Zoom has become the most popular easy to use live streaming platform in the world. Video conferencing is obviously here to stay, so let’s up our game and look and sound good using it.
I was asked the other week to consult with that exactly that in mind, so I thought I’d write this blog article. Below, you will find some equipment tips and ideas to improve your overall Zoom online presentation. Check out my companion blog Sound Great on Zoom. Happy video conferencing!
When sitting at your computer, the best lighting, is from a diffused natural lighting source, perhaps near a window that you sit in front of. You don’t want direct light because that will cause harsh shiny lighting on your face and could cause problems with exposure. Avoid harsh light from the side and below as it will cause shadows in areas that won’t make the face look flattering. You might want to put a white sheet in front of the window to soften even more. The key words are diffused soft lighting.
Alternatively, you might want to purchase an inexpensive collapsible universal soft box light from B&H. You will need a stand to connect the light and place it in front and a slightly above the computer. Experiment to see what looks best. If you wear glasses raise the light high enough so you don’t have light reflections in the glass.
The goal of getting good lighting is to use just enough light and not too much. Ideally you want a wash of light to avoid over exposed and shiny skin surfaces. Having a little shadow on your face can add dimensionality depending on style. Color temperature can be cool or warm or something in between. Experiment and see what works for you.
It might seem obvious, but just like good lighting, camera framing is necessary to make you look good. It’s best to look slightly up into the camera which will keep your chin up slightly and helps to keep your eyes open. You might need to raise your computer on a platform or lower your chair.
Start Zoom and see yourself in the frame. Are you sitting with too little headroom, too much headroom or just right? (See example). And one more major tip is to remember to smile (at least occasionally)!
Backgrounds and virtual sets
The background you choose is an important component to looking good. A DSLR camera using a lens with a shallow depth of field will probably give you your best results. Practice and experiment to see what you like. Alternatively, you might want to use one of Zoom’s virtual backgrounds. Check out this video for instructions (link). Virtual backgrounds can look okay and also can look tacky. For best results, use a green screen behind yourself so that you have cleaner edges. Virtual sets can be convenient if you don’t want to show your room location. I’m not a fan of virtual sets and hesitated to use this in this article, but, they can serve a purpose. Ideally, you want to be in a location that will match your style of presentation. Whatever background you choose, make sure you keep the focus on you, the subject, rather than any distracting background elements.
Web cams, DSLR cameras and Camcorders.
There are so many cameras on the market, so why not invest in the best you can afford? Our virtual world is expanding into the future, so might as well get something that will be a lasting investment.
Here’s a small selection of some of the best webcams on the market today.
Check out the reviews and make a wise decision. B&H and Adorama are excellent places to buy and they will help you with your individual needs.
They also have a 30 day money back guarantee, if you’re not satisfied with your purchase.
Webcams are great if you are just sitting in front of the computer, similar to a podcast or basic person to person webinar example.
Upgrading your computer webcam can be a good option. Compare your webcam spec to the one you are interested in purchasing.
Here are a few recommendations, based on my research:
If you’re looking for a more cinematic style, you might consider getting a DSLR camera and use it with a capture card. We’ll talk more about capture cards below, but in a nutshell, a capture card will replace your webcam with your chosen camera.
Many DSLR cameras will shut off after a period of time. So beware and see if your DSLR camera will stay on indefinitely. The choices below allow for unlimited recording. Ideally you want to use a dummy battery which is connected to the AC power instead of the camera battery. The camera quality from a DSLR camera with a larger sensor is excellent. Lenses can be interchangeable which will can give you a very cinematic style depending on the lens and depth of field. Make sure your camera will give a clean HDMI output signal with no data on screen. If you want to use a DSLR camera you will need to use a tripod and have the necessary HDMI cables at various lengths.
Canon now lets you use its cameras as a webcam with amazing video quality
The quality of your Zoom video streams will blow everyone else’s away. Check out this article
If you have a recent Canon mirrorless, DSLR you can now use it as a webcam. Depending on your lens, you can now film yourself with a wide aperture and have beautiful cinematic depth of field. This will make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Canon’s solution cuts out the need for any extra device like a capture card beyond a single USB cable, so if you’ve got one of the listed cameras in the article, this is definitely worth a try.
You’ll also need a good table top tripod that can sit behind your computer. Check out Oben CTT-1000L Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod (Long)
Check out at B&H
Camcorders can also be good option and will allow you to adjust focal length and zoom. Everything is built in which makes it a compact and a complete system. You won’t get as much cinematic style as a DSLR, but the quality and resolution is still be very high, probably a better bet than a regular webcam.
Here are a couple of choices:
1.Canon Vixia HF G50 camcorder
2.Panasonic HC-V380K Full HD camcorder
A capture card is an essential piece of equipment that converts your computer web camera and allows you to use your own camera and microphone choice. Here are a selection of capture cards that I recommend. Do the research, check out reviews and make a decision. I use the Magewell USB Capture card and this is my top suggestion. Make sure your capture card has capability of 1080p or 4K
1.USB Capture HDMI Magewell
2.Elgato Game Capture Card HD60
3.Blackmagic Deign Intensity Pro 4K
Best Zoom Video settings
Here are some video settings for best results
Thanks for reading and hope this helps.
Please read my next companion article.
Sound Great on Zoom
Alan Cash now offers virtual and in-home consultations to help you improve you live video conferencing setup
Please contact Alan at 510 590 8532