Over the summer, I built a studio in the basement of my house as a proof of concept for a flexible studio with multiple looks.
The idea was to have a studio that gave me flexibility for a number of situations. I also wanted the studio to incorporate some lighting as a feature.
I developed that as the “Main Look” as it was the most complex and utilized 3 walls and the ceiling in the concept.
Two other looks would only utilize one wall and would be on the back of the two side walls, each able to fold in as I demonstrate in the video.
A fourth look comes from a projector and screen that would use graphics and other moving elements on the back wall.
For the Main Look, I wanted to use strips of color changing lights as an element in the background that could be changed quickly and easily. I wanted these elements on 3 walls and the ceiling so I could shoot from multiple angles with a camera on a gimbal and not worry about losing the background. It would give the appearance of the subject being in this box with really cool futuristic lighting.
There were multiple ways to handle this (shining light through a frosted material or fastening LED light strips to the walls) but I wanted to be smart with the limited space I had and I wanted the light to be evenly diffused. I also wanted to make sure that the reds appeared red and not yellow or orange, which tends to be the case if you have direct bright lights, like LED tube lights.
My solution was to use a smooth white hardboard and reflect LED strip lights off of that, which helped to diffuse the light, and keep the colors I wanted to see in the camera. In my design, I used plywood that I cut into strips with 45 degree cuts. The LED strip light would attach to the angled cut and face away from the camera, reflecting off the white hardboard and then out to the viewer.
I built a 2×4 frame for the 3 walls. The back wall is 10ft wide by 8ft tall. The side walls are each 8ft x 8ft. I added heavy duty hinges to allow the walls to fold in. I put heavy duty gate wheels on the end of each side wall for a nice smooth movement when they fold in. The wheels also help keep the weight off the hinges. Once the walls were up, I began to build the panels and hang them, making sure they were evenly spaced and level. I also hung faux brick panels on the back of one side wall and barnwood panels on the back of the other side wall.
The walls are really heavy. It took some maneuvering and adjustments to get the hinges just right and for the gate wheels to work as intended. Once I had that down, I moved on to the lights.
Working with LED strip lights was a new experience for me. I needed almost 150 feet of strip lights. I also discovered that I needed the LED lights to be high density. The first batch of strip lights I ordered didn’t work in my initial tests because the LEDs were too far apart from each other and created a blurred polka dot effect.
Next was connecting all of the lights together. The back wall and ceiling are 10 feet wide. The side walls are 8 feet wide. This means each strip is 16ft in length from end to end. I wanted the ability to change each light strip individually to create patterns. Because of this, I wired each 16ft strip to have its own controller.
There was considerable trial and error through this process to get the wiring right and to make sure all the strips worked the way I wanted them to. I was excited once it was all completed.
After the lights were done, I ran power and connected them to the wall so they could move with the wall when it folded in. I then used black gym floor puzzle tiles for the floor.
I ran tubing behind the side walls for fog machines to feed into. For studio lights, I hung a metal pipe out front as a basic light grid.
I then added fasteners for a 120″ projector screen on the back wall and installed a projector as well.
For the final test, I used my favorite test subjects, my two boys, Will and Ben. I had them dance in the studio and recorded it on my smartphone for a fun video to share with friends and family!