How to Design an Ergonomic Desk for Editing and Color Correction, Part 1

How To Design An Ergonomic Desk

July 13, 2017

As creative professionals working in post production, you are tied to your chair and desk. This Insight shares the fundamentals of healthy workspace design.


Part 1: The Fundamentals of Ergonomics (and Pat’s Initial Choices)

The past two weeks I’ve been wrapped up in designing, purchasing and then moving my grading suite. The physical move was the easy part. Building the new suite has been tedious – but not difficult. The tough part has been the design phase – specifically, designing my new desk (and making it ergonomic). And that’s what this Insight is about, how to design an ergonomic desk for post-production pros.

Design an ergonomic desk for editing and color correction

After you’ve been in this business, working as an editor, colorist or VFX artist, for 20+ years – shortcomings in the design of your desktop start to haunt you as physical ailments. About 12 years ago I had to switch from mousing with my right hand to mousing with my left… because of early symptoms of repetitive stress injury. At that point I became much more aware of my posture, I’ve been much more careful in selecting my input devices, and I generally pay attention to my body when it starts signaling pain.

Earlier this year the decision was made to move my grading suite. And due to the constraints of the new space, I realized my existing console was just too big. I needed to downsize. In fact, I wanted to downsize. I wanted a more streamlined desk that didn’t scream ‘post-production’.

Thus began my research on ergonomics, sit-stand desks and monitor arms. The video below (which is a little dark, as I messed up the lighting in the new space) outlines the basics of ergonomics, how it influences your purchasing decisions and why you should buy a sit-to-stand desk… even if you never plan on standing while working.

Links mentioned in this Insight

In this Insight (and in Part 2) I’ll be linking to every product I discuss… so you can find them yourself. And in both Insights I’ll discuss one or two bad decisions I made, why I think they’re bad decisions, and what you’ll want to do to avoid my mistakes. Here are the products and websites mentioned in this Insight:

  • Ergonomic Calculator – This is a handy little tool with starting guidelines on the proper measurements for your chair, keyboard and computer displays – based on your height. You might want to take my approach and consider this a guide rather than a law. Everyone is different and if you vary by 10-15% off what they suggest, you should be fine.
  • Uplift Desk – This is the sit-to-stand desk I bought. I configured it for about $800. The key to keeping the price under $1k is to not buy every option they offer. Think carefully about what you need, rather than want. If you stick to your true needs then you won’t bust the bank. By the way, Uplift says their motors support up to 350 pounds on the desk.
  • Uplift Desk Digital Memory Keypad – Whether you buy an Uplift Desk or any other brand, I consider this a Must-Have upgrade. For only $40 you can find the optimal height for you desk, program it, and forget about it. Afterward, a single keypress puts the desk at the precise height you need, every time. After all, when you’re in the editing / color correction zone and decide to change your position, who the heck wants to waste time and energy with re-making desk-height decisions every day?

Related Insights

Tip: If an Insight is in a Series then look for all the Insights in that Series on the right-hand menu. Insights are listed starting with Newest first.

Coming up in Part 2

In the next Insight in this series I’ll be sharing the various products I used for wire routing and cable management, how I handled power bricks and outlets, the monitor arms I’m using, the computer displays I decided to buy (and why I might buy differently in the future) – plus I’ll update you on which keypad I finally decided to run with full time (and why): The Razor Orbweaver or the Logitech  G13?

Leave Comments, Suggestions and Ideas!

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  • I use the square updesk and love it. It lets me rest my elbow on the sides and is super deep

    I also cant live without dual wrist pads on the desk it keeps me from applying tension on my wrists
    Also I bungeed a body pillow folded on the back of my chair because I find it lets me angle my chair back a bit while keeping my back straight.

    It also worth mounting you computer below you updesk so you can keep the wires tidy

  • Willian Aleman

    Patrick, thanks for the great insight. Looking forward to part 2.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Thanks Willian!

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Uplift Desk has a similar corner desk I almost went with. But I decided I wanted a clean sight line to the client monitor, and if I put my monitors in that corner wedge, I’d lose that sight line. But it’s a great solution that packs a lot of desk space in the same square footage.

    I’ll talk about why I didn’t mount my computer under my desk (and why you’d want to), in Part 2. But basically, the tower is too tall.

    What are you using as a standing pad?


    Patrick, LOVE the discussion on this. As a not-so-young person who mostly works a computer these days, all that sitting is HELL on posture, musculature, joints, the whole bod. So I’ve been following your other comments & trying things myself. And had about decided that I needed to look into a more adjustable desk.

    My only question … why isn’t Part Deuce already up and waiting for me to look at? Ha. Impatience being … me.

  • Marc Wielage

    There is also a SMPTE paper, RP166-1995, which is specifically on “Critical Viewing Conditions” for edit rooms and color rooms. The key to me is not to put the main display up too high, because otherwise the colorist gets a broken neck by the end of the session. I’m a fan of instead putting the clients’ chairs up on a riser so they can see over the colorist’s head, which gives everybody an optimum view. The alternate is having two monitors in the room (one for the colorist and a bigger one for the client), but there’s pros and cons with this method.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Marc – Precisely. In a later Insight I’ll talk about how I’ve decided to set up with my clients. For the first time, this year I’ve been running with two reference displays in the room. The key for me, is only letting the client see one of them 🙂

  • Shane Walker

    Perfect Timing Patrick, Starting the design stage for a 15×15 suite. If we take out a wall, we could get 4 more feet. SmartTrac TBC Console ordered and Looking for ideas on room layout, desk placement and even positions of clients. Any thoughts on Clients in front, in a more living room style (or pit) VS. side by side (line of sight) VS. Client behind (staring at the my beautiful bald head all day? 🙂

  • Robbie Carman

    Shane – I have some thoughts on these things in earlier installments of this series – use the series navigation above on the right side to go to the previous articles.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Definitely check out Robbie’s ‘Anatomy of a Grading Suite’ series. He covers ALL of this (and much more). In these Insights I’ll be adding my thoughts as I execute on the ideas he covers. The first in the series is at the bottom of the list.

  • Scott Stacy

    Nice Insight, Patrick. I’ve had a sit stand desk for two years and love it. My wife, Cara (an editor), bought the same desk you have, but she had a cabinet maker build her an 82″ custom table top! Make sure you get a fatigue mat! It’ll save your knees and hips when you stand. We have tried quite a few but found this one to be the best:

    Another tip is to pick up a can of tennis balls or a Lacrosse ball. When you stand, it can put some strain on your arches and rolling a tennis ball with bare feet helps release the fascia.

    Looking forward to hearing Part 2!

  • Jim Wicks

    Hi Shane,
    At the shop where I work I had a TBC Console custom designed for my and my staff. You’re going to love it.
    Kindest regards, Jim

  • John Rogers

    Is that a Monitor in portrait for the scopes?
    I just switched to one (for my scopes) on my home setup and I am loving it.
    I think it’s certainly a great way to get screen real estate without too much neck rotation.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Yes – I’ve got ScopeBox running in Portrait for exactly the reason you state, to minimize neck rotation. It’s working great. But as you’ll see in Part 2 – there’s one thing about that setup I’d change.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Nice tips. And I like that you can buy just the frame from Uplift. I considered that option and doing what your wife did.

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