Building An In-Home Video Production Studio for Better Software Demos

How I built my in-home video production studio for $510

3 min read

I am the first person to tell you that I've been a little slow invest in leveling up the quality and polish of the videos that we produce at Outseta. OK, really slow actually. To the point where the (lack of) polish simply didn't fit the brand or product.

It came from a good place. In the context of a fast moving start-up, product videos become outdated really quickly. Film a demo, the product UI changes, and suddenly that fancy video is obsolete. In the earliest days of a start-up, it's OK to hold the polish for later.

I had other excuses, too. I spent much of 2023 traveling, making it difficult to setup a "command central." And there's nothing worse than playing golf with the guy who has $3,000 clubs but can't get the ball in the air—I've always reveled in kicking that guy's butt with my 15 year old sticks. The internet is littered with gearheads with amazing at-home setups pumping out mediocre content.

But when I landed back in San Diego in early November, I knew it was time to level up my video production game. This post is a summary of what I learned throughout that process.

Setting the stage

I want to start by setting the stage appropriately—I am not a professional podcaster or YouTuber. Creating video content is not my primary job—it's maybe 5% of my job. If you're looking for the be-all, end-all course on creating the best at home video studio with all of the best gear on the market, this isn't it. I'd recommend Aaron Francis' Screencasting course instead.

But if you're looking for some practical advice on creating videos that will look better than 95% of the people out there—without breaking the bank—then you're in the right place. I'm just a dude, in a garage, trying to make nice looking software demo videos.

I spent most of November tinkering with video tools and gear and I think I ended up in a good place. I know enough about video editing now to at least be dangerous.

Now in terms of the actual stage... I work primarily in a detached garage. While this fits the start-up narrative, I also love it—there's no bathroom, no TV, no refrigerator... it's literally just me, a desk, and my laptop. It's a productivity haven.

That said, my physical space poses its own challenges. The biggest of which is that there are doors on either side of the garage, that let in differing amounts of light at different times of the day. If I close both doors, it's quite dark—so lighting is something I had to consider carefully.


I started this process by considering my video background—what would people see behind me when I was on camera? In my case I had a garage wall that was in need of repair, so I had to start by hanging sheetrock.

As I considered my background, Savage seamless background paper was recommended quite a bit—I initially found it in Wistia's excellent guide on this topic. I elected against background paper largely because I didn't want to be constantly setting it up every time I wanted to film a video—repairing and painting the garage wall behind me seemed a more permanent solution.

From everything I read on background colors, most of the colors that were recommended were very neutral and kind of... boring. Almost every resource I came across recommended the color cream. Two colors that were a bit more lively that were recommended were "Sea Spray" (a light green/blue) and "Midnight Navy." Sea Spray clashes pretty strongly with the green we use in Outseta's branding, so I elected to go the navy route. Importantly, I used a very flat paint to avoid the lighting reflecting on a glossier surface.

It's kind of unique and and I like how it looks on camera.

Most of my videos are either screencasts or just me talking into the camera, and I sit pretty close to a wall so I decided not to clutter the rest of the frame with anything other than a plant. While unoriginal, I'm not much of a "look at my Tchotchkies" type—I'll have to show you my R2D2 Pez dispenser another time.


I've got an overhead light in my garage and two doors that can be opened to let natural light in, so the lighting ever-changing in my space.

I bought:

Both have been great—I don't really know what I'm doing, so I sort of just goof around with the light settings and positioning until I like what I see on camera. I will say that light always reflects on my glasses—based on what I see in other videos that's inevitable, but I try to throw in some contacts if I know I'll be making videos. The light runs on a rechargeable battery which is great in terms or portability, but it does die after a few hours so I need to make sure it's charged up before longer recording sessions.

Other recommendations:


Prior to starting this I already owned a Blue Yeti microphone because a nicer mic was required to be on Rob Walling's Startups for the Rest of Us podcast. But as I started building out my studio I shared an update on Twitter, where the now infamous Blue Yeti mic could be spotted.

