Last week, Paul Papadimitriou walked us through is conversion from home office to home television studio. Working as a global keynote speaker, futurist & TV/Radio/Stage host, he needs the best of the best. Fair enough. But what about us non-global keynote speakers?
I think we can all agree that the webcam/mic combo on our laptops isn't going to win any cinematic awards any time soon. So where's the happy medium between what Paul's done at home, and what the rest of us need?
Why, I'm glad you asked ...
- Lighting: Wonew 10 inch/25cm dimmable LED ring light
- Webcam: Roffie full HD webcam UC20
- Microphone: TONOR TC30 USB Condenser Microphone
Total cost: £78/€86
Much more info and additionals below
Those overhead lights in your home office aren't doing you any favors. They cast harsh shadows, often with a yellowish tint, and when combined with the blue glow from your screen, ouch.
Pro Tip - The bigger the light source, the more diffused the shadows. What we're aiming for here is smooth and overall coverage of your gorgeous face.
With budget and flexibilty in mind, an LED ring light is our best option. By creating a directed circle of light around your face, we're accomplishing the goal mentioned above, as well as adding a nice catch light to your eyes.
The Wonew 10 inch/25cm dimmable LED ring light will run you around £20/€22, and features 3 color temperatures, 10 brightness levels, a Bluetooth remote, and a height adjustable tripod stand. This last option offers you increased flexibility with placement of your new best friend.
There's a high likelihood that the camera on your laptop is only recording/broadcasting at 720p (a.k.a standard HD). As our aim here is to up your game, we're after 1080p (a.k.a Full HD). This is the key factor between "Meh" video and "Whoa, nice!" video.
The Roffie full HD webcam UC20 clocks in at a mere £26/€29 and includes a ton of features often found in much pricier options. With 1080p video, two noise cancelling microphones, and an 80° diagonal field of view, you can't really go wrong.
This camera also has a tripod mount on the bottom of the clip, offering further placement options; such as at the center of the aforementioned ring light should you want.
Input - This one is a bit of a bonus, as the sound captured from the noise cancelling units built into the Roffie webcam would be a great step up from your existing laptop mic, but as we're uping the game ...
The TONOR TC30 USB Condenser Microphone is a winner. The benefits of a condenser mic ensure that you'll always be heard in a clear and natural tone when speaking. And at £32/€35, you'd be hard pressed to find a better bang for your buck.
In addition to the microphone itself, this kit includes a desktop tripod stand, a shock mount, and pop filter. USB plug and play compatibility means there's zero setup required, and you can be up and running in no time. And with specs like these, you might find yourself dabbling in the world of podcasting quite soon.
Output - Much like lighting, your monitoring, or listening medium is often overlooked. How many times have you gotten the, "Can you turn your speakers down, there's an echo?" question? That echo is caused by your microphone picking up the sound from the speakers and then rebroadcasting it.
The solution is quite easy: Always use headphones! Not only does this eliminate this feedback loop, but provides you with a much better listening position. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you've most probably got a set of headphones already, and while there are a ton of monitor headphones options out there, the ones you own right now are more than enough to get the job done.
Boom! Congratulations, as you're now up and running, and capable of delivering sight and sound that's leaps ahead of your run-of-the-mill, built in functionality. Here are a few extra bonus tips that'll have you on your way to pro in no time!
Now there's just one thing left to do, and that's think about the placement of your laptop. Chances are, right now, you've probably got it placed on a desk or table in front of you. For everyday activities, fine and dandy. For broadcasting, not so much.
Even after you've clipped your shiny new webcam onto your monitor screen, notice the angle it's facing you at? And more so, notice the angle your head has to take to face it? Shooting from below never leads to a good look.
Jack it up! This can be accomplished through a wide variety of means. Anything from a laptop stand to a pile of books will do the job. The idea here is to bring your head up from a downward angle to a straight on angle.
I'm not even going to delve into the current fascination with backgrounds, but will only offer this - don't. Just. Don't.
There is beauty in simplicity. Whether you're presenting or attending, you want the audience to focus on you, and not the books on the shelf behind you, or whether or not you're broadcasting from the middle of the (vitrual) woods.
Keep it as clean and simple as possible. A plain, uncluttered wall will go miles.
And if you really have to - Any type of green background behind you will work. Jade green, lime green, seafoam green, you name it. The key here is green, and a smooth, even texture.
While your microphone setup (webcam or USB) should do a fairly good job at filtering out background/ambient noise, ideally you'll be in the least noisy part of your home. Something away from the sounds of daily life, and somewhere where you're not only able to focus, but also not letting the rest of the session hear the washing machine running.
And there we have it friends. For a modest investment of £78/€86, you've created your very own home studio, one that's nothing to sneeze at, and far beyond what we started with right out of the box. Looking foward to seeing you all soon!
... and when they ask, "How did you do this?!?!" be sure to send 'em here. ☺️