A lot of folks have asked me for the details on the livestream setup and gear that I use to produce my photography videos for YouTube. I’ve been doing YouTube videos weekly now for just about 4 years. The home studio setup that I am using now is the result of lots of trial and error and quite a bit of research into video and audio production that honestly was never on my priority list of things to learn – but just like anything else – if you are going to produce consistently good results – you have to actually learn what works and what doesn’t.
I have two different needs for video. The first is my weekly livestream called TOGCHAT on Wednesday evenings. The second are my YouTube photography videos.
My livestreams are an unscripted 60 minute Q&A session where I answer questions from viewers. My photography videos are recorded tutorials like this one.
I made the decision early in the process of building this YouTube channel that I would script my photography videos. I based this decision on several factors. There were already quite a few YouTube channels where the photographer would just talk while they shoot or just stand in front of the camera with no script and you would wind up watching a 10 minute video with about 2 minutes of useful information in it. To me that was just a big waste of everybody’s time. The problem with talking while you are shooting is that you’re not paying proper attention to either task. Then the video and the actual photos suffer. I knew that if I scripted the videos – I could pack them full of information and that would also cause people to watch them more than once.
I also felt that it would be a good idea to script the videos so that I was editing my words and making sure that I was staying on topic. I knew that by writing everything first – I would be inclined to research many of the topics to insure that I wasn’t just providing an overview based on my experience – but more importantly a deeper and more detailed understanding of the topic.
Whenever I’m in the studio shooting with a model I run several cameras to collect b-roll. What is b-roll? When you see me talking and reading the script on a teleprompter that is A-roll. It’s my primary footage for the video. B-Roll is the secondary footage which is the behind the scenes clips or close-ups of pieces of gear or even screen captures from the computer.
I shoot my b-roll with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII and either the M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO Lens or an M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Zoom lens along with 2 GoPro Hero 8’s. Having the three cameras with really wide angle lenses allows me to get overviews as well as giving me the ability to put the cameras in the middle of the scene while I am shooting. I shoot 4K on all three of the b-roll cameras – even though I will be posting my videos at 1080. I’ll explain why at the end of the video. When I want audio for my b-roll, I record that on an Olympus LSP4 digital recorder mounted on the cameras hotshoe.
When I’m ready to produce a video I’ll decide on the title of the video and what is the lesson that I am planning to share. From there it’s a matter of writing the script. Once the script is complete, I record the A-roll of me speaking and then do my editing in Final Cut Pro 10.
Watch the video
The Livestream setup
You may remember this video that I did a while back about my home studio. Now that I have a larger studio that is not in my home, I’ve built the livestream setup in my home studio.
So let’s take a look at the overall livestream setup and dimensions first and then I will give you the gear breakdown.
The great part about this livestream setup is that it doesn’t take up a lot of space. It is fully self contained in a space that is just 8 feet deep by 9 feet wide and the ceiling height is just under 8 feet tall. In other words – you could do photography videos like this in a small guest bedroom.
I’ve built it in a way that nothing is bolted, screwed or nailed into the floors walls or ceilings. The entire setup can be taken down and moved with no repairs needed to the room.
I was able to accomplish this by using Bogen Autopoles, Super Clamps and Manfrotto Adjustable Background Holder Crossbars. Everything is built around an Adjustable height Computer Desk that I stand behind. The desk holds a 32” 4K monitor, a dock for my 13” MacBookPro which is what I use to run my livestreams and it gives me space for any props that I need and of course – my trusty can of coke.
In front of the desk I have two Autopoles and mounted on the Lower crossbar are my cameras, recorders and microphones – I‘ll give you the breakdown on this in a minute. On the top crossbar is a SOONWELL 4ft x 2ft LED Light Panel which serves as a fill light and to my right is a SOONWELL 1ftx2ft LED Light Mat which serves as my key light. – it is placed high and to the side – to avoid glare on my glasses.