James McKinven promptly scolded me and sent me to his website

Publicly scorned, I spent weeks feeling lost, humiliated, and endlessly flipping through fancy mics on the internet. I finally just bit the bullet and took James' advice.

I bought:

While it's not cheap it's a one time cost and was the only piece of equipment that I found to be unanimously recommended by literally everyone that I spoke with.


The webcam was not nearly so clear cut—everyone had an opinion on this topic and the price range in terms of gear varied wildly. My biggest learning was actually how bad the standard webcams are even on most newer Macs. I assumed that Apple makes great iPhone cameras, so their computers must follow suit. But after I filmed a first take of a new product demo video using the built in webcam on my Apple M1 Macbook Air (2020), I was really surprised to see just how grainy the image was—especially when the video was expanded to full screen. It's only a 720p camera.

With that in mind I started the webcam search and quickly ruled out an expensive DSLR camera for a few reasons. Most seemed to be overkill for my needs—the incremental improvement in picture quality just didn't equate versus what I ended up purchasing.

I bought:

Outseta's design lead, James, recommended using the camera on an iPhone X as a webcam—he uses this setup and the picture quality is quite good. I think that this is probably the easiest route to go for most people who already have an iPhone.

I ended up choosing the Razer for a few reasons. It's not a 4k camera, but it's a full HD 1080p camera that can record 60fps (frames per second). Many people noted that the image quality was actually significantly better than most 4k cameras, and the Razer especially shined in low light situations (which is often the case in my garage).

As it turns out, I actually made a huge error here—while the Razer works with a Mac, the software to adjust its settings is not Mac compatible. Given the prevalence of Macs these days, I had (wrongly) assumed that compatibility wouldn't be an issue. There are some software products you can buy that will enable to Razer's software to work with a Mac, but part of the allure of the camera for me in the first place is it has some good auto-focus and auto-adjustment features for lighting that work out-of-the-box. Without any technical configuration, the Razer generally looks really good so I'm sticking with it for the time being. But in retrospect, I might have ordered the Logitech Brio referenced below instead (which was also very highly rated).

Other recommendations:

Josh Loh uses a Sony ZV-E10 with the Sigma 16mm f1.4 lens—I will say his picture quality is the best I think I've come across. You can get a sense of that here—the contrast with my Macbook's webcam (shown alongside his camera) is wild. This is a great illustration of the gains to be had by using a better camera.


Now for the big topic—video software. The biggest learning here has been there's not a one-stop shop for all things video. Here are the products I'm currently using for everything ranging from video editing to hosting and creation.


My video journey will always start and end with Wistia—I look at what they offer first and use it whenever possible. I love the product, I love the team, and I love how the run their company. I have been a Wistia customer since 2010 and have used Wistia primarily for video hosting—this was my first introduction to many of their other video creation features.

What I've always loved about Wistia is there is basically no learning curve with any of their tools—they are just simple and easy to use. Stuff like customizing their video player and adding a call to action at the end of a video has always been super easy. My primary learnings as I dove deeper into Wistia were:

  • Their editing features make it really easy to stitch multiple video together and create smooth transitions between them. I had always assumed this was difficult. I was very pleasantly surprised here.
  • They make it very easy to add background music and intro / exit music to your videos.
  • Their editing features are quite basic, which led me to also subscribe to Descript (more on that below).
  • It is a bit pricey—in order to gain access to some new Wistia features I had to upgrade off of my cushy legacy plan where video hosting was $0.25 per video to a new plan that's $99 per month plus $1 per video hosted. With about 100 total videos, we're now paying $200/mo.


I ended up also subscribing to Descript because I needed more advanced video editing features. Their Creator plan is $15 per month, so that seemed very reasonable. It's an impressive tool and the tutorials are great.

Descript is a transcript based editor, meaning it automatically generates a transcript of your video and you select certain points within the text of your video to add in your edits. This is generally really nice—all I was really looking to do at first is add in some text based callouts as you see below.

