Upgraded to a Nicer Green Screen and Microphone

I’m constantly looking for ways to raise my game, so I made some investments this month to take my video class audio & video to the next level.

I’m now doing green screen effects on the recordings. I picked up an Elgato retractable green screen that mounts to the wall so that I can pull it down when I’m doing a training class, and roll it back up when I’m doing normal client work:

Home office 2019

I’d used floor-standing green screens in the past, but they were really frustrating for a lot of reasons: wrinkly, tough to get crisp background separation, had to light them separately, took up a lot of space on tripods, etc. Because of the hassles, I abandoned it for several years. This Elgato one totally pays off:

Old setup:

New hotness:

Second, you’ll notice that the recording doesn’t have a big microphone in the way. That’s because I’ve switched to a Sennheiser wireless lapel microphone hooked up to my computer via a Focusrite Clarett USB interface.

The lapel microphone picks up more room noise, so I’ve also added the iZotope RX 7 audio plugin to my production process to clean up the audio. It integrates well with Telestream Screenflow, the screen capture tool that I use, kinda like Camtasia. (Screenflow is a little more polished than Camtasia in that it allows for things like these 3rd party audio plugins.)

Between the chroma key (green screen) effect and the audio plugin, though, my CPU goes up to 100% during video editing as I scrub around the timeline, editing stuff, and the fan kicks off. I try to edit every class’s videos together during the bio breaks so that the day’s training videos are encoded/uploaded as soon as class finishes. This personal goal keeps my editing timeline tight, minimizing the amount of effects & things that I can add. I’m riiiight on the edge of what I’m comfortable doing with laptop power – I’m only on a 2018 6-core MacBook Pro, and the newer ones are calling to me. I’m waiting to see what the rumored 16″ version looks like.

The green screen effects and audio clean-up only happen in the recordings: live attendees see the green screen behind me, and the audio isn’t quite as crisp (since the cleanup happens in post-processing.) The next level-up will be figuring out how to run those effects live. Streamers do the chroma key thing with OBS, and I’m starting to privately experiment with some live streaming of coding, so we’ll see how that goes. OBS is great for public streams, but I need to figure out how to make it work well with private invite-only training classes.

Got a Live Class Season Pass or Team Membership? You can start watching the latest Mastering Query Tuning class’s fancy recording now. Enjoy!

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38 Comments. Leave new

  • Kendra Little
    July 11, 2019 9:00 am

    If you figure out how to eliminate the green screen live on a mac without driving CPU up to 100%, I would loooooveee to hear about that!

    • Will do. I’m terrified of the eventual pricing on the Mac Pros for this reason, hahaha… If I could get live chroma keying happening, just how much would I be willing to pay?

      • You mentioned OBS in your post. Content creators have been doing this on Twitch for years now (removing green screen while live streaming). It’s got a built-in chroma keying feature. Some have a dedicated box for the encoding part, though. Not trying to push Twitch, but it also has a feature to upload directly to Youtube. Pretty “stream”lined? Good luck!

        • Jacob – yeah, it’s just that my training classes are private (paid), and I’ve got a lot of automation. Students buy a ticket online, and get a unique, personalized email with their own login for the class. Is there an easy way to do that with Twitch?

          • I think the closest they have is a “Subscriber Only” stream. But that ties into the Twitch subscriber ecosystem (like, pay per month to watch a channel). I don’t think it’s set up for individual, or external events. They have recently been adding a lot of non-gaming related features though. Maybe OBS alone will help your green screen and audio problem and still fit into the rest of your automation?

          • Unfortunately no, it doesn’t integrate with GoToWebinar. Thanks for the ideas, though!

  • you should be running all of this on a 8-bit Mac 512Ke! 😉

  • David Machanick
    July 11, 2019 9:32 am

    So where do you find these “normal” clients? I want some! LOL

  • Barbara Cooper
    July 11, 2019 9:38 am

    Amazing! I love the new setup, totally worth whatever you paid!

  • Glenn A Berry
    July 11, 2019 9:38 am

    You could buy/build an AMD Ryzen 3000 series desktop or AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2000 series HEDT that would absolutely smoke any laptop for video editing/content creation. You could pick whatever storage, memory, and video card you needed to get the desired performance level. More cores are better for this type of workload.
    Of course you would have to use Windows 10, so probably a nonstarter for you.

  • Dave Meyers
    July 11, 2019 9:41 am

    Setup looks great, greenscreen is a huge improvement, now to upgrade your cable management game.

    • Dave – I know, right? I have to take another picture after I get the final run done – I’m setting up an Elgato Stream Deck and some other goodies that require a little more cable finesse before the final cable run is done.

  • Nice! Glad you found a screen that works for your setup to replace the one that came in.

    Now it is time for the loaded Lenovo P1 we talked about during class! Come to the PC side, we have cookies! I mean, so do the Macs but still. 😀

    I hope you can get it to work during live class, not only better screen use but I can’t wait to see what you get up to with it. Will there be badgers? Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂

    In all seriousness, you should think about swapping the lapel mike for a headset version. The right one would have better background sound rejection.

