Constructing your own lightboard studio

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If you are not yet familiar with the lightboard studio, let me briefly introduce this awesome tool! The lightboard is simply a clear glass board, framed with LED strip lights that the instructor stands behind and writes using fluorescent dry erase markers. The best part about this tool is that as you are writing on the board, your back is not to the viewer, hopefully allowing for more engagement with the video. This tool is very helpful to create engaging supplemental instructional videos, demonstrate problem solving, create lecture videos, or even a more interactive exam key in which the students can see your thought process! (Have another idea for the use of this tech? Let me know! Leave a comment below). Now, there are a number of tutorials out there on the internet that can describe how to construct this lightboard, but most will run you $3-5,000 in cost. In this post, I will share with you how we constructed and fully equipped our lightboard studio at BSC for less than $1000!
Watch the brief introduction here:

Video Link : 2032

The studio lay out:

As you may have noticed from the video, the layout of the studio is pretty simple. You just need a dark rectangular room, a black screen behind you, 3 LED flood lights constructed in a 3-point configuration behind the board on to you, a mirror opposite of the board, and a somewhat decent camera mounted to a tripod.  In our studio, we use the mirror to flip the image (no I am not writing backwards that flawlessly) and the camera then records the image on the mirror.  For the sound, I used a 20 ft wired lapel microphone that plugs directly into the camera. I also purchased a wireless system that can use up to two microphones in case we want two people in the video. The sound quality is not as great with the wireless system, but I am clean that up post production using Camtasia or other video production software we already have on campus. 

The shopping list:

The cost of the construction is intimately linked to two items:
1. The glass used in the board. We used a 48X96 inch clear acrylic that was 1/4 inch thick from a local vendor, you can find this online at vendors such as Acme Plastics for around $160 but the shipping costs more than the actual glass, so we recommend trying to find a local vendor that can cut to your specifications.
2. The camera. There are hand-held DH camcorders that are very cost effective, but the next step up is full fledged professional cameras which basically triples the cost. We went with a small canon HD handheld that had a number of good reviews on amazon (see below).

The entire shopping list can be found below:
  1. 48in X 96in, 1/4in thick plexiglass (cheaper option) or lead-free glass (up tp $10,000 but better results) -  We went with the plexi glass option from a local supplier for approximately $140. While you can find this online at Acme Plastics for $126, the shipping is very expensive. In actuality the 96 in width is excessive and we had the local supplier cut it in half providing us with plexi glass for two boards. It is often difficult to find it in a smaller dimension.
  2. Wood and hardware to construct a base: $20.00 - $160.00 from Home Depot. Tyler constructed the frame and the base for the board by hand. The price range depends on whether or not you would like to put the board on wheels as castors are expensive. We opted not to put our board on wheels. The board is light weight and can be easily picked up and moved with two people.
  3.  Black backdrop or green screen with frame - $75.00 from Amazon (LimoStudio)
  4. Heavy duty muslin clamps – 6 pack - $8.00 from Amazon (K2M Mart)
  5. 2 LED studio lights: $69.99/pair from Amazon (Julius Studio came with stands and light filters/diffusers)
  6. Set of two 9ft photo studio light stands - $36.00 from Amazon (Neewer)
  7. Telescoping microphone boom arm - $13.00 from Amazon (JamStands) This is actually used from one of the smaller LED lights to help with the three-point light system.
  8. 1 Dimmable Bi-Colo LED Video light with U bracket - $110 from Amazon (Neewer)
  9. Set of 2 lavalier wireless microphones - $40.00 from Amazon (Pyle PDWM2145)
  10. External lavalier microphone with 20’ audio cable - $25.00 from Amazon (Canon) The wireless system is nice if you want two people in the video, however the sound quality from the corded mic is much better.
  11. 2 packs of neon expo dry erase markers - $8.00 amazon (EXPO)
  12. Large wall mount mirror – donated by physics, estimate cost is $50
  13. Polarizing lens kit for camera - $48.00 from Amazon (Canon, 43mm)
  14. LED light strip with power supply - $25.99 from Amazon (WenTop, actually came with two strips of LED lights so we have a backup or could use to make a second board)
  15. Tripod for camera – Donated by department – Estimate cost is $50-$100 for sturdy tripod.
  16. Dedicated HD video camera – Cannon Vixia HF R700 - $276.00 from Amazon

By constructing your own board and base, and being a savvy shopper, you can construct this awesome blended learning tool pretty cheaply! How could you incorporate this into your own courses? I'd love to hear! Leave me a comment!
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About the Author
As an educator, researcher, wife and mother, I am dedicated to developing and assessing innovations in chemistry education, medical diagnostics, and the biophysical characterization of non-helical DNA structures found in the non-coding regions of the genome. Website: