HomeLab Stage LVI: HomeOffice Setup

After completing my last episode HomeLab Stage LV: KVM Solution, I decided to invest into my HomeOffice, which is next to my HomeLab…

Within the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly everyone in the IT business is working from home. I have never expected to work from home for more than a few days a month….

Actually I am working for more than a year only from home. Video sessions and online conferences are the new default. I wanted to make sure that my setup is appropriate for this new kind of work.

Here is a list of my HomeOffice setup:

Chair:

The first and in my opinion the important invest was into a new office chair. I have checked so many reviews and my decision goes to a Herman Miller Aeron with additional neck rest support.

One of the most comfortable chairs ever…
Perfectly matched neck rest from a 3rd party vendor

Camera (main):

Another important part for remote working is the camera. I already owned some Logitech cameras, but all of them are HD versions. So this time I wanted more… the Brio 4K from Logitech is a really nice small webcam, which also supports Windows Hello for logon. I have attached it directly to one of my USB 3.0 ports. After implementation, the camera picture was OK, but with low lights a little bit blurry. More on that topic later…. I put small eye stickers on the camera to make it look a little bit more funny, like the movie short circuit from the 80s….

Logitech Brio 4K connected via USB 3.0

Camera (side):

After reading some other blogs about HomeOffice setups I found the Elgato CamLink option very interesting. A small USB device with a HDMI port for camera, who does not support direct USB connections. I bought a Sony camcorder CX240 in the past and after some searching in my house I was able to found it. The camcorder supports Micro-HDMI connection and it should be compatible with the CamLink adapter. I ordered the adapter as well as a Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable. The setup is extremely easy, just plug and play and a software installation. At this time, I had 2 different camera installed at my workstation.

Sony CX240 camcorder attached via HDMI CamLink adapter

Camera (overhead):

What could I do with my already existing Logitech C920 webcam? I decided to install it above my head to work from an overhead perspective to show my entire working desk setup. But how should I connect it with the pre-installed 1.5m cable? After searching for a solution, I found a really old 5m USB 2.0 extension cable in one of my cable boxes. It worked out of the box and the performance was enough for this „old“ device.

Logitech C920 Full HD webcam connected via USB 2.0

Microphone:

Next part was audio: I don’t like wearing a headset for an entire day, so I wanted a „studio“ microphone. I found a cheap one on eBay, which is equipped with a 3.5mm jack. The connection to my workstation is done via an pre-existing USB to jack adapter from Sennheiser. I really did not expect that amazing quality and I am very happy with it.

„Studio“ MIC with flexible arm

Sound Output:

I am using my Bose Companion 20 computer speakers since several years and I still love them. Crystal clear sound with a decent bass option. These speakers are hidden behind my monitors. I really like the „remote“ wheel for volume control.

Bose 2 speaker setup with remote control

Workstation setup:

All these devices are attached / connected to my workstation. You can read the corresponding blog article here. The system is equipped with the following components:

Intel Xeon W-2255 10 Core with 3,7GHz

256GB DDR4-ECC RAM

Dual Nvidia RTX8000 with NVlink

Single port 40GbE Mellanox NIC

4TB Raid 0 (2 x 2TB NVMe) SSD

Dual Dell UP2715K 27“ 5K Monitors

Custom designed Apple G5 case

From this point, it is getting a little extrem……

Additional Displays:

Above my dual 5K monitors are additional displays:

On the left monitor is a iPad Mini for HomeKit Accessoires to control my house, including the surveillance cameras. I have configured a red LED On Air sign „Record in Progress“ in front of the HomeOffice door, to prevent unwanted guests within a remote meeting.

Apple HomeKit controlled On air sign

Above the right 5K monitor I have configured an old Amazon Fire tablet for Datacenter and network monitoring. Basically it just shows the website from my custom Linux monitoring solution. If anything goes wrong inside my datacenters or my house, it shows alarm messages. Very useful….

Amazon Fire Tablet 7“ for datacenter monitoring

Under the right monitor I have placed the La Metric display, which was a gift from my lovely wife. That is a nice gadget that could show different information. In my case I am monitoring my blog and twitter account with it.

Funny little display with different viewing option: LaMetric

I really like drawing solutions within customer meetings and sending them „their“ pdf files after it. I am using Apple iPads since years. Actually I am using the Pro 11“ in combination with the original pencil generation 2. I am „streaming“ the iPad screen to my workstation and share that via the meeting software. More on that later at the software chapter….