There is definitely a learning curve and I flailed around a bit at first, but I know I am only scratching the surface of what Descript can do.


I bought Screenstudio to record my screencasts. It was kind of a no-brainer because it's a one-time cost of $89. The product does some cool stuff that's specific to creating nice screencasts automatically for you:

  • It smooths out how your mouse flows across the screen
  • It give your mouse a large cursor and highlights when you click
  • It automatically zooms in on important parts of the screen
  • You can easily minimize yourself into a little bubble and move around where you appear on the screen

The auto-zoom feature was actually what initially reeled me in, but the more I used it the more I found it distracting. But the product still adds a nice level of polish if you're creating software demo videos—you can get a sense of that from the demo video on their home page.


Last but not least is Typeframes. Typeframes is a video creation tools that's really simple to use and great for creating promo videos. I initially found it because one of our customers made this promo video that I thought was pretty slick, so I reached out to him and asked how it was made.

You can start for free by creating videos that contain a Typeframes watermark, then a subscription is $29/mo. I don't know that I'll remain subscribed on an ongoing basis, but will subscribe as needed to use the tool.

Lessons learned the hard way

Throughout all of this there were several things that just simply took me by surprise—or at least things that I stumbled on that others may as well.

First, everybody told me the camera isn't that important but the microphone is—I simply disagree. Listening back on older podcasts where I was using my Macbook's mic, there's very little noticeable difference between my audio and hosts using fancy mics. That said, a fancy mic misconfigured sounds horrible. I think the bigger takeaway here is just that if the audio actually sounds bad, it's hugely disconcerting. But audio is rarely a problem in my experience and having been through this process I almost always notice the quality of someone's camera now.

Second, while video editing tools are now light years—light years!—ahead of where they were even 5 years ago, editing is simply a super time consuming process. And it's something that you can typically delegate to a professional relatively inexpensively. For our most important videos, I will almost certainly do so—I'm not an expert. But because of our organizational model at Outseta, everyone on our team is more of a "doer" and less of a "delegater" than you'll find at other companies. It was important to me that I became self sufficient so I can put out polished videos in a timely manner when needed.

Third, some aspects of editing are just not obvious. For example, I want to add a slide into my videos to divide specific sections—I thought it would be easy to just drop in an image, but instead I really needed to create a video of the slide itself and stitch that video into the existing video to create a transition. Similarly, things like adding background music can be easy but if you want to increase and decrease the volume of background music during the course of the video—or if you're using a track that isn't as long as your video—this process becomes significantly more challenging. Most of this is simply me being a novice, but without question video editing is a big topic once you choose to open that door.

Finally, I was thrilled to find out how easy it is to stitch videos together. In the past I had filmed a full 15 minute product demo video in a single take—which takes countless takes (and a lot of time) to get a decent one. It's so much easier to film shorter clips, make them perfect, then stitch them together. That said, I recorded an intro for a demo on a different day than the rest of the video's content—and the audio settings weren't *exactly* the same as they had been the previous day. While this was a rookie mistake, it resulted in a rather jarring (from an audio perspective) transition from the intro of the video to the remainder of the content. There are a lot of tools that claim to repair the consistency of your audio recordings, but none of them worked particularly well for me.

If you are stitching videos together, you need to really standardize all of your settings ahead of time in order to maintain consistency and continuity.

All-in Costs for My Studio

The final costs for setting up my video studio were are follows:

Total: Spend: $510

Beyond this, Wistia ($99/mo) and Descript ($15) remain ongoing monthly subscription costs and Typeframes is $29/mo when I choose to use it.

The Finished Product

Here it is! My finished product. It may not be the "command station" that some people have built, but for very reasonable cost I think I achieved my goals of looking and sounding better than 95% of the people I interact with online.

For $510, I think this will prove to be a fantastic investment in our content and brand.

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December 23, 2023

Thank you very much for sharing.




December 23, 2023

Thank you very much for sharing !