We do a lot of work helping nonprofits and other organizations do online video conferencing and recording; here are some of our best zoom tips to help get you started.
Elevating Your Computer
If you are using a laptop, please elevate it on books or something, so the camera is close to eye level. Here is a link to a laptop stand.
You can find virtual backgrounds at the bottom left of the screen next to “start video.” Click on the caret (^). Select “video settings” where you may “adjust for low light.” Try the “touch up my appearance” selection; it reduces contrast a little. Here is a link to Zoom Video Settings.
At the bottom left, next to “mute” click the caret and you may increase the volume of your microphone.
Here is a link to Zoom Audio Settings which has other zoom tips as well.
Consider getting an external microphone or using earbuds that have a built-in microphone. If you use an external microphone, within settings select the microphone you are using. Within audio settings, you may also need to select the speaker. Here a link for a highly-reviewed microphone that plugs into a computer.
Using a Smartphone as an External Camera
Laptop cameras have some limitations, but smartphone cameras have advanced to give nearly professional-quality pictures. You can mount your smartphone on books and aim it at yourself, or purchase a tabletop tripod. You place it behind your computer and attach your phone to the mount that comes with it. You will need software to enable the camera to work with your laptop. Camo Studio has a free version that works with iPhones and Android. You will need to get their app for your phone and download their software for your computer. It works with Macs or PCs. At the bottom right of the Zoom screen you can select the external camera, and an external microphone if you choose to use one. Be sure to select “do not disturb” on your phone so you won’t get calls or notifications in the middle of your Zoom call.
Lighting for Zoom
A table lamp behind your computer can work just fine. Or position your computer so you are facing a window when you are zooming during the day. If you want to purchase a light, ring lights are inexpensive or look into the Logitech Litra Glow light. It mounts on the top of a computer screen and is said to provide a soft, rather than harsh, illumination. If you wear glasses, you may need to mount a light above and to the side, to avoid reflections.
Speaking of Eyeglasses
If you wear glasses, consider dimming your computer display. Otherwise, if the display may reflect a blue glow in your glasses. If you use external lighting or have a bright room, this may not be a problem, but if the room is not bright, the computer screen might reflect in your glasses.
Composing and Posing
Composition includes you together with your background. Viewers expect TV studio quality. A cluttered background may be eliminated with a virtual background, or with a blurred background. (More on this later) However, your audience may prefer a background with specific book titles neatly arranged with art pieces and flowers.
Another of our favorite Zoom tips: make sure the camera is looking straight on. Too low, and we see your nostrils. Too high, and you have to be looking up. “Headroom” is the amount of blank space above your head in the frame. If you pay attention, you’ll know when there is too much or too little.
Clothing styles will match your message and your audience. Unless your message is to emphasize a wild outfit, minimize patterns and try for solid fabrics. Limit makeup, especially excess blush and mascara. Video cameras are high-contrast devices; they can make dark areas look too dark and light areas bleached out.
Zoom has a collection of virtual backgrounds like the Golden Gate Bridge and leaves, and there are options to blur your background, so you pop out. However, some computers do not support zoom virtual backgrounds. If you plan to use a background, perform a trial run so you can see how they work.
Sometimes when you move, the virtual background can add a black extension to your head. In cases where you move your hands or try to show something to the camera, the virtual background may cause part of it to disappear.
Pre-Recording Your Upcoming Zoom Presentations
Zoom lets you record onto your computer, even with the free version, or on the cloud with a paid version. If you have a presentation coming up, consider recording it in advance and playing it, as a screen share, during the live presentation. That way, you can make changes and re-record it until you are satisfied. You can even include your slides and PowerPoint presentation in the recording.
Computers, USB-C and Hubs
If you are planning an event with your computer or someone else’s, it is a good idea to get an adapter so that a newer computer with USB-C connectors will work with an older computer with the standard USB connector. In addition, get a hub where you can plug in more than one device. Some computers have only a single USB-C connection, and you may have an external camera and an external microphone and a hard drive, and a flash drive—you get the picture.
I hope these Zoom tips help to elevate your online video presence. If you need more help with video production or editing, please reach out to your friendly Oakland video production team. We are here to make you look great!