Distributed-working, Tools

My good looking video conferencing set up

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On most of my recent calls, someone has asked me about my home video set up because it looks good. I’m writing this quick post so when it next happens, I can point them here.

I have been working from home on and off for the last few years, but only when the pandemic stopped my travel did I really upgrade my home set up. I have done a bit of experimentation to get to a point where it’s pretty good.

Here I am, talking at an online conference using this setup, look at that blurred background.

These are three main things I focused on:

  1. Lighting
  2. Camera
  3. Sound

1. Lighting

Lighting makes a huge difference and is the first step to take, even with a standard webcam. I use three lights, one face on and two to fill in shadows at the sides. I have a 10inch dimmable USB ring light (inexpensive online) and some side USB lights. Lamps will work as sidelights, definitely get a ring light.

2. Camera

I wasn’t happy with my webcam because I wanted that oh so lovely blurred background, this is not possible with most webcams as they just keep everything in focus. I already had an SLR camera that I use mainly for workshop photos, so I decided to use that. 

I have a Sony Alpha 6000 with a 16-50mm lens for that blurred background (an alpha 5100 is also good). To make the camera into a webcam, it needs a video capture device. I use an Elgato Cam Link, which I’ve mentioned before. You can check what other cameras can be turned into webcams with the Cam Link here elgato.com/en/gaming/cam-link/camera-check.

I also use a dummy battery plugged into the main so it’s not relying on a battery and a tripod to hold it above my monitor. I set it to a video setting portrait, autofocus and auto white balance.

For a more flattering angle, keep the camera up at eye level, this might mean putting your laptop on a pile of books.

3. Sound

There are lots of options for this and it depends on your environment. My home office is pretty quiet, so I can use a mic on the desk and no headphones. I have a Rode NT USB mini, which is a lovely thing. A lavalier or lapel mic is also a good option and you can get an inexpensive one.

A few other things

I got myself a long ethernet cable so I could get off of wifi, this helps keep everything a bit more stable and a lot of USB hubs to power everything. It helps that I sit in front of a bookshelf and took a little bit of time tidying up my background. I find that virtual backgrounds and curly hair don’t mix, but a green screen would probably sort that out.

-o0o-

I took some inspiration from the many similar posts on the internet and particularly this video, which really shows the power of lighting and sound youtu.be/0wqUWYx3UrY

3 Comments

    1. I got a ring light for £12, so you should be able to find something similarly priced, you don’t need to go any fancier than that.

      That is a long post! Camo is new to me, looks interesting.

      I would also recommend Krisp to filter background noise, I don’t really have any, so I don’t use it right now. I do use the app SoundSource, which isn’t cheap but it lets me selectively turn on and off app sound, this is super hand to stop pings going off while talking.

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