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Category: Tech Fixes

How to Fix your Ceiling Shot Problem during Zoom Meetings

Using a tabletop tripod to elevate your webcam shot is a great way to help your Zoom viewers experience you eye to eye.

It’s been over a year since the Zoom revolution took over so many parts of our lives. The good news is many of us have mastered the basics of video production while video conferencing from home. But there’s one mistake I see plenty of people still struggling with. To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. Some blame has to be shared with laptop manufacturers who insist on putting webcams down at the bottom of the laptop screen.

The Evil Ceiling Shot
The resulting problem is your webcam pointing up at your face with the ceiling as the background. The shot is incredibly unflattering. Who wants their viewers staring at their chin or peering up their nostrils?

The fix is not an easy one. You’ve got to find a way to bring your webcam up to a more level position with your eyes. That will create the balanced visual you need.

Stacking a few hardcover books under your laptop can help. If you’ve got a standing desk, it’s time to raise it up all the way. Anything you can do to elevate your webcam will reduce the evil ceiling shot.

You also might want to consider investing in a little more gear to improve the Zoom experience for both you and your viewers.

Time to Buy a Tabletop Tripod
To move your shot high enough to make your webcam parallel with your eyes, you may need to invest in a standalone webcam. And then, most critically, you absolutely have to perch that webcam on a tabletop tripod.

A good tripod that can fit on your desk will be your unsung hero to help create a great video shot for your next Zoom.

The trick is making sure the mini tripod is tall enough to meet your eyes.

There are plenty of inexpensive tabletop tripods out there for webcams and portable LED lights. The problem is many of them are too short, only coming up a few inches. You really need a mini tripod that telescopes up 15 inches or more.

And you should also make sure you don’t choose a model that will take over your desk. It needs to be compact.

In looking to improve my own desk setup with a new tabletop tripod, I found these options to consider:

  • Lume Cube Desktop Light Stand
    30” max height
    $34.95 on Amazon
    The tallest option if you need it, but it’s also more expensive.
  • OrangeMonkie Tripod50
    19.7” max height
    $44.99 on Amazon Prime
    I love this little tripod. Even though it’s the most expensive of the group, it’s a great value. Unfortunately it’s overkill, made for heavier gear. The design will also take up more space on your desk.
  • Neewer Photography Mini Table Top Stands (2)
    20” max height
    $19.99 on Amazon Prime
    The price is right, but you can’t tilt the mount.
  • Ulanzi MT-16 Tripod
    15” max height
    $22.95 on Amazon Prime
    Just tall enough. Comes with a standard 1/4” screw mount and a GoPro mount.

Ulanzi MT-16
So, I ended up going with the Ulanzi MT-16 tripod. It’s great to support my portable Genaray Powerbank 96 Pocket LED light. It’s also a perfect choice to hold up my GoPro when using it as a webcam.

Yes, GoPros can be repurposed as webcams. To do that trick, you just need an HDMI-out to USB 3.0-in adapter. That interface will connect your GoPro’s video feed to your computer. (I use the Elgato Cam Link 4K.) Once attached, your GoPro is ready to live stream.

Elevate your Zoom Game
Remember, to create your best video shot for your next Zoom, you have to bring your webcam up high enough to meet your eyes. And stacking books under your laptop can only take you so far.

A separate webcam on a desktop tripod can really elevate your Zoom game. (The same goes for portable LED lights. You want your soft light source hitting your face at eye level.)

Using a little tripod will make a big difference!

How to Stop your Email from Suggesting an Old Address

Across the years, your library of email addresses inevitably changes. Take a second to help your computer’s email program clear out the past. Here’s how.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had one email address assigned at birth, and that was it for life? How simple would that be? Then, you could easily keep track of all your contacts. No more old email addresses that don’t work. Of course, I know that’s an unrealistic suggestion (or at least a plot device for a science fiction story).

In reality, we need to pay attention to the never-ending task of updating our digital address books. It’s not like we never had to take a pen to the Rolodex when a friend moved to a different city in the analog days. But that felt less frequent than the seemingly constant tweaks required to maintain your data in today’s email-first society.

Many of us change email addresses periodically for any number of reasons (new job, new internet provider, new device, new name).

