You have probably made many video calls recently – both commercially and personally. And while the webcam and microphone on your laptop are Good, you know things can be so much better. With just a few tools, you can significantly upgrade your video conferencing setup.
First out, look behind you
Nobody likes a messy room, and the same goes for backgrounds. Keeping the area in sight on your webcam is far to enhance the overall picture. You can always use a virtual background if you do not want to be able to do anything in your room, but it requires either a green screen or a decent graphics card to work.
In addition to keeping the area clean, you should also watch out for the lighting and camera angle. The most important things to avoid are sitting in dark parts of your room or having window and bright lights behind you ̵1; they all look pretty bad on camera.
When it comes to camera angle, try not to look down at the camera. Ideally, your webcam should be at eye level or slightly above, depending on your preference. When it comes to raising your camera, you can get a simple camera tripod (make sure it is compatible with your webcam) or just stack a few books on your desktop.
A dedicated webcam
This will be the most “bang for the buck” upgrade. Jumping from a bad to even a decent webcam is a big improvement, and there are plenty of quality options out there.
- Logitech C920: This is the webcam that everyone knows, and for good reason. It’s a simple webcam, but the quality for the price is good. It records in 1080p at 30 FPS and even includes a privacy slot for when not in active use. You can also use Logitech Capture to pan the camera and adjust the zoom level.
- Logitech StreamCam: If you want to take a step up from the C920 in features and quality, StreamCam is the way to go. It not only records 1080p at 60 FPS, but also has automatic face tracking, exposure and focus through Logitech Capture. The camera itself is versatile, allowing you to switch between vertical and horizontal positions, and the included locks can easily fit on a monitor or camera tripod.
- Razer Kiyo: Kiyo is an interesting camera with a few tricks up its sleeve. The first thing you will notice about Kiyo is the light ring around the camera. This light ring illuminates your face on the camera and can be adjusted in Razer Synapse 3. Synapse 3 is also where you can adjust the brightness, white balance, contrast and saturation settings in the camera itself. It can record in 1080p at 30 FPS (or 720p at 60 FPS) and includes a tripod that can either sit on a desk or lock onto your monitor.
- Your phone (Android / iOS): It can be difficult to get hold of a webcam right now, and even then you may not want to spend the money on a decent alternative. In that case, you probably already have a quality webcam near you right now: your phone. Phone cameras are pretty good these days, and by using a simple app you can turn it into a wireless camera for your computer. Epocam is a good alternative for this; all you need to do is make sure your phone and computer are on the same Wi-Fi network and install the corresponding apps for each platform.
A dark room is obviously harder to see in, but it also greatly affects the quality of your webcam. When webcams have to record rooms with dark lighting, the image seems grainy – the right lighting can fix it.
- Whellen Selfie Ring: This is a simple ring of LED lights that can be clamped around your monitor. You can adjust it between three power levels so that everything looks nice and bright when you turn on the webcam.
- Neewer LED light: For a more professional alternative, these LED light panels from Neewer will give you all the lighting you could ever need for a video call. The stand is adjustable, there are four color filters included, and you can change the brightness with a simple push of a few buttons. It is powered via a USB-A cable, so you can either connect it to a brick wall or your computer. You can also get these lamps with a higher stand, if you want to set them on the floor instead of your desk.
A proper microphone
Your video is covered, so let’s switch to audio. No one wants to use a bad microphone – it is uncomfortable to listen to and makes it difficult to understand what you are saying. While most webcams come with a built-in microphone, these are rarely over affordable and often experience echo. It’s worth it to have a dedicated microphone if you want to be heard loud and clear.
- Samson Go Mic: This little microphone has been around for a while, but it’s still one of the best microphones you can get for the price. The included stand can rest on a desk or be fastened to a monitor, and there is even an included case if you need to take it on the go.
- Blue Yeti: The most popular USB microphone in the world, the Blue Yeti is known by YouTubers, streamers and podcasters for its high quality sound and easy installation. The Yeti is easy to use, as is the Sherpa software to adjust the gain and sampling rate of your sound. There is also the Blue Yeti Nano, which is a smaller and more affordable version of the Yeti standard.
- Antlion ModMic (fixed / wireless): ModMic is unique because it attaches directly to any pair of headphones that make them a headset. ModMic is attached via an adhesive strip (do not worry, it will not leave any residue) and is available in either wired or wireless models. The quality will not be as good as the desktop mics mentioned earlier, but it will still be much superior to a webcam.
When using a dedicated microphone, it is important to have headphones. After all, your microphone can pick up the sound from the speakers over your voice.
- Panasonic ErgoFit: This ear sample without frills does not beat anyone with its sound quality. It’s a standard pair of earbuds to be sure, but the price reflects that. If you do not care about sound quality and just want something simple and cheap, these are the headphones to get.
- 1MORE Triple Driver: If you prefer headphones but want something that can actually produce high quality sound, these are a good option. There is nothing too special about them, but what they lack in the unique features they provide for sound quality. They also have a great selection of ear tips and a traveling case.
- Jabra Move: Wireless is always a nice feature to have in a pair of headphones, and the in-ear Jabra Move is a great choice. They last for about 14 hours on a full charge and have volume and media controls on the headphones themselves for quick access.
- Sennheiser HD280PRO: If sound quality is the biggest issue for you, these Sennheiser headphones do a great job of balancing sound quality and price. They do not sound as good as a high-end pair of headphones, but for video calls they are more than enough.
Just a few pieces of equipment are enough to enhance your video conferencing game from affordable to fantastic. And these improvements will not only help you, but also the people you talk to.