From the early days at SmartFile we saw the power of help videos. Most of these lived in our help section of the application. We found that users were more likely to press play than to click on the text documentation. The only problem was that our feature set was constantly evolving and the time to make these videos became increasingly difficult. The other issue was finding a quiet space to record. This wasn’t as much of an issue working out of our houses, but after moving into an office finding a place to record (without hearing everyone talk) was difficult.
Recently we moved into our fourth office, and one of my requirements was having a place to record videos. Unfortunately downtown office space comes at price, so our recording studio couldn’t take up much space. The first time I opened the door to our then utility closet, I didn’t see just a water heater, but a bona fide recording studio. So after making many adjustments we finished the studio, but not without wasting some time and money. Below is what we used and how did it on a budget.
Software – $250
Screen Recording Software (Camtasia Studio 8)
The first thing you need is software that anyone can use. Sure Adobe has some great products, but you need a four-year degree to use them. We tried several and landed on Camtasia, by TechSmith. This is an affordable product, which is easy to learn. We don’t use it for marketing videos, but it is a great product for doing software demos.
Note: We tried their Mac version years ago, and we found it to be an inferior product vs. their Windows version.
Hardware – $295
PC (Dell Optiplex 380 (used))
Because the software runs on Windows, you can use an old desktop or buy a used one on Ebay. I recommend having a dedicated machine, because it is setup and ready to go at all times.
Mic (Samson G-Track USB Condenser Microphone with Audio Interface)
This is one place I recommend not cutting corners. We used several before settling on the Samson G-Track. This gave us USB inputs, and setting controls on the mic. This particular mic also allows you to easily add accessories such as shockmount or a windscreen. Another nice feature of this mic is you can plugin earphones directly into the mic, to allow the speaker to hear what is coming out of the mic.
Mounting Hardware (Samson SP04 Spider Shockmount) (Dragonpad® Studio Microphone Mic Wind Screen Pop Filter Swivel Mount 360 Flexible Gooseneck Holder)
It is extremely important on where you position your mic. I recommend having someone hold the mic in different locations until you find a place that is optimal for the room. We also found the sound was better for the person to standup during the recording, but still have access to the computer. We could not use any conventional mic stands, because our space was limited. We used ½” metal piping and connected it to each side of the wall. We then purchased a ½” to 5/8” adapter (see pic) that would utilize the existing mic’s thread orientation. This material is easy to work with and can accommodate any configuration. Also, most hardware stores can cut it to the size you need.
Note: 5/8” is the industry standard for mic stands, and accessories.
Sound – $360
Monitor Speakers (Alesis M1 Active 320 USB Studio Monitor Speakers (Pair))
Don’t rely on crummy computer speakers to hear your voiceovers. This is an area you can spend a lot of money, but for what we are doing we needed something effective, but affordable. After researching reviews we settled on the Alesis M1 Active’s. They are less $100, but provide rich amped sound that connects with a USB.
Headphones (Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones with CCAW Voice Coil)
Headphones serve two purposes. The first is to block off any outside sound that may be coming through. The second is to hear yourself as you talk. This is why it is important to find a mic to connect directly to. This is another area where you can spend a lot or a little. We decide to go mid-range and landed on Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones. These are also less than $100 and are designed for DJ’s and audiophiles.
Sound Dampening (Pyramid Acoustic Foam (Single) 2″ 24″ x 24″ 2′ x 2′ covers 4 sq Ft – SoundProofing/Blocking/Absorbing Acoustical Foam – Made in the USA!)
I’m certainly not a sound engineer, but know it is important to absorb as much sound as possible in order to get capture a clean voice recording. We used several different types of foam, and tried to cover as much space as possible. In the back of the closet we used some old curtains to cover as most of the exposed wall. We also covered the door in sound baffles to create a sealed off environment.
We spent less than $1000 for everything, and got our very own sound studio. To top it off we found a used “ON AIR” light and wired it directly to the light in the closet. Besides being a nice touch, it let’s the people in the office know someone is recording. I outlined and provided a link to everything we used in the list above. Click here to listen to a short video and hear the finished product.
Good luck with making your own studio, and happy sharing! If you have ideas or experiences building your own studio, leave it in the comments below!