In recent years, we’ve seen an unprecedented surge in the popularity of podcasts, which has transformed the way we consume and engage with content. What sets the podcast ecosystem apart is the significant rise of video podcasts, which has played a pivotal role in propelling the growth. While traditional podcasts continue to thrive, video podcasts offer creators a new way to connect with their audiences on a more immersive level. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, and others are being used to host and promote video podcasts, leveraging content creators’ existing user base and discoverability features.
Sound Shed AV Solutions is a one-stop shop for podcast/production studio design and builds. Led by Matthew Alvarez, a seasoned professional in AV engineering, videography, and cinematography, the Austin, TX-based company has harnessed the video podcast frenzy. Established in 2020, amid the pandemic’s peak, the company’s initial journey was serendipitously intertwined with Joe Rogan, the renowned comedian, UFC commentator, and prolific podcast host behind The Joe Rogan Experience. This influential podcast boasts an incredible audience of over 11 million listeners per episode on Spotify, complemented by a YouTube channel boasting more than 15 million subscribers.
“Two weeks into launching Sound Shed AV Solutions, Joe Rogan became our first official client,” revealed Alvarez. “We went into the project with a lot of things to learn about the podcasting space. It was a growing space at the time, but nobody was really giving it too much attention from the technology and integration side. When we jumped in, who better than to have the largest podcaster in the world, catapult you into being an authority in the space?” Since The Joe Rogan Experience, Sound Shed AV Solutions has gone on to work with social media influencers and comedians such as Tom Segura, The Mike Dillard Podcast, MrBallen, and many more.
According to Alvarez, YouTube is the largest platform for video podcasters since it gives content creators a low barrier of entry and can monetize the content easier than other platforms. “Most people go to YouTube for two purposes – entertainment and information,” explained Alvarez. “It’s a great platform for people to get their feet wet, but as they grow, they’re able to follow the metrics, and see what they’re doing well, and how they can make things better. We’ve seen people extrapolate that to things like Instagram and TikTok to create short form content that drives more traffic to their YouTube channel.”
Creating A Podcast Studio
When setting up a video podcast studio, there’s a significant amount of study required to maximize its potential. Various challenges can vary from one client to another, including issues like unwanted ambient light infiltration, or suboptimal acoustic conditions in the space. However, Alvarez’s primary goal is to ensure that the technology empowers clients to create content seamlessly, from the moment inspiration strikes to the instant it’s ready for upload. Alvarez’s main challenge in building a studio is not how to implement the tech, but more about educating the client. “A lot of times they don’t have a producer, or technical director, who can help them,” said Alvarez. “When we design our systems, we try to ensure that it’s a one- or two-button system that can fire up the gear, everything communicates to the network, but not necessarily bound to the network. If the network goes down, they’re still able to produce content.”
Alvarez will occasionally add zoom lenses for more flexibility in framing. He usually deploys a five-point lighting system with a key, fill, and hair light and will also use ambient, indirect light for atmosphere. There will also be a switcher with encoding devices if the podcast is doing Zoom calls, or conferences. For Alvarez, audio is just as important as visual, and he’ll determine whether they will go with dynamic mics on the table, or lavaliers and/or shotguns, depending on the acoustics in the studio.
A typical studio will be a three camera setup with two tighter shots and one wide shot with fixed apertures on all three lenses. “95% of our setups are suspended from the walls, or ceiling,” explained Alvarez. “You won’t see any cabling on the floor, so there are no trip hazards, or anything that can get bumped, or moved around. Everything is pretty static, but modular enough to where a track system on the ceiling can move things around. We can also have cameras going up and down a pantograph, or things of that nature. We try to create a very modular system and as the studio shifts forms, the client can shift with it.”
Sound Shed AV Solutions relies on LUMIX BGH1 cameras for all their installations. These compact box-style cameras provide robust features, including unlimited C4K/4K 60p/50p and 4K 10-bit recording capabilities, Dual Native ISO, and an impressive 13-stop dynamic range with V-Log L. In order to keep audio in sync, they employ the LUMIX XLR1, a shoe-mounted audio adapter that allows you to record audio professionally with two analog XLR jack terminals.
Alvarez’s affinity for LUMIX cameras began during his time as a videographer, where he appreciated the versatility of mirrorless camera systems and the user-friendly menu interface. Additionally, he admired the extensive array of lens options available in the Micro Four Thirds format, beyond just those within the LUMIX brand, allowing for the creation of distinctive visual styles.
Alvarez was drawn to the BGH1 primarily because of its compact dimensions and the convenience of its 11 ¼-20 ports, which facilitate effortless camera mounting and accessory attachment. “For our clients, it was really about ease of use, and the ergonomics to the BGH1,” he explained. “The camera is such a great size and when we started working with them, the multiple mounting points made it really easy for us to suspend the cameras from the ceiling. I also appreciate that they’re at a price point that doesn’t intimidate people. It’s quite simple to justify investing in a three-camera setup when you’re considering a cost of less than $12,000 to get started.”
Alvarez likes working with a constant aperture, so his Micro Four Thirds lenses of choice include the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens, Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens, as well as the LUMIX G 42.5mm F1.2 ASPH LEICA Lens. “When we show that to the clients on playback or during monitoring, they are blown away by the shallow depth of field,” revealed Alvarez. “It’s really cool to be able to see their response to the cinematic look and feel of the image.”
Connection and Control
With the BGH1, Alvarez is outputting files to a single recording device that captures the program feed, as well as having switching capabilities. Alvarez makes good use of LUMIX Tether, a free desktop app that lets you control up to 12 select LUMIX cameras. He powers and controls his BGH1s via PoE+ that are connected to an unmanaged switch via Ethernet cables. Along with SDI, he’s usually running two cables from each camera. “LUMIX Tether has been an amazing tool for us,” explained Alvarez. “Our clients are impressed by how easily they can pull focus and change settings in the cameras, as well as do internal recording, without having an operator behind each camera.”
Although he prefers fewer cables coming out of the camera, Alvarez appreciates having both SDI and HDMI OUT in case he wants to put a small monitor on an individual camera. “Having Tally lights on the camera is huge as well,” he revealed. “It gives you more confidence knowing it has the features of a live production camera, not just a cinema camera. With the BGH1, the use cases are almost infinite because we have used them for live production, studio environments, as well as out in the field on gimbals. From an ergonomic standpoint, you can use it in any situations.”
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