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Tag: Zoom tips

5 Easy Ways to Upgrade your Zoom Video

If you want to look and sound better during your next Zoom meeting, don’t forget these simple best practices to present yourself in the best possible light.

It’s been over two years since Zoom saved us from pandemic isolation. Sort of. Yes, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have been lifelines to our outside world over these many months. As life is evolving to a new normal, ‘hybrid’ is now clearly a part of that equation. That means the need to Zoom isn’t going away.

As remarkable as Zoom has been, I think everyone is exhausted. We’re cranky. We may know how to do a good Zoom. But we don’t want to. No. We don’t want to make that extra effort. Not anymore.

If you can hear my voice on Zoom, that’s enough. You don’t need to see me. And if for some reason I forget to turn off my camera, don’t expect much. If only half of my head is in the shot, that’s more than enough. If my bright window is dominating the image and obscuring my face, get used to it. It’s still me. Besides what I have to say is all that matters.

Is this perspective resonating right now? If so, I get it. You’re sick of having to show up for your close up. You didn’t sign up for this.

I know.

But let me offer this gentle reminder…

Zoom can Help You Stay Connected
Practicing good Zoom etiquette is worth it. If you want to show up in your life, then you do want to show up for your close up. It matters. If you want a seat at the table, then you’ve got to show up at the virtual table.

Turn on your webcam and follow these five best practices:

1.
Illuminate your Face
You should be facing the window… not the other way around. Please want to actually see you. Not your silhouette.

2.
Turn Off your Ceiling Light
You may think your ceiling light fixture is helping. It probably isn’t. Not if it’s directly over your head. That’s because it’s shining light down on top of you instead of in front of your face. That creates incredibly unflattering shadows. I don’t think you’re trying to audition for the next zombie movie. So turn off that ceiling light and flick on your desk lamp instead.

3.
Elevate your Webcam
Your webcam should never look up at your chin. If your shot features your ceiling, you need to raise your camera to a more perpendicular angle with your face. Simply elevate your laptop with a few books.

4.
Reduce the Headroom in your Shot
Headroom is the amount of space between the top of your head and the top of your Zoom box. I can almost guarantee that you’ve got too much headroom. There should only be a little gap. Please, tilt down your webcam. Your viewers want to see more of you, not more of your wall.

5.
Wear your Headset or Earbuds
Sure, your computer’s onboard microphone will work, but it’s too far away from your mouth to provide crisp audio. Instead, the audio has that far-away feel. That’s because the microphone is far away. Your headset mic sounds so much better. Please wear it. If you’re concerned about how your headset looks on you, then wear your earbuds or AirPods. The audio sounds that much better. Really.

Don’t Forget to Smile
Life presents unexpected twists and turns. It can be really rough. The headlines are getting any easier to consume. I know it’s sometimes hard to pull it together. But your Zooms don’t have to reflect the imbalance you may feel.

If you take a little extra effort to follow these video-conference best practices, you can better present your best self.

And if you’re doing that, I expect you’ll feel better too.

The Struggle Between Good and Good Enough on Zoom

Showing up properly for your next meeting requires a different set of tools and attitude in this Zoom-centric reality. Here’s why it matters.

Over the past year, the Zoom revolution has put the spotlight on home video production to handle content creation for any number of needs including work, web and broadcast.

If you want to create a quality video feed using something less than professional video gear, it’s been demonstrated that you can do that. It takes some cash, though not a boatload of money, compared to what professional gear costs.

You may need to invest in:

  • A good webcam
  • A desktop tripod
  • Lighting that’s soft on your face
  • A decent microphone

Then, make sure you’ve got a real background that’s interesting, but not cluttered. (I’m less excited these days about virtual backgrounds.) And now you’re probably ready to create some decent looking video content.

No, it’s not going to be the same quality as what thousands of dollars of gear can do for you, but it’s not terrible either.

Unnecessary Effort?
But to generate a video and audio feed that’s good, you’ve also got to put in some effort. It’s not only about the gear you’re using. And there’s the rub.

It takes time to set it all up and maximize your shot.

It’s clearly a different level of commitment than opening your laptop and clicking on Zoom (or other video conference apps).

A simple click is still going to get a video and audio signal out to your viewers. And I bet a lot of people would say that’s good enough.

Good enough.

If good enough works for you, why spend money and unnecessary time to make it better?

The Allure of a One-Click Solution
I think that everyone should always try to look their best, both in person and in a virtual environment. Presenting yourself to your world is a life-long task. But I think when using Zoom, that can be a difficult sell.

Sure, if you’re hosting a webinar or doing a live shot for a media company, you probably understand that your video and audio feed should be the best possible.

But I imagine there are countless Zoom moments when people feel it’s not particularly important to do anything more than the bare minimum. Why not just open your laptop and simply click and start your video stream?

It’s good enough.

Why Deal with the Mess?
Whether using your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, technology has given us the ability to do the impossible. Generating a live video feed once took lots of people and expensive production gear to accomplish the same feat through a TV station’s full resources.

Professional video production often looks like a mad scientist’s lab with cables and power cords running askew and bright lights dangling from the ceiling.

You can also create a mess if you’re trying to improve your Zoom game at home when adding in your extra gear. Simple isn’t exactly the way to describe the experience.

On the other hand, simplicity, speed and dare I say… elegance is what comes to mind when you just lift up your laptop screen without any additional video prep, and you’re instantly ready to activate your next Zoom.

That’s hard to beat and a great reason for good enough.

Zoom is Now a Part of Life
In most Zoom situations, why should anyone feel the need to do more? (Heck, even activating your video feed is an step that so many opt out of.)

I like to say you’ve got to show up for your close up. But it’s really more about simply showing up.

This is your life. Like it or not, Zoom is now a necessary part of it.

We are a social species. To be most effective when communicating, people really need to see you. And a terrible representation of your image that barely looks like you isn’t enough. It can say you’re dialing it in. Or worse… You don’t care.

That’s why good enough isn’t good enough.

It’s Time to Shine
Face it. Your life is being televised now.

So put on your Zoom shirt. Set up your Zoom shot. And do your best to fully inhabit your little Zoom box.

Then reach out and connect.

Good.

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!

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