Kathi takes the time to speak to Matt Troutman who is the Founder of Genius Lounge, a company designed “To Make Technology Accessible to Mere Mortals.” If you want to start a vlog or podcast and you are wondering what it takes to set up your home video studio, listen in and take notes as Matt gives us the rundown of what you need – the basic tech – to get started.

In today’s episode, you will know:

  • What it takes to get started.
  • How to best prepare for recording.
  • A list of helpful items to make a great video.
  • Great tips and tricks to get the best video quality.
  • How to set up lighting (and where to get them cheap)!


Genius Lounge/ Matt Troutman

Peter McKinnon 

Home Depot (shop light )

Eat at Home

“Free Better Best ” List as curated by Matt Troutman

Cellphone Stand


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A BIG thank you to our sponsor, Bethany Howard of Permission to Post:

Join us for next week’s episode (Part 2) when we learn more from Matt! You won’t want to miss it!

Transcript of this Episode

Read along with the podcast!

Communicator Academy Podcast #168

How to Set Up Your Home Studio – Part One


Are you feeling stuck?  My friend Bethany Howard, over at Permission to Post offers creative brainstorming and development editing sessions. You guys, she’s a genius. Get unstuck, elevate your impact with Permission to Post. Check out her link in the show notes to find out more.


<<intro music>>


Kathi – Hey friends! Welcome to Communicator Academy, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators God has created them to be.  I am super-excited about today’s podcast. I’m here with my friend Matt Troutman. Matt works for a high-tech company. Some of you have used it. I won’t say who it is, because you’re like an undercover agent in some ways.


Matt – Yeah, I’ve been given permission to speak about my company, but I can’t really say that I work for them. You can stalk me online and find out who I work for if you really feel interested.


Kathi – If you’re looking for checklist apes.


Matt – There you go.


Kathi – Okay, good. You’re coming to us in a different capacity today, because you’re the founder of Genius Lounge. Tell people a little bit about what Genius Lounge is about.


Matt – So, Genius Lounge is there to help people. Kathi actually helped coin our catchphrase, and that’s To Make Technology Accessible to Mere Mortals.


Kathi – Did I really?


Matt – You really did.


Kathi – Wow! That’s awesome!


Matt – I think you use that a lot of times to describe Roger.


Kathi – Yes, because it’s his spiritual gift to be able to explain tech to people who just want to get online. Or, they just want to buy something with a credit card online, or something like that.


Matt – And that’s exactly what we’re here to do as well. Genius Lounge is intended to be a resource guide online so that if there’s something you don’t know about, about technology you already own and you want to learn how to use that, but you might be a little bit too embarrassed to ask your family, we want to make sure you feel comfortable and you can always come back to our videos that we make so that you can always get a refresher on that. A lot of times, “Oh, yeah! I’ll use that all the time, I’m sure of it.” Then, two months later, you haven’t used it but you want to go back to it. You can get that refresher, and it’s free.


Kathi – When I look at your demographic, I often think: People like your mother in law, my mom. I don’t even know if my mom could find your video. Let’s be super-clear. I think there are a lot of authors and speakers who are like, “I don’t want to mess with the tech stuff. I just want to do the things I need to do.” So, that’s a great place to look for resources.


Matt – Absolutely.


Kathi – So, today, this is a question I get all the time, so I don’t feel confident enough in my tech-knowledge to know how to answer it, but I feel confident enough in my, “Yeah, you need to do this knowledge” that I can help people. It’s about setting up a home video studio.  I actually don’t have one at The Red House, because we don’t have internet here. It’s just ridiculous. I also have an advantage, because I’m married to Roger Lipp, so you know, I get my consultation for free, but here’s what I’ll tell you. It’s a real-life scenario that’s happening. I’m going to be home all Fall and I’ll be doing a lot of podcasting and a lot of videos and stuff in my San Jose house, but then, starting mid-December, we’re moving back here and once a week I’ll be going to Mather, California – The large metropolis of Mather, California.


Matt – Population?


Kathi – I’m thinking a thousand? And using my mom’s internet. Let’s get a full picture of what this is going to be like. But she has a room that she doesn’t use and Roger and I are going to set it up as a video recording studio. Now, of course, I’m already thinking of how I want the décor to look, and Roger is thinking about how he gets to buy all the pretty thing.


