Building Your Home Video Suite

According, there are 4 billion video views per day and 60 hours of video uploaded every minute – which means one hour of video is loaded by users every second. That’s a lot of people getting into video – the revolution is in full swing.

People from Boise, Id. to Baton Rouge, La. to Boston have been drawn into the magical world of video production. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and putting together your own home studio, you might want to consider a few important issues before plopping down some “Benjamins.”

Following the architectural maxim form follows function, what you buy should be directly related to what you are trying to achieve. Let’s focus on building a fully functional video editing workstation to transform your shots, scenes and sequences into works of art.

Environmental Protection

Space is not the final frontier; it is the first place to start. This might be a personal matter, but since you might be spending as much as 12-hours at one sitting within this nest, the size should feel comfortable. You might not have a choice, but you should be able to control the amount of light that comes into the room. Too much sunlight on a screen will destroy your objective evaluation of light, color and dimension in any software program.

You will need a desk. The desk should be large enough to hold a mouse area, monitor, keyboard, speaker system and of course safely hold cameras to pull cards from, or capture if you’re using tape… Just like a musician has to sit a certain way to create just the right sound, a producer must position properly within the feng shui of the room.

The first time you sit down at your video editing workstation, you should feel the power of what you have in front of you. You can either be very comfortable, or totally intimidated. If you take the proper steps and get the right equipment, this can be your favorite room in the world.

Screen Size Matters

If you work on projects with more than six layers of audio and/or video, try to get the biggest monitor you can afford. Technology doesn’t stand still, so you should make sure your monitor has DVI or HDMI inputs so you can see the results of 1080p resolution from your projects. We will all be expected to produce Blu-ray-quality material in the near future.

There are several theories on where screens should be mounted. I am sure you have seen a video editing workstation at a major movie production house with large screens positioned high on a flat black wall. This is done with the idea that they are producing video for a theater screen, not an iPhone. This would be a literal pain in the neck for the home video editor. Imagine having your neck tilted up for eight hours. Monitors should be at eye level.

Depending on the size of your screen, it should be 22 to 28-inches away from your eyes. For some of us who wear progressive eyewear, you might want to get a special pair of glasses ground to the exact length between eyeballs and screen surface. Your total focus is the screen. This means you will move your head less and you’ll have less eye fatigue.

Light or Dark?

We have always added a little back-lighting behind the computer screen bouncing off the walls to help lower fatigue as well. But, some people like to be in a dark room. The contrast ratios can start to fool you. We have seen some correction plug-ins misused while editing in too much light, and not enough in the room. No two eyes are alike, but a dank-dark video or washed out scene will not be good for the audience. Remember the audience. Black-out curtains are now attractive and easy to use, no more need to create a tacky look by covering the window in foil. In fact, if you use a layered curtain, you can control the level of blackout.

Within Reach

Unless you are a keystroke editing jockey, most people use their mouse to do most of the heavy lifting when editing. Some doctors recommend that you position yourself higher than the mouse or keyboard to eliminate issues with carpal tunnel syndrome, while other experts say sit low and make sure you take the weight off your wrists by keeping elbows-to-wrist on the table. That will determine where you place your mouse pad.

Video editing is one of the most addictive creative processes you will encounter. You can sit down at 7 p.m., then when you look up at the clock in what seemed like a few hours, you discover that it’s two in the morning. One tip to make life better is to label files immediately after and create a project folder in your video editing workstation. Keep what you need within reach both digitally and physically.

Thanks for the Memory

You will need a big machine. We always recommend, get as much RAM as possible. You might be able to put together a short video with few complicated effects or plug-ins on a laptop with 4GB of memory, but you will really want at least 8GB in the RAM department to get the job done properly.

With less memory, your software tends to lock up and that could mean losing work. We always reset the auto-save in a program like Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 down to 10 minutes.The software gets better all the time, although you often have to pay for upgrades to benefit from them, you never know when your security anti-virus program decides to run a scan. Keep in mind, when you have an audio editor, Adobe Photoshop CS5, a browser and other tools open, bad things can happen. The good news about a platform like Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium 5.0 is for the most part all the tools work together fairly seamlessly. Just like Sony ACID and Vegas Movie Studio work well together as well. For Mac users, you know the power of all the programs being from the same DNA and the unique ease of use of Final Cut Pro and Studio.

Relics of Art

Another aspect you should consider early on is archiving your work. With prices coming down every day, a good video editing workstation should include a few 1TB USB 3.0 desktop external hard drives storing all your raw video. 1TB drives are going for about $130 and they will free up space on your camera and that computer sitting under your video editing desk. But while editing, make sure the files you are working on live on the hard drive of the editing machine. External drives tend to over-think at times. And your machine should be on the floor, not the desk. Cooling fans create vibrations that microphones pick up.

If you live in an apartment or dormitory and you want your neighbors to like you, get yourself a good pair of earbuds or headphones. There’s nothing more irritating than the sound of scrubbing audio when you aren’t the person scrubbing. Also, be careful not to get sucked into the headphone mix syndrome. Always listen to the primary edit on the kinds of speakers you expect your audience to use. You may fall in love with a mix in your ear canal only to be disappointed when you hear the actor’s voice buried by the music on your speakers.

His Master’s Voice

One of the greatest inventions for the video editing desk has been the USB microphone. There are several out there. Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone retails at $249. The AT2020 kicks a lot of volume, so you will have to set the volume in your hardware preferences to less than one third the possible volume. The frequency response is quite dynamic for voice, but you will pop your “Ps” without trying. We recommend a clamp-on microphone pop filter to help eliminate that problem.

You probably don’t have a sound proof or acoustically friendly room for your video editing workstation. If you want to drop in a quick voice over that doesn’t sound dramatically different from the wireless mic track on the video, you will need a clean voice track. We found these 24x24x2-inch acoustic foam panels to use in concert with the USB mic. For about $30 a panel, this was a great way to improve the audio without breaking the bank – and they are portable.

No Man Is An Island

Now let’s get to the big elephant in the room looming large near the video editing workstation. All editors love to work alone. The fun of moving files around, backing them up, adjusting that sound effect and auditioning, then going back to nudge something into the perfect place – can be slowed by having that other person in the room. Many clients want to hover over your shoulder to “supervise” every aspect of the production. We had two actors want to watch the process one night after a shoot. They were quite impressed with the quick results of green screen keying, but after about ten minutes of the real nitty-gritty of editing, they decided their work was done.

Yes, you should always have that second chair for the client, producer, money person or media maven, but you have to make sure they don’t interfere with your productivity. You will need some headphones for them as well, or work with your headphones on, and only play them sequences that are almost finished. Collaboration on a project in a team setting can be fun. They can be working on graphics, or trimming audio and labeling files while you start the project. This can increase your productive and bring the project in faster.

Your video editing workstation is your kitchen. You should have everything you need at your fingertips. You should feel comfortable and have all the things you need to settle in for a productive session of video editing. You can sleep during rendering.

Dwight Douglas is a VP of Marketing for a major broadcast software company by day, and producer of short comedy videos by night.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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