As I was building my studio and working with my media team to build out a live studio, I had to do a lot of research to pick what worked best. This post is an attempt to document what I learned to save you some time for your next video studio build-out.
What Your Location Says About You
Where you decide to film your vlogs is even more important than what you choose for the rest of your studio setup and it’s likely that the theme of your channel is already indicating where that location should be.
For example, if you are vlogging about food, you are likely going to be in a kitchen. If your vlog covers car restorations, then it would be odd not to be in a garage. While these may be cliche, they still send signals to the viewers that they are in the right place if they are looking for that kind of content.
I wrote an extensive post on the topic of where to shoot YouTube videos to look at some creative ways to get the most out of different locations if you want to dive deeper. If you are thinking about building a studio around the location your vlogs take place, you will have to decide if it will be fixed studio or a flexible studio.
Building a Fixed Studio
A fixed studio is a video studio that is just a studio. You won’t be doing anything else in the space except record, and perhaps edit your videos there.
This is ideal if you have extra space in your home or office to make the videos because it allows you to build out the space without any compromises. You can build permanent light tracks into the ceiling, paint walls, build a permanent set, mount sound dampening panels, and make custom adjustments.
In a fixed studio, you have the advantage of leaving things the way they are, so you do not have to set up all the gear every time you want to make another video. You simply walk into your vlog studio setup, turn on the lights, and start recording. The ease of use means you can produce more content faster.
Building a Flexible Studio
Still, it’s not always possible to have a dedicated studio and you may need that room for other reasons. If you are using your functional garage to make videos about making guitars, you won’t want to get sawdust all over your gear. Hence a more flexible studio is needed.
A flexible vlog studio setup will require gear that is made to be put away more easily. Luckily for you, the majority of camera and grip gear was made with this in mind. There are plenty of lights, stands, and other grip gear that break down for quick storage.
The important part is to choose the location that best suits your content by giving your topic context.
Building a Studio in an Unconventional Location
On occasion, if everybody goes right, it’s good to go left to stand apart from the crowd. It’s worth taking a moment to think about the possibility of creating a studio around an unconventional location around the office or your home to help your videos stand out.
For example, if your content is about cooking, you may consider bringing your studio into the garage for unconventional cooking experiments. If you are making videos about makeup. Perhaps you could come into a kitchen to begin making some of your own cosmetics before applying them.
For most, it makes sense to build a studio around a conventional area, but don’t rule out other locations completely.
The Right Amount of Light
After you have your studio location selected, you will have to think through how to light that space. Below are some points to consider about how the types of lighting will affect peoples perceptions of your videos.
Using a Rooms Existing Lights
If you use the existing lights, the video will look like an amateur video even if your video camera is top-notch. This is typically undesirable since it gives your content less credibility but there may be a good reason to use it anyway.
Some times making your videos intentionally look less professional gives a feeling of authenticity (even vulnerability). Some times telling a personal story or giving an important life update can be done without studio lights and just utilizing the rooms existing lights to let the audience get a sense that you are letting your hair down a bit.
In the video below, the famous Magician, Penn Jilette (from Penn & Teller), shares a personal story about a man who gave him a Bible. The video is off the cuff and feels almost like a personal journal entry.
The Dark Studio Look
Using a dark backdrop with minimal lighting produces the classic “dark studio” look that conveys a sense of drama. This is what I personally choose to go with my own home studio since it communicates “studio” so well and that’s the topic I’m exploring here at Vlog Den.
The dark studio can carry other connotations as well though. Darkness can easily be written off as evil, scary, or having to do with night and, while those associations are correct, it can also simply be used to place a very strong emphasis on what the camera can see. Black provides the greatest amount of contrast to what is lit in the foreground, providing focus and clarity to an audience.
This look also gives a degree of heaviness and seriousness to the look and feel of the videos.
Light and Airy Look
Using a bountiful amount of light in addition to light-colored backdrops gives the opposite effect of the dark studio. Using plenty of light means we can see everything and nothing is hidden. No mysteries here.
This look feels open, airy, and authentic. This works best if your video content is on the softer side or is not so serious.
Most vlog studios will be somewhere in between the dark studio and the light and airy look. Where you fall depends on what you want to portray or highlight in your videos.
If the people you have in your videos need to clearly be the main focus, the background should be darker, but if the background gives a lot of context to the video then don’t be afraid to add more light so people can see it.
Daylight or Tungsten Light Colors
Choosing your white balance is something you have to think through every time you shoot and it’s something to consider as you select lights for your vlog studio. While the differences start to go into color theory (next heading below) there are inferences that can be made about your brand based on what light temperature you choose.
Daylight Balanced Lights: This color falls closer to the white/blue spectrum of light that is associated with sunlight or natural light. Because of this, daylight-balanced lights feel more natural or neutral. It works well if you want your studio to feel like the light is coming in through a nearby window or if you want the colors on your set to have less of a yellow tint from the lights.
Tungsten Lights: This light falls close to the orange/yellow spectrum of light that is known to match typical home or office light bulbs. The color feels warmer which enhances most skin tones. It is a less natural light than daylight, so it will give a feeling of being manufactured.
How Color Theory Applies to Your Studio
The colors you select for your backdrop, light gels, props, and even your wardrobe will say a lot about you and your brand. If you didn’t know already, there are psychological rules to the colors we see that designers and psychologists have documented and used to enhance visual communication. This is known as color theory and it’s good to understand the basics of the major colors.
So, before you decide to paint your studio walls with your favorite color, make sure you understand how that color may be perceived by others. The descriptions for the colors below are the most general perceptions of the color. Color theory can become can be complex when you begin mixing and matching colors, adding shades, or adding tints.
