If you’re working from home, you’re making video calls. It’s as common to the lifestyle as wearing pajama pants on the job.
While almost every modern laptop (and even many desktop monitors) have built-in cameras and microphones, there’s something to be said for the flexibility and call quality of a self-built setup. Here are a few tips on getting started:
Get a Good Connection
Got less-than-stellar Wi-Fi in your home office? The same weak signal that occasionally makes your Web browser slow to a crawl can wreak havoc on your video and sound quality, both outgoing and incoming.
If thick walls or the physical location of your office are more to blame for your Internet woes than the connection itself—and especially if you haven’t switched out your networking hardware in a while—do yourself a favor and get a router with beamforming capability, like the AC1900 RT-AC68U Dual-Band Gigabit Router by Asus. The technology grants higher speeds and often vastly expands wireless range, giving you the ability to make and receive calls from all over the house.
Pick Your Inputs
Once your Wi-Fi is ready, it’s time to pick the inputs. Of these, the microphone is arguably the most important decision you’ll make here (if you have to choose between being seen or heard on a call, after all, you’re going to choose the latter in most cases). Microphones like the Samson Go Mic Direct are built for portability, making it easy to attach them to the edge of a desk or the side of a laptop; beyond that, the sound switch allows you to choose between omnidirectional and single-direction sound detection settings. Samson mics have great sound quality at good distance—a great feature if you need to, say, give a whiteboard presentation while working from home.
That’s not to say the camera isn’t important, of course. Here, you’ll want something with great quality, robust tools, and compatibility with a number of video calling and conferencing platforms, as well as great after-the-sale support. Logitech’s 15 megapixel C920 HD Pro Webcam fills the bill. The company’s products and excellent support have made them a top-shelf brand in the world of computer peripherals, so don’t forget them when it comes time to buy a camera.
Be Seen in a Positive (and Professional) Light
Your camera isn’t the only factor behind the quality of your video calls, however. If you plan to spend a lot of time video conferencing while working from home, lighting is a lot more important than you’d think.
Pro-level lighting tools like Wescott’s Ice Light can, if you’ll excuse the pun, make a night-and-day difference in how you look on your colleagues’ screens. Stick it on some clamps with the included hardware, mount it to your monitor, and boom: you’ll look like a Hollywood star on every call. Appearances are important in person and online, but only one of those settings allows for professional lighting at all times—an advantage to working from home if there ever was one.