Matt – All the pretty things are great.


Kathi – Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to break this into two things. I’d like to, today, spend our time talking about the basic tech you need in order to record. Then, next week, I’d like to talk about, not the pretty things, but how do you get it to look like a real video studio. I’m going to help with that, but I’ll definitely be asking more questions this time, and next time will be more of a discussion. So, when you are setting up a video studio, are you using your phone for that? Are you using an expensive camera? What is your suggestion for someone who’s getting started?


Matt – For someone who’s getting started, the best advice I can give you is: Get started. I know that sounds crazy. Get yourself in front of a camera and the camera you have is the best one you’ve got. A lot of times, our cell phones now record in 4k video. If you don’t know what that is, that’s totally fine. What that means is: the videos that you are filming, in your pocket, are higher quality than some Blockbuster movies from ten years ago. If you think about that, you can create a video, edit it, and upload it from the device you put in your pocket every single day and that you probably use, mostly, to browse Facebook.


Kathi – Right! So, I love this, because you’re not telling people to go out and buy a bunch of technology.


Matt – Absolutely not.


Kathi – But, don’t post your first video. You have to practice a little bit.


Matt – That’s the other thing. My videos? I get very nervous in front of people, so I make my wife, Sarah go upstairs and wall myself off, so I don’t have an audience while I’m recording.


Kathi – I understand that.


Matt – So, you and I having this conversation is very different than my format for what I normally do.


Kathi – I am the meanest person in the world, ‘cause I’m just like, “You’ll be fine. Just sit down. Let’s talk.” And people are like, “Gasp! I need to prepare!” When you’re having a conversation like this, it’s very easy to come in unprepared, because you’re an expert at this, but when you’re sitting down in front of a video, and you don’t have somebody asking you questions? You need to be prepared.


Matt – Right. That’s the other thing. The questions that I’m answering for my Genius Lounge videos, those are questions that I’ve posed myself, so I sure as heck better be able to answer those questions. So, the camera that you’ve got in your pocket is great to start. Now, I’ve got a list of items that might be helpful.


Kathi – Okay, so tell me what those are, ‘cause yes, you can use the microphone on your phone, but…


Matt – But, it’s not going to be the best microphone in the world. It’s designed for mediocre video conferencing or it’s designed for video capture for memories that you’re going to come back and look at. That doesn’t require the best audio. It’s also designed for a wide range of uses, rather than just, “Oh hey, we’re going to be recording a video that’s short range, or right in front of me.”


Kathi – Okay, so here’s what I’m going to have you do. The free option is just to use your phone, but you will need a phone stand.


Matt – I would highly recommend having a phone stand.


Kathi – We now know you can have a free phone stand.


Matt – That’s true. My son carved a phone stand out of a piece of cardboard for us.


Kathi – It was very impressive, actually.


Matt – It was. It worked.


Kathi – It totally worked, but you can lean it against something that kind of thing. So, that’s your free option, to use the not-great microphone, the phone in your pocket and lean it against a book. But if I have a hundred dollars to spend, if I want to look really good, what are a couple of basic things?


Matt – If you have a hundred dollars to spend, what I would highly recommend is, there is a really nice, small tri-pod that I would recommend and a phone clamp that holds your phone onto that tripod. That’s going to make sure your phone is positioned correctly. Also, just a word to the wise, I recommend positioning your tripod and phone slightly above, so you’re looking a little bit up. If anyone out there is like me, if I’m looking down, I’ve got a little bit of a double chin.


Kathi – I have no idea what you’re talking about.


Matt – So, you definitely want to look up. Also, your audience feels like you’re looking up to them, rather than looking down upon them.


Kathi – So, this is very important. Know where the camera is on your phone.


Matt – Yes, absolutely.


Kathi – Because you’re tempted to look at yourself, but then you’re not looking at your audience.


Matt – That’s another thing I should mention. The camera on the backside of your phone is usually a better quality camera than the front side. That’s starting to shift, because cameras are getting so small. So, if you can, position it and go sit or stand where you’re going to record and have either someone else start the recording for you, or start the stream for you. That might be helpful as well, ‘cause often the camera on the other side is higher quality. Always make sure to wipe off your camera lens. I love it when people look like angels, but that halo effect in a Facebook video is not always fun.


