A Zoom set up can be easy, but the technology and pieces can be overwhelming. I’ve compiled a simple, basic product list and set up map so you look and sound great.
Note: I have used or tested the products below independently. No free samples or payments from the manufacturers. The links in this article are affiliate links. Song Chops will receive a small commission from orders to help support the continuation of the site. Thank you for using the links when you purchase!
Whether you’re a singer-songwriter doing any kind of virtual concerts, workshops or groups, or a business person doing meetings and interviews, having a professional look is important.
I’ve tried to put together components that can scale to your budget easily and give you the flexibility to grow your set up as you become more familiar with it and want to enhance your look vs. having to replace the entire thing for new components.
You may be at a desk, but for songwriting, you risk bashing your guitar against corners! So, I’ve outlined a stand-alone option you can set up in the same room if you have a little extra space. And when I say little, I mean little. For the computer stand, chair and lights you need a spacious 3.5′ from the camera to your seating.
So you could shoot with the desk behind you or to the right/left and create a space with as little as 4′ in front of you!
I put my computer on this with a detached camera (see below). But, you could use the stand and simply adjust for your in-computer camera.
Foldable Laptop Tripod ($38)
Additional Tray Options (shelf added below top tray for Yeti microphone, capos, interface, etc)
Black Velvet Backdrop ($19)
Backdrop Stand ($46)
Front Lighting Options
Without getting into lighting source theory here, let’s just say that some lighting can make you look terrible. Between the direction it’s coming from and the “temperature” of the source, you can look like anything from a ghost, to wearing an orange peel, to zombie-like eye shadows with a nice blue tint. Essentially, lighting matters, but it can be a pain to get, fix and set up. So I’ve got some easy solutions that I know work.
Easiest solution: you can set up facing a window, but you’ll have challenges if it’s cloudy, or you’re doing something over a timeframe that goes from sunlight to dark. So, a better solution will be a simple lighting kit set up.
This is great to start with for a few reasons: it’s a simple soft bulb set up and price – $58! By far the cheapest and the bulbs are available at Home Depot! The downside? These are not adjustable, so you’ll need to experiment to figure out if shooting through a white umbrella or reflecting off the silver umbrella works best for you.
- LimoStudio 700W Output Lighting Series ($56 – two lights, stands, bulbs and umbrellas)
And, there are plenty of YouTube videos for setting this up. For an umbrella lighting tutorial check out The Slanted Lens: Umbrellas Don’t Suck!
- Full Neewer Kit ($160 – dimmable two colour grades white & white/yellow, 2 lights, 2 stands, 2 battery supplies, 2 carrying cases)
Be sure to check out Primal Video’s lighting tutorial on YouTube: Video Lighting For Beginners (works for Zoom too!)
- PhoPik 800W Softbox Kit may be easier and less space than umbrellas. Has the same bulb type and colour temp as LimoStudio kit.
- Neewer Dimmable Barn Door Lights ($89 each includes power adapter)
Below are smaller lights you can start with and use later as a “hair light” as part of your three-point lighting set up, or an accent light for your background.
Amazon Basic Light Stands (sturdy and no need for a name brand)
12V AC Adapter (buy this so you don’t have to worry about battery life on the Yongnuo or other 12V light):
I use background lighting to help add some pazazz to the backdrop, but I have used it without a background just to give some interesting layering to the shot. You’ll notice that during dark scenes on your favorite TV show there’s usually a light in the far background (street, table lamp, window). It helps create depth and a more dynamic presence to the scene.
Best Deal! Simple AA battery operated puck accent lights (6 lights – great for on the floor $30): https://amzn.to/3hgbLB9
Adjustable LED Accent lighting:
Accent Lighting Accessories:
Be sure to get a camera that has independent configuration software. For example Logitech has a handy web-based site called G-HUB that allows you to download software for a PC or Mac to configure the Brio to different view angles, visual filters and more. I’ve highlighted two that have software and a great picture due to the glass lens. If you plan on doing any 4K video down the road, the Logitech would be the better one to go with. But, if you just need a better camera for your Zoom calls and online workshops, the AverMedia will do the trick and save you $100!
- AverMedia 1080P Auto Focus 73 degree view Camera – w/software – great buy for the price ($74)
- Logitech Brio 4K Camera w/software ($174)
Microphone & Interface
I use a Focusrite Scarlett Solo interface with an XLR condenser mic, but have found for a starter set up, the Yeti works and sounds great on it’s own. So, to begin, you can use a Blue Yeti with no interface. If you’d like to go the interface route, I’ve included a bundle option as well.
- Blue Yeti USB Condenser Microphone with Gain control, direct headphone input. Compatible with a Mac or PC ($110)
- Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Generation) has 1 microphone input + 1 instrument cable input with USB out to computer and Pro Tools software for recording. Basically a microphone and guitar set up for one person. ($120)
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Generation) has 2 multi-function inputs that can be used for either an XLR microphone or instrument cable with USB out to computer and Pro Tools software for recording. This one allows for two people on microphone, two guitars or someone with a guitar and microphone with gain control on each channel. ($170)
What The Heck – Some Bundles!
- Focusrite Scarlett Solo (3rd Generation) Studio bundle comes with the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, an XLR condenser microphone and cable, microphone stand and boom arm, and headphones. ($247)
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Generation) Microphone bundle comes with the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, a Tascam TM-80 Studio condenser microphone and cable, PreSonus headphones, plus Pro Tools and Ableton recording software. ($279)
- Add a Microphone Stand with Boom Arm ($17)
Tired Of Headphones?
These things are awesome. I LOVE them! I’ve never had an issue and they have gotten wet!
- Geekoto Travel Tripod comes with a ball head and great for multi-use if you need one for a DSLR as well ($60)
- Gooseneck Camera Holder is pretty handy to mount a small, nonDSLR camera and save yourself from buying a tripod, but have the flexibility of camera placement (vs. on top of your computer). I use this with my Brio attached to my desk or computer tripod tray ($17)