- Black: Death, darkness, night, mystery, and power. It is used frequently for formality and elegance as when people wear black suits or drive a black BMW. It is often used as a neutral color to give contrast to other colors.
- White: White is the color of purity, cleanliness, light, and goodness. Like black, it is a common neutral color to help other colors stand out. It is also seen as plain, simple, or stark.
- Grey: This is the most neutral color and comes across as plain, dull, flat, and/or emotionless. Greys are also often used as a contrast to other colors in a design, interior layout, or set.
- Red: Red is commonly used to denote hot, anger, war, passion, love, energy, fire, blood, and romance. It is an intense color that raises blood pressure and is often associated with power.
- Blue: Blue is calm, gentle, safe, tranquil, refreshing, and strong. It is often associated with water, rain, oceans, and the sky. Banks often use blue their designs to denote safety and conservatism.
- Green: Green is fresh, natural, and often associated with money and fertility. Green can also mean amateur or inexperienced.
- Yellow: Yellow is fun, lively, warm, bright, creative, and happy. It’s often a symbol of the sun, warning, or cowardice. Because it is the most easily seen against black, it is frequently used to get attention.
- Orange: Orange is warm, sweet, tropical, and enthusiastic. Being between yellow and red, orange carries traits of both but to a lesser degree.
- Purple: Purple is the color of nobility, luxury, and ambition. It is known to be feminine and preferred by young children. Purple is in between the warmth of red and the coolness of blue to create a soft yet vibrant color that rarely occurs in nature.
- Pink: Pink is the color of love, friendship, affection, harmony, and femininity. This is a softer version of red that keeps all the romance without the intensity.
- Brown: Brown is the color of nature, earth, grounding, wood, and reliability. It is associated with the season of fall and things that are organic.
What about the other colors? There are millions of hues, saturation levels, and tones out there, right? A simple google search for that color will reveal what is associated with it, so take a look to see if a specific color makes sense for your channel.
Spend some time thinking through how the colors you choose will reflect on you and/or the brand you represent.
Adding Visual Cues With Decor and Background Objects
When building a vlog studio set, you have to keep some interior design principles if you want to be intentional about what your set says about your brand. Interior designers use the principles below to build intentional experiences for those who enter a room.
What kind of experience, feeling, or impression do you want to leave on your viewers? Consider how you can use these principles to reflect your brand.
This is the spacial relationship of the objects you have on in your studio set up, including your furniture, decor, and your backdrop. There are two ways you can generally balance those objects within the frame of the camera.
The First is symmetrical with an equal amount of objects or weight on both sides of the frame. If you want to consider a sense of uniformity, harmony, trustworthiness, and strength, you may want to balance your set this way. It can also be considered a bit dull and boring, but that doesn’t mean you can’t liven up your set in other ways.
The second is asymmetrical with an unequal amount of weight on each side of the frame. If you sit on one side and have some empty space on the other side of the shot, this is asymetrically balanced set design. Asymmetry is fun and exciting and it is the most common for photography and videography.
Rhythm is the feeling you get with the repetition of similar visual cues. It could be a repeating pattern of shapes, colors, or other visual features that help tie together a set. The more rhythm a set design has, the more consistent it is and “professional” it feels. With this, you will want to consider how formal or informal you want your video to feel. Do you want your set to look like a polished studio to established trust and authority? Perhaps you want to use less rhythm to make the video look intentionally informal and personable.
While Rhythm is the repetition of similar elements, harmony is what ties similar elements together. You might have a lamp and rug that match because they are the same color or you may create harmony by having similar types of nerdy knick nacks on a bookshelf.
To visually communicate your brand, what things should have harmony (match) and what things shouldn’t? Should all the colors work well together while the objects vary?
With every vlog studio set, there should be a point of visual interest. Something that acts as an anchor for everything else. This could be the person in front of the camera, an extravagant chair, or the large bookshelf in the background. You should choose one thing you want to emphasize in your set and it would be good if it is something that you want to associate with your brand.
For example, if you had a video channel about hiking you may have a fully loaded backpacking bag hanging on the wall in the background that is the focal point of the set.
When you think of what a person’s personality is, you think of what combination of traits makes them different/unique. The same goes or set design and it is perhaps the most important principle to consider when deciding your vlog studio setup.
What decor elements can you add to stand out from other content creators like yourself? It doesn’t have to be sophisticated and can be a simple tweak on a conventional item.
If you create videos about surfing and your brand is positioning surfing as a good way to stay in shape, then you can have a surfboard leaning against a crisp orange wall with jump rope hanging next to it. If you’re having a hard time imagining it, just imagine it was a set for Nike’s new surfboard. Can you see, how it takes the usual beach bum look and feel of surfing and creates a whole new personality around it?
What can you do to make your video setup different than everybody else’s? What part of you or your companies personality can you pull in to help your videos stand out?
How do I make my video studio setup more professional? The best way to instantly make your videos look more professional is by being meticulous about how you light your video’s backdrop. Whether that is a single wall or a decorated set, the lighting is what gives away whether it is professional or an amateur background. Take time to light each object in a way to give it the appropriate amount of emphasis.
What kind of equipment do I need for a video production studio? At a minimal level, you need a camera, tripod, dedicated lights, and a microphone. There are, however, dozens of other pieces of equipment that will enhance the look of the video or simply save you time in making those videos. You can see a full list of needed vs. nice-to-have pieces of video studio equipment in a past post I wrote for more details.
What are the best wall colors to pick for my studio? This depends on the functionality of the studio, but most people stick with white, black, or grey unless they want to have a dedicated wall as a backdrop with a color that reflects their brand. I wrote a post a few months ago outlining all the color options you might want to consider for your video studio.