We’re clearly in the middle of a radical evolution when it comes to using video communication tools at home.
Sure, Skype, FaceTime and other personal video communication platforms have been around for years. Yet, most people haven’t been practicing video chatting and video conferencing as a daily activity.
That’s changed… and quite suddenly.
As we’re now sheltering at home, live video streaming has become a tool of necessity across any number of situations, including work, school and family communication.
So, if you’re the designated tech support rep for your family, you’d better make sure you’re addressing your family’s video streaming needs.
Here are four challenges I’ve already had to confront and the best ways to handle them.
There’s not Enough Video Streaming Bandwidth
For your Entire Family
I thought we had plenty of bandwidth at home for all three of us to be on separate live video streams simultaneously. I found out last week that wasn’t necessarily the case. It was painful to experience our internet service sputtering throughout one afternoon.
Assuming you pay for an internet plan that ‘normally’ provides enough bandwidth, consider this when things still glitch out and turn your day into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
- Move your video calls to cellular connectivity via your phone
If your cellular plan can handle the data load, you can easily do video conference chats on your smartphone. I’ve done it on my iPhone using Zoom, Skype, Google Duo and, of course, FaceTime.
- Activate the mobile hotspot plan for your phone
Once you’ve got that in place, your phone can also rescue your stranded computer that needs an alternate tether to the world.
You Don’t Own Enough Gear
To Handle Your Family’s Video Communication Needs
This issue can crop up with younger family members who don’t yet have their own dedicated computer or smartphone.
The good news is you probably have some retired gear lying around that you can put back into service. That’s exactly what I did.
I repurposed the camera in my old iPhone 6 Plus for my fourth grader to use. He had a virtual playdate over the weekend where he was challenged to play old-school ‘Battleship’ with a friend over FaceTime.
My old iPhone no longer works as a ‘cell phone.’ It had passed that baton to my newer iPhone years ago, but it’s still fully functional with FaceTime video over my home Wi-Fi.
Their virtual-Battleship execution using FaceTime on my old iPhone 6 Plus and two separate game boards worked perfectly!
There are Wi-Fi Gaps in your Home
Since your entire family may be home now, they’ve probably had to spread out to create some privacy and not interfere with each other’s video calls. As a result, those Wi-Fi ‘dead zones’ may have become more of a problem.
If so, then it’s time to extend your home Wi-Fi signal with a “Mesh” system where you can use multiple nodes to create whole-home Wi-Fi coverage.
Your Zoom Video Shot Looks Terrible
From what I’ve seen, Zoom is now the de facto tool for family and friends to maintain their connections. A phone call isn’t enough. People need to see each other. So, whether you like it or not, it’s time for your close up. And so you probably should pay attention to how you look.
If you’re not happy with your Zoom shot, there are two likely culprits:
- Your webcam is peering up at your face
Reposition it to be more level with your eyes. That will create a more flattering shot. If you’re using a laptop, that may mean placing it on a stack of hard-cover books to create the right angle.
- Your face is too dark in the shot
You need more light in front of you and less light behind you. A bright window that’s lurking in your background is a common framing error.
On the other hand, if you’re facing a window, the outdoor light can provide the illumination you need, assuming the sun is not hitting you directly.
Alternately, you may want to consider buying a soft light made for webcasting.
That’s the solution I recently went with.
At Home with Your Tech 24/7
If you’re like me, your role as the ‘Family IT Guy’ has just been thrust into the spotlight. Whether that’s a legacy title or you’re new to the position, you really need to keep your tech working right now.
You can do it. Just prepare for the unexpected and then work your streaming problems as they arise.
Good luck and stay safe.