Here we are at the beginning of 2021…and it looks like remote working is here to stay. I have been working from home for the past 15 years but the difference I have now is that I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to. Until the COVID spread slows down or the vaccine works, I am doing most of my meetings from home on WebEx and Microsoft Teams.
When this whole thing started, any work from home supplies dried up quickly. I remember trying to find a monitor for my wife and it was next to impossible. Everyone was scrambling to turn some part of their office into a home office. Instead of going out and getting run of the mill web conferencing equipment like a webcam…I decided to go overkill with some equipment I have at the house.
I don’t recommend spending this much on a setup just to do web meetings but if you want it to look INSANELY good in comparison to your peers…here is how I set mine up for the small price of $3,880!
The Video Feed For Web Meetings
At the beginning of COVID, not many camera manufacturers allowed you to us their cameras as a webcam. That quickly changed. As soon as Sony released their simple plugin that you can install to use their camera as a webcam, that is what I was using.
All you have to do is download/install the plugin from Sony. Once you plug the camera in via USB-C, it will show up in your settings in either Zoom, WebEx or Microsoft Teams. It really is that easy. Since then, Canon, GoPro and others have released similar tools. I tested out the GoPro one and it works out pretty well. Now you no longer have to have an additional video capture device to get high quality, streaming video.
The there is only one really big issue…
You are limited to 1024×576 resolution. It is a great free option and for business use as you aren’t normally on full screen meetings. But…if you really want to get the best quality, you need a capture card. I opted for the Elgato Cam Link 4K. It is incredibly easy to setup. If you can plug in a USB flash drive you can install it. It also works straight out of the box with Microsoft Teams, GoTo Meetings, Zoom and WebEx.
The best part. It is capable of streaming 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 60 FPS if needed. Now I don’t get any quality loss from camera to computer. It is also great if you need to record anything as you can record straight to your hard drive for distribution.
The camera setup I am using? I just recently picked up the Sony ZV-1 as a second camera for video work and it ended up being the perfect option. It has a 24-70mm zoom range which is perfect for desk use but it also has an aperture of f1.8 to f2.8 which means it is great in lower light situations like an office. That fast aperture also means you get a great blurring background. There is even a button that is unique to the ZV-1 that will force the blurry background making for a very professional look. The fake versions in software always seem to cut off parts of people’s hair and just looks awkward. The ZV-1 gets almost the same 4K video quality as my much more expensive Sony A7iii so you end up with a high resolution, sharp image that will be better than any other commercial webcam option. The ZV-1 also has Sony’s incredible eye focus tracking so my face/eyes are always perfectly in focus.
The Audio Setup for Web Calls and Video Calls
Now…I can’t have some cheap microphone when the video feed looks so clean! For my audio setup, I am using the Tascam DR-40x. The Tascam recorder then plugs into USB to the computer. Much like with the Sony, Tascam has a driver and it shows up in the settings in the web conferencing application.
Unfortunately, these programs do compress the audio much like they do the video but you will find that your audio is much cleaner and richer sounding than cheap microphone setups. There is also a lot less ambient noise. The Tascam recorder mics are setup to record voice overs and vocals so you get two high quality condenser microphones that function as USB mics.
These built-in microphones are adjustable unidirectional microphones for recording in an X-Y pattern for tight stereo imaging, or in an A-B pattern for a more ambient recording.
Lighting for the Final Part of the Setup
No video is good without the proper lighting. The high dynamic range of the camera combined with a fast 1.8 lens does great things in low light situations but you are not able to edit the pictures on the fly. I have a HUGE LED light that I use for video but any cheap video LED light works. Just point it off to the side of your face and get some contrast lighting to really finish out the look.
I attached a small LED panel light to my ZV-1. I use a Smallrig setup with an arm on the tripod with the Lumecube light so that my face is properly lit. It is a cheap add on that adds a log of quality to your video.
One Last Thing I Changed…
Originally, I was using a mechanical keyboard on this computer setup. When I started working from home more…it became a large issue. It was too loud. If I was having to type at all with the microphone on…it was incredibly distracting to people on the call.
For the replacement, I went with the Logitech G915 with the linear key setup. Not only is it wireless so it really cleans up the desk space but it is also almost silent while still feeling mechanical. It is the most expensive keyboard I have ever bought but it really became worth it with as many calls as I am on.
The Desk Setup
If you are someone that has to be in meetings for long periods of time during the day and you have to run your video the entire time…consider a standing desk. I have been using this Uplift desk and it works out great for being able to stand and work to get the blood flowing. It also helps with keeping engaged when you are able to change how you are interacting with your desk.
Out of all of the upgrades we have done to my home office, this is my favorite one because working from home can feel like you are just stuck in a chair in a room at times. Being able to stand and work does a lot of good for your body and mind.