To become the next internet sensation, you must record videos that not only provide great content but have high-quality production value. You may not have thousands of dollars to splurge on it, either. Because of this, you are going to have to get a bit more creative.
How do you go about building a budget video studio without sacrificing quality? You can accomplish this by paying close attention to detail and adhering to the following technical aspects of production:
- Studio space prep and evaluation
- Camera quality and use
- Studio layout and organization
- Equipment needs
- Sound and lighting considerations
In order to make the most of your studio budget, you will need to plan your purchases and studio actions carefully. Let this article guide you through what you should do when putting together a high-quality studio.
Building Your Budget Video Studio: Preparations and Work Space
Before you even consider taking a trip to your local equipment store to buy the necessary items, it’s a good idea to plan things out in the space you plan to use. Evaluating the space will help to determine the equipment you need and maintain a clear vision in creating your studio.
1. What Kind of Videos Are You Shooting?
Most streamers and YouTube personalities that involve storytelling and talking will not need a special “green screen” background. Rather, using a cleaned-up part of a bedroom or living room tends to work best. It’s personable and also makes your channel appear a little more authentic.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to do something more involved, where special effects may be required, you may need to purchase more equipment and modify the space as needed. A green screen may be required in this situation. If you plan to record music and film it, you may need some form of acoustic padding to enhance the sound quality.
2. What’s Your Budget?
The budget will determine a lot of the options you will have with equipment choices. It really only takes a few simple items to create an effective studio setting. If you have a smartphone and a decent laptop, you should be able to put together a workable budget studio for around $200.
That being said, you can continue to enhance the quality of your studio and, therefore, videos by purchasing higher-end equipment or buying a greater variety of items to enhance the picture and sound quality of your production.
3. What’s Your Room Like?
If you have a spare room, that’s great. You have an entire room you can dedicate to multiple backgrounds and video technology. It will give you the most options possible. Many people won’t have that, so it’s important to work with what you have. If your studio is going to be a shared space, some of your focus should go to cleaning and decorating that area.
Evaluating the sound of the room is also important. Some rooms may produce more of an echo that others or outside sound is picked up by the video camera. Practice using your equipment in the desired space and then make purchases related to muting echoes and controlling sound if this falls into your budget.
4. Computer Capabilities
If your computer doesn’t have much storage, or if your computer doesn’t have at least 4 GB of RAM, you’re going to have a hard time editing your work. This may mean that you will need to save up for a computer with more storage. The good news is that most computers that are under five years old will be capable of handling modern software.
This means that looking at the capabilities of the equipment you already have is important. It will determine what you will need to purchase or acquire and also make sure that you are buying equipment that is compatible with the technology you do have. As far as computer editing goes, both Macs and PCs work well as studio computers.
Camera Quality for A Budget Video Studio
One of the most important parts of your home studio will be your camera. A low-quality camera will make it impossible to get good shots. Thankfully, getting your hands on a decent camera has never been easier. These options below have worked for thousands of YouTubers before.
Option 1: Your Smart Phone
Believe it or not, many of the top names on YouTube and Twitch don’t have a separate webcam to record their scenes. They actually use their phones to do it. Of course, this requires keeping several gigabytes of space to store the videos before they’re uploaded to Dropbox or other cloud-based storage platforms.
It goes without saying that newer models are better than older ones for recording video because of their continued advances in camera technology.
The best models for use include:
- Apple iPhone 8 or later
- Samsung Galaxy S9 or later
- Google Pixel 2 or later
It’s worth pointing out that camera phones also have the added perk of being way more portable, giving you more shooting options.
Option 2: Your Computer
Though smartphones tend to be the go-to for video recording, there are some streamers that still use computer cameras for their shots. If you’re on a super low budget, this can work if you don’t have a phone with a quality camera.
That being said, most phone cameras outdo what computer cameras do. Computer cameras also have the downside of being stationary, so you’ll have a harder time adjusting it. They also tend to have lower-quality audio. This will be dependent on the type of computer you use and your goals in filming.
