/ Digital Nomad

Can nomads have a recording studio? Sorta, here’s mine.

For the last few months I’ve been working on a new YouTube channel called TL;DR: a JavaScript screencast series for working web developers. Since starting my travel sabbatical back in November of 2018, I’ve been building my own training brand and assets in hopes that I can strike a healthier balance between teaching, travel and photography.

This is my second time launching a YouTube channel. My first one — Yellowscale — is mostly recorded on the road in hotel rooms and the fells of the Lake District. That worked great for my target audience, and I hit 1000 subscribers in about 7 months.

But TL;DR needs to reflect my teaching style in a classroom or workshop, so this time I felt it was important to improve the production value.

Just one problem: I’m still a digital nomad. Even after returning to the US, I’ve moved on average every 2 months. And I’m still planning to hit the road again.

Is it possible to have a nice, compact recording studio that’s easy to pack up every couple months, and flexible to most spaces — without spending a fortune?

Well, sorta. It won’t fit in my carry-on backpack, but it’ll move from place-to-place when I’m back in the states. Here’s an overview of my (mostly) nomadic-friendly setup, with links to the things!

Studio Equipment

4x LED Light Panels

4x Neewer 660 LED Panels. I am seriously in love with these: they are stupid bright, came with decent barndoors, wall plugs and light stands, put out a high CRI light, and run cool. Since I’m recording in small spaces and have to kill AC, it’s hard to overstate how important that is!

I use 3 of the panels for subject lighting (me!): key light, fill light and rim light. I use the 4th panel with a gel to color the backdrop depending on the look I want. On TL;DR I don’t use the 4th light, but I probably will for new Yellowscale vlogs.

Smartphone Teleprompter

Parrot Teleprompter 2 For Smartphone. You may be fine without a teleprompter, but to record my TL;DR episodes with any hope of getting them near 5 minutes, I absolutely have to script it. And there’s nothing more awkward than staring off into space rather than your audience. This slides right over any lens — slap an old smartphone in, and boom! You’ve got (mostly) flawless takes on the first take.

1x Softbox

Neewer Collapsible Softbox Diffuser. The LED light panels produce a decently soft light, but the key light wasn’t soft enough. This little diffuser does a great job, especially in tight spaces where a traditional softbox or umbrella would take way too much space!

Lighting Accessories

Neewer 12x12 Pack of 8 Colored Gels. Since LED panels run cool, nothing fancy required! Just attach them to the barndoors with a binder clip.

2x Neewer 10” Gooseneck Tube Arm. To get my key light as close as possible, I needed these to “crane” the lightbox above me. Super sturdy since the LED panels are so light.

Blue Yeti USB Mic

Blue Yeti USB Microphone, Black. I’ve been recording with a Yeti for a year now, and love it.

Audio Accessories

  • Auphonix Shock Mount. A must if you’re planning to type on the same surface the mic is mounted to!
  • InnoGear Boom Arm Stand. Get’s the mic out of your way and closer to you, plus it kills some vibrations!
  • Sure-Max 12 Heavy-Duty Moving Blankets. My “acoustic treatment” pièce de résistance for killing room reverb. These aren’t good for a monitoring setup, but they do a great job for recording! My room was an echo chamber before treatment. Easy to hang with some binder clips and wire hanger nails.
  • Pop Filter. Literally any will do.

Yes, nomads can have a studio!

That’s it! It’s not part of my ultralight digital nomad packing list, but it’s compact and flexible enough not to hold me back from new adventures.

By the way, if you’re a web developer and want to level up your craft, subscribe to the TL;DR channel for rapid codecasts on design patterns, refactoring and development approaches.

And if you’re looking for someone to train your developer team, get in touch at [email protected]. I’m a digital nomad, so I can come to you! I provide custom training solutions through immersive bootcamps, workshops, seminars and speaking engagements. ⚛️ React, Node.js, Web… give me a shout!

Jonathan Lee Martin

Jonathan Lee Martin

Globetrotting digital nomad and fine art landscape photographer in Atlanta. Working remotely as a developer + international trainer, scaling mountains at twilight to discover non-touristy landscapes.

Read More