Levelling up your webcam game
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
In a COVID world, we're taking more video calls than ever. For me, it was really important that customers could see me clearly and without background distraction. Granted, I'm lucky enough to have a dedicated office, but I still set about fine-tuning my setup.
In a world where customers are chatting to people all day who are arching their neck, badly lit and sat at a kitchen table, standing out and having a memorably great video feed is a great differentiator. Equally, audio is king, so invest in a decent set of noise-cancelling headphones - there's nothing worse than sitting on a conference call with someone where you can't hear one another for all the background noise.
What you'll need to get started:
The one embedded in your laptop just isn't going to cut it. As much as anything, the angle of your monitor pointing up at your double chins isn't going to do anybody any favours. The Kiyo is particularly nice as it has a front light on it that ensures your face is clear at all times of day. The Briyo is a the best of the best. If you want to compete with YouTube and Twitch videographers, you need to go the DSLR camera route with a capture card to get the picture back into your PC. Probably overkill for a conference call!
This will help you remove the background from your image to cut out your background. I went for the cheap option and it's good enough, but have my eye on the luxury one, if only for the pop-up/down convenience. In my case this was even more important as the window is behind me, so lighting was a continuous problem on video.
OBS Studio & OBS Virtual Cam (both free)
These are two bits of software that enable you to take command of your webcam and edit the picture it's pushing out to programs like Teams, Zoom or Skype. The former is the editor, the latter is the output. You're going to need to add your camera source, then add a Chroma Key filter to it (and possibly an image mask/blend if your green screen isn't wide enough). The latter creates a new webcam output that you can select, which streams the picture in OBS, direct to your conferencing tool of choice.
A great background image (free)
This is the key. Trying to find something that matches the image you want to project, but that also has a similar level of light and colours to the webcam image. Matching those up creates a greater effect. Search away on Google until your heart's content.
As with all imagery, lighting is king. My feed is actually a little darker than I'd like, but generally, the better the light on your image, the clearer it will be. Also consider, if you're in front of a monitor, the light that will cast on your face (beware a bright red wallpaper, for example). Your best bet is to turn off "dark mode" on your apps and let the bright white screen give you an extra level of lighting. If that's still got you pixelated though, there's no shame in getting some extra help.
So the fact of the matter is, it's going to need some investment. But, for as little as £70 you can stand out amongst your peers, present a better image to your colleagues and customers and set yourself up for the future ahead of us all. No investment you ever make will provide better rewards than an investment in yourself.
This isn't designed as a guide to perfection or becoming a Twitch streamer but rather a quick and easy way to get those 20/30% gains that set you apart. If you want a "perfect video" guide, there's plenty of those of YouTube already. This blog is designed to be all about the quick wins!
WRITTEN BY ED HALSEY
Any opinions expressed here are my own and not the views of any of my employers. They are personal views based upon a 15-year career in insurance across underwriting and sales roles at mainstream insurers, consultancy firms and technology providers.