Option 3: External Webcam
If you can fit a portable web camera in the budget for your studio, it could prove to be another camera solution. There are plenty of webcams to choose from. The key thing to remember is to look for an affordable model that also has decent specs. Important specifications to look for include:
- HD Video Quality. If it’s not HD, pass it up.
- HD Audio Quality. The quality of your audio makes a huge difference in how crisp your voice sounds.
Generally speaking, most add-on webcams these days are fairly reliable. If you spend anywhere from $150 to $200 on a camera, the chances are that you will have a good option.
Budget Video Studio Space Set-Up
The way your video studio looks and sounds will matter just as much as the camera you choose. After all, people aren’t just going to be seeing you; they’re going to see your background. Studios also can change the way your voice sounds, too. So, setting up is important, and this guide will help you out.
Use for the Dedicated Studio Space
Depending on the space you have to work with, you will have to determine if the studio will be used solely for video work or serve as a multi-purpose space.
Having a full room to do work with video is amazing, and offers up so many unique shooting opportunities. You might want to have a green screen background for one wall, a place to sit and edit videos, and another simple wall for filming shots.
Realistically, the sky’s the limit with a room that’s dedicated to your video work. The only thing to remember is that you might need to put some acoustic treatments on your wall if your room is particularly echo-prone.
Maximizing the space for other purposes is not a problem, as long as you keep your video streaming in mind while you set up a nook for yourself. A good “narrative nook” will have a place to keep your computer your camera will have decent lighting, and also will have a visually pleasing backdrop for your recordings.
If your multi-purpose room might have others walk in during a taping, it’s a good idea to hang up a “taping in progress” sign near the door. That way, walk-ins won’t happen as frequently, and you’ll have less work to worry about in editing.
If you want to weigh all the concerns, check out this article I wrote called Where to Shoot Your YouTube Videos for all the possible locations and their considerations.
Putting Together Your Video Recording Background
Regardless of your studio’s size or “room situation,” you will still need to create a background for your recordings. The background is what your viewers will see behind you. You should keep these in mind when putting together the background:
- Regardless of the theme, try to keep your “studio view” as clean and clutter-free as possible. When you’re setting up your studio, make a point of keeping the area that your viewers will see clean and simple.
- Most good small studio setups will have a desk or table for support. This isn’t just a space issue; it also gives you a place to rest your camera. If you will be doing a lot of standing up, then you might want to get a stand for your camera or just use a small table for the camera to rest on.
- Having a backdrop with posters relating to your commentaries is a good idea, particularly if you’re working around a certain fandom. It helps bring the entire video together and will also make fellow fans happy.
- When in doubt, choose a solid color background. It’s the easiest, all-purpose go to in the book.
- Choose lighting that flatters you without making you look washed out. Lighting sets the mood and keeps the focus on you or the desired focus of the shot.
- Remove any personally identifying items in your camera’s view. You want to maintain a professional environment in most cases and for those who upload their content online, you may not want this information publicized.
I wrote the ultimate guide to video backdrops a month ago with 50 ideas for backdrops (with photos). Check it out if you need some inspiration of all the creative ways you can build these.
Recording Studio Furniture
A budget video recording studio doesn’t really need too much furniture outside of a desk and a chair. If you are interviewing someone, more furniture may be needed based on the message and aesthetic you want to convey. Certain furniture setups can make the space more comfortable as well as create a consistent layout for filming.
If you have the budget to do so, you may want to consider any of the following studio setups:
- Roundtable setups: A roundtable setup has a round table (duh!) with multiple chairs or a couch. This is a good choice for “talk show” recordings.
- Big comfy couch: An alternative to a roundtable is a couch setup. This involves having all of your characters sitting on a couch together, which can be a bit more personal.
- Style corner with mirror: If you’re going to be flaunting full-body shots for a fashion video, having a style corner where you can pose is a good idea. This usually means a simple backdrop to highlight the subject of the shot.
- Music setup: If you plan on taping shows featuring live music, bring your instruments to the studio, add some acoustic padding to the walls, and get some lighting that focuses on the gear.
