By Brady Betzel
Instead of writing up my normal “Top Five Workstation Accessories” column this year, I wanted to take a slightly different route and focus on products that might lessen pain and maybe even improve your creative workflow — whether you are working at a studio or, more likely these days, working from home.
As an editor, I sit in a chair for most of my day, and that is on top of my three- to four-hour round-trip commute to work. As aches and pains build up (I’m 36, and I’m sure it doesn’t just get better), I had to start looking for solutions to alleviate the pain I can see coming in the future. In the past I have mentioned products like the Wacom Intuos Pro Pen tablet, which is great and helped me lessen wrist pain. Or color correction panels such as theLoupedeck, which helps creative workflows but also prevents you from solely using the mouse, also lessening wrist pain.
This year I wanted to look at how the actual setup of a workstation environment that might prevent pain or alleviate it. So get out of your seat and move around a little, take a walk around the block, and when you get back, maybe rethink how your workstation environment could become more conducive to a creativity-inspiring flow.
Autonomous SmartDesk 2
One of the most useful things in my search for flexibility in the edit bay is the standup desk. Originally, I went to Ikea and found a clearance tabletop in the “dents” section and then found a kitchen island stand that was standing height. It has worked great for over 10 years; the only issue is that it isn’t easily adjustable, and sometimes I need to sit to really get my editing “flow” going.
Many companies offer standing desk solutions, including manual options like the classic VariDesk desk riser. If you have been in the offline editing game over the past five to 10 years, then you have definitely seen these come and go. But at almost $400, you might as well look for a robotic standing desk. This is where the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 comes into play. Depending on whether you want the Home Office version, which stands between 29.5 inches and 48 inches, or the Business Office version, which stands between 26 inches and 52 inches, you are looking to spend $379 or $479, respectively (with free shipping included).
The SmartDesk 2 desktop itself is made of MDF (medium-density fibreboard) material, which helps to lower the overall cost but is still sturdy and will hold up to 300 pounds. From black to white oak, there are multiple color options that not only help alleviate pains but can also be a conversation piece in the edit bay. I have the Business version in black along with a matching black chair, and I love that it looks clean and modern. The SmartDesk 2 is operated using a front-facing switch plate complete with up, down and four height-level presets. It operates smoothly and, to be honest, impressively. It gives a touch of class to any environment. Setup took about half an hour, and it came with easy-to-follow instructions, screws/washers and tools.
Keep an eye out for my full review of the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 and ErgoChair 2, but for now think about how a standup desk will at least alleviate some of the sitting you do all day while adding some class and conversation to the edit bay.
Autonomous ErgoChair 2
Along with a standup desk — and more important in, my opinion — is a good chair. Most offline editors and assistant editors work at a company that either values their posture and buys Herman Miller Aeron chairs, or cheaps out and buys the $49 special at Office Depot. I never quite understood the benefit of saving a few bucks on a chair, especially if a company pays for health insurance — because in the end, they will be paying for it. Not everyone likes or can afford the $1,395 Aeron chairs, but there are options that don’t involve ruining your posture.
Along with the Autonomous SmartDesk 2, you should consider buying the ErgoChair 2, which costs $349 — a similar price to other chairs, like the Secretlab Omega series gaming chair that retails for $359. But the ErgoChair 2 has the best of both worlds: an Aeron chair-feeling mesh back and neck support plus a super-comfortable seat cushion with all the adjustments you could want. Even though I have only had the Autonomous products for a few weeks now, I can already feel the difference when working at home. It seems like a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but being comfortable allows my creativity to flow. The chair took under 30 minutes to build and came with easy-to-follow instructions and good tools, just like the SmartDesk 2.
When I first started in the industry, as soon as I began a freelance job, I would look for an old Sony IMX tape packing box. (Yes, the green tapes. Yes, I worked with tape. And yes, I can operate an MSW-2000 tape deck.) Typically, the boxes would be full of tapes because companies bought hundreds and never used them, and they made great footrests! I would line up a couple boxes under my feet, and it made a huge difference for me. Having a footrest relieves lower back pressure that I find hard to relieve any other way.
As I continue my career into my senior years, I finally discovered that there are actual footstools! Not just old boxes. One of my favorites is on Amazon. It is technically an adjustable nursing footstool but works great for use under a desk. And if you have a baby on the way, it’s a two-for-one deal. Either way, check out the “My Brest Friend” on Amazon. It goes for about $25 with free one-day Amazon Prime shipping. Or if you are a woodworker, you might be able to make your own.
GoFit Muscle Hook
After sitting in an edit bay for multiple hours, multiple days in a row, I really like to stretch and use a massager to un-stuff my back. One of the best massagers I have seen in multiple edit bays is called the GoFit Muscle Hook.
Luckily for us it’s available at almost any Target or on the Target website for about $25. It’s an alien-looking device that can dig deep into your shoulder blades, neck and back. You can use it a few different ways — large hook for middle-of-the-back issues, smaller hook that I like to use on the neck and upper back, and the neck massage on the bar (that one feels a little weird to me).
There are other massage devices similar to the Muscle Hook, but in my opinion the GoFit Muscle Hook is the best. The plastic-composite seems indestructible and almost feels like it could double as a self-defense tool. But it can work out almost any knots you have worked up after a long day. If you don’t buy anything else for self-care, buy the Muscle Hook. You will be glad you did. Anyone who gets one has that look of pain and relief when they use it for the first time.
Another item that I just started using was a foam roller. You can find them anywhere for the most part, but I found one on Amazon for $13.95 plus free Amazon Prime one-day shipping. It’s also available on the manufacturer’s website for about $23. Simply, it’s a high-density foam cylinder that you roll on top of. It sounds a little silly, but once you get one, you will really wonder how you lived without one. I purchased an 18-inch version, but they range from 12 inches to 36 inches. And if you have three young sons at home, they can double as fat lightsabers (but they hurt, so keep an eye out).
In the end, there are so many ways to try keeping a flexible editing lifestyle, from kettlebells to stand-up desks. I’ve found that just getting over the mental hurdle of not wanting to move is the biggest catalyst. There are so many great tech accessories for workstations, but we hardly mention ones that can keep our bodies moving and our creativity flowing. Hopefully, some of these ergonomic accessories for your workstation will spark an idea to move around and get your blood flowing.
For some workout inspiration, Onnit has some great free workouts featuring weird stuff like maces, steel clubs and sandbags, but also kettlebells. The site also has nutritional advice. For foam roller stretches, I would check out the same Onnit Academy site.
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producers Guild of America. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.