Video conferencing on Zoom, Google Meet and the like is no longer novel. Many jobs, whether you work from home or in an office, require daily video conferencing. And if you are learning online, having a good video conference setup can make your life much easier.
Upgrading your audio and video tech is fairly easy from a technical perspective, however, and relatively affordable — and it will dramatically improve your production values in virtual meetings. We’ve compiled a shortlist of the best gear for video chats from home webcams, lights, mics and more that will enhance your video chatting. This list has plenty of input from CNET’s on-camera video team, all of whom have worked from home.
Read more:Best Wireless Earbuds and Bluetooth Headphones for Making Calls
Best gear for online classes or meetings
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When you’re presenting a meeting or actively participating in one, you need to be front and center on the screen. The Dell Pro webcam uses some clever software to keep you centered in the frame as you move around a whiteboard or wheel around your office.
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Not all conference calls involve sitting down in front of a laptop. Sometimes you’re the person giving a presentation and you need a little freedom of movement. A lavalier mic connects to your collar — or to your shirt using a magnet — and wirelessly streams to a small control unit attached to your laptop or phone.
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I’ve tried many, many lights over the past few months and, so far, the Lume Cube is my favorite. This bright LED light is highly adjustable — with a physical toggle to change the brightness and color temperature — and the nifty display shows all the levels and how much juice is left in the USB-C rechargeable battery. You can position it in landscape or portrait mode using the included suction cup mount.
Nothing can torpedo an online meeting quicker than background noise and audio that’s cutting in and out, and your laptop’s lousy built-in microphone may be the culprit. Once you’ve added a decent webcam to your setup, you’ll be in better shape — but a standalone microphone will make you sound clear, rich and full. This Blue Yeti model has long been a staple of podcasters and streamers, and it’s what I use when I record audio or participate in a high-stakes video chat.
It’s hard to multitask on a web conference: Opening and closing apps, resizing browsers and windows, all while you’re talking to your boss on your Google Hangout or Zoom call — it can all be a bit much. One solution is to offload all of your audio and video recording tasks to your phone — which may have a better camera, video quality and mic technology, anyway — freeing up your laptop to take notes, consult documents and spreadsheets or whatever else. (Here’s how to do it.)
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Part of this upgrade means learning the fundamentals of a videoconference meeting on camera. You don’t always need a 4K webcam to get good results — optimizing lighting conditions (don’t try to stream in low light), choosing the ideal environment and positioning the camera lens in just the right way can make your video call look much more professional. Truly, you don’t need to be a professional YouTube personality or Twitch streamer with a great webcam. Even a novice can function competently without too much of a learning curve.
First, having the right gear, including the best webcam and microphone, is essential. Unfortunately, in most cases, your laptop’s built-in camera and microphone stink — and they’re preventing you from coming across as professionally as possible on videoconferencing calls. You should ditch the integrated webcam and invest in a standalone webcam and stereo microphone with noise cancellation. Even a cheap webcam with autofocus and a decent microphone can improve picture quality and sound enough to take things to the next level on a video call.
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