My home office has gone through a lot of evolutions. In fact, those of you who have watched some of my past videos and past training courses and noticed the background have seen a lot of change. 🙂
Well, I did it again. 🙂
And I will probably do it yet again. Again. 😉 At some point.
See, I'm one that most definitely believes that having a nice workspace directly affects productivity. Not only that, sometimes it is good to switch things up.
My office setup isn't anything special. But, I know people are interested in this kind of thing. So, here's my new blogging setup.
Bringing Back The Standing Desk
Here's the thing...
Sitting down all day isn't healthy. It isn't good for your back. And I have this bad habit of hunching over a bit in my chair when I'm not paying attention and that's not great for the back.
I was getting some oddball back pains. I also had this weird tension in my left hip. I'm pretty sure much of it was due to long periods of sitting.
I had a standing desk before, but had retired it. A lot of that was due to using my big gaming PC as my work computer for awhile. The setup was heavy and large and it just didn't lend itself well to raising up and down.
Luckily, I kept the setup in the garage. And now I am re-using it. 🙂
My main desk is built with:
- The Karlby Ikea countertop as the desk surface. Actually, I have 2 of these to form an L-shaped setup.
- An adjustable standing desk stand. I've seen these things under many different labels, but Uplift is one. At the push of a button, I can raise or lower the entire desk.
I cut the desktops to precisely fit my office. My main desk is on top of the adjustable-height stand and goes up and down. The other desk stay at the sitting level.
The desk goes up and down using a simple button. You can also set up presets so that you can set it exactly where you want it at one click.
I now spend over half my workday standing up. Usually, I stand all morning. After lunch, I often do some walking. I'll usually put the desk back in "sitting mode" in the afternoon. Sometimes, I'll put it back to the standing position if I get tired of sitting.
My most productive time of day is usually the morning. I spend this time standing up at the desk and I feel as my concentration is much better.
The only issue with this type of desk is that there's only so much you can do to hide the wires. The fact that it goes up and down means you need to keep the computer wires flexible. Those wires remain pretty visible. But, it's worth it. 🙂
The (Evolving) Computer Setup
Obviously, running a business like mine, the focal point of the office is the computer(s). It is where the work happens.
For several years, I used my 2015 Macbook Pro as my main computer. It makes a great daily driver. This Macbook was fully decked out when I bought it.
I still use that machine. Macs tend to have a long shelf life. 🙂 But, that machine has now become the laptop. I don't use it all day anymore. The Macbook Pro is what I use when I'm not in the office or if I'm out in the RV.
Mid-2020, I picked up a gaming PC. Back to Windows I went. 🙂
My 8-Month Foray Back To Using Windows
My initial excuse for buying the PC was so I could play around with PC-powered virtual reality. I wanted to be able to tether my Oculus to it and get some better VR. As it turned out, the powerful video card that came with that PC could drive way more screens than my Macbook Pro. I ended up running dual 32" 4K monitors off the PC.
I still use those screens.
It was due to those 2 big screens that I ended up using the PC full-time for awhile. I really like the screen space and the video card in the Macbook Pro could not drive all those pixels. Plus, the PC is decked out like a proper gaming PC. Complete with nerdy lights. 😉
Now, this PC is HEAVY. Not only that, it is loud. Sounds like a damn jet engine. All the time. I say this for 2 main reasons:
- I felt the setup was a little too heavy and bulky to sit on top of an adjustable-height desk.
- The noise has an impact.
Also, the truth is.... I prefer MacOS to Windows. I never felt totally at home. using this PC as my daily driver.
Don't get me wrong.... Windows 10 is a perfectly good operating system. It is stable and it works well. But, after using a Mac for over a decade before this, Windows never felt as streamlined.
Not only that, but it is inconvenient having a hybrid Mac/Windows setup. My laptop was a Mac. I use an iPhone as my mobile. Having a Windows box as my work computer felt disjointed. iCloud access was only through the website. There are no conveniences like Airdrop. Plus, I had to find Windows equivalents to Mac software that I didn't really like. For instance:
- I use Screenflow (Mac only) for all my videos and recording courses. It works flawlessly. When I tried Camtasia (supposedly the best option for Windows), I found it frustrating and ended up requesting a refund. I still ended up returning to the Mac every time I wanted to record a video. Windows was annoying.
- I use Transmit for FTP on the Mac. All the Windows options just felt... choppy.
In the end, the Mac just feels more polished, smoother, and more convenient (especially when running an all-Apple household). There's no doubt that being an Apple fanboy has perks. 😉
So, I Returned To The Mac
When Apple announced their own Apple Silicone chips - in the form of the M1 processor - the reviews were off the charts.
Specifically, the little Mac Mini was blowing people away. It was now holding it's own up against Intel I9 processors. The Mini has always been.... bottom of the barrel. It was never known as a performance computer. But, now, these new M1-powered Minis were becoming the best game in town.
So, I bought one. 🙂 And now, my main computer is a Mac Mini.
