When working remotely, be conscious of your environment and how it will be received by your audience. Find a place that will provide the least amount of distractions for you and for those who will be connecting with you and make sure your lighting makes you visible to your audience (see lighting recommendations below). Is is important to find a space that is free of background noises (see audio recommendations below).
Framing your image is an important consideration. Laptops placed on desks, generally aims the camera up. To achieve a more natural and conversational setting, place your laptop on a few books or a box. The goal is to have the camera at or slighting above eye level.
A note on virtual backgrounds in Zoom. While virtual backgrounds can help with background distractions, they come with their own issues. Arms, hands, and portions of your head can disappear into the virtual background with movement. If you choose to use a virtual background, minimize your movement. You can make it a bonding experience, by having your class select a virtual background that everyone will use
Sociology and Anthropology professor Ziad Munson used a background in his home that provides the least amount of distractions. There is a window in front of him and one to his side. He is in the center of the frame and the camera is at eye level.
The CITL’s Allen Kingsbury positions himself against a sparse background. A window in front of him provides natural light and the camera is slightly above eye level.
Web and and cameras built into the computer do not perform well in low light. Here are suggestions on how to obtain the best lighting conditions.
Do: The best lighting is is natural light. Sit with a window several feet in front of you. Make sure to position far enough away from the window so you don’t wash out the picture.
Don’t: If you position too close to the window the wash out the picture.
If your only option is a window to your left or right, control the light as much as possible. In this example blinds are partially closed halfway to minimize the amount of light hitting the side of the face, with the other side case in a soft shadow.
Don’t: Don’t position the window directly behind you. This will result in your face being covered in shadow and the light from the window washing out the background. It gives a hazy and faded.
Do: Since you can’t always rely on natural light, you may need a hybrid of the artificial lights and natural light. Above is a combination of natural and a floor lamp. Note the composition is further away only to show the lamp. After you are satisfied with the light, reposition your camera to remove the distracting lamp from the frame.
Don’t: Don’t rely on overhead lights. If you are sitting directly under an overhead light, the light will cast a shadow down across the face and create harsh shadows under the eyebrows, under the nose, and under the chin. You will need to supplement an overhead light with an additional light source in front of you to correct this.
Do: As it gets darker outside ideally you're going to want to supplement your overhead light with an additional light placed in front of you. The bulk of the light is falling across the shoulder. Still it’s a marked improvement in brightness. After you are satisfied with the light, reposition your camera to remove the distracting lamp from the frame.
Do: If you have to rely on an overhead light try stepping back, so that the bulk of the overhead light is in front of you. This position allows the majority of the light to fall more evenly onto your face and not onto the top of your head or back. It’s still not ideal, but it’s much better than before. In a nighttime situation, once again, placing an additional lamp in front of you in order to better fill in the shadows and illuminate your face would be the best way to go.
Artificial Light Considerations
Do: Match bulbs with the same color temperature to avoid conflicting light sources. Typically daylight will overpower a lower Kelvin light source so it’s okay to mix in daylight to provide better exposure.
The example above using a floor lamp and a table lamp with 5000K white LED “daylight” rated bulbs.
Don’t: Light that is closer in Kelvin like an incandescent bulb at 2700K versus a Fluorescent bulb at 3500K can throw off your white balance and give the appearance of a yellow (or blue) cast.
In this image, the bulb on the taller lamp is a warm incandescent light and the white balance didn’t adjust properly between the two light sources. The bulb on the taller lamp was an incandescent at 2400K and the other bulb was a white LED light at 3000K. In the example on the right, I used both 5000K white LED “daylight” rated bulbs.
Things to consider when choosing your light source: When using indoor lights it’s best to match two lights with the same color temperature or same light bulb type. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin. The color temperature range of daylight is 5000K-6500K. Soft white incandescent lamps fall into the 2550K range. Warm fluorescent and LED lamps fall into a 3000K range. Mixing soft white light and yellow light can throw off the automatic white balance of your camera. White balance is the act of removing unrealistic color casts from your image, so that objects that appear white in person are rendered white on the camera. Below is the Kevlin scale that shows the color temperature of light in that range.
In Panopto, you can manually adjust the white balance of your camera if auto white balance isn’t working. To do so, go to settings, advanced settings, and enable advanced device controls. Then click the wrench icon next to the video camera dropdown box. In Zoom there are no white balance adjustments that can be made.
Here is an example of incandescent versus fluorescent light bulbs. The incandescent is going to give a warmer more yellow looking light. The auto white balance will attempt to compensate for that to prevent your face from looking too yellow. As the Kelvin of the bulb increases to a higher value with fluorescent lights the color of the light becomes closer to white. Improper white balance will also display a blue color appearance to the video if the white balance doesn’t remove the cast properly.
Web Camera Troubleshooting
A common problem with web cameras used with a Mac is overexposure. Please see refer to this document for possible solutions.
Prerecorded Scripted Lectures
Teleprompt.me is a free online teleprompter that scrolls the web page as you speak, in addition to normal scrolling as you read. It currently only works in the Chrome web browser.
Nano Teleprompter is an android app that allows you to easily prompt from your phone with ease and flexibility.
It is important to find a location that is as free of background noise (air vents, washing machines, dogs, etc.) as possible. Try to avoid rooms with natural echo such as unfinished basements or garages. A room with a low ceiling, full carpeting, and few windows will likely sound best.
Listen to the two examples to hear the difference between a USB mic in a quiet location and the built-in Laptop mic in a less than ideal location.
USB or headset mics will almost always sound better than your built-in mic. Using an external mic will often require you to wear headphones to hear the folks at the other end to avoid noisy feedback. While there are many styles and price points for USB headset mics, they are in very high demand right now and many are currently unavailable. The Corded USB is a currently available available headset mic.
If you are pre recording your lectures, a headset is not necessary. A good quality lavaliere microphone such as the Power DeWise Lapel Microphone, BOYA by M1 Lavalier Microphone or the Movo Sevenoak is recommended. Here are recommendations for concealing and capturing the best sound with a lavaliere microphone:
When wearing a lavalier microphone, be sure to hide the cable by running it under your clothing if possible. Also, be sure to place it around the sternum of the speaker. This will likely be somewhere between the 2nd & 3rd button from the top of a button-down shirt or blouse
To avoid “popping P’s” (popping sounds that come from puffs of air produced when you say the letter “P”) You may want to orient the microphone facing down.
The use of a USB microphone is ideal, but finding a good sound location and following a few best practices can mitigate many of the problems associated with a built in microphone. If using the built-in microphone, try to maintain a constant distance from the mic. If you are moving closer and farther away, the voice will get louder and softer which may result in other participants having to constantly adjust their volume.