Kathi – You and I have done this, because I was recording a bunch of videos for Eat At Home Cooks and you and your wife Sarah came over. Sarah helped me prep and you helped me film. Sarah did some of the filming, too. It’s great to have somebody else there if you possibly can. Now, if you’re just sitting there and talking to the camera, that’s not so bad. You can probably start that on your own, but if you’re doing anything with close-ups or live shots or demonstrations, it’s great to have that second person. You can get that second person for free. You don’t have to take them out of your hundred dollar budget. If you’re recording a cooking demo, you can feed them. Or you can offer to babysit their kids. Or, if they’re your children, they have to do it because you gave birth to them.


Matt – Absolutely. Family obligations always works.


Kathi – Okay, what’s the name of the tripod that you recommend and how much does it cost?


Matt – I recommend the Manfrotto Pixi Tripod, then there’s the clamp that comes with that. Usually you can get those bundled together for thirty to forty dollars.


Kathi – Okay, so we still have almost seventy dollars to spend in our hundred dollar budget.


Matt – The other part of that is, I love multi use tools, so that tripod, if you want to get a more expensive camera later, it’s a small tripod that has a standard camera mount, so it will work on any camera later on.


Kathi – Wonderful. Okay, so what are we going to do with our other seventy dollars?


Matt – With our other seventy dollars, I would highly recommend, if you are filming during the day, film near a light source. Get curtains. I’m looking at the light around Kathi’s studio right now, and this would actually be wonderful light to film in, because she’s got some white curtains that are diffusing the light. You don’t want direct light on you. I film at night because I work during the day. My commute takes me almost into the nighttime, by the time I get my son to bed, so I have some studio lights. You might think, “Oh my, gosh, studio lights are super-expensive!”


Kathi – Crazy expensive. NO!


Matt – I’ve got some studio lights that are generally around thirty dollars a piece. I have two of those in my set up, and they provide a ton of light. Then you’re going to want a way to diffuse that. I actually just watched a video recently where Peter McKinnon, he’s actually a great resource, if you’re looking to do professional YouTube videos. He shows you how to hack things very well. He went out and bought a shop light from Home Depot, pointed it at a piece of white foam board that he had cut, and that bounced the light, but diffused it enough to the point where he go this nice light on himself while he was recording a video. It’s a cheap hack. Foam board is a buck at The Dollar Store. Maybe a dollar fifty, now.


Kathi – Inflation. Nothing at The Dollar Store is a dollar. So, do you want two lights, then?


Matt – He likes one side of his face to have a nice shadow because that’s the cinematic effect he’s looking for. Personally, I like to have two lights because otherwise you’re going to cast a shadow on one side of your face or you’re going to get a harsh side.


Kathi – So, what about the ring lights?


Matt – The ring lights are good. I will say, if you wear glasses, you have to be aware of the angle at which you hold your head and the glasses. Otherwise, you can get a really harsh reflecting off the ring lights from your glasses. If you have an anti-reflective coating, great. If you don’t wear glasses, it’s perfect. Or, if you don’t plan on wearing glasses during your videos.


Kathi – You can not wear glasses, if you can read your prompts and things like that.


Matt – Yes, absolutely. Those ring lights are going to add a nice little circle to your eyes. I would highly recommend getting something adjustable if possible. You don’t want it too bright. The ring lights are designed to go around the ring of the lens on your camera, so if that is the case, you are going to be looking directly into the center of that and you don’t want to blind yourself.


Kathi – Right. No blinding. We don’t want any permanent injuries. So, we have our tripod and the clamp for thirty dollars, two ring lights, so that’s another sixty dollars.


Matt – So, we’re at our hundred dollars right now.


Kathi – Okay, so what about the external mic?


Matt – An external mic would be a good plan as well. I found one online (I haven’t personally tested this one) for about twenty dollars.


Kathi – Okay, so it’s a hundred dollars if you give up Starbucks three times.


Matt – Or if you only go with one of the lights, which is totally do-able.


Kathi – What’s the name of the microphone? And we are going to put all of these up, you guys, with links. Now, they will be Amazon affiliate links, which means you are supporting Communicator Academy just a little bit. If you don’t like us, then don’t buy stuff from us, but if you would like to see the podcast continue, then feel free to click those Amazon links.


