6 Tips For Video Conferencing

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If a brand (your company or your personal brand) is defined as a person’s gut feeling about you, your product or service… what gut feeling do you think you are leaving your customers and boss with when you meet virtual via video conferencing?

The Importance Of Quality

Your brand could be losing traction and sales all because of your webcam set up.  It’s time to level up your video conferencing game…and I’m going to show you how.

Hey Marc Gutman here. Thanks for watching. Everyone keeps asking me what do I think the “new normal” will look like… You’re looking at it.  Normal is now about building relationships and brands over virtual meetings and video. Like you, I am spending most of my days on Zoom meetings.

So if this is how we are building our brands… now is the time to level up your video game.

Your video matters. Don’t believe me?  Literally, every meeting I attend starts off the same way.  We spend the first five minutes talking about MY video and sound quality.

What camera do you have?

How is your video so good?

Your sound is amazing

Look, working from home and meeting virtually was a bit of an anomaly. We give each other a lot of grace for muddy video, beige and depressing backgrounds, and crackling audio quality.

Zoom knows this is important that's why they allow you to mix up your virtual background.

That’s been fun for a little.. But it’s already become yesterday’s gimmick.. Besides… is it just me wondering what the person is hiding by using a virtual background?  

The New Normal

Video conferencing and virtual meetings are here to stay.  And it’s time to level up your video game or risk losing that sale and brand equity to your competition.

I believe that every single interaction you have with customers, employees, and partners informs and impacts your brand.  

On top of that many studies show that the number factor associated with customer purchase intent is trust… And trust is simply a collection of inputs and signals that give us a particular feeling about a person or brand.

And now our number one interaction with new clients, existing clients, employees is virtual -- what trust signals do you think you are sending?

While we may not be virtual forever, it’s clear that it is here to stay..

With that in mind, I want to show you a simple way to up level your webcam game so that video conferencing is an area where you are building trust… not destroying it.

I’m going to show you how you can set up your webcam using a DSLR camera.

The First Step - A DSLR Camera

To get started isn’t very hard.

First you’ll need a DSLR camera. I normally shoot Sony cameras like this a7iii and happen to have an extra a6300 camera body laying around. Any DSLR will do though, nikon, cannon, etc. If starting out new and you’re going to be using this camera primarily as a webcam, vlogging, etc I can’t recommend the Sony crop sensors enough. I think they are up to the a6600 at this point and they can’t be beat for their video quality and size.

Google that up and you’ll see that vloggers all over rave about this camera. It’s also a great camera for still photography and I have taken many many professional shots with one of these.

Step 2 - A Lens

Once you get your camera the next thing you need is a lens. This is important. You can get by with just about anything but you see the nice blur I have in my video in the background? That’s called depth of field and to get that nice shallow depth of field you need a fast lens.

I’m using a Sigma 30mm with a max aperture of 1.4 Right now I have it set at 2.5 to get this nice soft background feel. Something to note with an ASPC-sensor camera also known as crop sensor camera. The lens has an effective range that’s different from the number on the lens.  Usually a 1.5x multiplier or crop factor. So a 30mm is really like a 50mm and a 16mm - a lens I am lusting after for those wider shots -- is more like a 24mm. This goes back to the original “full frame” 35 mm being considered the standard. I’m not go any further on this… you can go deep on the internet if you want to learn more.

If I were building this from scratch and only buying one lens I would probably go with the 16mm as it’s a bit more versatile for creating YouTube videos.  But I do like the narrow focal length of the 30mm for video conferencing.

A nice bonus of going with a shallow depth of field? That desk behind me is my no technology creative desk.. Which has become the dumping ground for all my av equipment, camera gear, and books I plan on reading… but with the blur you can’t tell! It’s like having a cleaning crew with none of the expense.

Step 3 - The Critical Video Capture Card

The other critical piece of equipment is a video capture card.  Your computer can’t process the signal right from the camera so you need to translate it with a video capture card. I use this magewell card and have been very happy with it. It’s plug and play and that’s what I like! Nice and simple.

I’ve heard good things about the elgato camlink but because of the pandemic they were all sold out so I went with the magewell. It’s more expensive but it’s been great so far.

Step 4 - The Cable

You’ll need a micro USB to HDMI cable if using a Sony camera. Note there is a big difference between mini and mirco USB. Make sure to get the right one for your camera.

You can use the USB charging cable that came with your camera. I found a third party powersource on Amazon with a dummy battery that I use.

Step 5 - The Tripod

And a tripod and ball head. Any tripod will work.  I did run into a little issue with my tripod set up and more on that later.

Step 6 - The Audio

Audio is just as important as video. Make sure you have clean audio. But this doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Use apple earbuds or any other headphone mic combo like wireless bose, airpods, whatever.

I have a podcast and use a fancy Shure SM7B podcasting mic but that is not necessary.

And that’s it!

When you get into your webconference you’ll select the HDMI capture card as your video source and whatever mic you are using for your audio.

A Couple Bonus Tips For The Go-Getters

Bonus Tip #1 - The Background

First your background.  Recently I had my desk faced the other way because I liked seeing this view!  But everyone else was seeing this view.

The color of these walls is great for a creative studio but not so visually appealing. Also light from the window would tend to blow me out…

So I flipped my desk around to take advantage of the colors and depth of the Happy House studio.

Bonus Tip #2 - Lighting

The other thing to consider is light. You can diffuse light with a sheet or buy a professional diffuser if light is an issue.  Many people use circle lights on their monitor and I do have a little light that I use if needed… but personally I feel like I get blinded by looking into the light so I try not to use them unless it’s night time.

I’m fortunate that the studio has a lot of natural light. I am not using any other lights during the day.

I do have this nifty little blogger light and it can be really handy to create a colored background when the sun goes down.   it has a full color spectrum so I can have a purple, or green, or red background.. .whatever feels appropriate. To be honest I don’t use it alot and it is more for creating videos than actually  video conferencing.

There is a lot of info out there on light and it probably wouldn’t hurt to go educate yourself on the different kinds of light and how it impacts your image.

If you are also using this set up to make YouTube videos -- and why not -- you will have to make some choices about how you capture sound and that will impact where you record your content -- whether in camera or on the computer.

Bonus Tip #3 - An External Mic

I don’t want to get too far down that rabbit hole in this video, but basically if you record in camera you’ll need an external mic like a rode mini (that’s what I use). If you record on the computer you’ll need to get the audio into the computer and use either quick time or the free OBS or Open Broadcast Software which is awesome and allows you to live stream to multiple platforms.

Final Bonus Tip - Customizing Your Setup

So, here’s one mod I made --

I have a standing desk and I like to move from sitting and standing throughout the day. With my original tripod set up when I went to stand…. I would lose the camera. And going around and raising the camera was a pain.

So I took inspiration from YouTuber Caleb Pike @DSLR Video Shooter : https://youtu.be/WedG8LKO6ks

And installed a monitor arm with a slight modification so that my camera is attached to the desk at a fixed height. Now when I lower and raise the desk the camera comes with me.

And that’s it. So what are you waiting for? Go and level up on your video conferencing game.  This is just one more way that you and your brand can stand out from the competition and build a brand that delights customers and drives revenue.

Let me know your thoughts on this and the video conferencing set up in the comments section below.  I’ve also linked to everything I’ve mentioned in this video for ease of assembling your own set up. And don’t forget to hit subscribe!

Thanks for watching.

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