Getting the most out of your webcam footage, a beginners guide.
For many of us in lockdown, seeing our friends, family and co-workers on a webcam is fast becoming the norm. With the current set of circumstances, a drop in visual and audio quality is now acceptable, even within a professional environment. You’ll probably notice on TV a big difference in the quality of adverts due to the constraints of social distancing. So, now that the precedent has been set, there is nothing wrong with conducting an interview over, Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp for use in a corporate promotional video.
However, there are some steps we can take to make sure that our video call presentations are the very best they can be in the present circumstances. It will help to make the recorded content as future proof as possible.
It’s important to let as much light as you possibly can into the room in which you will be making your video presentation. The more light you give your camera, the less sensitive it needs to make itself to be able to expose everything correctly. This leads to an overall better image as it will be less noisy. So grab every table lamp you can and get it shining on you. Don’t worry about mixing different light sources, the vast majority of webcams will automatically correct the colour of your image. Make sure that the light sources are hitting you “the subject” and not the webcam itself, otherwise you will create optical flares on the image.
It may sound contradictory to the last point but avoid having any windows in your webcams field of view. Windows lead to outside, and outside has the brightest light source available to us, our sun. If a window is in view of your webcam, your image quality will go out the window as your camera attempts to expose for the sun and you in the room. It’s not going to happen. Currently only very expensive cameras are able to do this and even then you need powerful lights to help out. So simply avoid having any windows in your shot, if you aren’t able to avoid a window, draw the curtains and place a thick towel over the rail to block out as much sunlight as possible.
Investing in a half decent headset will greatly improve the audio quality of your broadcast. The microphone is much better than your computer’s internal one and it is also positioned close to your mouth. This avoids things like ambient noise and echoes in the audio. Any form of video communication can be dismissed easily if the audio quality is not up to scratch. A bonus to this is that it also allows video calls to be more private as anyone else nearby will only hear what you are saying and not the other participants.
Like the headset, having an external webcam as opposed to your computers built in camera will generally yield a better image quality. You will also have more options for framing yourself as the webcam will be mobile. You can also avoid the large head spaces above people’s heads when using the internal laptop webcam. Obviously people need to be able to read their laptop screen and so adjust its angle accordingly, this however usually leaves a large amount of headroom
If you’ve been in a video conference before, you’ve probably been delayed by that one participant who has trouble connecting or is difficult to hear because of a bad internet connection. The worst thing is, generally your screen will display you at full resolution video with no delay or broken up audio, so you won’t even know that your internet connection is bad. Don’t let that person be you! To avoid this, follow these steps:
Use a wired connection. Manually connecting a high category ethernet cable from your home or work modem to your computer will allow for a direct connection to the internet. This is generally more reliable than WiFi.
Free up internet usage on your network. We very rarely get a whole network to ourselves, especially at home. So make sure your family or colleagues aren’t downloading anything at the same time as your broadcast. This includes video streaming, online gaming and any form of downloading. The same goes for the computer you’re using for the broadcast.
Check for any planned maintenance from your service provider and see if it clashes with a scheduled broadcast. You can then make alternative arrangements if there is a clash.
Load any media/presentations into the broadcast software beforehand. Sometimes this can take a few minutes.
If you are still having trouble with your video quality you can try downscaling the resolution that your camera is broadcasting in. Particularly if you are not filling up the entire screen during the broadcast.
Even today, some cameras get confused by stripey lines close together. This is known as the moiré effect. This visual perception occurs when a fine pattern on your subject meshes with the pattern on the imaging chip of your camera, and you see a third separate pattern.
The most simple way to avoid this is to not wear any clothes with striped patterns. A plain solid coloured shirt is fine, don’t worry, you’ll still look great!
7. Audio and Visual Distractions
The last thing you want during a video presentation is to become distracted by anything. Remember this video?
Yeah let’s avoid that! Let everyone in your household know what you are doing. Lock the door and put up a sign if you have to! Mute your mobile phone, leave your landline off the hook, close all the windows in the room so that you have zero distractions.
Also think about how your audience might get unintentionally distracted by your background. Is there is some funny artwork behind you on the wall? Is it reflecting the right outlook of yourself and your company to your audience? And don’t just blur your background, show people that you have made the effort to make the place look presentable!
8. Test Test and Test!
And finally we cannot stress this enough. Test test and test! Before your broadcast, do a test run with a colleague on a different network. Ask them if you can be heard correctly? What the quality of the video is like, can they see your presentation. Is anything distracting them in the background? The earlier you can do this the more time you will have to improve things.