Mine is based on the Apple M1, with a 512GB hard drive and 16GB of RAM. Spec-to-spec, it seems like a weakling up against a gaming PC. However, the difference is all in that Apple Silicone. This little Mini is WAAYY faster than my gaming PC.
What really put me over the edge was... my iPhone. My phone could export 4K video significantly faster than my gaming PC. Are you kidding me?! Obviously, the iPhone runs Apple silicone. It also has no cooling fans. And my phone can smoke a PC when it comes to video exports. If my phone can do that, I knew the M1-based Mac Mini would, too. And surely it does.
And the best part (aside from the speed)?...
You cannot hear it. I've literally NEVER heard this Mac Mini made a peep. Even in the middle of exporting full edited video footage, I never hear it. It is completely silent.
You don't realize how much the constant din of PC fans wears on you... until it isn't there anymore. The office is more peaceful. More conducive to work. It is calm.
The Rest Of The Computer Setup
The Mac Mini is a "bring your own gear" Mac. No built-in screens or anything. Plus, since Apple charges a ridiculous amount for internal storage upgrades, this means you're going to need docks, external drives and the like.
So, here's the rest of my setup:
- 2 LG 32-inch 4K monitors (Model 32UK50T). I bought these monitors at Sam's Club, of all places. Fantastic deal for this much monitor.
- ErGear Dual Monitor Stand. This mounts the monitors directly to the desk, side-by-side. Very easy to position the screens and swing around. I can even put one (or both) monitors into vertical mode if I want to.
- CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock. This dock is a speed demon and reliable. It also provides me the extra DisplayPort so that I can run the second screen off the Mini.
- Samsung T7 1TB External drive. No need for paying the "Apple tax" for more hard drive. I went ahead and got the 512GB of internal storage on the Mini and that's plenty for me. For storing the big stuff, I use this external drive. Full USB 3.2 solid state and.... fast. I also have a 1TB external disk drive from Toshiba that I've had for a couple years. So, between those 2 drives, I have all the storage I need.
- BFRIENDit Backlit Keyboard. Keyboards aren't very exciting. But, I wanted a slim, backlit keyboard. So, grabbed this one. I know I could go wireless and reduce the wires on the desk, but I find the need for battery replacement annoying. I prefer the convenience of wired peripherals that never die and never have a lag.
- Bose Companion 3 Series II Computer Speakers. I've actually had these for awhile. The two satellite speakers are small and don't take up hardly any room on the desk. The sub-woofer is tucked away in the corner and you can barely see it. Combined, it packs of a hell of a punch if I want to. But, more often than not, I am listening to stuff on the headphones such as...
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Seriously, these are one of my top productivity tools. Noise-cancelling. They sound amazing. And I can use them on Zoom calls if I want. My 2 kids do their schooling at home, so these things are amazing for productivity because it totally drowns out whatever is going on in the house. Couple that with Youtube Music and I do a lot of work with these things on. But, also...
- Apple AirPods Pro. I also use these things. Yes, they're a bit expensive for what they do, but they work so well with Apple devices. Easy bridge between my iPhone and the Mac. They sound pretty good (not as good as the Bose, though). Plus, I can use them for Zoom calls and they're not as big on the head. 🙂
I know that the whole "Mac Versus PC" thing is just a big matter of opinion. And in terms of a blogging setup, I can't say one is better than the other. It sure seems as if Macs are more popular with content creators, but truthfully you could use either. That said...
I definitely work better on the Mac. I'm very happy to be back on the Mac as my daily driver. These 2 big screens was a big reason for me flirting with Windows again, but now that I can power them both off the Mac, I'm more than happy to return to MacOS. I can let the PC be for what I originally bought it for - VR and a wee bit of gaming.
For day-to-day work as a content creator, the Mac offers a better experience in my opinion.
Now, I know a lot of people wonder about that content creation stuff. So, let's dive into that aspect of my office...
My Content Creation Video Setup
As a content creator, I have 2 main priorities when it comes to my equipment:
- I want it to look somewhat professional without too much hassle.
- I don't want to have to spend time setting up when I want to use it. I want to just be able to flip the switch... and record.
If a video setup is a lot of work to use, I probably wouldn't use it.
The truth is, good audio/video equipment does get expensive. In fact, I easily have more money invested just in the A/V stuff than I do in the whole computer setup. That just seems to be the way it goes.
For quite awhile, I simply used the trusty Logitech C920 webcam as my camera.
I still use this camera as my webcam. If I'm doing a Zoom call and they want video enabled, I use the C920. This model of webcam has been around for several years now, but it is one of the best out there.
But, for my content creation, I upgraded to the Sony a5100. This is a mirrorless camera and it has a flip-up LCD that allows me to see what I'm filming while talking right into it.
The a5100 is one of their older models. Sony has moved on to the a6000, a6100 and the a6400. But, here's the thing...