Matt – So, this one is called PowerDeWise. It was one of the high rated ones on Amazon and it runs about twenty two dollars. It’s got a really long cable. You might also need an adaptor. If you’ve got an iPhone, we don’t have a headphone jack anymore and I know some of the Samsung phones are starting to eliminate that as well.


Kathi – It’s crazy.


Matt – So, you’ve now got lights, a mic, a phone stand to be able to hold that in place, the only other thing that you might need, and I’ve used one up until this point, is a background.


Kathi – Okay, so let’s talk about that in the next session. Because that’s going to be more about the look you want from your studio. We’re going to talk about that next time. So, here’s what I’m going to ask Matt to do, because Matt’s a friend of mine and he will do things if I ask him to. We did this for our podcasting. Roger did, basically, a free/better/best kit for podcasting. So, I would love for you to do the free, the better (so around a hundred dollars) and then the best kit for creating your video studio.


Matt – Absolutely.  Sounds great.


Kathi – I knew you would do that. I knew I could talk him into it. I’m going to feed him lunch, and if he doesn’t do it, he’s not getting lunch.


Matt – I’m in it for lunch.


Kathi – We’re doing a baked potato bar, which I happen to know the Troutman boys really like.


Matt – We really like potatoes.


Kathi – Okay, so next time, we’re going to come back, we’re going to talk about setting up your video studio so it looks amazing, but on a budget. So, we’re going to talk backgrounds, we can talk about lighting. We don’t realize how important it is until it’s bad. “Oh! I should have paid more attention to the whole lighting thing.”


Matt – And really, all a video is, is just how we capture light. If you have no light in the room, you get no content.


Kathi – Here’s the thing, guys. I would rather you put up a video with bad lighting, then no video at all. I would like you to just do the thing, but as you get better, your standards are going to increase and you’re going to want better for yourself, but you’re really going to want better for your audience. Here’s the thing: I just don’t want anything to distract anything from the message that you have for your audience, so we’re going to come back and talk about that. Matt, thanks so much for being on Communicator Academy.


Matt – No problem. Happy to be here.


Kathi – And friends, thank you for joining us. You’ve been listening to Communicator Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. You’ve been given the best message in the world. Now, go live it.




*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items


Meet Your Hosts

Matt Troutman

Matt Troutman

Tech and Video Expert

Matt Troutman is a Husband, Dad, and Nerd. He has been in the tech industry for over 10 years. He’s passionate about teaching people about technology and hosts Genius Lounge: a YouTube channel focused on making technology accessible to mere mortals.

Visit his site at geniuslounge.com

Kathi Lipp

Kathi Lipp

Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO

Communicator Academy founder, Leverage: The Speaker Conference creator and master instructor Kathi Lipp, is a national speaker and author of 17 books including “Clutter Free,” “Overwhelmed,” and “The Husband Project.”

She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and has been named Focus on the Family radio’s “Best of Broadcast.”

She is the host of the popular podcast “Clutter Free Academy with Kathi Lipp.”

Over the past 10 years, Kathi has helped hundreds of people increase their platform through teaching and coaching. She is a frequent teacher at writer’ s conferences and has helped countless authors and speakers find their audiences.

Kathi’s desire to help fellow speakers and authors avoid the mistakes she made, increase their confidence and be the person God made them to be, inspired her creation of Communicator Academy. Her newest adventure, is The Red House where she offers writer’s retreats and Writers in Residence events. Learn more about the Red House at https:writingattheredhouse.com

Michele Cushatt

Michele Cushatt

Author, Speaker, Mastermind Coach

As an experiened keynote speaker and emcee, Michele Cushatt’s speaking experience includes Women of Faith, Compassion International, and various retreats, conferences and events held across the country. She has also led radio, video and audio recording projects.

She co-hosted with Michael Hyatt on the popular This Is Your Life podcast. In addition, Michele serves as part of the Dynamic Communicators International leadership team, led by best-selling author and sought-after speaker Ken Davis.

Michele coaches multiple large-platform speakers in how to craft and deliver powerful presentations.
Michele authored Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life with Zondervan Publishers and I Am: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is. Her third book will be launched in Fall of 2019. She launched her first Mastermind group in January 2017 and is currently taking applications for her 2020 Mastermind.

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