Recording Studio Decor
Along with furnishing your video studio, it’s a good idea to have some decent decorations if you want to show some personality. These decoration items can help provide the right backdrop for your videos:
- Posters and wall art: If you’re not a fan of solid color backgrounds or want to make your room look a little different, the right wall art can add a serious pop of color.
- Potted plants: For lifestyle bloggers and talk video recordings, some potted plants can add a homier touch without being distracting.
- Mood background lighting: Neon lights and similar statement lights can work well in backgrounds as long as you and your fellow stars are well-lit.
- Collectibles: Fandom-related video studios can never seem to get enough of collectibles. As long as they are relevant to the show’s topics and are elegantly placed, it can work.
Your Budget Video Setup Add-On Guide
Now that we’ve created the ideal space for your studio to reflect your style and aesthetic, you need to make sure you have all the proper equipment. Seeing as most of the items people need to set up a studio are already available to them or free of charge, you should have a little bit of money left over to start buying up tools that can help you make better videos.
Here are some tools that can enhance the quality and production value of your videos:
- Green Screens: A good green screen won’t cost much. All you really need is to have a screen backdrop behind you that’s all green. You can actually find them for as little as $10 on Amazon. Most new video recorders won’t really need a green screen. Take a look at this whole article I wrote on green screens if you want to dive deeper into this topic.
- Phone/Camera Stands: These are a must, especially if you want to get a steady picture. Phone stands can hold most webcams with little finagling, and they can be stretched up or down to ensure that you get the most flattering angle.
- Computer Stands: If you’re recording from a computer on a desk, keeping it at a flattering height helps immensely. Using books or magazines can work, but few things come in as handy as an adjustable computer stand.
- Camera Lenses: Want to do special effects without too many edits? A good camera lens can help, and you can actually get them fitted for your specific cellphone online fairly cheaply. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $20 for a nice set of them on a cellphone camera.
- Lens Wipes: Lenses get dirty. Dirty lenses don’t record quality video. Lens wipes are a must.
- Lighting: A soft light placed in front of your desk can be a good investment, particularly if you are looking to do beauty videos. We’ll address the lighting setup later on!
- Microphones: If you’re worried about sound, it can be a good investment to grab one or two recording mics for your setup. This will ensure all sounds are picked up clearly without relying on the camera or recording device itself.
Sound and Lighting for a Budget Video Studio
These are two of the most important aspects of your video that can be influenced by the equipment and set up of your budget video studio. We will address how you can produce the best sound quality for your studio and practice the best lighting techniques for a professionalized video on a budget.
Microphones and Sound Dampening
Sound is an important consideration in making sure your production is top-notch. Listeners want to be able to hear the video clearly without picking up ambient background noises. A microphone is one way in which this can be done. Again this will be based on the type of video you wish to make and the equipment you are using.
Here are some microphone options to consider to enhance your sound:
- Camera mics: You can attach microphones onto your camera if you want them to pick up the sound more clearly. These are simple add-ons coming in a variety of prices based on your budget.
- USB mics: If you will be recording with your computer or near it, adding a microphone to a USB jack is a popular and simple way to improve your audio.
- Phone mics: There are mics you can use on your phone or attach to your phone for enhanced quality. This is one of the rarer options for those looking to make high-quality videos.
- Lavalier mics: You’ve seen the small radio-like pack with a wire that people will have on them in interviews or on camera. This can be used to pick up sound when you are further away from the camera.
Your microphone choice should be based on preference in shooting and should have the highest sound quality, given the budget you set for it.
Another consideration to make when setting up your studio is sound dampening or soundproofing. This will help to contain echoes and prevent outside noise from entering, leading to overall better sound quality. This should be evaluated when choosing the space and then making changes if necessary.
Here are some tips for soundproofing a room:
- Purchase soundproofing blankets
- Use bookshelves to absorb sound
- Weatherstrips can be used to block the space between the door and the floor
Taking the additional steps to consider sound quality will make your videos that much better. Test out your current audio situation and make purchases and adjustments as necessary.
Studio Lighting 101
As any photographer or videographer will tell you, lighting is everything. Putting together a good lighting setup can make your videos look crisper, even if you don’t edit much. That being said, the kind of lighting you choose all depends on the kinds of videos you’re looking to produce.
