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Tag: Zoom

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.

How to Hear Zoom Audio when Screen Mirroring to your TV

If you use a MacBook laptop and Apple TV, there’s one important setting to change if you want to hear your Zoom audio on your HDTV.

The Zoom app is mostly designed to be used on smartphones and computer screens as an interactive experience. But with Zoom having grown as a performance/presentation platform, sometimes it’s preferable to watch Zoom as a one-way experience. Then, it’s more enjoyable if you can experience it on your big-screen TV.

So how exactly do you get your Zoom feed to show up there? There are multiple ways to do it, but the gateway to my older (non-smart) HDTV is via my little (but mighty) Apple TV box.

Once I’m screen sharing in the Apple ecosystem to my Apple TV, it’s immediately available on my HDTV.

Apple makes screen mirroring (AirPlay) to its devices a snap. But getting Zoom’s audio to stream to your HDTV can be more tricky. Here are the ways to do it.

Use an iPhone and Zoom App
As long as you first activate screen mirroring from your iPhone to your Apple TV before joining your Zoom, you’ll be fine.

On your iPhone’s Control Center (open by swiping down from top-right corner of your screen), you’ll see the two layered rectangles icon for screen mirroring.

  • Tap it and select your Apple TV
  • Then join your Zoom presentation

Both video and audio will follow to your TV.

Use a MacBook’s Web Browser or Zoom App
Turn on Screen Mirroring via the Control Center icon on your laptop’s Menu Bar. Then choose the Apple TV.

Or a faster way to share your screen is just click on the Screen Mirroring icon on the Menu Bar. But you’ve first got to make sure that icon shows up on the top right. Here’s how to activate it.

  • Go to ‘System Preferences’
  • Click on ‘Screen Mirroring’ on the left panel
  • Click ‘Dock and Menu Bar’
  • Click Show in Menu Bar… ‘always’ (as opposed to ‘when active’)


Then proceed to your Zoom presentation.

What Happened to the Audio?
But I’ve found that one big problem can crop up when screen mirroring Zoom from my wife’s MacBook Air to our Apple TV…

The Zoom video projects fine onto the TV screen, but the audio doesn’t naturally follow. The Zoom audio remains tethered to the laptop’s speakers.

To fix that frustrating problem, there’s one additional step you’ve got to take.

Change your Zoom Audio Settings
By default, the Zoom audio output is the laptop’s speakers, even if you’re mirroring your screen. (Zoom doesn’t know that you’re practicing screen-mirroring magic.)

You’ve got to go into your Zoom settings and manually change the audio output to your Apple TV. Only then will the Zoom audio follow from your computer to your Apple TV.

In the Zoom app:

  • Click on ‘Home’
  • Click the Settings gear icon on the right
  • Click on ‘Audio’
  • Click on ‘Speaker’ drop down
  • Select ‘Apple TV’

And to be sure you’ve got it right, click on ‘Test Speaker’ and you should hear a happy melody coming from your TV’s speakers.

And voilà!

Turn Up the Volume
Zoom has proven to be a really powerful app over these past couple of years during the pandemic. But you’ve got to make sure the audio settings are right.

Once you do, you can finally sit back and enjoy the Zoom show on your TV!

Why It may be Time to Upgrade your Webcam

If you still look like a shadow of your true self in Zoom meetings, you should consider using a more powerful camera.

It’s fair to say we’ll be needing our webcams, well… forever. If video conference meetings from home weren’t already part of our daily lives before the pandemic, well, now they certainly are. And no matter what the future holds, virtual meetings are here to stay.

We’ve had two years to figure out how to set up a decent Zoom shot. If you’re still not happy with it, the problem may be your computer’s mediocre webcam. If so, it’s time to upgrade and buy a dedicated external USB camera for your computer.

Can Another Camera You Own do the Job?
But before you start shopping for a new webcam, make sure you don’t already own another device that you can repurpose such as a camcorder or DSLR-style camera.

You just need to make sure that your higher-end camera can offer a ‘clean’ video output via a HDMI connector. Then you’ll need a HDMI to USB converter like the ‘Cam Link 4K’ to integrate the video feed into your computer.

My New Lumix GH5 II
Recently, I bought myself a Panasonic Lumix GH5 II
with a Panasonic 12-35 mm/f2.8 II lens.
(“Why Barrett, you shouldn’t have!”)

And of course, I immediately wanted to jack this Micro Four Thirds, mirrorless camera into my iMac to see what would happen.

Sure, using a higher-end camera with a serious lens as a basic webcam is way overkill, but it works just fine. And the look is beautiful. In fact, it’s ridiculous.

The webcam on my iMac is perfectly adequate, but when I changed over to my GH5 II, the visual difference was dramatic.

Don’t Buy More than You Need
Now, I’m not saying you should run out and spend ten times the cost of a typical webcam to upgrade your Zoom look.

But if you’ve already got a more powerful camera that can also be used as a webcam, then why not? (Previously, I had been repurposing my old GoPro as a webcam via my Cam Link 4K.)

Your Desk will get Messy
Now here comes the big disclaimer…

Yes, integrating a ‘real’ camera into your desktop computer or laptop will creating an amazing image, but functionally, the process is not elegant. You’ve got to put a tripod on your desk and position it right next to your computer screen, so you’re not looking too far off camera when you take a peek at the other folks in your Zoom window.

Then, you’ve got the HDMI and power cables coiling in front of your screen to contend with. It’s a mess. (You start to feel like a battery person trapped in “The Matrix,” even though the cables aren’t actually coming out of your body.)

Even attaching a tiny new webcam to your laptop involves an extra cable and a webcam mount, and it takes a couple more steps every time you prepare for a video conference. Plus, you’ve got to adjust your webcam and test your shot to make sure you’re framed correctly.

That’s takes work… sometimes a lot of work. One might say it’s an absurd effort. And for what?

Nothing beats the ease of simply clicking on ‘join’ and letting your integrated webcam do its job. Whatever your viewers see, they see. If you’re only partially in the shot, that’s better than nothing, right?

What’s so bad with that approach? (And if you really feel that way, please continue taking your blue pills. Your next Zoom meeting in the Matrix is in ten minutes!)

Can You See Me Now?
Frankensteining any camera into your computer is a bit messy… sometimes very messy. But the good news is it’s not really that complicated.

Do you still make an effort to put on a nice shirt for your Zoom meetings, and have you spent more than a few minutes trying to adjust the lighting on your face? Are you still unsatisfied with your shot?

If so, then you’re a prime candidate to consider upgrading your webcam. (And if you’re already in the market for a nice camera to handle your photography and video projects, you can free two birds with one key, like I did.)

I expect you will not be disappointed with your decision to improve your Zoom look. It’s actually a great New Year’s resolution, and one that you’ll continue reaping benefits from throughout the entire year!

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