Joe Biden's Home Studio: Excessive or Necessary?

Like the rest of the country, even presidential candidates find themselves sheltering in place during this global pandemic. Unlike the rest of the country, those candidates still need a way to get their message out. Enter Joe Biden’s fascinating home studio setup.

While you don’t see too many behind-the-scenes photos of the gear that Biden’s team is using, there are certainly a few out there. Check out The Washington Post’s article on Biden’s basement podcasting mimicking Warren G. Harding’s porch politicking. It appears from the photo provided by the campaign that Biden has a pretty sophisticated setup.

While many news outlets describe the operation as “makeshift,” that’s probably a more accurate description of my storage-room-turned-office. Whereas I went with a single Yongnuo YN360 II LED Light Wand, for lighting ($121), it appears, as far as I can tell, that Biden is using at least four ARRI Skypanel LED lights that cost about $6,550 a pop. The camera is a bit harder to tell, but it looks like a BlackMagic Ursa Mini or Mini Pro, so that’s about $3,000 to $6,000 on the camera body as well, not factoring in accessories such as the tripod or teleprompter. I can’t quite make out the microphones, but the shock mounts look very reminiscent of the Audio-Technica brand.

Surprisingly there appears to be only one camera shooting, though there might be another one just off-frame, if the tripod legs are any indication.

For all those that thought that Biden was perhaps using a green screen and comping in the background, it appears that what you see behind him is the real deal, albeit propped up on random equipment cases it seems.

Does all of this gear make a difference? Yes and no. There’s a point of diminishing returns here, and I think that a few Westcott or Yongnuo lights, a good Sennheiser mic and a Canon 5D Mark IV could pretty much accomplish the same effect in such a controlled environment, and for a lot less money. The perception that such a setup lends itself to is that Biden is certainly well outside of the middle class that he’s championing. That, perhaps is the bigger issue. More than this, with the crew needed to build, maintain and operate this kind of setup, social distancing and maintaining safety is probably difficult. An important consideration for he former vice president, who is in the high-risk category for COVID-19.

By comparison, check out Bernie Sanders’ home studio setup — complete with lamps on the floor — when he did a livestream in late March (although, again, social distancing seems to be an issue):

What do you think of Biden’s setup? Do you see some gear that I didn’t recognize? What would you use if you were creating a basement studio of your own? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

Log in or register to post comments

I shot a job once for a technical institute in New York who's photographer from the previous year had moved onto the Biden campaign. They referenced me to the images he'd taken for the school from the previous year and, while they were compositionally good, were from a technical perspective pretty off the mark.

They were all saved to flickr for me to view and get a feel of what the images were supposed to look like. The nice thing about flickr is that it takes all the camera's metadata and posts it on the image page, so you can see what camera body/lens/iso/etc was used for the photo.

A lot of the images were taken in a room that was roughly the size of two living rooms (30'x30' or 40'x40' at most) with a 200-400mm lens. Outside of 400mm being super unnecessary for a room that's both small and allows you to walk up to the speaker anyhow, it has a variable aperture and most of the shots were taken at 5.6 or even further stopped down, with the ISO being 6000+.

I remember thinking to myself, at the time, 'well that was all very unnecessary.'

It looks like they're shooting a car, it's overkill. On the other hand, lighting him that way may be necessary because of bad complexion or his ego...

He is about a million years old, so I'd imagine it's the former. I've worked with a makeup artist that did his makeup and described him as the 'the nicest, most grandfatherly old man ive ever met.'

Did he sniff her hair and grab her by the pussy?

Oh, come on. Leave these comments on Facebook please.

Not overkill. Just professional. Image is everything in marketing. I noticed that he forgoes the raccoon look so beloved by Trump.

Funny, I thought the story was about Biden's setup for the Tonight Show appearance. You should checkout the other late night shows production quality and SNL's while you're at it. And yes, Trump is quite fond on the orange bronzer with the sunglass cutout and the blonde wrap around...very, very tremendous, not!

Mr. Bro’s why do you always rage against people who are left but never against people on right? You sound very one sided. So angry, which is so sad. Please try to be nicer and more even! Thanks

Mr. Bros you are negative voting me for no reason and I would appreciate you stop. Be positive!

When I see negative voters, right away the sound of dial up comes back to my mind.

I finished my AOL Internet cds a couple of months ago and my niece helped me get xfinity!

