Desk Tour 2020
6 min read

Desk Tour 2020

So it's safe to say that my desk setup has gotten a little "extra" this year…
Desk Tour 2020

If you're trying to figure it out from that photo, yes; that's two 4k monitors, a video light, mirrorless camera, preview monitor, audio interface, boom mic, headphones, and studio monitors—not to mention the MacBook Pro 13" and the keyboard and mouse.

I get a handful of questions each week about my desk and video setup, mainly on the 100s of Zoom calls I'm on, and I thought it could be fun to run through how my setup is ending the year… it certainly didn't start the year this way, since I'd yet to buy even a desk pre-March 2020.

First things first, the computer is a work supplied 13" MacBook Pro, I asked nicely for a smaller laptop because the 15" is ridiculously big and I like my back the shape it is, thank you very much. For home use I have a Mac Mini mounted to the underside of the desk which I'll be replacing shortly with a new 13" M1 MacBook Pro (which I'm very excited about).

With the Mac I use the Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse, specifically the International English version of the keyboard because the US version has the wrong shaped return key…

The UK version of the Apple Keyboard, with their beautiful (until you have to charge it) Magic Mouse on it's right.

Moving onto the slightly more interesting parts, I use a set of Beyerdynamics D770 Pros, in the 250 Ohm version—I definitely don't need the 250 Ohm version but Amazon was struggling with stock so it was that or nothing and I had already purchased the audio interface which they're plugged into; a PreSonus Studio 24c, I was torn between that and the Scarlite interfaces but the thing that swung me to PreSonus was the USB-C interface and by-golly I'm ready to be done with this madness of different USB-A/lightning/Thunderbolt/USB-C cables that seem to sprout randomly from every conceivable device without rhyme or reason.

Beyerdynamic DT770 Pros

The other audio out devices I use are the PreSonus Eris 3.5" Bluetooth Studio Monitors, the Bluetooth was extra and I wasn't sure I'd use it, and then I wanted to listen to a podcast from my iPhone and I was glad I had it. Should you get the BT verison over the non-BT version? Maybe, in the same way you might choose USB-C over a USB-so-old-we-forgot-it's-name port on your audio interface. Just saying.

So that's the audio out on the interface but what about the Audio In? That's provided by the Deity S-Mic 2S, which is a bit like how Apple named their iPhones for many years; at one point it surely made sense to someone but it's all a bit of a mystery to me.

I picked up the S-Mic 2S for a couple of reasons—mainly because the Rode NTG-2 that I already had was far too quiet and needed software boosting which is a pain to do pre-Zoom, and secondly because Deity kit is really good value. It also helps that the audio interface supports phantom power (48v supplied over the mic cable) which allows me to use a shotgun mic that doesn't require batteries.

My Deity S-Mic 2S in it's $15 Amazon mic holder to isolate it from desk noise.

In the background there you can also see the next item to talk about, the beautiful, incredibly excessive, and massively overkill Aputure 120D Mark II with the Aputure Litght Dome Mini II—this is a wonderful video light which has uses far beyond my Zoom calls but let's leave that story for another day. This thing is like the sun came knocking when cranked all the way up, I run it around 50% brightness and it provides a wonderfully soft lighting, just slightly to the left of camera (the same side my window is on).

I guess that's about as good a segue as I can expect in this writeup so let's talk about the camera, it's usesually one of my two Sony cameras, either the A7Siii or A7c depending on which one I'm using for other things, but regardless of which it is, it's always the Sigma 35mm f1.4 prime lens—simply because I have a ball head attached to a monitor arm which means the camera is always in the same place, and that focal length is my preference for Zoom-style talking head shots at this desk…

The camera is attached to a Andycine 4K monitor (the 6plus I think) which gives me a handy preview before any video software gets involved and makes it easy to switch between the HDMI to HDMI (A7Siii) and HDMI to Mini-HDMI (A7c) cables as I need—did I mention I really hate all these different cable standards?

Sony A7Siii with Sigma 35mm and an Andycine 4K monitor

There's absolutely no reason to use such nice camera gear for Zoom calls but it was that or a $20 webcam from Amazon that looks like 2000s hardware but with 1990s inards—it's bad, and everything else was sold out so why not use a fancy mirrorless camera? (editors note: because then you add lights and lenses and everything gets a little bit out of control)

So that's the gear—I use a Elgato 4K capture card (even though I output in HD not 4K) because I've had good experiences with them in the past, and that plus one monitor connect to the computer through a TwelveSouth thunderbolt hub which is surprisingly handy (I also connect the audio interface, and various SD cards through it).

Finally, the monitors are HP Z27s, I bought my first one because it was the best in-stock monitor I could find, and I bought my second one to well, match the first… so how does all this look on the other side of a zoom call?

The Zoom-view. Minus me. Obviously.

My somewhat-styled background for Zoom involves a couple of oddly-shaped Ikea side tables, an unconfortable chair that we never use, a fake plant and a few other items to make it all a bit more interesting.

The light is one I found on Amazon for $50 a few years ago and I also use a couple of small Aputure lights to fill in the details, one as a hair light to the left of the desk chair, one to light up the background wall/armchair, and a final one to throw some light on the brick wall way in the back so it isn't a complete black hole back there (though it's a bit dim in this shot).

The plant is fake since I killed an un-killable snake plant (the office doesn't get much natural light through the small window), but it adds a pop of green to the background. I also have my drone charging case on the other table which adds some interest with it's light and shape…

And that's the setup. Way overkill for Zoom but fun to setup and use which makes my day that bit more interesting. Of course it was also just fun to shoot all these photos; shot on my Sony A7c with the Sigma 24-70 f2.8mm and edited in Adobe Ligthroom.

I hope you found that valuable or at least entertaining, and hopefully, hopefully, there won't be any need to do an updated 2021 edition of this… but who am I kidding.