Build A Video Studio For Less Than $500 [video]

Build A Video Studio For Less Than $500 [video]

by Tracy Johnson

It’s clear that video is a powerful tool for communication, engagement, exposing a brand, selling a product and getting attention online. There’s no reason to invest thousands of dollars in expensive cameras and video gear. To get started, build a video studio on the cheap! Then upgrade the gear when possible.

Most stations are overwhelmed at the prospect of starting a video strategy, starting with the equipment and technology needed. But it’s not that intimidating when you really get into it. Here’s a great place to start.

Degree of Difficulty

You’ll be amazed at what you can produce in a video studio built for less than $500. Not only is it a functional professional video studio, it can fit almost anywhere. It doesn’t take much space.

Rick Morton, morning personality on Z90/San Diego explains  how he did it in this short video, created entirely in a corner of his morning show’s office:

Pretty cool, huh? And remarkably easy. Once it’s set up, you can generate a ton of high quality video.

Video Studio Shopping List

Here’s everything to get started, with prices to build a video studio on the cheap:


An unused office or wall in a low traffic area will do fine. If there’s absolutely no space at the station, do it at home. It’s a tax deduction! Try to find a place that’s as quiet as possible. If it’s just outside the lunch room, there will be background noise  that can get annoying.

Option: Make it a part of the on-air studio. Adding video to a production room or main control studio is easy!

Cost: $0


For greatest flexibility, paint part of the studio area white (a clean white background can look great in some videos).

Paint another part chromakey green (for a green screen background that can be replaced with any image you choose).

In a third section add a backdrop with brand logo. Paint it or get a large vinyl sticker or poster from a copy shop. Another nice effect is a backdrop with repeated logos on a plain backdrop, which you probably have seen in press conferences.

If building the studio to be shared with other stations in your cluster, make sure the logo can be replaced easily and quickly. Or just go with the chromakey background to make it as flexible as your imagination.

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Maximum Cost: $50.

Note: Painting a wall with the green screen paint is convenient, but if that’s not possible, get a green screen background that telescopes up and down. It costs as little as $20, up to around $100. Hang it whenever and wherever it’s needed.


Green screen provides unlimited possibilities. Combined with graphic and video backgrounds in production, it may be all that’s needed.

But static backgrounds are great options, too. Rick used an aerial shot of San Diego in the video above.

Try to find a high resolution photo and have it enlarged at a copy center. For a unique photo, check with a local traffic service and see if they’ll take a picture from their helicopter the next time they’re out.

Cost: $30.


It’s easy to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a professional camera, but it’s not necessary.

All you really need is a smartphone. The cameras are that good.  Many video cameras on phones are higher quality than DSLR video. Cost: $0.

If you want a “real” camera, get a GoPro HERO3. Cost $199. If you do a lot of action shots, it might help having this, but you don’t need it to start your studio.

This  Logitech camera is also ideal, and is less than $100. The resolution is great and it adjusts for low lighting situations.


This is a big help in getting the perfect angle, and they’re dirt cheap.

Get the  Stargoods Flexible Iphone Tripod Mini Octopus (Set of 3). Cost $16.99 (for 3). Or, upgrade for a better one, like this. GripTight GorillaPod Stand Cost: $29.

For mounting standard cameras, just Google tripods. They’re available for next to nothing.


This is the most important item of all. Most amateur video is poor just because it’s not well-lit. Natural lighting is always best, but it’s not dependable, especially if there are no windows.

So invest in a lighting kit like the 600W Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio.

They’re not as expensive as you think, and will make a huge difference in how your videos look. There’s a bit of a learning curve to use lighting kits effectively, but it’s easy to figure out with a little effort. And there’s always Google and YouTube to help you.

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Cost: Under $100.


You could spend several hundred dollars for professional software like Final Cut Pro but there’s no point unless you’re planning to become the next Spielberg.

If you have a Mac, you already have iMovie. That’s all you need. If you have a Windows PC, download simple video software that you can find it for free.

Cost: $50 (maximum).


Video takes storage, but there are online services that make it free.

Upload video to a YouTube account (start a Channel there) or Vimeo. For best results, upload in HD

Cost: $0.


That’s it. Some stations have launched a video strategy for as little as $200 by using existing hardware (smartphone, computer). $500 gets a nice set up. If the budget allows, spring for extra lighting and more cameras for extra angles. And some video switching hardware/software is nice, too. But that can come later.

Now get to work. I can’t wait to see what you create.


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