Behind the desk I have two more autopoles with crossbars and on these crossbars I have four sets of Spekular LED strip lights – two on the top and two on the bottom. These strips give me even light on the green screen that hangs three feet behind them. Green screens need to be lit very evenly otherwise you just create a ton of additional time consuming work in post production.
I use an iPhone app called Green Screener which uses my iphones camera to identify uneven lighting on the screen so that I am sure to have an evenly lit screen to work with. This extra effort before shooting makes the process of keying – or removing the green screen in Final Cut Pro X – a one click process. Green Screener is a ten dollar app that is available for iOS and Android phones.
Finishing out the lighting for the livestream setup – on either side of the green screen background I have a Dazzne LED Video Light Panel to create rim lights on either side.
You can see here that I have two Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II’s mounted via Manfrotto Super Clamps and Sinnofoto tripod ballheads. The Mark II’s also have the HLD-9 Battery Grip which allows me to plug the camera into AC power so that I never have to worry about batteries running out while I am filming. I have an M.Zuiko 12mm F2.0 lens mounted on each camera. The 12mm is a 24mm full frame equivalent and allows me to work close to the camera without distortion. And since the cameras are mounted slightly above eye level – the 12mm also has a slight slimming effect which is never a bad thing.
I use a high speed Type D Micro HDMI cable plugged in to the camera and the other end is a Regular Type A HDMI connector plugged into an Elgato Cam Link 4k capture device.
Mounted on the hotshoe of the livestream camera is a Sennheiser MKE600 shotgun microphone. The microphone is connected to an Onyx Blackjack USB Recording Interface which allows me to plug the audio directly into my computer. The Blackjack is no longer made but it has been replaced by the Onyx Artist.
The white and black material that you see hanging all the way around the setup serves two purposes. First and most important, it deadens the sound and eliminates reverb from the small room and the white material acts as a reflector to provide some fill. Notice that I also have a piece of white foam board on the top of the desk to provide a little fill from the bottom.
I use Ecamm Live software to actually run my show. This is a Mac only software that is very reasonably priced and I am able to control it with push button simplicity using an Elgato Stream Deck that allows me to create 1 button shortcuts to change scenes during the live show.
To record my photography videos, I am using the second OM-D E-M1 Mark II and recording Pro-Res files in 4K at 30 frames per second via the HDMI out to an Atomos Ninja 5 recorder. Recording in Pro-Res speeds up the editing process in Final Cut Pro X. I also have my microphone plugged into the Atomos recorder so I have my audio and video recorded in one file.This mic is also a Sennheiser MKE600 which I have mounted below the camera on a Manfrotto 2-Section Single Articulated Arm to get it as close to my mouth as possible without it being in the shot.
The teleprompter is a DIY build made out of a 1 dollar sheet of black foam board and transparent teleprompter glass that I ordered online for less than $25.00. I’ll do a build video on the teleprompter somewhere down the road. I use my iPhone with an app called PromptSmart Pro which is voice activated. The app follows my voice and starts and stops when I do. I write my scripts in Evernote and then simply copy them into PromptSmartPro and I am ready to record. The PromptSmart Pro app is available for iOS and Android.
There you have it, my DIY home studio livestream setup for photography videos. If you are thinking of starting a YouTube channel, you don’t need a setup that is this elaborate. The real benefit that I get from having this dedicated space and two camera setup is ease of operation and consistent visual and audio results – both of which save me a lot of time.
Oh – I told you I would explain why I shoot in 4K but post in 1080. A 4k file is 4 times bigger than a 1080 file which allows me to crop in on the file and use as little as a quarter of the image without seeing any quality loss in the image. So it is like having multiple camera shots in one frame.
Until next time, Please don’t keep all this cool stuff to yourself – please share it with your photography friends. Remember – photography is not a competition – it is a passion to be shared.
Now go pick up that camera and shoot something because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot!
FTC Disclosure: No sponsors have paid for advertising or mentions in this article. Product links are Amazon Affiliate links for which I earn a small commission on purchases made.