Since the confinement began , we are collectively giving an accelerated teleworking and videoconferencing course, the latter for both the professional and individual fields.
If until now we have been making a video call very sporadically and, therefore, we did not take care of the details, little by little we are ‘professionalizing’ and, for example, some people already take special care of the stage from where they carry out the video conferences .
Perhaps the home of the future includes a room for videoconferencing and video recording (or photo sessions) for social networks , with an area with a green background for making chromas, but right now almost no one has such space, so we usually go to our usual work spaces and use the laptop, more comfortable than a smartphone to see our interlocutors.
However, this is not an obstacle for us not wanting to improve and, in this spirit, we propose an exercise: create a room or a videoconferencing corner. Go for it.
Tutorial on how to set up a professional video call at home.
Choosing the place of the video call
Although it may not seem like it, it is an important factor that goes beyond having the background scenario that we want.
To begin with, we must avoid at all costs having a window in the wall that is seen right behind us . Like when we take a photo, the light that is facing the camera lens will not allow our interlocutor to see us clearly. There will be areas of the image that are highlighted and others with poorer lighting.
So better no windows or other sources of light (lamps and spotlights included) behind us . In front, however (and that they remain behind the camera) is advisable.
Our location relative to the light for videoconferencing is important. For example, in this office, we would not place ourselves in the chairs with their backs to the window, but rather facing it, since the sun enters directly from there
We must also keep in mind that it is a quiet space . The room that is wall to wall with the home of that neighbor who does some sessions of music machine at full volume during work hours would not be advisable. Not if it ‘plays’ Mozart or Wagner, heavy metal, or even the finest jazz.
Finally, we must take into account that it does not show excessively intimate details of us . A bookstore behind our backs can show how much we like to read, but normally that is nothing we should hide. A post-it with our list of passwords, maybe yes …
Towards an almost telepresence
We can define telepresence as videoconferencing with such audio and video quality (and also image size) that rather than speaking remotely it seems that our interlocutor is right in front of us .
Typically, this is achieved through the use of large-format screens. And where can we find a large format screen in our homes? Right, in the room where we have the television .
The speakers of said television can well give us the sound we are looking for to feel closer to the person with whom we speak, as if we had it in front of us. And looking into her eyes on a 40- or 50-inch screen will reinforce that feeling.
We have the place and, if possible, it is equipped with a large screen. What else could we need to make a big video conference?
We can quickly think that a computer, but the webcams incorporated in these do not offer the quality that, for example, a smartphone usually provides, even in its selfie camera .
If we have a smartphone with a charging port and USB-C connection, we can probably output the image directly to the TV using a dock like the Startech DKT30CHV, which we analyzed here some time ago.
If we still use a terminal that has a microUSB connector, no problem: we will need to purchase an MHL adapter like this one that we can find on Amazon for less than € 15.
Another solution, which gives even more quality to the image, is to use the main camera of the phone . Although not all videoconferencing applications allow this functionality, what we can do is connect the phone to the computer, so that the main camera of the mobile is the computer’s webcam .
This is possible using a software trick that requires the installation of a client on the computer, and a server (which serves the image and the audio) on the phone. Iriun Webcam is free software that is also available for the three major desktop platforms: Windows, macOS and GNU / Linux.
It is easy to configure and will do precisely what it promises: turn the main camera of our smartphone into a webcam. In addition, we can choose both to connect the phone with the computer via Wi-Fi, as well as through a cable.
With regard to sound, there are sets of micro + loudspeakers in a single device designed for conducting videoconferences . Their cost is affordable, although they are not exactly cheap if we are looking for a bit of quality.
Personally, I have tested the Plantronics Calisto 5200 with a USB-A connection (the range of the same brand is very wide and includes analog devices with a USB-C connection or even Bluetooth, but I speak first-hand of this specific model that I have tried), and the truth is that it offers a very good quality at a price that is not bad (€ 120).
Plantronics Calisto 5200
A great advantage of this device is its compatibility without requiring drivers . Although it includes software for Windows, Mac and mobile systems, it is not even essential for its operation, and I have used it without problems in Linux and on mobile devices with the mandatory adapter. A true all-rounder.
In addition, and if that were not enough, the Calisto 5200 have a built-in battery that gives them more than a full day of autonomy, so if we have them charged, we will not even need a free plug for them.
We already have it all! Well, not exactly: if we are going to use a phone as a camera, better leave it fixed in one place . This will leave both hands free and avoid annoying image dancing . Annoying for our interlocutor, of course.
It’s best to get a mobile tripod, like the iKlip Grip Pro from IK Multimedia . This has the virtue of, for € 60, including a Bluetooth remote control for the mobile (we can use it for photos), a fastening clip that has a standard thread and, therefore, we can also use it on a photographic tripod, it is extendable, being able to present four possible sizes, and can act as a selfie stick.
Running the video call
Now we have everything. However, it must be taken into account that, unless we live in a mansion with enough space to dedicate a permanent corner to this task, it is normal to have to prepare it at the moment.
As the tripod is something that we will not need very often, it is advisable to leave it in the same space that we use for videoconferencing. We can make the place to keep it to be a drawer or space in that room.
Likewise, we will leave all the wiring already prepared and in place. In this way, it will only be to connect what is necessary and start.
Regarding the video conferencing software to use, in this article we are agnostic, since it depends on what our interlocutor uses . The best thing will be to provide an account in Skype, Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and also know Jitsi.