That’s life. We’ve all got to keep up across the years.

The Risks When Using Auto-Complete Email Suggestions
But even if you’ve been diligent and kept your Contacts app current, you may still have to contend with your email program’s flawless memory and the pesky problem of an old email-address suggestion.

That’s when you type a name into the “To” field of an email and sixteen address options drop down for you to choose from. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

Then, if you’re not careful, you can send off your email to a long-dead address.

Over time, this potential mistake can become a larger risk as you review an ever-growing list of auto-complete choices.

It makes sense to do a little digital spring cleaning.

Clear Out Old Email Addresses
I use Microsoft Outlook for Mac on my iMac. Removing an email suggestion takes just a few seconds.

  • Simply click on the little circled ‘x’ next to the bad email address. And then it simply disappears, ‘poof!’ That’s it.

If you’re working with a PC version of Outlook, you can also clear all entries from your ‘Auto-Complete List’ should you want to start fresh.

Whichever email program you use, it will be advantageous to perform a similar data review.

Help your Computer Let Go of your Past
This may fall under the category of obvious, but if you don’t take the moment to teach your computer where keep up, you’ll eventually feel the weight of old email suggestions slowing you down.

Make sure the email suggestions you’re offered are current. If not, it’s time to clear out the past. That will go a long way to help you stay present!

How to Text your iPhone’s Video Clip if the File is Too Big

Your only hope to successfully share your video via text is to compress it into a smaller version. Here’s how I did that to a video of my son practicing the piano.

If you shoot a 4K video on your iPhone and then attempt to text it to someone, you’ll likely run into the problem of a file-size limit. That happened to me recently when I was asked to capture my fifth-grade son practicing a piece of music for his piano teacher to review.

Fortunately, my son’s piano lessons have been proceeding just fine over the past year of Covid as a virtual learning experience, courtesy of FaceTime and two iPhones. Unfortunately, this recording ended up running six-minutes long, and I had forgotten to reset my iPhone to shoot video at a lower quality. The result was the creation of a massive 2 GB file.

That’s way bigger than what you can text or email from an iPhone. And as it turned out, my clip would still have been too large to send even if it was recorded at my iPhone’s lowest quality setting of 720p.

Compression Required
Sure, there are ways to upload a large video file to the cloud and then create a download link to send to your recipient. Apple offers iCloud Mail Drop (5 GB file-size limit). And of course, there are other cloud solutions.

But you’re still sending over a massive file for someone else to download. I would suggest that’s not good digital etiquette. Unless your recipient specifically needs your video at its original quality, the decent thing for you to do is to first compress the file into a smaller version for viewing.

Unless you trim your video’s length, you’ve got to find a way to shrink your file before sending it along.

AirDrop
So, my solution was to use Apple’s AirDrop tool to wirelessly send my video from my iPhone to my iMac (There’s no file-size limit.)

Then, I opened up the video clip on my iMac in QuickTime and simply exported a copy in a smaller size from the drop-down menu (480p).

Finally, I dragged the new, compact file into the Messages app on my iMac and ‘texted’ the video to my son’s piano teacher. This kept our video sharing in the same digital ecosystem as we’ve previously been using.

There are other video compression tools available for a Mac (such as the Compressor app), but QuickTime will usually do the trick.

iMovie
If you don’t want to move your file over to a computer and instead prefer to do the compression work on your iPhone, you can easily use iMovie.

Just bring your original video into the iMovie app and then immediately move to export a new file (unless you first want to perform some editing tweaks).

  • Click the blue “Options” tab and select either 360p or 540p resolution.

And then, voilà! You can send your smaller file along.

There are also third-party video compression apps for an iPhone in the App Store, but I suggest you simply stick with iMovie for your basic compression needs.

Less is More
None of this guarantees that your new file will be small enough to text or email. But if the length of your original video is just a couple of minutes, you should be in good shape.

Unless you’re using a cloud-sharing solution, a best practice for any video recording plan that requires sharing your clip is to limit the length. Everyone has space limitations on their smartphones and nobody will enjoy having to manage a huge video file.

Keep it short. Keep it small. And don’t forget to compress it!

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