Advice from a tech expert: Put a new cam on your holiday list (column)

Laveta Brigham

One thing is for sure: 2020 has been the year of the video meeting. Countless meetings for parents, students, business executives, and even grandmas who never imagined they would be able to communicate with family in such a way. The term “Zoom” has become synonymous with any online video meeting, […]

One thing is for sure: 2020 has been the year of the video meeting. Countless meetings for parents, students, business executives, and even grandmas who never imagined they would be able to communicate with family in such a way. The term “Zoom” has become synonymous with any online video meeting, similar to the way that “FaceTime” has become synonymous with any one-on-one phone video chat. Activity has only surged since kids went back to school, many virtually.

Although it may seem impossible to stand out in this type of virtual environment, in reality, it’s quite easy to with the proper setup. Most users are connecting from their laptops, relying on the technology built within their laptops which normally includes a 720p mediocre webcam and mono microphone. To make matters worse, these built-in webcams are usually terrible at handling low light situations. In the end, not only does it make you look bad, but you’ll only wind up standing out for the wrong reasons.

This holiday season, why not actually invest in your technology? To start, invest in a high-quality webcam, as this will make a huge difference in your appearance on-screen. You will want to go with a minimum of 1080p, however if you can afford the bit extra, there are also many webcams on the market that support 4K, which will help to truly make you stand out. An example of a great webcam is the Logitech Brio, which supports Ultra HD (4K) and RightLight technology, which even in the lowest lighting, will help to make you more vibrant. Want to take it a step further? Add a ring light to your setup to help illuminate your face properly. You can find small ring lights (10-12 inches) on Amazon for around $30, and they will definitely make you pop!

Once you have your external webcam, it’s now time to properly frame yourself for the best shot. You do not want the camera lens below you and looking up. That usually makes for an unflattering position, which most users will agree, is not how they want to appear. You want to go with a position inline or slightly higher than your monitor/face. Most external webcams will come with a mounting bracket, which allows it to sit right on top of your monitor. If you have a multi-monitor setup, make sure that you put the webcam on the monitor where you will be looking during the meeting. This ensures that you are looking straight-on at the camera and not turned. When it’s your turn to talk, look directly at the camera for the best picture quality, and try not to look down at your monitor. You want to make others feel like you are looking at and talking directly to them.

Now that you have a good picture, it’s definitely a smart idea to make yourself sound good, also. At the end of the day, you might not always need to be on camera, and might choose to do audio-only at times. This is why investing in a quality microphone will pay for itself in no time. For this, you simply need to get an external stereo microphone for your computer. I’m using the Blue Yeti microphone and it does an incredible job at cancelling noise in the background and clearly picking up my audio with studio quality pickups. It’s also important that you pick up a good pair of headphones, so that you don’t get feedback from your speakers into the microphone. There are many headsets on the market and many people jump right to the Apple AirPods, which are a great choice. But, if you are looking for a more economical and affordable solution, look at the Raycon E25 everyday earbuds.

It’s also important to stage your background as best as possible and to protect your security. Make sure that you don’t have any personal information hanging behind you, such as passwords, credit card numbers, etc. Try to keep the area behind you clean and uncluttered. Should you be looking for a better option, investing in a green screen that allows you to completely remove your background, would be a great solution. Webaround makes a portable green screen that mounts directly to the back of your chair, which allows for you to completely control your background, and once again, helping to you to stand out online. If you are a business executive, you can easily have your business logo displayed behind you when you are using your green screen. A great way to market your brand and stand out amongst everyone else.

In normal times you might not be thinking about this tech gear as a gift, but in this virtual world, those things will help you to stand out. Give yourself the gift of some awesome new video conferencing equipment and you can easily stand out and give yourself a much better virtual presence.

Mike Bloomfield is the president of Staten Island-based information technology company Tekie Geek.

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