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Old November 27th, 2012, 08:16 AM   #1
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re:Converting conference room to studio


I am a new employee at a company that wants to do video production. They have hired me as their multimedia guru.
I have been given a project to convert a small conference room into a studio, and when I say small I mean small for studio standards.
The room is about 12' wide and 18' long. The ceiling is about 8' high (and it's a drop ceiling with panels) They want to install lighting so I wanted to ask if anyone has any advice going in?

I will be shooting with a Sony HVRV1U camera.

Personally I am used to the Arri softbank kits and had thought about using scissor clips to hang a hair light, then stands for the fills. I am concerned about heat issues in such a small space but it's what I have been given to work with. I also have a budget, so I need to be mindful of that.

Has anyone used LED lights for this purpose? Are they lightweight, and cool? I have read they are a little harder to control and I would get a lot of spill. Obviously this lighting scendario isn't the best because it's not like I have a pipe grid to hang lights, and room to place flags.

They originally wanted me to hang a bunch of lights but obviously a drop ceiling isn't meant to support the weight of lighting.

Any tips, or suggestions would be appreciated. I just wanted to see if anyone has experience with other products out there.

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Old November 27th, 2012, 08:34 AM   #2
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

If you are looking to set up a real and functional studio you need to look into basic studio design.

As an example for lighting you want to install some railing along the ceiling. You will need to beef up the electrical service in the room for the lights. If you go with hot lights you'll need to beef up the AC. You can save on AC and electrical by using more efficient lighting. That comes at a much higher capital cost for the fixtures though.

It isn't a trivial or cheap thing to pull off and make a space functional for more than 30min at a time.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 08:38 AM   #3
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

You may also want to consider a camera such as the Sony FS100. It is much more light sensitive than the V1 (I own a V1 by the way).

You could easily save more money in the reduced cost of lighting by ditching the V1 for the FS100 and a few decent lenses. On the plus side the batteries from the V1 work with the FS100.

What is your budget for the space? If its less than $10k you aren't ready to build a studio.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 11:02 AM   #4
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

What kind of material will you be shooting in this "studio"? That may dictate your approach. Talking heads? Product demos? Group discussions? A 12' wide shooting area isn't so terrible; the 8' ceiling height may be the limiting factor here for light placement and, particularly, for flags, etc.
Hanging lightweight fluos from a drop ceiling is certainly do able...good spread, low heat, as has been mentioned. Dedicated circuits and plug boxes above the drop ceiling would also help. A couple of 20 amp circuits may be all that you need with efficient lighting instruments like fluos or LEDs.

As the multimedia guru, ensuring that the client has realistic expectations regarding capabilities of this limited space is half the battle/solution.

Hope this helps.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 01:42 PM   #5
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

Well worth popping out a few ceiling tiles and seeing what is above? You can often find hardpoints that could support some weight below - and maybe a simple scaff grid or lightweight truss system could be fitted.

LED is worth thinking about, BUT, not all are actually proper white, and tend to have spiky spectra that means colour isn't quite as it should be - certainly in cheaper units.

You also perhaps need to look at sound treatment too - what does the space sound like? Also consider the floor. Will you want to put the camera on wheels of any kind so you can move on shot? If so, you need to check the floor. White walls, green walls, softs like black curtains?
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Old November 27th, 2012, 07:02 PM   #6
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

Hey Ken, Paul, and Chris,

Thank you for your replies.

I will be shooting mostly testimonials from clients about their experience, as well as comments from key people in the organization. I don't fully know if they will do group presentations although I could see it coming up.
Sound is not so great. Because they are in an office setting you can hear through the walls. They are thin. I mentioned that to my boss as well. I think they will need to insulate the walls heavily and when I checked out the room today I noticed the heating unit was kicked on and very very very loud.

The floor is tile, I don't imagine doing much camera movement and the walls are different colors do provide them with the ability to do a few different angles in the same room but have it look like a completely different space.

