We have likely learnt a lot over the last few months about remotely working from home and jumping on zoom or some conferencing tool for meeting after meeting, or if you are a content creator you have likely explored a little outside of your comfort zone on different ways to create content, I created a YouTube account and started getting some regular video demo content up there so I am with you.

There are some important things to consider though for making sure you have the best setup your budget allows and that your audience requires, sure you can use your stock webcam and your laptop microphone but the experience for everyone is not going to be great, even more so if you are a content creator the whole point of creating the content is firstly to help someone and empower them but secondly especially if its content created for your employee then you need the edge on your competition, you want your audience to enjoy the experience and take something away from it. You are now battling even more against other content creators for their views and engagement.

I have put together a list of areas you need to consider when rethinking your online conference and content creation space. I will try and touch on two different users by talking about budget friendly options and maybe more accessible options, I will also touch on a little more advanced creative content creator options that cost a little bit more but they are not over the top on the budget. Remember as well this is all or was all new to me as well and I am just offering my opinion on some considerations you should make to help your audience of whomever that may be have a better experience of you and your now remote surroundings.

Audio

Sound is the most important part of any online experience, if you have bad sound then it is close to 100% that people are going to leave or have a bad experience. You don’t want this for your customers and prospects or your audience to your content. There are options for all here, I am currently using a Rode NT-USB microphone that connects to a spare USB port on your system and you are up and running with little configuration, I would say that there are certain brands such as Rode and Elgato who recently released their wave device that follow this USB connectivity, if you are looking to improve your audio experience and on a budget then this should be the route. However there are further options around audio that you could and should consider if you are looking for a more professional setup, XLR is professional audio, radio and recording studios will be using XLR as well as live performers, the key point is that the XLR cables carry balanced audio which is important for getting clean sound. If you go down this route, then you will need some sort of audio interface or mixer so that your computer can see the microphone. This would be another box on your desk linking the microphone to your computer. If you are looking for a minimal setup this might not be the best fit. If you are interested in this route then Shure make some amazing good stuff that should fit that next level of budget above the USB mentions I made. Audio is more important than video!

As like a 1a I am also going to bring in here audio background noise, there is nothing more annoying than being on a call and someone has forgotten to mute (mute people, it’s just rude not to) there are many software only ways in which you can remove background noise such as fans and air con units or even clapping.

Lighting

Even if you are just going to sit on that zoom call speaking to customers, partners or prospects you should always make sure your lighting is the best it can be, either by using natural lights from windows or by making light using some options widely available out there. I have put lighting before the camera because basically even the most expensive and advanced camera will look bad if the lighting is bad. This could be cheapest way to make you look better on your video. You can go fancy and get the Elgato key lights if you are creating content but really if you are looking at this for online meetings and conferencing then you can get options on Amazon for all ranges of prices.

Camera

I mentioned above that you can have the most expensive camera but if your lighting is poor then it is pointless having the most expensive camera. There are a few options when it comes to cameras, web cams most commonly will be referenced when it comes to your online conferencing requirements, but there are also ways to leverage maybe the family DSLR to act as a much better web cam experience. There are some off the shelf options when it comes to webcams, the first and likely most popular is the Logitech C920 and then there is the Razer Kiyo, I went with the Razer because I wanted the additional light source that it brings. Hardware wise they use the same chip I have heard so quality is going to be similar or the same, but the added light could give you a more compact option to point 2 above. Then there is the option to use the DSLR and maybe even your phone (I heard that Apple might be doing something that enables this to happen) basically for this to work you will need to check out your camera vendor and see what they have done in this space. Canon released their webcam utility not that long ago during this whole situation. You likely don’t need to go to the extents of the below image to make your image great again.

Background

Finally, what is behind you? As a presenter you spend all your time looking at your screen and other people, you have probably checked out all your colleagues’ situations behind them in their camera shot. This is often massively missed as a way of expressing you as a person to your customers and prospects or just making sure that if you are presenting the backdrop is clear and simple so that the audience can focus on you. I would also suggest that if you are in it for online meetings then a clean and minimal background is the way to go, and although zoom backgrounds are fun. They look very strange when you don’t have a green screen as they cut of your ears or part of your head. Now if you are a content creator then maybe invest in a green or blue screen to make that background look more professional, I went for the Elgato portable green screen (this post is not sponsored by Elgato, wish it was then the kit would not have cost so much) this allows me to blend into some of my demo videos but its not a requirement for your daily / hourly zoom calls.

There are lots of options for all the above and beyond what I have mentioned. This world up until maybe 6 months ago (I was looking at this stuff just before the pandemic situation hit) which is also why I was able to source all the kit as stocks dwindled away as you all know. Stock is now coming back and things are returning to the appropriate prices also, just consider your setup in the order above, if you have to change one thing though, make your audio the best it can be on the budget that you have.

Any comments leave them below, I love to learn and if you want to ask anything about my setup then also ask below or find me on twitter @MichaelCade1

2 Comments

  1. Really good tips here – I use a fifine mic – rock solid and a bit cheaper than the Rode you are using – got a mic arm as well to position it properly – managed to grab the Logitech C922 the other week as they dropped in stock for 5 minutes.

    Have started looking at lighting recently too and have a green screen to hide the rubbish in the back of the loftice 🙂 . Because the loft is an odd shape it has the added benefit of providing some nice background shapes too!

    Have a HD video camera for recording stuff that isn’t at the screen too. – sorting out a good tripod to has helped with that.

    Environment considerations are good tips as is use a headset if your laptop can’t cut out background noise quickly – so many people drop on and start shoving feedback into a call… and of course the mute button.. it’s just polite as you said!

  2. I must say I was very disappointed by the 922, on a Mac, the software (all of them, there is like 3 different apps all doing more or less the same thing) is very confusing, you have to have *perfect* lighting, because that thing has no dynamic range and blown out areas appear anytime you have a darker shirt or background. The exposure settings don’t stick nor the white balance.

    I ended up getting a cheap hdmi usb acquisition card for my Fuji X-T3. Def. overkill but couldn’t get anything decent out of the Logitech. An iPhone is no comparison to it with much better quality

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