One thing we’ve learned during this time of shelter-in-place, lockdown, quarantine, whatever you want to call it, is that you need a space at home to work.
The idea of a home office isn’t new, but I’d contend that ambitious people need not only an office but some kind of studio as well. Today’s distinction is about my concept of a home office-studio.
One of my houses had a wet bar in the living room. It was built in the seventies and this was common and considered fancy. All the houses in the neighborhood had an alcove with a sink and cabinet in them.
When we moved in in the early 2000s we had no idea what to do with that thing. Eventually, we had the whole area turned into a big pantry since it was near the kitchen.
Why am I telling you this in a video about a Home Studio? Because it is an example of how architecture changes over time. Specifically residential architecture in this case. In the 1970s cool people needed to mix drinks in the living room.
But by 2000 no one did that, especially when the kitchen was 5 steps away and that was where everyone congregated during parties.
The same is true of formal dining rooms. That house had one and so does my current house. But how many of us really need an extra room just for fancy eating?
We turned our formal dining rooms into libraries.
But I know lots of people turn them into offices. Even before the pandemic, many people worked from home and needed a dedicated space to work. Which lead to the concept that a house needed to have a Home Office.
But the idea of an office at home isn’t new. While working solely from home was less common in the past, many did work while at home. My father had a dedicated office in every home we lived in growing up, but always worked in an office downtown.
What is new is the need for a space for content creation.
People trying to make something in the world – start a business or non-profit, have an impact, create a movement – now have huge opportunities to get their message out in more ways than ever before.
If you remember back to the Money Flow Framework Attention episode I encourage people to build a platform or online content channel. Add to that the need to use advanced communication tools like teleconferencing software and you can see why you should consider having a space dedicated to it.
How many Zoom calls have you been on in the last 2 months? Undoubtedly a lot.
How many people on those calls had a place dedicated to work in their homes? How many had a space dedicated to video calls and content creation?
Very few I’d guess. Why not have a space dedicated to that? Or combine the two. When building a home office, think about how you will use it to create video and audio content.
So I hear by coin the term Home Office Studio. Or maybe Home Studio Office. Leave a comment below on what sounds better.
OK, so let’s talk about the factors of a good Home Office Studio.
I’ll use my office as the basis and show you a little behind the scenes.
First and foremost a home office studio is isolated.
You have to have space where other people aren’t going to be interrupting. Where you can control the sound as well. The best place is to have your own room.
When we were looking at houses, having my own office was a must. I worked from home at the time and knew I needed a spot dedicated to working.
What we found was a mid-century modern house with had a rather large room on one end. The house was built in the 60s, and the guy who built it lived in it. He ran a construction business out of it and had an office/workshop/garage on one end.
This had been a number of things over the life of the house but was a disaster when we moved in. The immediate previous owners were turning it into a man cave, with a room for brewing beer.
But the place had concrete floors and no drywall on the walls for much of the area. We told them to stop doing any building because I knew I wanted an office.
Eventually – like a year later when we could afford it – we paid someone to finish it off, paint it and carpet it. We also turned the disaster area brew room into a really large closet. This now holds lots of gear and hobby supplies.
All of our houses have hard floors. Wood, tile, and of all things brick. But we had carpet put down in the office. The only place in the house. There were a number of reasons for this, but one is our next point.
When you are going to record anything you would prefer a space with lots of soft surfaces. Why? Because soft surfaces absorb sounds and hard ones bounce them around.
Putting carpet on the floor significantly lowered echo in the room. This room also has large drapes over windows which absorb more sound. It’s acoustically pretty good.
Next, you need to think of your space as a set.
Think of your space as a set
For all video projects, you need to think about your set. What is in the foreground, and background of your shot? How far are you from the camera, and how far are you from the background?
These are important factors in a number of ways. Distance from the camera influences the kind of camera and lens you can use, which we will talk about in a minute.
As I mentioned in my How To Look Good On Webcam Part 1 video, your background is important. When making content, or for video calls, people are going to be looking at what is behind you.
My background is OK. I don’t like the door behind me, but I haven’t figured out how to remove it.
The bookcase is on purpose. It gives an intellectual vibe. Also, I know people are going to look at what books they can see. I regularly change some of them, just to see who is paying attention. A prominent book that often gets covered is probably a little controversial. I’ll leave it as an exercise for you to figure out which one I’m talking about.
One last thing about bookshelves. If you have a bunch of books directly behind you, some camera’s autofocus system will lock onto them rather than your face. Especially true for older cameras without face tracking.
You see early autofocus systems looked for vertical lines when focusing.
If you watch videos from this time period, you’ll often see people’s faces out of focus and bookshelf 3 feet behind them in focus. It is very hard to see this difference on the small screen of most cameras, so take some video and watch the playback.
This brings us to the first thing everyone thinks about when they want to create content: The gear.
Gear – Lights, Camera, Microphone
We do love the gear. The first question people ask me when they want to up their game on photography, podcasting, or video is, “What kind of gear do you use?”
I want to say first that you don’t need a ton of fancy gear to create quality content. You need even less to do a quality video conference call. That is much more about light and camera angle.
I’m going to leave a complete studio tour for another episode. My list of equipment has been in the description of every DFL 2.0 video including this one.
My gear is probably overkilled for what most people need. In reality, for most of what you want to shoot, that will be edited, you could use the camera on your phone.
For life it is a little more complicated, but not in the hardware. A phone’s camera would work fine for streaming, but its form factor makes being part of a meeting harder, especially if you are the host. There are lots of controls in apps like Zoom and Skype etc that don’t work as well on the mobile app as they do with a desktop.
For sound, get yourself a decent podcasting mic or a good clip on lavaliere and your sound will be good enough.
And make sure you have good light. A big window is one way to do this, but there are a lot of inexpensive LED-based light panels out there. I use two of these to light my videos.
Again, look at the description for what I use and hit the subscribe button to see a complete tour of the studio in the near future for details.
Lastly, you need a good internet connection. If possible a wired one, rather than wi-fi. Though I use wi-fi because my cable modem is far from my office. When picking an internet connection, pay attention to upload as well as download speed. If you are going to be live-streaming or doing a lot of calls, that upload gets really important very soon.
These distinctions should give you something to think about for your current or future Home Office Studio.
Question of the Day: Do you have a space dedicate to content creation in your house?