Better Video-conferencing

A few days ago, I saw the Dutch prime minister using the most dinky setup for teleconferencing. Sure, he was doing it for an Instagram Q&A session, and Instagram is an awful platform for good video conferencing tools. But still, it got my excited to write this post on my current more than ideal setup.

Mark Rutte’s camera setup As you can see, the good man used an iPhone on a cheap plastic tripod, with no lighting at all, during a Covid-19 related Q&A session. There also no special audio equipment is used. Could he do better? On a number of things, absolutely, but since it is Instagram you are very limited in your options. Instagram doesn’t really allow for camera setups at all unless you can interface them with your phone and phones generally don’t have the ports to allow for professional audio and video extensions.

For myself I had already decided this was not going to do. When I started working from home permanently, for the unforeseeable future, I tried a few options and quickly decided to upgrade. What follows is a summary of what I use now to get best in class results during video conferences at work.

My current home-office.

Video

My webcam is a Sony NX100 camcorder, with a lovely 1 inch sensor. And the little remote makes it easy to zoom in or out. It gives a nice sharp image. In this it is helped by twin Viltrox VL-500 LED lights, creating extra contrast between me and the background. Now, you can’t just plug-in a camcorder in your computer and expect it to work. I bought an Elgato HD60 S+ which converts the HDMI signal to something digitally usable. Awkwardly, my old desktop pc didn’t have the required USB 3 ports, so I had to buy an additional

Audio

I use a RØDE HS2 presenter microphone for great audio quality. And it allows me to keep my desk and hands free. Unfortunately I couldn’t plug it directly into my computer, as it needs an amplifier. I first tried to loop it through my camera, but it didn’t seem to work so I had to use my Zoom H6 instead. The minijack unfortunately didn’t fit in the XLR-only interface of the Zoom h6, so I had to buy a RØDE VXLR+ converter. In meetings it’s also a good idea to use headphones. This makes sure the other participants of your meeting don’t hear their own voice or in any other way lowers the sound quality. My old set of Sennheiser HD26 headphones do the job nicely, as they are very lightweight and don’t interfere with the placement of the microphone.

Infrastructure

To make everything run smoothly, I stopped using wireless internet, and wired everything up. This enables very smooth and stable internet. To be able to look at my camera, I use a Benro Hi-hat tripod to get it on eye level, and an Ikan 7″ video monitor right below the camera to see the other people in the meeting.

Conclusion

Is all this necessary? No. This was the equipment I mostly had available when I noticed my laptop’s webcam and audio facilities were too bad to use long term. As I used to shoot video semi-professionally I had it all laying around, unused for years. It was great fun creating this setup and perfecting it. Just a great way to spend time!

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