Setting up a small studio

We all thought that setting up a studio to produce a few YouTube videos would be easy. After all, we didn’t need TV production levels or CD quality sound, and editing a 3 minute video with a single sound source and a static camera can’t be hard can it?

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Try searching for ‘setting up a studio’ on Google or YouTube – not easy to get good advice. We tried the old fashioned route and spoke to a sound technician and a cameraman (or two) and by a bit of trial and error and some duff purchases we finally got there! So what do you need?

Essential
A quiet space with good sound deadening qualities (ie carpets) and limited natural light (you can’t control natural light); some lights; microphone/stand; cables; lap top/PC; audio interface to capture the sound; headphones; digital video camera to capture pictures (web cams are of questionable end quality, although much cheaper); audio editing software; video editing software.

Preferable
Black out curtains; monitors to hear back (or in real-time) what you have recorded; a sound engineer and a lighting man!

Some of this kit you may already have or can borrow but you can’t get away without the software and hours of patience whilst you learn how to use it! After a few sessions you get used to doing the takes and know what will work and what won’t. The lighting rig is also important so you (or your guitarist) don’t look washed out. You also get a feel for what to put in the background, how to speak and move and what to play – YouTube don’t like ‘covers’ and can block/remove some videos if it infringes copyright. Do you know how difficult it is to come up with original riffs and chord changes when testing a guitar? You will also need a thick skin for when viewers are rude about your playing!

Our equipment:
Theatre/stage curtains – black approx. £60.00
Photo SEL spotlights x 2 £100
Shure SM57 microphone with stand £95 (for the amps); Shure SM58 microphone with stand (for vocals) £95; AKG Perception 220 microphone (for acoustic guitar and vocals) £125
Sony Handycam digital video camera £250
Tascam US-600 audio interface £135
Behringer MS16 active monitors £50

Adobe Premier Elements video editing software £63
Reaper audio software approx. £45

Various cables, leads, stands, stools and attachments
Laptop (needs to be powerful to cope with the video software)

You could probably set all this up for less than £500 but don’t skimp on the microphone, audio interface or camera as no matter how you edit if the input is poor the output will be also. You can get free software but as with everything the more you pay the better features you get. Learning to use the equipment and the software is great fun and very rewarding and each time you do it you’ll get better – our first videos now look very amateur compared to the latest!

So what are you waiting for?

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