When COVID🦠 took hold a few years’ ago (I’ll be doing a piece on that soon) we were thrust into new ways of working, for better or for worse. The traditional product conferences morphed into online sessions and in fact faciliated participation across the board.
Demonstrating the depth of field from the Sigma 16mm 1.4
‘The Espresso Webinar Series’ run by the amazing Amy Kelly, who was head of UserTesting’s EMEA team at the time, showcased how product teams all over the globe could come together and share their thoughts easily online. After watching back one of my sessions with Amy and Product Managers from the likes of Deliveroo and WISE, I was mortified to see how awful my video looked. A combination of poor lighting, the mediocre MacBook Air webcam and possibly my choice of shirt, just meant that I did not look presentable.
Being a nerd, I trawled YouTube for tips on what vloggers were using in their set-ups. I realised that COVID wasn’t going anywhere soon and with invites to speak at remote events filling my calendar, it was time to take action.
In this post I’ll cover why presentation is important and also share with you my current set up (which has evolved over time) so you too can ZOOM like a pro.
This post is long overdue – so many of you have been asking for it over the past few years.
Just like in-person meetings, first impressions matter on ZOOM or remote video calls (Even Microsoft Teams 😉). When you show up on camera looking professional and put-together, it sends a message that you take the meeting seriously and are prepared to contribute. Conversely, showing up in a wrinkled shirt or with bedhead can make you appear unprofessional and unprepared.
Your built in webcam is inadequate unless you’re in optimally lit conditions. Even my beloved Apple Studio display can’t muster up anything but a poor washed out version of myself on calls. So I’ve put together my kit list here with some links to get it all and I hope it helps. Remember you’ll need a GOOD internet connection to achieve streaming video no matter what kit you’ve got.
Shure MV7 mic
Computer: If you’re on a 2012 MacBook Air then forget it, your CPU will struggle. Upgrade your machine and treat yourself. Try to get one with discreet GPU management. I use a MacStudio and occasionally a MacBook Air (M1)
Video Card: You’ll need to get the Elgato Cam Link 4K External Capture Card. This is a little USB device that connects your camera (see below) to your PC or Mac.
Camera: Now this is the important bit. Webcams can’t compete with this (for now). From my research I found that the best value solution was the incredible SONY A5100 from 2014! Here’s a review from DPReview (RIP). The beauty of this camera is that you can attach a decent lens, run video streaming with no overheating issues and not break the bank. You can choose between a white and black version here:
Camera Dummy Battery: You’ll need to power the camera with a dummy battery (USB Power)
Lens: My lens of choice which gives a wonderful wide angle field of view and crisp image (You can zoom in) is the Sigma 16mm 1.4 Sony E mount lens
Microphone: I use Airpods Pro to listen to calls but use the Shure Podcast Mic and RODE Boom holder. This means I can easily swing the mic away when i’m not on calls with the minimum of hassle. Airpods Pro are notorious for poor audio transmission quality on video calls. Get the Shure MV7 USB Microphone, and RODE PSA1+ Studio Arm with spring damping and cable management.
Backlight: After trying a cheaper Newer version I ended up getting the excellent Elgato Ring Light which has a desk clap and thread to mount the SONY camera. What’s great about this is that it is controllable via software.