Studio & Equipment
Asus Essentio Desktop (MSRP $449)
AMD Athlon II X2 Processor
4 GB Memory
1 TB Hard Drive
This is the main box where we do all of our switching, content producing, editing and maintaining our website. This box was purchased because it was expandable, inexpensive and fit the budget for the time. Ultimately, I would like to replace this machine with someone more powerful and use this as a storage and streaming server. So, if you click “Contribute” and then send a donation, you’ll be helping me improve the equipment in the studio! For right now, this machine is working perfectly fine.
(2x) Acer P205H 20″ LCD Monitor (MSRP $129)
With a resolution just short of true 1080 HD, these monitors work just fine in keeping my main machine displaying all of my content and allowing me to keep multiple windows open simultaneously. If you shop around, you can probably find a couple of inexpensive widescreen LCD monitors at your local office supply store. While you’re getting gouged on printer paper, see if you can pick up a steal on technology.
XFX Radeon HD 4550 1 GB DDR2 (MSRP $59)
In order to push all of the graphics to my twin 20″ monitors, the on-board video card in the ASUS box wasn’t enough. I needed some more horse power. So, I purchased this video card from my local electronics superstore and now enjoy beautiful graphics on my machine without bruising my bank account.
Acer Extensa 5420 (MSRP $549)
No frills here. This is an AMD Turion 64 x2 machine I bought several years ago with some money I got for Christmas. Since the on-board audio card on this laptop is louder than a dumptruck driving through a nitroglycerin plant, I cannot use this for audio and can only use it for screen captures, chat and surfing the web. It’s also a nifty machine to test the streams coming out of my main computer. This is the laptop I plan to use when I have other guests in the studio because I can surf the web and share the feed to the switcher.
Acer Aspire One Netbook (MSRP $249)
Surely you’ve seen one of these at your local warehouse store, office supply store or technology superstore. They were the predecessors to tablets and offered people an inexpensive way to take their cloud-based apps on the run while offering great battery life because their screen size is so small.
I primarily use this machine for capturing websites to be displayed on the feed because it carries the same aspect ratio as my video format. Also, its great to take out in the field because it has an integrated webcam and is certainly powerful enough to edit audio for future podcasts.
Behringer Xenyx X1622USB (MSRP $239)
This is the big workhorse of the studio. Featuring 12 inputs and capability for mix minus one, this soundboard enables me to actively switch sources, host multiple Skype audio calls, music and multiple microphones. The best part? No need for a digital audio interface, this bad boy has a USB output which goes straight to my ASUS tower. Added bonus? LOTS of knobs. That is the key to perfecting the balance of the sound on each input and making everything sound sweet. But wait, there’s more! This board also includes a compressor and phantom power on the four XLR inputs which means you can achieve that warm “FM radio” presence without a bunch of other connected equipment.
Audio Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone (MSRP $149 Street $59)
This is an entry-level large diaphragm condenser microphone which offers me a warm enough sound and very clear speech. One of the drawbacks? Condensers pick up a LOT of background noise. So, if you want to get this one, make sure that you room is very well padded and keep a quiet environment. You might also want to invest in a shock mount. I picked one up at the local musician store in the professional sound section for about $30. If you get this mic tuned correctly on your board, you’ll be set up for some premium sound at a fraction of the cost of some of the more expensive options from Heil and Blue among others.
Rode PSA1 Boom Arm (MSRP $109)
If you’ve watched any episode of my podcasts or webcasts, you’ve seen the robot-looking boom that holds my shock mount and condenser microphone. This is the Rode PSA1. This is a great economical choice when you’re setting up an audio or video podcast and realize how critical maintaining the real estate on your desk is. The package comes with both a permanent and temporary “clamp-on” base attachment so you can move it around if desired. This is a great and inexpensive addition to my studio equipment and something that I’m glad to have.
Digital Reference DRV200 (MSRP $60)
Let’s be honest, this microphone is not that great. However, if you’re looking for an inexpensive option for guests when you have them in the studio, check out your local musicians store when they’re having a sale. You might be able to pick something up for not that much dough. In fact, I picked up one of these with an XLR cable for less than $30 before tax! This sits on the middle desk and is used for any guests that are in the studio with me.
