Creating an audio/video recording studio in a school
August 9, 2011 10:52 PM   Subscribe

As part of a larger project, I'm building a $3,500-$5,000 audio/video recording studio on a school campus. It isn't a ton of money, but it should be enough to do some interesting things. What would you do with this budget?

The larger project is a classroom designed to encourage innovation in classroom teaching, and provide the space and tools (not always technology) to accomplish this. Adjacent to the room is a 100 square foot empty space that we would like to provision as a basic audio/video recording studio for students. We want the barrier to entry to be low -- teachers and students should be able to walk in and just start using it to record podcasts, basic videos, etc. But we also want to encourage more creative and complex uses, where appropriate.

Our budget for these spaces ranges from $3,500-$5,000. If you have this budget, what equipment and setup would you implement? Your feedback is appreciated, and will help us create this unique space for our students.
posted by xorowo to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
An iMac, a Presonus audio interface, and a selection of a few different style of microphones should get you started. Don't forget about headphones and and possibly a headphone amp.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 11:22 PM on August 9, 2011

Green screen tech is fun. With some creativity you can do some cool stuff.

Protools audio editing stations.

Put together field shooting/audio/editing kits. Powerful notebook, small, HD camera. Good field mics. Send the students out to make films or shoot news and edited before coming back.

A mixing station where students can practice live music/radio news/radio drama/podcasting. Doing a live mix is good practice for radio/tv announcing and if forces you to think about timing and efficient use of resources.

If possible buy some sound effect/canned music type stuff so you have the rights to some professional music or sound effects.

Wireless body mics can be useful for news or acting.

For video, don't skimp on the audio. Buy good mics and quality cable and connections.

You might not have the budget...but get a real pro editing suite. Something like Grass valley this can be a huge help for students when seeking jobs at professional video houses.

Just for kicks, a linear video editing station.('course you may not be able to buy them anymore) I used one in a job I had a while back. It's a dinosaur of video editing but it makes you think about the most important video. You have to think your project through carefully. You screw up, and you have to start over.

This is just stuff off the top of my head. I can't think of many specific brands right now. Let me know if you have further questions.

I wish I had the chance to spend a bunch of money on AV stuff. :)
posted by hot_monster at 12:08 AM on August 10, 2011

Ooooh sounds fun!

If it's for podcasting stuff, may I suggest a USB microphone (e.g. Rode Podcaster, Blue Snowball) - plug in, record.

You may also want to look into improving the acoustics of the room - check out acoustic foam and bass traps, perhaps not the full priced ones but diy of some sort? Check out the acoustics, maybe the room sounds nice, maybe not and treating it would do well.
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:52 AM on August 10, 2011

Edirol UA-25ex is a good cheap 2 channel USB audio box. It will do most things that protools can do, at least, that you will care about, for mu'ch cheaper.

I'd use Reaper ($60ish for a license) rather than protools for your editing, Protools has been the standard for radio for a long time but I believe is less dominant than it has been. Use one of these programs and you'll be able to use them all, and your budget is limited, so I'd definitely look at Reaper.

For video, I'd definitely suggest a DSLR. A Canon t2i would be the budget choice at this point, great video, also a great camera, and reasonably inexpensive.

Don't have a suggestion for video editing software, but you might want to splurge a bit there, I think they are quite a bit less similar than the digital audio programs are.

You can check out for a lot of good information on mics and things like that.

You should probably budget for a field flash recorder, Olympus and Tascam both make good quality, reasonably priced ones.

I think for your budget you are going to end up with one decent setup, not a series of workstations.

You'll probably need to budget something for lights for video too.
posted by sully75 at 5:21 AM on August 10, 2011

hot_monster: "Put together field shooting/audio/editing kits. Powerful notebook, small, HD camera. Good field mics. Send the students out to make films or shoot news and edited before coming back."

Oh my god, seconding this. We have a great lab at my school, but nothing we can TAKE anywhere. Argh!! So frustrating when trying to create assignments, or even if more than one group is trying to record at the same time.

Does your budget include training? If not, can you either bring someone in to do some workshops, or buy some training materials? No random teacher is going to be able to sit down and use Pro Tools effectively without some guidance. (Also, you may have to send your IT team to some training in how to support some of this software, unless you have a crack team that isn't afraid to get their hands dirty. If so, you're lucky... )

Also, consider how you're going to keep your expensive equipment stored safely and securely. Half your budget could go to cabinets and good locks without blinking an eye. And you'll need things like storage boxes for mic cords and something to label which cord or adapter or USB lock goes with what.

Oh, and one other thing - expensive software also usually comes with the option to buy expensive upgrade contracts. Consider if you want them or not, or you'll get frantic phone calls from purchasing as they're looking at their shopping cart on Avid's web site.

Another random thought - buy headphones or do users bring their own?

Sorry about the randomness of my thoughts - we just built a similar (but much smaller) space at my school, and these were issues that came up.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:28 AM on August 10, 2011

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