Building a TV Studio On a Budget

This first feature takes a brief and basic look at how you can set up your own internet community television studio on a small budget.For a budget Television studio the location is not important, so let’s make it mobile. A bedroom, village hall, school classroom or the backroom of the local pub it can be anywhere, after all this is community television and it’s about the people.

The most basic of television studio can be achieved by just plugging in a camcorder (I used my HD PanasonicHVX200) and connected it directly into my laptop by FireWire for the video, and then used a BehringerC1-U USB Studio Condenser mic for audio.

image01
Using any one of the many streaming providers it was then a straightforward job to stream Television, but it is limited with minimal control and is really a just a home webcast setup but it works and can be a stepping stone for bigger and better things.

So let’s get started:

The principle behind the budget television studio is versatility, and with that in mind this feature is geared up to achieve the tried and tested magazine show format of presenters interviewing local people, businesses, Councillors, singers, societies all live in the studio, as well as playing pre-recorded footage of all those local events and activities in the community. Typically, a budget television studio will have one or two cameras a play back DVD player and some way to switch between the cameras and DVD player live as the show is happening before streaming onto the internet.

Here’s a list of the basic video production equipment you will need to set up a fully functional, yet simple traditional internet TV studio:

  • One or Two SD or HD camcorders.
  • Tripod for each camera if possible a dolly to move the tripod smoothly around.
  • A video switcher/Vision mixer hardware or software that can handle every single
  • video source you have.
  • An audio mixer that can handle every audio source you have.
  • Microphones.
  • Multiple TV Monitors, minimum of one per video source.
  • DVD player.
  • Cables and connectors to piece it all together.
  • PC based streaming.
  • Lighting.
  • PC for streaming onto the internet.

Budget Camcorders what’s available:

In an ideal world the studio would be full HD (High Definition) but if you are just starting your community Television station, a couple of good quality SD (Standard Definition) camcorders will work well. Brand new camcorders are not cheap so second-hand is the obvious way forward, and love them or loath them Ebay is the best place to look for a bargain.

So what to look for? Look at the professional  end of the camcorder market, and stay away from the consumer camcorders as they just won’t take the continual use that the studio will throw at them. For me the Sony PD-170 is a bullet proof SD camcorder, SUTV at Swansea University started out with a pair of these camcorders for their TV Station last year,and they worked well.

Sony DS7-PD170

Sony DS7-PD170 Standard Definition Camcorder.

As for budget HD camcorders, around ten years ago Sony brought out the HDR-FX1, it is a “consumer”3-CCD HDV camera and is a great starter HD camera, it’s weakness was it did not have XLR  mic inputs this is one of the main reasons why it is labelled a consumer camera but for a budget television studio it is not a problem as audio is not run through the camcorder. The professional equivalent version was the Sony HVR-Z1 and did included XLR sound inputs.

Sony HVR-Z1E High Definition Camcorder

Sony HVR-Z1E High Definition Camcorder.

Expect to pay up to £350.00 for a PD-170 up to £450.00 for a HDR-FX1 and up to £550 for the HVR-Z1, any of these camcorders will provide a solid basis for your television studio.

The next thing has to be the Tripod; the tripod needs to be heavy duty as lightweight camcorder tripods are not stable enough.

Image04
With the camcorder firmly bolted to the tripod, it’s time to look at a camera monitor if your budget can run to it. TheLCD and view finders are ok but tend to small for the camera operator, something like a 7″ TFT-LCD IPS Video Monitor makes Television studio work so much easier.

A couple of other useful additions to the camera setup is a tripod dolly for easy movement of the camera in the studio,and a LANC controller. The LANC controller allows control of the camera via a cable connected to the LANC port on the camcorder instead of using buttons and switches on the camera and is usually mounted on the tripod handle.

Image05

 

The final part of the setup is converting the analogue signal from the camcorder to a digital signal on the Videoswitcher/mixer. This is done by a SDI to HDMI converter; and there are many available in the budget price range.

Image06

 

Mounting the tripod on a dolly gives real freedom of movement during a shoot, especially when combined with a LANC controller on the tripod handle. This combination both in and out of the studio, make for smooth filming.

Video switcher/Vision mixer

This is the heart of the Television Studio and where you really need to invest in the best you can afford. For the budget studio there were very few budget option in HD vision mixers, but as the industry has embraced the demand there is a steady increase of HD quality Video switcher/Vision mixers becoming available. The best options around at the moment are the Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio, Datavideo SM 700, Datavideo SM 1200 MU, tvONE range of video switchers, Roland VR range of vision mixers, Vid Blaster vision mixer software to name just a few of the products available in the budget range.

We will shortly be road testing the best of the Video switcher/Vision mixers available, butwhatever you decide to use, there will be the extras such as monitors, cables power supplies so just keep that in mind.

Audio.

Now we have the Video captured we now need to capture the audio using a audio mixer to mix the microphone sources as well as the audio from the DVD playback player. The output from the audio mixer needs to be converted to digital and again an analogue to digital converter will be required. Microphones come in all shapes and sizes from lavalier tie clip mics, handheld reporters’ mics to the large condenser studio mics.

Image07

 

 

 

 

 

Image08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, no matter what kind of microphone you’re using, I would always encourage you to get your mic off of the camera and closer to the sound source whenever possible.

This is because your camera will normally be some distance from the sounds it needs to record, if your camera is ten feet away from the sound you’re recording it’s going to sound like it’s that far away even with a top end on-camera shotgun mic. whether you use wireless lavalier mics, a shotgun mic on a boom pole, or mic stands it’s always worth positioning your microphones as close as possible to the sound source to get that nice warm sound and eliminate the chances of background noise hum and that empty room effect.

Streaming.

The main bit of kit you will need is a PC or laptop and a network connection either hard wired or Wi-Fi, also depending on your video switcher/vision mixer an interface may well be required to link the outboard equipment to the PC/Laptop with of course the appropriate software.

There are many companies who can stream video for you such as Canstream but there are
many others, and we will be looking at the options available in the coming weeks.

So the hardware is set up, the computers on line and the cameras are rolling, it’s time to stream your first live show. Good Luck!

This is a very simplistic overview for setting up a community television studio and is aimed at groups just starting out, here we have just looked at the main components of the studio but depending on what you can afford there will be challenges to overcome such as synchronisation of the audio and Video and lighting, earth loop hum, software conflicts to
name just a few.

Download article here.

Authored by Steve Day, SU-TV, Swansea University – May 2016.