My Virtual Yoga Studio Tech Set Up

I’ve had a lot of questions from students on how to go about setting up a virtual studio, so I thought I’d share some ideas, experiences, errors, and improvements from my own experience this past year.

First, a hardware and software overview:

  • Platform: Zoom. $226 per year for a professional membership
  • Microphone: Blue Yeti. $200
  • Webcam: Jelly Comb 1080P HD Streaming Web Camera. $150
  • Lighting: Mountdog Softbox Lighting Kit 95W x2. $110
  • Speakers: Edifier Studio Monitor Speakers. $175

Now, My Process

Since having to very quickly adapt a face-to-face yoga teacher training to an online format back in March last year, I’ve been on a steep learning curve with teaching online.  It has taken this full year for me to get things working in a way that I’m pretty satisfied with, although we continue to make minor adjustments all the time. The husband has had to take over as ‘technical director’, mostly because it’s not my forte, but also because I find that if I have to be concerned with technical issues it distracts me from my priority, which is teaching.

Firstly, I think that it’s important to take some time to think about what your goals are for your set up. I was a little unclear on that at first, but over time I’ve been able to clarify my goals a bit and that has helped.

Most important to me is that my students can see and hear me, and I can see and hear them. I don’t necessarily need a fancy professional video at the end of each class, but I do need it to be useful for students both live and when they are provided with a recording for future review.

To meet these goals, I need a camera and microphone for students to see and hear me, and a sizeable TV and good speakers for me to see and hear students.  Keep in mind that your student’s might not have great microphones on their end, so you need to have good speakers on your end to hear their questions.  Luckily, I already had a big TV in the room to see my students, and I ‘borrowed’ my husband’s laptop and speakers, so that reduced costs a bit.

I went through a few iterations of set ups, including filming from my phone while having the laptop connected to the television by HDMI cable, but this didn’t allow me to use a microphone, and using two devices seemed to make my internet connectivity a bit spottier (or maybe it’s because last April absolutely everyone was on Zoom?)

In making a choice about a microphone, I had been hearing a lot of complaints from other teachers about using their wireless earbuds or wearable microphones, so I didn’t want to go that route.  Plus, I am a very loud person, so it’s a bit easier on my students’ ears if my microphone is set a bit away from my ‘outside voice’.

In order to use my microphone, which has a USB connection, I had to film from the laptop, which meant getting a webcam. Then, after a few months of that, a student told me my webcam was autofocussing (thanks Nicole!), so we fixed that problem.

Overhead lighting made demos hard to see, so I got two softbox lights to add a good amount of light without lots of shadows.

Most recently, after reviewing a video my husband let me know that when we set up each day, we check how everything is positioned from the web cam’s software, but it seems that when we switch over to Zoom the picture changes (narrowing view of the room) so some of my demos weren’t being seen.  Plus, the video is darker on Zoom than on the webcam’s software.  So, now we sort of have it organized (I think) and these days it’s just an ongoing process of learning, trying new things, and making improvements where we can.

One thing I want to mention is that I don’t like to be filmed.  I never have.  It makes me quite uncomfortable, overly aware of everything I say, and, well I don’t know how to better explain it but it interrupts my sense of ‘flow’.  I don’t like to think about myself when I teach and being on screen has definitely been distracting at first. But, I’m learning, getting more comfortable, and with my gaze focussed firmly on what my students need (rather than my insecurities) I’ve gotten much more used to being on camera.  I think this is another element that will continue to need attention and practice.

For now, I hope this has been helpful to see my year-long process, all my experiments, errors, improvements, and upgrades.

For those of you teaching online or considering teaching online, I hope that you can see that you probably won’t start out perfectly.  Just like with your yoga teaching practice, you have to start somewhere, give it a go, and keep on applying your learning with every class you teach or video you film.

I look forward to hearing your experiences with teaching online, and hope that this has provided you with some insight, or at least a bit of hardware and software ideas, to get started in your own virtual teaching.

Note: Ironically, the same day I jotted all this down I wasn’t able to log into Zoom to teach a virtual yoga class.  Ah, sometimes no matter what you do the technology fairies just don’t show up for you.  Wishing you all the best of luck, and that the tech fairies are always on your side.

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