Apple iPad Pro 11“ with the pencil on top

Lights:

My setup worked quite nicely, but there was one disappointing thing: The lights or better saying the camera quality with my office lights. So I need to invest into this… The Elgato Key Light LED panels had very good reviews. I ordered two of them, installed it, configured the WiFi and boom…. Those light is absolutely awesome. The first time ever, I was able to use my cameras without any artifacts or bad looking areas. One of my best investments. I can configure the color as well as the brightness via the software or via an iOS app. Well done Elgato

Elgato Key Light with professional mountings

Green Screen:

After the amazing experience with the Elgato lights, why not going further? I ordered their Green Screen product, to mount it on the ceiling inside my HomeOffice. I wanted to play with the chroma-key option to create „talking head“ videos or presentations. More on the software setup later in this post.

Elgato Chroma Key MT Green Screen

Controller:

How to control all these devices? Elgato has another solution for that: The well known StreamDeck products. Those are small, medium or large extra keyboards with configurable keys (they are also small displays). You can control nearly everything with them.

I ordered the biggest option (of course) the StreamDeck XL with 32 independent keys. I loaded extra software plugins to control my Phillips hue office lights, the Elgato Key Lights, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and many more.

Starting meetings, muting the mic and controlling the lights via StreamDeck

My „main“ keyboard is the Logitech Craft which is another well produced product from Logitech. I really like the optic as well as the haptic. The keys get illuminated when you near your fingers, this is so cool. The control wheel on the upper left can be configured for different setups.

One of the best keyboards I have owned: Logitech Craft

When I find some time for a little gaming with my friends, I love using my old Logitech G13 Gaming Keyboard. You can configure special movements or actions for each button and you can control your avatar´s movement with your left thumb.

Perfect for gaming: The Logitech G13

I have been using the 3DConnexion Space Explorer Mouse since several years. Mostly for customer demos inside CAD software, but it is also very nice within Google Earth. You can control the Globus very precisely and it is fun exploring new areas, especially within the pandemic….

Pretty old, but still very good: 3DConnexion Space Explorer Mouse

I have been using or better saying testing several mouse models. When working very long on my workstation I had some kind of pain in my right hand. I was a huge fan in the past of the trackballs, which nearly disappeared. I was very happy to see that Logitech announced their MX Ergo Trackball. It can be configured with two different operating modes 0 degrees or 20 degrees.

Logitech MX Ergo Trackball

The 20 option was quite nice, but I wanted a little bit more. My father 3D-printed an additional adjustment for me to add some extra degrees. It feels „good“ working with this device and my pain is gone. Thumbs up

Custom height adjustment for more comfort

Software:

OBS:

After looking for a really good software, that could manage all my cameras and settings I found Open Broadcast Studio (OBS). It´s free and after the implementation and tweaking things very easy to handle. I also installed the Virtual Camera Plugin, to use the OBS output as a camera in the different meeting and collaboration apps on my workstation. I have configured several scenes within OBS to support all my requirements.

Different scenes within OBS
Chroma Key settings for the talking head option in front of my green screen

I am using the projector window inside OBS to share that within Microsoft Teams, Zoom…..

I love that feature, especially when performing live demos

Reflector:

When doing VMware trainings or customer engagements I love drawing on my iPad. But how can I show it live to my audience? I use the software reflector for it. It simulates an AirPlay device in your network where you can stream.

Reflector software on my workstation is simulating an Airplay device
That device is choosed on the iPad or iPhone side
Live drawings on ipad presented via reflector in OBS projector window

Nvidia Broadcast:

Nvidia has launched a free software, which can help you to reduce unwanted noise in your conference calls or meetings. It´s called Nvidia Broadcast.

It is using AI on your RTX based GPU to remove noise. That is so cool!

System requirements for Nvidia Broadcast
Microphone noise reduction offloaded to my Dual RTX8000 GPUs

Teams + Zoom:

Within Microsoft Teams or Zoom I have configured the following settings:

Microphone + Speakers: Nvidia Broadcast (for active noise reduction based on AI offloaded to GPU)

Camera: OBS Virtual Camera

Teams settings for my setup

I bypass the sometimes relly bad camera resolution within Teams or Zoom, I share my OBS projector windows inside the software. This gives you a better resolution for both platforms and your audience can follow your presentation and yourself more easily.

I really like all the OBS options, they are very useful for remote presentations

How does my “studio” setup look like?

Next steps:

I really like my Dual screen 5K setup, which I am using since several years. My GPUs are powerful enough to support 8K displays…..

My storage performance inside my workstation is very nice, but Intel announced the new Optane SSD series P5800X, which has mind-blowing performance specs…..

Stay tuned for the next episodes 🙂