technovangelist / scripts / the desk and studio tour

the desk and studio tour

Hey there, this is matt. It’s time for a desk and studio tour. I usually do videos about running AI models locally on your hardware. But folks have been asking for a while how I make my videos, especially how I make them sound so good. And I would say there are a few specific tools that help me achieve this. This week was a hard one with a conference I went to as well as appearing on Devops and DockerTalk with Bret Fisher, and I just wanted something easy. And this I thought would be easier than it turned out to be.

I don’t show the entire process that I use, but if you are interested, I can go into more detail on some portions of it. Maybe a more in depth version might make it into my patreon, which by the way can be found at

There are a bunch of ways we can talk about the studio and my process, but it’s important to note that this is my process. I have been making videos for myself and for my employers for almost 2 decades. So I have a lot of stuff, but all you really need is an idea and a phone, assuming it has a decent camera.

Let’s start with the room. This is it. Its about 6 and a half feet wide by about 14 feet long. and about 7 feet tall. It’s kinda tight. It shows up on the plans as storage space, But it works really well for me. There is another room that might be better, but that’s where my daughter sleeps for now and being inside the house means being closer to the screaming of stella and her gaggle of 5 year old friends. On the other side of this wall is the rest of the garage and there is storage directly above me, so it might move up and out in the next few months if we redo the walls.

If you have paid attention to my videos, you might have also seen our main hallway, parts of our kitchen, and part of the backyard, but mostly its done from this office.

The next thing that folks usually look at in these videos is the desk…or desks because there are two of them in here. The older one is where the actual ‘studio’ is because I spend less time there. It’s the desk I bought maybe 10 years ago or so and it’s terrible. But there wasn’t a lot of choice back then. It comes from NextDesk which is also sold under xdesk and a bunch of other brands. This one is called Terra, but they are all terrible… pretty much on par with most of the cheap wobbly sit stand desks using the same cheap Chinese legs like fully, and uplift, and so many others. I am not saying that Chinese means low end…but these happen to be cheap and low quality. Give it a decent shove and it just wobbles so much. I see so many video reviews online and they talk about how stable the desk is as it visibly wobbles back and forth. xdesk, fully, uplift…they may be assembled in the US but they start with garbage parts and they are all consistently bad.

On the other side of the room I have a desk from DeskHaus out of Holland Michigan. I can’t say enough good things about DeskHaus. Their desks are only a few dollars more than most of the cheap garbage out there and yet are so much more stable. I can push hard on here and there is barely any budging going on. We have another of their desks upstairs in our bedroom and both are rock solid… even more solid than most fixed height desks. Sometime soon we are probably going to replace that nextdesk desk with another smaller DeskHaus desk. The downside to DeskHaus is that they are small. Last I saw they were 3 to 5 people, so delivery can take a few weeks.

Ok, let’s move on to how I capture the video. This has changed a lot in the last 6 months to a simpler yet a little bit harder process. I just record to the SD card on the camera and then move that card from the camera to the editing computer. The camera is a Panasonic S5iix with a 24mm f1.8 lens. I haven’t seen anything that approaches this in the 2000 to 4000 dollar range in terms of quality and features. It replaced the GH5 that I had for a bunch of years and the one thing I miss from that is the ability to do slow motion at 240 frames per second and I didn’t do that all that much.

I also have an ATEM mini extreme iso which has 8 hdmi inputs, 2 audio inputs, 2 hdmi outputs and 2 usbc outputs. I used to record from the GH5 to the ATEM because even though the GH5 had a higher resolution, I didn’t have much reason to use it. The ATEM will record all 8 hdmi inputs plus the program out plus both audio inputs to 11 different files on an SSD attached to one of the USBC ports. That’s pretty cool. And it has an Ethernet port so it shows up on the network using FTP. That meant I could have a macro that I triggered from the Stream Deck that would collect the name of the video using keyboard maestro, then set that to the name on the Atem, then start recording, and when done, start an FTP transfer to my editing MacBook pro and by the time I was ready to start editing, the files were already there on the machine.

That was awesome. If there is a downside to the S5iix its that it supports a much higher resolution… in fact it’s just about 6000 x 4000 pixels. I record at 10 bit in 24 frames per second in vlog. The reason I record at that resolution, is that I tend to record the full video and then different content for 5 to 10 shorts for each video. On YouTube those shorts tend to be 1080 x 1920 so I can play a lot with the framing and even zoom in a lot. But that’s far bigger than what the ATEM supports so I can’t use that workflow anymore. I even looked into using the other Black Magic recorders and the Atomos recorder, but nothing supports that resolution from the s5iix. So now when I am done I have to power down the camera and pull out the SD card and move it over to my editing bay manually.