    Or you could try this: https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/10/krisp-reduces-noise-on-calls-using-machine-learning-and-its-coming-to-windows-soon/ (qualifier: I have never used it and know nothing, just coincidentally had someone post it to a feed I am on semi-recently).

    • Jason – yeah, like I mentioned in the post, Windows doesn’t cut it due to the lack of a screen recording & editing solution that supports audio plugins. The raw output from microphones doesn’t cut it in Camtasia (I’ve tried), and I’d have to export the audio to another program, fix it there, re-import it to Camtasia, and then do the production. Just takes too much time given the quantity of stuff that I crank out.

      I hate the look of headset microphones. They’re okay for conferences, but at home, they’re way dorky.

      • Yeah, I had to say it but I didn’t really think switching was an option. Here’s my hope on your behalf that they raise the max memory in this iteration of the Mac Book.

        I agree headset mics do look dorky. Though skipping them is going to keep you from fully realizing your dream of becoming the next Beyonce! 🙂

        The real issue is background noise rejection, so I wonder if they have any other types of mics available for your Sennheiser. The best way to kill it is not to capture it. My limited studio audio experience would have me reaching for a cardioid style mic, (preferably hyper or super-cardioid), for your lavalier or a shotgun mic to put out of frame and pointed at you.

        Huh, now that I say that, how about a shotgun mic pointed through your light ring? They are directional as heck and that should cut down on ambient noise.

        (Sorry, armchair audio nerd and you got my brain chewing on it.)

        • Jason – yeah, this is the best microphone that Sennheiser offers for this mic pack (was like $300.) I’ve tried shotguns (most recently, a couple of Rodes) but haven’t gotten good results here. I’ve thought about hiring an AV consultant to build my next office as a studio, though – just waiting to find the right place that we end up in long term. When we moved here to San Diego, we weren’t sure how long we were going to stay in this apartment. Our lease is up in a couple of months, and … we’re still not sure, hahaha. We’ve got our eyes on a new condo building going up near the airport. (And that’d be a real hoot to noise insulate.)

          • Fascinating. I really would have expected the shotguns to work. Ah well, beyond my audio engineering knowledge at this point. 😀

  • Gotta love the Chroma key. I always wonder why they chose green. Makes it difficult on St. Paddy’s day.

    • There’s also a chroma key blue standard, and the Rosco paint for it is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It’s purely matte, a very special texture that has to be painted a certain way, and it looks like you could just sink your whole hand into it. We painted one of my offices with it, and it was magical, but if you even TOUCHED the wall, your finger left spots. Really neat paint.

  • I like the greenscreen look and getting the big mic out of the way, but even with the post-processing, your voice still sounded a lot better close-up on the RE20 than it does on the lavalier. Some acoustic treatment would probably help tame the reverb, and has the added bonus of not requiring any more computing horsepower. You can buy some acoustic foam online, or there are lots of good YouTube videos on making acoustic panels with cloth, wood, and insulation. For the hard floor, I’d suggest some kind of area rug, and maybe hang something soft from the ceiling too. That should make a huge difference to the amount of reverb you need to clean up.

    • Matt – yeah, I’ve bought a TON of acoustic treatment, and it just hasn’t been enough. I’m in a relatively small office with concrete & glass walls. The next level would be to get a dedicated studio with better surfaces, but there are limits as to how far I’ll go. 😀

  • Aaron Gonzalez Alanis
    July 11, 2019 12:54 pm

    Congratulations for the upgrades! Off-topic: I noticed the lithography/picture/draw/whatever on your wall -and now that you live in SoCal- there’s a Dia de los Muertos festival in Lake Elsinore every year. It’s not the (rather recently created) parade in Mexico City but it’s interesting to check out anyway.

  • Daniel Hutmacher
    July 11, 2019 12:58 pm

    New tech, new problems – now you’ll want to clean up the powerpoint slides, so there’s no content in the lower-right corner. 🙂

    On a serious note, I saw the 2008/2008R2 presentation and noted that the lav mic on a few occasions would brush against your neck, creating a kind of muffled audio. I would try to move it a few inches to the side or something.

    • Daniel: true story, I’ve been doing that on the slides for years, heh. It’s actually better now since I’ve got a smaller video overlaying the right corner!

      And absolutely right about it brushing against my neck – I gotta order a different microphone clip. The one that shipped with it isn’t great.

  • Stefan Hufnagel
    July 11, 2019 11:39 pm

    Hi Brent, thank you for the information. That where the things I was looking for.

  • I want you to do a class all decked out in green so you’re just a floating head! 😀

  • gabriele d'onufrio
    July 15, 2019 12:12 am

    Great step forward!

  • This setup looks amazing!

    Can you provide links to:
    1. Ring Light
    2. Camera
    3. Mic

    I need something better for teaching and video calls 😀


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