As many people around the world are working from home right now, I thought I’d show how I made my home office as high quality as possible.
In order of importance I’ll talk about:
- Decent light
- External mic
- External webcam
- Optimal client for your preferred meeting system
Any headphones are better than speakers when on calls. Have you heard echos of your voice while on a call? That is probably coming from another person on the call who is not using headphones.
As the sound comes out of speakers, the mic that is picking up your voice must reject all the sound waves from the speakers, or there will be echos. This echo is called audio feedback, and if it is unchecked, it turns into the loud squeak you sometimes hear at badly MCd events when the person with the mic walks in front of the speakers.
Headphones remove the need for this processing because the mic only ever hears what you are saying and never what the other people on the call are saying.
Things to consider with headphones:
- Comfort is the highest priority: I use over-ear headphones for this reason. Here are some ratings of over-ear headphones. You don’t need expensive ones, though.
- The in-line mic or attached mic is nice, but you don’t need it if your laptop has a mic.
- Bluetooth is helpful when you are on long calls so you can stand up, move around a bit, and still hear what is going on.
Look out of windows. Window light is excellent when it is behind the camera. If it is behind you, then you will likely be a silhouette.
I use a lamp that I bounce off the wall behind the camera when I can’t get enough window light.
Going above and beyond
External mic with stand
The stand is for convenience, getting the mic close to your mouth and pushing it away when not in use.
The vibration dampener is for limiting the resonance from your desk, such as footsteps, typing, spinning disks, or fans.
If you are using a second monitor, it is helpful to have a webcam on top of it. So when you are on calls, you are looking as close to the camera as possible.
Super high quality:
Here is my setup, just in case you have a similar camera.
- Canon EOS m3 with custom firmware to enable clean HDMI out indefinitely
- wide-angle lens
- dummy battery
- Cam Link 4k
- Desk mounted tripod mount (be aware of weight limits)
Optimal client for your preferred meeting system
I have found for bluejeans that the downloaded client does a ton of upfront compression, which reduces perceived quality.
The in-browser client that uses webrtc can’t compress as much and produces a higher quality image.
Using the in-browser client can be a problem, however, if there is limited bandwidth. It is sending more data through the system and can’t adapt to lower bandwidth situations.