Do you guys happen to have experience using flo's or LED in these situations? I have read online that LED are a little harder to control and that I would need to setup flags to make sure I don't have any spill.
I have mostly used the Arri softbank kits which work great for talking heads, but since I have not had any experience with LED I want to try it, but I'm not sure if I want to gamble without researching more.
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Old November 27th, 2012, 11:59 PM   #7
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

Jeremy - While reading trough the previous replies I was thinking to myself the same questions that Paul Johnson had - about popping the ceiling tiles to see what's up there, for example. Running a support across the room to support the lights, for another.

The T-bar ceiling, though, may have a fire rating design and one doesn't want to compromise the fire rating. I had one ceiling that had a fire rating and the tiles had to be held in place with clips. Unfortunately, some people don't know that and will raise the tiles and allow the clips to fall out and never put them back.

LEDs: If you haven't worked with LEDs before may I suggest doing some test shots first and then try to edit them? The ones I have (three 600 LEDs with barn doors on Avenger stands) aren't the most expensive in the world, nor are they the cheapest, but they do have some spikes in their color. One can't see them with the naked eye but the video editor sure can! Gelling them can get one closer to a good color but so far I've been unable to complete clean up some of the color spikes but then I'm just a hobbyist so consider the source.

I'm no lighting guru but one thing to look at is the kind of lighting that already exists and go with the same type so as to avoid too much trouble with mixing colors.

The HVAC noise will be a major audio problem for sure. Just do a video take with it running then run it through the editor to show the boss how bad it is. Microphones have a way of picking up all the little noises that as humans we just tune out, but they don't. Ditto with employees on the other side of the walls. Maybe do the auditions on the weekend when nobody is around???

On the plus side, LEDs will run a lot cooler and that will be an advantage in a room that size or when the weather gets warmer. LEDs on human subjects may make it harder to color-correct.

[begin edit]
Since you're in or around Detroit, there is probably a professional photography store there so maybe you could visit it with your camer and take some shots. Run the clips through your video editor and see how the lighting looks. Even though I like my LEDs I also feel there is a time and a place for them. I haven't totally "warmed up" to them and we're talking about $2K worth of lighting. Remember my disclaimer: I'm a hobbyist.

Also, I don't have any tungsten lighting but I understand tungsten is the easiest to deal with. Actually, I do have one very small tungsten light fixture but have never used it because I don't have a bulb for it and there isn't much one can do with just one light.

Last edited by John Nantz; November 28th, 2012 at 12:18 AM. Reason: Detroit?
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Old November 28th, 2012, 04:51 AM   #8
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

Sound blankets, a big rug on the floor, lights on stands instead of tracks overhead.
There are lots of ways around things and way to make it work. Would it be perfect? Probably not, no space is BUT if this is what you have to work with then that's what it is.
Don't pull down the ceiling tiles to hang lights unless the ceiling has sprayed on fireproofing, (my son is a FF and has "worked" on buildings that have burned because of this usually at 2:30AM) the HVAC noise could make you want to scream obsenities, thin walls leading to noise from the neighbors might make you want to do bodily harm to them. Are there windows in the space? You'll want room darkening drapes to close it off. LED or Tungsten? I have used both, there's nothing like a set that's properly lit with tungstens BUT that doesn't mean that leds can't also light the scene just that you have to be aware of the spikes etc.
Look at the space with an objective and tempered eye (and ear) before you jump in to this conversion but keep in mind that if that's all you got, that's all you got!
Take some pics, post 'em here, let us look at the space. Maybe some ideas would pop into our heads.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old November 28th, 2012, 07:50 AM   #9
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Re: Converting conference room to studio

A few years ago I converted a large bedroom in the corner of my house into a studio. It's an older home with brick walls with its interior finished in lathe and plaster. I covered the windows with layers of blankets to block out the light. Eventually, most of the walls had at least some blankets hung on them. The room had a carpted floor. I used stand lighting.

My biggest challenge was with outside noise. I had to re-shoot scenes all of the time. It's amazing how many helicopters, that I had never heard before, flew over my house when I yelled "action." :)
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