This is a guest post from Matthew Bennett – if you want to write a guest post, let us know via the contact page.
Five years ago our production company Mugshot Media relocated to a unit in central Cambridge, UK with the objective of creating our own chroma key/green screen studio. Prior to the move we had used a pop up solution within our office and on location. Ultimately the time came where we needed more flexibility and space when working with our list of ever growing clients.
Our new office space was a essentially a warehouse with a single level mezzanine – as well as the office space on the mezzanine we needed to build a studio to fit within the warehouse that was A, the perfect chroma key space and B, acoustically treated for sound recording and interviews. We naturally got an experienced consultant in to quote for the job who had built similar projects for the BBC and other broadcasters. For a 4m boxed, acoustical treated structure the quote we had received was worth in excess of £34,000! In a nutshell this was way out of our budget and we decided to embark on a journey to build the studio ourselves for under £5,000.
The main structure of the studio consists of a wooden frame attached to the concrete floor. This was really one of the only elements we had outsourced to an experienced carpenter. Once the frame was built it was then secured by heavy duty bolts into the concrete floor of the warehouse. Wooden structure secured, we then also had to have a plasterer form our main Chroma Key wall and plaster an infinity curve from the wall down to the concrete floor. Plastering done, we painted our main wall with Rosco Video Paint. It is available in blue or green in one gallon tins, we opted for the traditional green to avoid any possible clothing clashes.
I think it is important to note that any acoustic solution isn’t going to be perfect or totally sound proofed – our solution works very well in this space but for larger builds more drastic measures might be worth exploring. We started with a heavy duty cardboard layer stapled into the back of our wooden structure – we managed to pick this up for free on free cycle. Our next step was to add a layer of Rockwool insulation between the beams – Rockwool is well known for its acoustic properties. Our landlord actually had an inventory of insulation that he wanted to get rid of, so again we picked the majority of this up for free. The penultimate layer was a sheet of dense black felt to block any light pollution from the outside of the structure. It goes without saying that being able to control the lighting in any shooting environment is crucial but this being a Chroma Key studio it becomes vital as the ‘Green’ needs to be evenly lit. You can read more on Chroma Key lighting here. We then topped off the build with a dense curtain running around the entire structure – this doesn’t have any real purpose other than to cut out any unwanted light and noise pollution from the entrances.
All in all our total build price was just shy of £5000, which is pretty incredible considering we were initially quoted over six times the amount to build a similar structure. Since it’s birth over five years ago, the studio has been used extensively for a wide range of functions such as interviews, photography, media training and music videos. Please note – If you’re considering building a similar studio, do not use Tungsten lighting as it is an extreme fire hazard in this type of environment.
(cover photo credit: snap from Matt)