Setting up your home studio

To present for a live audience or a screen has many commonalities but also some differences. The script and the talk might be just the same, but you as a presenter have much more responsibility for your "room" and how you look, sound and are perceived through the screen. This page will give you some simple but effective tips to optimize your talk from a production standpoint.

Optimising your video

Choosing a camera

An external webcam will almost always give you a higher picture quality than the one that is inbuilt into your laptop. The qualities which are important in a good webcam are the amount of contrast the webcam can pick up, it's ability to adapt to different lighting levels, the quality of the lens and the camera resolution. Most departments have webcams with HD resolution you can lend for the occasion, but since even HD webcams are vastly varied in quality, we recommend that you try them out before use.

Perhaps the most common webcam format is one which is designed to sit neatly on a computer screen and film one person, though there are wide-angle versions which aim to capture an entire conference room.

On this page we provide some tips for equipment which can be bought through Wisum.

Using a webcam

How you use a webcam also makes a massive distance to the quality of the video from the watchers perspective. Here our key tips are:

  • Place your camera at eye level. If you do not have an external webcam, you could place your laptop on books
  • If you are using a script or notes, these should be positioned as close to the webcam as possible
  • Optimise the lighting in the room before you start (see the next section)
  • Although many people tend to just use the webcam to capture their face, it's worthwhile considering whether you should include your upper body to allow for gesticulation and body language.
A comparison of images from a webcam at desktop level (left) and at eye-level (right).
A comparison of images from a webcam at desktop level (left) and at eye-level (right). Photo: Teresa Sörö
A screen that shows how to find the video settings in Zoom by first clicking on the ^ symbol that is within the stop / start video button, and then on Video settings
Where to find the video settings in Zoom Photo: N/A

Settings in Zoom

To find Zoom's video settings first click on the ^-button which sits within the button which toggles the video on/off, then click on Video Settings.

Try adjusting the following settings in Zoom to get the best video feed:

  • HD - Sending an HD video feed will increase the video quality for some, but also places higher demands on available bandwidth for both you and the viewer.
  • Adjust level for low light - By switching this setting to Manual, you can manually make Zoom adjust the lighting. This can help when you have backlighting or bad lighting in the room.

Settings in Teams

Coming soon

Lighting

A good quality of lighting in the room can make a big difference to how you look. Our recommendations here are:

  • Avoid lighting from behind if possible - Strong light from for example, windows in the background, will make you look very dark.
  • Try to light from the front - Placing a light source behind your webcam is a good way to optimise lighting levels for your webcam
  • Use multiple light sources or diffuse lighting to avoid shadows
  • Make sure that the main lightning you have isn't from your screen - This will tend to give you a slightly blue hint, and your face will of course reflect the colour shown on the screen.

Sound

Although generally audiences will cope with sub-optimal quality video, if the sound is bad it can make life really hard work for participants. There are though a few parameters you can easily change to make your sound better, namely using a good quality microphone, having the microphone relatively close to your mouth, choosing a room with a good sound environment. The other decisive factor here is the available network bandwidth and the stability of the network connection.

Perhaps the best tip we can give for improving sound quality is to make a test call to a colleague, and make adjustments according to their feedback. That said, here are some rules of thumb

  • Choosing a microphone - Generally the inbuilt microphones in computers aren't great. If yours isn't sounding great, we recommend trying a headset (which tend to be better) or another form of external microphone. You can find some equipment tips on this page.
  • Microphone placement - It's important for the microphone to be close to the speaker's mouth to get more direct sound, and less reverberated sound. That said, usually placing a microphone directly in front of the mouth will result in exaggerated and distorted plosive sounds.
  • Choosing a room - From the perspective of choosing an ideal environment for sound, there are two guiding principles. The first of which is that it should be free from unnecessary noise (other people, the wind, traffic noise, loud air conditioning) and the other is that soft furnishings will reduce unwanted reverb and delay sounds which would occur in rooms with hard surfaces.

Creating energy

We all have heard that a TV-camera add an extra pound or so to you. I don't know if that is really true but what it does is that it take away your energy. To be able for the listeners to connect to you there are two easy tips:

Give eye-contact.

Look in the camera as much as possible. If you have the participants or moderator on your screen at the same time as you are to give your talk it's very compelling to look at the screen instead of the camera. Use a white sheet of paper to minimize your distraction. That goes as well to your script. You should know your talk as well by now so you only need some words. Keep them very close to the camera eye to avoid big eye movements.

Stand up

Pop your computer and camera high enough up so you can stand while you are talking. You have much more easy way to keep your energy that you evidently will loose by talking to a "dead" camera. If you have an adjustable desk it's easy. If you need to be more creative for your home-office the iron board and cardboard box is a good start.

Be mindful of the background environment

Three images showing results on different background environments. To the left is a shelf in the background, in the middle is a bookshelf with books, and to the right is a wall without any pictures or patterns.
A neutral background image will often give the best result Photo: Teresa Sörö

Your background will be noticed, so if you are at your office or home, make sure your background isn't "busy" with lots of things to look at or any movements that might be distracting. In Zoom you have an option to use virtual background. Remember that your existing background needs to be fairly solid color to make the background work