|How to improve your video call setup|
Today, I'll show you how to improve your video call setup. If you've had several remote meetings lately, you know that audio and video are more critical than ever. Here's what I'll be using.
- A laptop stand
- A Sunpak ring light
- An external webcam.
- You'll also need a tripod
- An external microphone.
I'll actually show you two, the Logitech c922 pro webcam and a Canon Camera Kit. For the Canon portion, I'll also be using a Canon 50-millimeter lens.
Again, I'll show you two options. First, this Blue yeti, and second, this Lavalier mic.
Camera Placement Tips
First, let's talk about camera placement. Oftentimes, the camera is placed too low by default, not offering the most flattering angle of your face.
The simplest solution is a laptop stand. This will raise the webcam up to your eye level. You probably don't have to raise it up too far.
The perfect placement would be an image that shows just above the top of your head down to your shoulders.
How to set up your lighting
Now, let's talk about lighting. If your main source of light is behind you, directly above, or all the way to the side, you'll need to get some light directly on your face.
A ring light is a great solution.
Check out this Sunpak option. It lets you adjust the brightness, as well as the color, ranging from warmer to cooler.
If you wear glasses, a ring can sometimes show up in a reflection. There's an easy fix for this, which is to place the light at an angle to your face.
Somewhere around 45 degrees should do the trick. It'll avoid the reflection, but still, light up your face.
External Camera Tips
All right, now let's talk about webcams. The built-in cameras on laptops are typically pretty good, but external cameras really take it to the next level when it comes to quality.
There are many options to choose from, let me show you a few.
First, check out this Logitech c922 pro. It supports 1080p high-definition video and has a built-in microphone to also boost your audio quality, and it's really easy to use. All you need to do is install the included software and connect it to your computer using the USB cable.
Once the webcam's installed, go to your video call app. I'm using zoom for this example, so the steps might be a little different in your software. Find device settings and select your new webcam.
DSLR As a Webcam Trick
Now let's take a look at another option. This one is a little more expensive and involves a few additional steps, but will give you the highest quality image because it delivers a natural blurry background, called depth of field.
First, make sure that your camera supports something called clean HDMI out. That means when your camera is connected to your laptop through an HDMI cable, the live video image doesn't show any menu or setting options.
Check your camera specs to find out. I'm using a Canon EOS RP camera, and you can see here that it does support clean HDMI out.
Canon also offers a webcam utility for certain cameras that you can download from their site. Using that, you can connect the camera directly to your computer, typically using the USB-c cable instead of an HDMI cable.
It tells programs like zoom that you're using a DSLR as a webcam, which means it'll likely eliminate the clean HDMI out of a step that I just showed you. It'll just do it automatically.
However, today, I won't be using the webcam utility. Instead, I'll be connecting using an HDMI cable. Let me show you how to do that.
First, make sure your camera is placed at the proper level as we discussed earlier. Using a tripod is always a good idea to keep it at the right height and secure.
There are some desktop tripods like this one that is really good at this without taking up too much space. Now you need a way to get the camera signal into your computer.
One way is to use a capture device like the Elgato Cam Link, basically, the Elgato cam link takes the HDMI connection and signal and feeds it into a USB 3.0 port. Just install the software on your computer and plug it into an available USB 3.0 slot.
Then, connect your camera with an HDMI cable and set it to record video.
Finally, go to your video call app, find the device settings and select the cam link 4k. Using this method, you'll be draining your camera's battery.
So you might wanna consider getting a constant power source like an ac adapter, so you don't run out of power mid-call.
These typically aren't included with DSLR cameras, but Canon has put together a kit with everything you need.
It includes software, a USB cable, and a power cord for your camera. So, if you're using a Canon camera like I am, this might be a great option.
Now, let's talk about lenses. One thing to keep in mind is that the camera will be close to you, so try to avoid anything bulky. And I highly recommend a fast lens, so you get that depth of field that we talked about earlier.
Now, picking the right lens is important, but a complicated topic that we won't get into here. For now, know that lenses are rated based on their speed and given a number to represent that, like 1.4, 2.8, 3.5, et cetera.
To keep it simple, just know that the lower the number, the better the depth of field. And even though the numbers are close together, the difference is really big.
For this setup, I'll be using the Canon ef 50 millimeters with an aperture of 1.4, which is perfect for my setup. It might take some trial and error to find the one that works best.
For example, if your lens is going to be closer, you might want to go with a 30 or a 35-millimeter lens. After you find the one that's right for you and your software is recognizing it as a webcam, you should be set.
Oh, and one more tip, going back to the power issue.
By default, most DSLR cameras are set to automatically turn off after a certain amount of time, even when they're plugged in. So you could be mid-call and your camera will just turn off.
To avoid that, make sure you adjust the setting in the menu. If you can't completely disable the auto-off feature, you might just have to wake it up now and then.
For example, pressing the shutter button halfway is a great way to do that. You're making the camera think, and therefore restarting the timer.
I know this seems like a pain, but it's a small price to pay for outstanding image quality.
External Microphone Tips
One of the easiest ways to improve clarity is by minimizing the number of hard surfaces around you.
If you don't have carpet, think about adding a rug. Curtains or textiles on the wall will also help to minimize echoes and muddy sounds.
Using an external microphone, like this Blue Yeti, is a huge improvement. It's also easy to install.
Let me show you. Just plug it into a USB port and place it about 10 to 12 inches away from your mouth. There's a control knob to select the audio pattern that you prefer.
For video calls, you'll probably want to use cardioid mode, so the microphone will focus on what's directly in front of it and minimize background noise.
Now, open your video call app and choose it in your device settings.
If speaking into a microphone is distracting or feels unnatural, you might want to consider a Lavalier, or lav mic, which clips right onto your shirt. They do a great job at picking up your voice and minimizing other sounds, which is why you often see people on tv using them.
They're pretty easy to use as well. Just plug your lav into the microphone input of your computer, open your video call app and choose the line-in option in device settings.
And there you have it. Those are just a few suggestions for improving the quality of your video calls.