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Zoom Video and Audio: The Best Setup for Your Budget

For optimum Zoom video and audio quality, you don’t need an expensive setup. Here’s how you can get great results with the devices you have at home.

Interestingly, one of the most common questions I get revolves around how to have an optimal audio and video setup for home video conferencing, whether using Zoom, Google Hangouts, or a different tool. 

Here’s the thing, though: While it would be great if you had the best, top-of-the-line audio and video tools at your disposal, you can have a perfectly fine video conferencing setup to work with right there at home, using your existing gadgets and equipment. 

That’s what today’s guide will focus on: optimizing your Zoom video and audio setup for video conferencing.

Zoom Video and Audio Setup Essentials

Regardless of which video conferencing app you’re using for your video call needs, you’ll be doing yourself (and your audience) a tremendous favor by making sure that you have a decent video and audio setup. And like I said, this is something you can achieve even with just the items you can find in your own home: your notebook, your earbuds from your smartphone, and other communications and broadcasting tools that would work well for video conferencing.

Another thing: Believe me when I say that while many people tend to obsess on the “video” in “video conferencing,” the quality of your audio can make or break your conference call. Think about it: Remember the last time you had to join a video call, and you ended up getting so irritated because the quality of the host’s audio sounded as if they were communicating through a tin can telephone? 

Anyway, on with the guide. 

The first step is to figure out exactly where you want to set up and broadcast from. Obviously, you’ll want to find a spot in your home with a fairly quiet environment. In my case, I decided to set things up in our kitchen for the purposes of this tutorial.

Now, there are a number of ways you can go about transmitting video and audio via your Zoom conference. The default option, and the option that most people without a proper setup tend to pick, is by using whatever built-in webcam and microphone your device comes with. This is the result (you can watch the video at 2:12 onwards to see and hear what it looks like):

Here, I’m using my notebook’s internal mic and webcam. Aside from the low angle (more on that in a bit), the audio, for lack of a better word, sucks. Basically, this will get the job done, but it won’t be stellar by any measure.

Next, I pulled out my old Logitech c920, a legendary webcam in its own right, which comes with stereo input microphones. I hooked it up to my notebook, and immediately noticed a dramatic improvement in video quality and a slight increase in sound quality (you can watch the video at 3:24 onwards to see and hear what it looks like).

However, this didn’t really solve the problem of poor angles. So I tried to be resourceful by improvising: I placed a stack of books underneath my notebook to elevate it a bit. 

Thanks to this and the area microphone, the video looks and sounds a lot better.

The next “level up” here would be the plug-in headset in that notebook computer, or a USB microphone, like a Blue Yeti or an ATR microphone. If you take this route, make sure to place the microphone close enough to you so that it can properly catch the sound. (Also, I’ve observed that a lot of people seem to put too much emphasis on hiding the microphone from view. My take? It doesn’t matter, because people won’t really care if they see your microphone as long as they can hear you properly. Also, in many cases, you’ll find yourself switching off your video because of bandwidth concerns, making it a non-issue.)

Oh, and there are two other points I’d like to add about video:

  1. Elevating the camera angle works wonders in terms of improving the visual aspects of your video call, because let’s be honest, the image of a human face from down below is not exactly flattering for most of us. (But if it works for you – congratulations, you won the genetic lottery.)
  2. When I recorded this demo, I had the benefit of natural daytime light through my window improving the quality of my video. Remember that light will always be a significant factor in these broadcasts, so make sure that your face is well-lit.

 

Video Conferencing With Your Tablet or Smartphone

Next, I want to talk to you about setting up your video conferencing, but using your mobile device instead of your computer as your primary video conferencing interface.

With this, you can take advantage of your smartphone or tablet’s far superior microphone and camera. All you really need is a decent tripod, like this:

Just put your phone there, and then you can use it for video conferencing with ease! Plug your headset into it, and you’ll get even higher audio/visual quality.

Another great thing about doing this is that it effectively frees up your computer for other tasks. Now, instead of relying on your notebook for broadcasting the video itself, you can work on an entirely different thing as you’re having your conference (if you’re a great multitasker). 

With your tablet or smartphone, the right clip, and a sturdy tripod, you can even get creative with your angles.

As for my personal setup, here’s what I use (though I have to be honest, packing this much gear is a bit of overkill for just video conferencing).

  1. Logitech BRIO – A bit high-end and a bit more expensive, but I love it.
  2. Electro-Voice RE20 – A high-quality XLR mic, ideal for broadcasting.
  3. RODECaster Pro – An excellent mixer for podcasting.

 

Again, you don’t really need to have such advanced equipment for this. Trust me, with a decent USB mic or headset mike, you’ll drastically improve 90% of your video calls.

I hope that knowing how to achieve great video and audio quality with your existing hardware at home helps you feel more comfortable about video conferencing. In this new normal, I can tell that we’re going to be embracing this system for quite some time. You can watch the full tutorial here.

Setup Your Home Video Conferencing: Zoom Audio and Video Tips

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