Daylight and Your Studio
If your video studio has a window in it, you might be able to use it. However, you’ll want to consider how the light from outside will hit you. Both angle and lighting strength will matter if you want to harness the power of the sun for your shots.
You should try to avoid direct sunlight whenever you’re shooting. Sunlight is naturally stark and fairly harsh on your face. If it’s too stark, or if you’re standing in front of the window, you will either look washed-out or end up appearing as a silhouette on video. If you’re worried about sunlight interfering with your work, investing in blackout curtains is a good choice.
Lighting Options Based on Video Type
Most well-lit rooms that have warm lighting will still be able to be used on a shoestring budget. However, there’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of mood lighting or extra-flattering light in your videos. Here’s what you need to know when splurging on lighting, sorted by video category.
1. Standard Commentary/Fandom Videos
If your videos are mostly composed of sitting in front of a camera talking about random topics, you’re in luck. Most regular room lighting will work well with your concepts. That being said, soft yellow lighting can help you look just a little bit better.
Add one of these items into your setup:
- Paper lamps: Those standing lamps from IKEA actually are pretty good for casual video recording. Paper makes these lamps act like light diffusers. The softness of the light fills in tired eyes and helps wash away imperfections.
- Mini softboxes: Most of these lamps are used in photography, but can still work well for just about any type of video recording. They are small and are made to be clipped to a camera or curtain. You can get one of these for $30 or less on Amazon.
- Neon lights: If you want to have a funky neon lamp in the background, by all means, do. Just make sure you have enough light to appear clearly to your viewers.
2. Standing Videos
Videos that involve a lot of full body shots are a little trickier to light up. Once again, most well-lit rooms will still work, but it always pays off to have a small boost in your light quality. Most photography lights can work well if you know how to position them well.
These choices tend to be best for standing videos:
- Full-size softboxes: Soft lighting is flattering lighting. Softboxes are made to be flattering. Enough said.
- Reflectors: These aren’t lights, but they work by bouncing light off other sources while softening them up. It’s a good tool to have when you want to get flattering body shots during a workout video.
- Paper Lamps: Yes, these work for standing videos, too. You might need more than one in order to get a fully “filled in” effect, though.
3. Food Videos
Looking to start your own cooking shows? Bright, daylight-like lamps are the best option since they reveal food colors better than most others. These can often work with daylight lamps, such as the ones you would buy for a person who has Vitamin D deficiency.
These are the best picks for cooking videos:
- Softboxes: Large or small, they flatter both you and your food fairly well.
- Daylight lamps: If you’re doing close-ups of food, using a daylight lamp to shine light down can help bring out the freshness of your dishes.
With this genre of video work, it’s best to think like an Instagram foodie. It actually works really well!
4. Beauty Videos
In terms of lighting, beauty videos are the most difficult genre to work with. This genre is all about looking at people and making people look good. So, you need to find lighting that helps fill in pores, wash away wrinkles, and even out skin tone. Tough, right?
Though the majority of other studio work will not necessarily need studio lighting, beauty videos are a different story. The lighting can make or break your ability to show off results and get a good audience.
Here are some options to should consider:
- Vanity lighting: Remember those mirrors that have lights that would help show you what makeup would look like during various times of the day? They can work as lighting if you’re in a serious bind.
- Paper table lamps: The diffusion of light from the paper gives a soft glow that flatters your face pretty well, though it won’t necessarily show results as well as you’d hope. Once again, this is a last-ditch option.
- Beauty rings: These are lamps that are specifically designed for beauty-focused photography, and they are the best choice for video studios that will be focused on beauty shots.
Testing Your Video Recording Studio
Once you’ve put together your ideal equipment and studio setups, it’s time to actually see how it looks on video. Testing out your studio is relatively simple. Use your camera to record clips of you and a guest talking or doing casual things. Then, playback the video to see how it looks and make necessary adjustments.
Part of setting up a good studio is knowing that you might need to change things around, so take your time to see what works best. You might be surprised to see what kind of rigs work best for your setup. With the right ideas in mind, just about any budget can turn into an amazing studio space by getting creative!