I still have an SSD attached to the ATEM as its sometimes really convenient for working with screen recordings. The other USBC port goes to my recording Mac which is a M1 Mac Mini with 8GB of Ram. It was the cheapest M1 Mac Mini you could get when it first came out. I use this to control the ATEM and my audio interface, and to run Arc, which is my browser, to access my teleprompter software and Streamyard, and to run Audio Hijack. And the two HDMI outputs go to my two monitors. I’ll mention those in a sec.

So just in front of the camera is a teleprompter. I have had a number of teleprompters over the years, but I still actually use the first one I ever bought. It’s the Pad Prompter from One Take Only. I’m not sure when exactly I bought this but I feel like it was 12-15 years ago. It was designed for the 9" ipads. I eventually replaced the iPad mount for a Lilliput 10" monitor that I got about 4 years ago. One of the benefits of that monitor is that it reverses the text so that it appears correctly in the mirror. I duct taped it into the prompter and it works great. I just wish it were a little larger. but I have some plans there.

The teleprompter is hooked up as an output from the atem and I usually set that to the mac mini, though with these buttons on the stream deck I can set it and the main monitor to the camera or whatever I have hooked up on the desk. So on the mac, I usually have Speakflow loaded up in my browser. Speakflow is an amazing teleprompting application that recognizes what you say and scrolls automatically. There is also an iPad app that promises this feature but it doesn’t work more often than it does. I find myself repeating sections over and over hoping it will scroll. At first I didn’t know why I would pay for the subscription to speakflow, but 8 months in and I am so glad I have it. I am on the plus plan, but the basic plan looks like the best option for most folks. If you are doing this for work, expense it like I did.

The last part of the video capture process is the lights. I use two Elgato Key Lights which I have had for about 7 or 8 years. They are amazing. My favorite part is that they appear on the network with a RESTful endpoint, so I can control them straight from the stream deck. Elgato is a hardware company first and I do everything I can to avoid using any of their software because its awful. There are so many complaints about these lights but they are really complaining mostly because of the phone app to control them. But you don’t need the phone app…ever. I also have some lights from Amaran but they require you to use their dumpster fire know as Sidus Link. They refuse to open it up to software developers so you are stuck using their tools. Elgato’s tools suck too, but the folks there seem to know it and are open to their customers using other software controllers instead. And so the Amaran lights just gather dust in the garage and I buy more and more Elgato stuff every chance I have. I haven’t found any other lights that are as useful and flexible for so little money as the elgato keylights. At double the price they would still be a bargain compared to anything else out there.

Now let’s talk about audio. Most videos in the last few months have audio from this microphone. Its from a Russian company called Oktava and it’s the MK 12. I have had mine for about 4 years or so and it goes for about 300 dollars. Its interesting because it has one mic preamp with different pattern capsules that screw in on the front. I use the hypercardioid capsule. It sounds great and easily competes with microphones at double its cost. It is beautifully made and came in a lovely wooden box.

The other microphone I used to use all the time but hasn’t gotten much love more recently is the Heil PR40. I bought this maybe 15-20 years ago from a shop at the southern most edge of the Netherlands. It was the only place in the country that sold it and they didn’t do anything online, so I drove down from my home in Amsterdam. It was the cool mic to get at the time and I definitely don’t regret it. It sounds incredible and I have done so many voice overs with it over the years. I started using it again when I was cohosting Devops and Docker Talk with Bret Fisher, but eventually got tired of always having it in the frame.

both mics are mounted to two different mic arms from elgato. These mic arms are so great and so much cheaper than anything out there of similar quality. You probably need to go to yellowtec for better arms but that’s going to cost a lot more. These are so much better than the PS1 from rode. In fact my PS1 is rotting in the garage somewhere.

The mics are connected to an audio interface from Universal Audio called the Apollo Twin X Quad. I got this about 3 years ago, replacing an older cheap interface I used before because they didn’t support a newer mac os. I have gone through a few different interfaces from ConnectAudio and Maudio and Apogee and I have to say the Apollo is my favorite. At about 1300 dollars or so it wasn’t cheap but it has worked out well. It has an ability to load up plugins directly on the hardware itself for lower latency. This has been magic for streams.

I’ll go ahead and turn off all the plugins and you can hear what they sound like. So this is the raw sound from the Apollo and it already sounds pretty good as is. The first plugin, which I am turning on now, is a channel strip called the Avalon VT737sp. The hardware its based on includes a tube preamp, opto compressor, and EQ. I played around with other alternatives but really liked the sound of this one for me…maybe some day I can afford the 3500 dollars for the real thing though I understand the software version is a good likeness of the original. Next comes the Oxford SuprEsser, which I am turning on now. I knew I needed a de-esser but had a hard time using them. This plugin made it easier to find the right configuration for me. Finally, there is the AMS Neve DFC which i just turned on. This is the final cleaner upper. if there was a noisy truck outside you wouldn’t hear it anymore. and the water heater in the garage goes away. Even the garage door opening and closing is quiet with this. Its kinda magic and super easy to use.