If we're only using it as a webcam, we don't really need the upgrades. The a5100 operates VERY well as a webcam. It is a full-frame camera. It has the ability to turn off all the screen indicators and give you a beautiful, clean video feed direct over HDMI. So, just flip the switch to turn it on.... and go.
The lens that I use on the a5100 is the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 lens specifically built for the E-mounts used on these Sony cameras. This lens is fantastic. It gives a very wide angle view, allowing the camera to be mounted right to my desk and still have a wide enough angle for me to sit at the desk and record. It also has a shallow depth of field, giving me the ability to have that nice blurred-background effect in the right settings.
The camera is powered by a "dummy battery" power supply adapter, allowing me to power it constantly off the electric without having to worry about batteries. It is then connected over an HDMI cable directly to a HDMI to USB Video Capture card. Elgato makes the CamLink, but it is a little more on the pricey side. I ended up going with an off-brand unit and it works beautifully. In fact, I have 2 of them and keep one on the PC in case I want to move the camera over and use the PC for video work.
For audio, I am using a setup that I originally used when I was still podcasting regularly.
That setup consists of multiple parts:
- Heil PR40 mic. Considered to be one of the top broadcast microphones. I will tell you it is a bit overkill for what I'm doing. But, it is indeed a nice microphone.
- Heil Shockmount. The mic sits inside a shockmount that is supposed to shield it from vibrations from the desk while recording.
- Heil PL-2T Boom. This holds the mic up and attached to the desk. When I'm not recording, I just swing it out of the way and the mic sits up behind the monitor. When I need to use it, I pull the mic over to me and do my thing.
- FocusRite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface. This little device allows me to take this XLR mic and connect it to the Mac using USB. It also has some hardware in it to allow me to control volume, connect other audio sources, etc.
- Cloudlifter CL-1 Preamp. Since the Heil is a passive, dynamic mic, this Cloudlifter basically amps up the volume from the mic in a super-clean way that allows you to get good, clean audio without having to ramp up the volume in the editor and end up getting a bunch of background noise.
Now, to be clear, I didn't need all this stuff for audio. This setup is nice, but it is the result of me doing podcasting for awhile, combined with a lot of trial and error on getting the audio right. It can be downright confusing. If I were starting over, I would probably get a high-quality USB mic and mount it to a boom. Then, I wouldn't need the preamp, the USB audio interface, etc. It would be simpler.
In terms of lighting and camera stands, it was important that I not have to mess with setup every time I wanted to record. Plus, I was tired of dealing with tripods and junk out in the middle of the office.
So, with my current setup, I am mounting everything - including the lighting - right to my desk. This way all goes up and down (for standup or sitting).
Here's what I'm using:
- Arkscan MCM5 Tabletop Clamp Mount. This thing is rock solid and holds up my camera. It clamps right to the desk and it holds that camera firm.
- Dazzne Desk Mount Stand. These adjustable mounts are being used for LED lights. Most of the time, I'm only using one light. But, I actually have 2 this way I can light myself from all angles - right from the desk.
- Neewer Dimmable Bi-Color LED Lights. These video lights are LED, so they run cool and don't need the big umbrella things on them. They take up barely any room. You can adjust not only the brightness, but also the light temperature. They make great flexible video lighting setups.
- Neewer RL-12 LED 14" Ring Light. I don't use this all the time, but this ring light could also be mounted up for direct face lighting when recording. It is pretty popular with Youtubers.
Again, there are lots of ways to do things. But, I think it is important to set things up so that you can use it without any setup work. I also have an adjustable-height desk. So, it was important for me to have an entire A/V setup that could go up or down with the desk. I want to be able to record whether I'm sitting or standing. For this reason, everything is chosen to be compact and attach right to the desk.
You've always got to work the space you have, too. My desk happens to be up against a wall. Plus, I have these 2 big screens. I cannot mount the camera right in the middle of the desk due to the wall as well as there being pretty much no gap between the screens. So, I mount the camera on the side of the desk (as shown as above).
The good thing is... these desk clamp mounts can be moved all over the place. So, if I change the arrangement later, I can use the same gear.
So, there you have it. That's my main work setup and where I do most everything for the Blog Marketing Academy.
All this sits in my home office which I have set up to be a nice, professional workspace. I value high-quality spaces, so my office has custom flooring, crown molding, etc. All the furniture is from Ikea because I like the modern look and how you can customize things.
But, I'm not one that will skimp on hardware.
I use this stuff to run a business. To create content. To make money. It is all an investment into the business. Plus, my business is already pretty low overhead considering what it makes, so I'm not going to be that guy trying to run a business from a cheap laptop or a Chromebook. 🙂 I'm going to get what will be convenient.
When I'm not in my home office in Florida, I'm probably out in the RV. When I'm out, I go back to the MAcbook Pro and I usually attach my Apple Thunderbolt monitor to it for a fully mobile setup. Basically, anything I can do in my office, I could do on the road. I probably wouldn't livestream from the RV just due to the bandwidth constraints, but anything else I could do.
So, that's the setup. 🙂 That's the "behind the scenes". And now you know. 😉