Desktop Microphone Stand (MSRP $15)
So if you’re looking for the next accessory to get for your studio and aren’t worried about people slamming their fists on your work surface, you can always pick up a few of these at your local electronics boutique. They’ take a small footprint and bring most dynamic microphones up to mouth level for people sitting at a regular height desk. Be forewarned, they will pick up any sound made on the surface they sit on and transfer it to your mic, so remind your guest not to get too excited with the fist pounding on the table. This is the stand that holds my Digital Reference microphone on the middle desk for our guests.
(4x) Sony MDR-V150 Dynamic Stereo Studio Monitor Headphones (MSRP $30)
Albeit that these are not noise-cancelling, not the best sounding and perhaps not the most comfortable, they are a GREAT buy. They offer decent audio quality and keep a professional look while being comfortable on your noggin. I have four pairs of these so that all of our guests maintain a consistent look on camera. If you look carefully, you’ll find them on sale. That’s a great time to pick them up in bulk. Added bonus? Each pair comes with a 1/8″ to 1/4″ connector so you can plug them right into your board!
Behringer HA400 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amp (MSRP $44)
Now that you have all of those wonderful headphones, you’ll need an amplifier to keep them all powered and listening to your monitor-out from your board. Solution? This sleep little device from Behringer. The secret? you can find it for much cheaper than $44. This was an obvious addition to my studio when I decided to add the capability of having multiple guests. Added bonus? Each listener can select their own volume! Now that sounds like a deal to me…I keep this plugged in in the middle desk and run 1/4″ stereo cable extensions to the couch where the other two guests will sit.
VIDEO & LIGHTING EQUIPMENT
(4x) Microsoft LifeCam Cinema 720p USB Webcam (MSRP $79)
Obvious a video podcast wouldn’t be very exciting without a video camera. As of the date of post, I have purchased four of the guys and have them all connected to the ASUS tower. Drawback? Each one really needs a separate USB bus to offer 720p video. Solution? Turn down the resolution. I’m not capable of streaming about 540 lines in 16:9 resolution, so these guys do the trick of offering great video quality at a lower resolution. I have two posts on my dual monitors and will use the additional two for shots of our studio guests on the couch.
(3x) Rocketfish Autofocus Webcam (MSRP $39)
I would never have purchased these if I didn’t see them at my local electronics superstore erroneously priced for $7 each. It was a no-brainer, so I picked up the last three on the shelf as use them for over-the-shoulder, POV and wide shots. Their video quality is grainy and washed out, but they serve the purpose of offering utility shots that I wouldn’t want to spend the money on with more of the expensive cameras.
Canon HF R11 AVCHD HD Video Camcorder (MSRP $699)
I bought this a year ago for an audition for a television show. We never made the cut, but as a result I got a pretty good camcorder that shoots great video outdoors. This was the only entry level camcorder I could find with a microphone input jack. The greatest part? Solid state media. This camera packs over 32GB of on-board memory and allows for use of SD cards for more. Drawback? It doesn’t record total HD, it up-converts from 1,664 x 936. Solution? Just shoot in 720p and you’ll be good to go! This is the camera that I use for all of my NLE video and stuff that is shot outside.
(2x) Husky 65W Fluorescent Worklight (MSRP $60)
When it comes to video, lighting is a critical component that is often forgotten. Most amateurs will try using halogen work lamps for their first few videos under the idea that it offers tons of light, is fairly compact and inexpensive. Where they go wrong is in diffusion and color temperature, which is always inconsistent. Using bright halogen lamps will wash all the color out of your video and likely remove any indication of depth of field, not to mention racking up your power bill and creating a sure source for a house fire. Solution? Check out these fluorescent work lights available at your local home supply warehouse. They only use 65W of power, run cool and have a color temperature around 6500K. Two of these provide ample soft and brilliant lighting for all of my video podcasts and keep the color temperature consistent with my other CFL bulbs.
(3x) Clip-on Utility Light w/ Reflector (MSRP $10)
If you want an incredibly inexpensive source of light for your video productions, keep a few of these laying around. They are very versitile and will accept any regular light bulb. just be weary of color temperature. I was able to find CFL household bulbs that matched the color temperature of the 65W work lamps I have. With all of my lights plugged in and turned on, I’m still using less electricity than the power supply in my PC!
Cables, Patch Cables, Connectors & Adapters
With so many different audio, video and electrical sources, you’re going to need lots of cables. Also, having an audio board as versitile as mine, you’ll want the ability to input a variety of sources. Before you get started, make sure you have all of the cables and connectors you’ll need to get your equipment connected and ready to roll.