The output from the Apollo goes to one of the inputs on the ATEM and then one of the outputs from there goes to the Mac Mini where I record the audio in Audio Hijack from Rogue Amoeba. One of the other uses for Audio Hijack is dialing in the settings for the plugins. You can throw different blocks into the chain in the software and one of the blocks is a delay. I set that to 3 to 10 seconds and say something and then play with the settings again. Its not perfect, but i don’t have the magic ability to listen to myself as I am talking and tweak the settings live. I guess the alternative would be to have one of my friends come by and tweak the settings for me. Heck I live in a place where members of bands you may know actually live. But it’s easier for me to stay in my hole by myself.

There is one more super critical item in here to help get great sound, and they are all around me. There are 7 244 bass traps from GIK acoustics. The ones on the ceiling are 2 foot by 4 foot and the ones on the walls are 2 by 3 and have a few of my photos printed on them. We have the Zakim bridge in Boston where I met my wife and we adopted our daughter. The lighthouse at Bill Bags State Park on Key Biscayne FL where I grew up. Over by the camera is a picture of a jellyfish at the aquarium at Monterey Bay. Interesting side note, the architect used for some of that aquarium also built this house…I think its his retirement project. Next is a building near the General Motors HQ in Detroit and that’s my niece on her scooter. And finally there is a staircase at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and I live on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. There are plenty of DIY versions of these sound panels, but I’d much rather get them done right and they look incredible. and 2 years later I barely even feel the 1400 dollars they cost me.

I have mentioned this a few times already but everything is controlled with the Streamdeck XL from Elgato. I don’t use their software, because its terrible. Instead I use Companion from Bitfocus. This is a lot more flexible with integrations for hundreds of devices. For historical reasons, I have this hooked up to a raspberry pi that is also running Playout Bee which is a Hyperdeck clone. I’ll probably eventually move Companion to the mac mini where it makes more sense in this setup.

So I think that is the recording side in its entirety. When recording is done, I grab the SD card from the camera, and then in Audio Hijack I rename the file and then choose to send it over AirDrop to my MacBook on the other desk. Hazel on the MacBook pro then copies that to a specific folder and feeds it through some software called levelator which is the only post processing I do on any audio in my videos. and then that file and the video recording from the s5iix are added to a new library in Final Cut Pro and I merge them into one file before adding to the timeline. I have never had issues doing that.

Looking over at that desk, the biggest most obvious thing there is the monitor. This is the LG 40WP95C-W 40" curved ultrawide that has a 5120x2160 resolution. It is gorgeous and a joy to use all the time. It works beautifully with the Mac and is the first monitor I have tried that I like to use more than the macbooks own monitor. I love seeing the full timeline go all the way across the monitor but sometimes I have vscode at a decent size and Final Cut still has a long space for a timeline.

On either side is a pair of IK Multimedia iLoud MTM studio monitors which are connected to the MacBook pro via an old ConnectAudio 2/4 audio interface. That device was pretty unique when it came out because it requires no drivers to use.

On the desk you can see a few keyboards. The main one is the Voyager from ZSA which I think could be the most perfect keyboard ever made. Some folks are going to complain about the dust between the keys, but I prefer to worry about important things, and dust on a keyboard is normal and not worth worrying about. Those people probably clean their laptop screen more than the once every 3-6 months that is needed. Back by the monitor is the previous holder of that title of best keyboard ever; the Planck, also from ZSA. Unfortunately discontinued. I use that when working in a tool called Audio Design Desk because it can’t seem to handle remapped keyboards. Between the two is a creator micro from worklouder that i use when editing videos with final cut. Every key on there represents the most used functions in final cut for me and speeds up the edit so much. And finally there is the original stream deck right by the Voyager.

And so that’s the room and the equipment, the software and some of my workflow. Hopefully that answers the questions that regularly come in on the topic. If you want more of these types of tangents, some may make it to this channel, but more will show up on my website which I am working on updating right now at And you can also sign up for my newsletter at I am trying to put out one each month around the first of the month, with the first of them coming out soon. so sign up and let me know what you think.

Finally I have been so humbled and excited when folks left tips in the comments. They are definitely not expected but so very much appreciated. I didn’t even know that was possible. Well for those folks who have been begging me to set something up, there is now a patreon at I feel kinda weird setting that up and sharing it, but there it is. That will help cover my patreons for the Final Cut Bro, The Create Unknown, and The Bloke.

Almost everything I mentioned in the video is listed below in the description. Some have affiliate links which is just a nice few extra pennies for me at no cost to you. The raw no affiliate link I will try to add right there next to it as well.

Thanks so much for being here…20 or so minutes in to this video. Back to the regular stuff next time. Goodbye.