From Zoom Blog:
With many businesses now encouraging or even mandating that employees work from home amid global health concerns over the coronavirus, millions of people can expect to have their daily routines and work styles impacted. But not everyone is accustomed to working from home, and getting into work mode from a space that’s not your regular one can be a huge adjustment.
The bright side of working from home is that you save time on a commute, spend more time with family, and maybe get a few more things done around the house. But the challenges, including loneliness, staying connected, and a heightened penchant for distraction, can have a significant effect on your psyche and productivity. So, we’re here to help!
Whether you’re relegated to working from a spare bedroom, coffee shop, the library, or the lobby of your apartment building, we’ve compiled some tips to help you get set up, limit distractions, maintain confidentiality, and meet like a pro, no matter where you are.
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Let’s talk about your setup
Your laptop (Mac or PC) will likely have a built-in camera and audio, but it makes a big difference in the experience for you and others in the meeting when you have a quality webcam and a good microphone.
To be your best self on camera, I recommend getting a Logitech Brio webcam and a set of Airpods (or the Plantronics Focus UC or Logitech Zone wireless headsets) if you can make the investment. Even a pair of wired mic-enabled headphones can go a long way. Check out this test I did. You can see my quick audio and video demo of the different set-ups I commonly see:
Great lighting also is crucial. Try and have your face be lit by a nearby window or get a small webcam light.
Link to the rest at Zoom Blog
PG Agrees and Disagrees with the OP.
- A good webcam is important
- Good lighting is important
- PG would add that a professional background (or a blurred background) is also important. Chaos behind a video call participant doesn’t convey a particularly professional image.
- PG would add that placing a webcam so others on the call are looking up a speaker’s nostrils with ceiling lights in the background is also not a good look.
- While the Logitech Brio is an excellent webcam, it’s also an expensive webcam. When PG was writing this post, Amazon’s price was almost $300. Ever since the explosion in web conferencing that accompanied the pandemic lock-down, the prices for Logitech’s high-end video cameras have gone up and stayed up. Plus it may be difficult to find these webcams in stock. The same Logitech Brio webcam was $199.99 at Adorama when PG built the link, so high-end webcams are one product category where Amazon may not be your automatic place to go for best prices.
- The Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam is on a lot of lists of best webcams for videoconferencing. When PG checked, it was out of stock on Amazon, but the link takes you to Adorama where the price was $89.99 when PG built the link. Another option, again out of stock at Amazon but offered by Adorama when PG built the link is the Logitech C922 Pro Full HD 1080p Stream Webcam listed at $114.99.
- Amazon lists a boatload of Logitech lookalike webcams, most manufactured in China by companies you may not have heard of before. (PG hasn’t) The products may be great or they may be terrible and it is close to impossible to determine quality by photos and product descriptions. Don’t be fooled by fake ratings that sing their praises. One technique that may help identify someone creating fake ratings (and often being paid directly or indirectly by the manufacturer for doing so) is to click on the icon identifying the reviewer to see how many reviews he/she has created. Quite often, knowledgeable tech types will write a lot of reviews about a variety of electronics products. Paid creators of fake reviews tend not to do so. On some occasions, grammar can be another red flag. If you’re relying on reviews, do a bit of forensic content analysis.
- Based upon his photography experience, PG is comfortable in saying that image quality can be a very subjective thing and opinions will vary from person to person. Images produced by webcam A may look great to Bob, but terrible to Phyllis. Remember also that what looks great on your laptop screen or your desktop monitor may (and probably will) look at least somewhat different on someone else’s laptop or monitor.
- The best way for borderline OCD personalities to deal with comparisons is to acquire two (or more) different webcams, and plug in one, then plug in the other to see which images you like the best (this technique works even better if you have two identical computer monitors and jump through the hoops to get images from Webcam A on one monitor and images from Webcam B on the other one. (No, PG is not certain about exactly how you would set this up but has been told it can be done.)
- PG suspects the person in the OP video was using a webcam her employer purchased for her and that she likely participates in Zoom conferences several times each day. The benefits of an excellent webcam may be different for her than they might be for an indie author who participates in a writing group Zoom session every month and videoconferences with Grandma or Granddaughter every few days.
PG thinks good lighting is more important than good webcam quality for a lot of web conferences. The best webcam with fluorescent overhead light fixtures behind the individual will almost certainly result in a bad image.
Light from a window can be very nice if the window is in the right place and the sun is in the optimum position. If not, it won’t be so good.
The OP suggests using this light. PG hasn’t used the particular light recommended, but from the product photo, he’s pretty certain that it is a point light source. All the light comes from a single small point and hits the subject from a single direction. As a general proposition, you need more than one point light source, each positioned correctly, to get the best lighting for a person’s face.
PG suggests that, unless you have room to set up a photo studio, if you’re going to use a single light, a ring light is a much better choice. Here’s what one of those looks like.
There are a zillion different ring lights for sale on Amazon, varying in size and price. The idea is that light comes from all points on the ring, so they reduce or eliminate dark shadows like those that result from a single point light. (A teeny-tiny ring light may well be less-expensive but acts pretty much like a point light. A 10-12 inch diameter ring light will usually work well for a single individual.)
For webcam purposes, the ring light is placed in front of the person on the video call. Positioning the webcam in the middle of the ring light pointing at the subject generally results in nice lighting for a face.
For a videoconference, however, the most common practice is that, when a person is speaking, the other person (or people) is looking at the image of that person on their computer screen. Typically, the person speaking is looking directly at his/her webcam which gives the appearance that the speaker is looking each listener directly in the eye. Per meatspace face-to-face discussions (at least in many western nations) an attentive listener will also look back at the speaker on a fairly consistent basis.
A ringlight with a webcam mounted in the center certainly has the potential for obscuring the computer screen, so the illusion of face-to-face conversation suffers a bit. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to use a ringlight that allows you to vary the intensity of the light so you can adjust lighting for the best look for yourself while also allowing you to look through or near the ringlight at your screen.
PG says that if all this seems like a lot of trouble, he has had videoconferences of acceptable quality using an iPad and decent quality ambient light or a ringlight. For him, an iPhone screen is a bit too small for comfortable views of the face of the person on the other side of the call, but if you’re the principal speaker, that may not be important.
PG is aware that he has blathered on at great length about videoconferences, so he will be brief.
Almost any sort of corded microphone you can plug into your desktop or laptop will make you sound better than using a laptop’s built-in microphone. Desktops don’t usually include microphones, so an external mike will be necessary.
The woman in the OP recommended wireless headphones that utilized both ears combined with a noise-reduction/cancelling microphone either in the Airpods, which act a little like earplugs or integrated with headphones that covered both ears.
This could be very important in a busy (and noisy) open-space office in which the person might be using the same headset for telephone calls for several hours each day, but for an author sitting by herself in a comfortable writing space with (hopefully) not a lot of loud ambient sounds who may have one or two video conferences/calls per day, such a headphone/microphone set up might be expensive overkill.