Are you calling me a Leftist? My family and friends would find that hilarious since I am far from it. I believe a Moderate would be appropriate with no party affiliation taking one candidate at a time.

Actually Bernie, what enrages those on the right about us is our use of facts and science that contradicts their narratives. What then occurs is the ad hominem attacks as so well demonstrated by your post.
It is hard to have your positions taken seriously when rebuttals are splutters of rage.

So one's a multi-millionaire democrat showing off his money a la Pelosi Ice CreamGate and the other a multi-millionaire socialist (communist?) trying to hide his riches?

Although I'm not into videography, I do find the set-ups interesting. On my budget, the socialist's example seems more feasible.

Been watching a little too much Fox? ;-)

Too much FOX and Megan Kelly can turn into a moron

Megan Fox? One can never watch too much Megan Fox. ;-D

I don't see the problem. You can do just as good with something less the Canon mentioned in the article and cheap lighting equipment bought off Amazon. However, we know nothing about who set up "studio." Likely a professional who invested in good equipment for all the jobs he/she does. Biden probably just shelled out some greenbacks for the services rendered and not the equipment directly. Without details it is hard to say if it is excessive.

A better article would be one where somebody used a crop sensor camera (aps-c or 4/3 and preferably a model five or more years old) and $200-$300 in lighting and sound equipment. See if skill using budget gear can match quality of production with what we see and guess about the equipment for this video.

I agree with this answer, after thinking about it. Biden probably hired a top producer/videographer who had the equipment in his gear-list. I doubt Biden set the studio up himself or, in addition, even underwrote it while it was being set up. If he had, I'd imagine he himself would have probably raised an eyebrow over the necessity of spending 30k to shoot in a living room.

It's likely just in the producers gear bag.

Nice catch, Mike.

In no way did I think Biden owned this gear. You can see the bar codes on some of the stuff which indicate they are probably rentals.

It was interesting thing to see what kind of gear he's using vs. Bernie - if I had a behind the scenes image of how other candidates or presidents did their social media videos I'd be fascinated to pick those apart, too.

Wow. It only took like 20 comments all about left and right bashing and equality of millionaires and sexuallly charged comments for a site that is frequented by PRO photographers and PRO videographers to put together the logic that someone like Joe Biden might have HIRED a professional who then RENTED the equipment! Holy shit. Everything is political. For you guys to even suggest that Biden bought or owns or even knows what lights are being used is laughable. What’s even more logical is that he is running for President and probably has a dedicated media team following him for the entire campaign. Just to document t it. Are you guys really that blind to politics to not see how your own industry works!!? WTF!??

In what way is my post political? All I pointed out is that Biden likely just paid for a professional to do the video. My comment would have been the same if the subject was a non-political figure.

A bunch of Canon EOS RPs (awesome eye AF) and Genaray Twin Sun 1x2 Bi-Color Soft LED Panels (similar to those Arri models but only $700). I don't know what magic the Arri might have in it to make it better.

Dude has two mics and a cameraman so he probably also has a second camera rolling. He'd look real stupid having his live stream fail so it's totally worth tens of thousands of $$$ to him to have full redundancy for everything.

I don't even understand why two people give you a thumb down. You make the point that a professional should act professional and provide service which include back up for a live show. There is absolutely nothing abnormal with your comments.

Some people are mad at Tony because they believed he disrespected their brand of camera at some point in the past. Therefore they downvote him no matter what. It's kinda dumb and stems from people replacing having a real personality with a camera brand that defines their identity instead

I went to the DMV to renew my license. The people there were so nice and helpful, and I was out of there in a jiffy! Thanks, DMV!

The comments above are super sad; people can't even objectively talk about a candidate's lighting set up without letting their political preferences consume them.

Here's the summary:
- He has a moderately elaborate set up
- It's not that expensive by professional standards (inexpensive cameras and lights)
- He probably doesn't need it
- He clearly has a staff that selected this stuff for him
- Even thought he doesn't need it, there's prob some value in making him look better

Let's leave it at that.

Not interested in anyone's pathetic desire to spin this for or against their candidate of choice on a photography forum.

go find your echo chamber of choice and post your crappy memes there, so you and your like-minded morons can pleasure each other.

It is necessary and quite appropriate considering what he is dealing with (tRump).

I come here for photo related articles, not political articles. WTF!
Mixing politics into your business is a sure way to alienate people.