. There are several options here — you can highlight the hair from above, you can shine on your back from behind, or you can tint the background with a color RGB panel. For such a task, a medium-sized LED panel is better suited. I use a Neewer 590 Pro and light up the background in different colors, but I used to have a cheap ring light that I placed high behind the background and illuminated my hair and shoulders. There is a problem with the ring light — it is difficult to zone it and direct it where it is needed.

But if all of the above seems too complicated, but you want a simple and quick solution with a single light source, rent a ring light and see if this picture will be enough for you.

All fixtures require stands, which are usually purchased separately! For heavy illuminators, it is better to take a stand with depreciation — air or spring, so you will protect the light source from possible damage.

The background

The choice of background depends solely on your taste. If you want, shoot against the background of an existing interior or an ordinary wall. If you want — specially organize the space by placing suitable furniture or interesting accessories. If you want, buy a special photophone or a chroma key.

If you decide to shoot against the backdrop of an interior, it is best if there is a minimum of things in the background — shelves with books, for example, will be enough. To make the background more interesting, you can use colored lighting with RGB illuminators, or simply add light accents using any sources — ordinary lamps, garlands, and so on. Any additional lighting in the background will add depth to the scene.

If you want to use a special background, the first thing you need to decide is how you will attach it.

Usually this requires a separate background mounting system — stationary wall or collapsible. The advantage of wall mounting (in this case, a background wrapped in a roll is used) is that you can always quickly lower the background for shooting, and then raise it back up.

With a gate-style collapsible system, things are a little more complicated. It needs to be assembled and disassembled every time. The problem can be partially solved with a telescopic crossbar, with which the gate can be quickly reduced in size and placed somewhere in the corner. Another solution is a T-shaped system, on which a not very wide one and a half meter background is attached. This imposes restrictions on the width of the frame.

Before buying a mounting system, you need to measure the width of the room in advance so that everything fits (at the legs of the racks in the “gates”, for example, there is a rather large span — add about a meter to the width of the crossbar).

Another option is to drape the wall or furniture with a fabric backdrop. Personally, at some point, I simply removed the “gate” away and attached the background right on top of the classic Soviet carpet so as not to constantly assemble and disassemble the background.

Shooting against the backdrop of a home interior, a special photophone or a chromakey is a purely individual matter. What blog are you going to shoot? — The answer to this question will most likely determine what kind of background you need. Photo: CoWomen/pexels.com

Paper backgrounds can be used almost like disposable ones: unwound, filmed, torn off, rewound again. Fabric backdrops are more durable, but heavy and also wrinkle (although this is usually not noticeable on the video). There are also vinyl ones, but I did not deal with them.

You can use chromakey — a green (or blue) screen. When processed in the editing program, it is easy to replace it with anything — even for the starry sky, even for the Hermitage hall.

Sound recording

The human brain has an interesting feature: when watching a video, a bad picture with good sound seems to be of better quality, while a good picture with bad sound, on the contrary, is subjectively perceived worse. So the microphone is an important aspect of the home studio.

At the very beginning, we already noted that the built-in microphones in most cameras are no good. There is an exception — in specialized Sony blogging cameras, they are of relatively high quality. However, even for Sony, this is a compromise solution. This scheme can be used for selfie vlogs, which are taken on the go. In a home environment, a separate microphone will be a more competent solution.

There are several options: Mount the directional microphone on the camera’s hot shoe, mount the directional microphone on a stand on your desk, or hang the omnidirectional lavalier on your clothing. Wireless radio loops are popular now, but at home you can get by with a loop with a long wire. A directional microphone, by the way, can be replaced with an audio recorder.

Beautifully fixing the buttonhole is a separate genre of art. Photo: rode.com

If you have a conversational video blog, you shouldn’t chase super quality and buy expensive vocal microphones, but I wouldn’t advise taking frankly cheap models from Chinese nonames either.

Personally, I use an inexpensive Saramonic SR-XLM1 lavalier with a six-meter cable connected to a Zoom H5 recorder. The recorder in this case improves the sound quality compared to directly connecting the microphone to the camera.

Additional accessories

In order to simplify the creation of videos, there are many useful devices.

For those who cannot remember the text without hesitation, as well as for those who have complex and long scripts, there is a teleprompter — a device that allows you to read the text and at the same time look directly into the lens. Reading from a prompter also requires skill. Take a closer look at how the presenters of the news programs behave — they compensate with the movements of the head for the movements of the eyes running along the lines.

Another optional but useful accessory is the gray card. With its help, you can correctly adjust the white balance on your camera, if suddenly the automatic balance ugly tones the skin.

Results

Start filming your blog with what you already have. And buy everything you need as needed. Photo: Karolina Grabowska/pexels.com

In order to organize a blogger’s home video studio and shoot high-quality content, you will need the following elements:

  • Camera. Ideally, full-frame, but you can shoot on a good camera phone.
  • Lens. It is better to choose wide-angle.
  • Tripod. The simplest, should be suitable in height. A studio stand would work too.
  • Lighting. Permanent LED light + softbox is a great start, but there are alternatives.
  • Background. You can shoot against the backdrop of a home interior or purchase a photophone with a mounting system.
  • Sound. An inexpensive (but not the cheapest!) Buttonhole will do.
  • Additional accessories. If you are going to read the text, you will need a teleprompter. If there are problems with setting the white balance — a gray card.

Most important tip: start shooting. Shoot with what you already have. If you want to add something, look for rental options to see if this thing suits you or not. Only by practice will you get a feel for what equipment you need, and postponing filming until you buy the perfect setup is the biggest mistake you can make at the initial stage.

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