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.

Edit: I’ve since upgraded to a brilliant Elgato Key Light Air, paired with a USB sidelight, the ring light wasn’t working with my specs.

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 with a c-clamp to attach it to my desk. I set it to a video setting portrait, autofocus and auto white balance.

For the best angle and eye contact, keep the camera up at eye level, this might mean some careful placing.

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 was the ‘someone’ who asked – and then copied – it’s working fabulously thank you Emily

  2. Thanks for tips, the ring light idea is new to me. Prices seem widely variable on amazon! I keep forgetting to try the DSLR set up as a camera, using depth of field makes a lot of sense. I got a lot of insight too from this long post https://www.benkuhn.net/vc/

    • ewebber

      24 November 2020 at 10:29 am

      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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