You don’t need to be an audio-visual expert to host an online experience. Whether you’re doing it for the first time or are practically a pro, there are a few simple things to consider when setting up and running your own in-home production.
Before reviewing how to get the best audio and video for your online experience, let’s go over the basic things you need to film yourself and connect with guests:
- Computer, tablet, or smartphone. Desktop or laptop with Windows or Apple operating system and a built-in microphone and speakers, or an Android or iOS tablet or smartphone with a camera and microphone.
- Internet connection. Recommended bandwidth is 50 Mbps (up/down). We recommend checking your bandwidth using Speedtest and making sure your WiFi connection is strong.
- Zoom. This is the video-conferencing platform you’ll need to host your online experience. After you download the desktop client or mobile app, make sure to keep it up-to-date and review Zoom settings for optimal performance.
Now that you know what you need, following are tips on how to use it all to host the best online experience possible:
Pick your camera
If you have a choice between the camera on a mobile device, desktop computer, or laptop, the laptop computer is the best option. If you plan to use a smartphone or tablet, make sure it’s mounted horizontally (landscape mode).
Once you decide which camera to use:
- Make sure your camera is balanced and secure, whether it’s placed on a solid surface, on a tripod, or in a friend’s hands—the camera will record the video sent to guests over Zoom and blurry or unstable video is a distraction.
- Position it at eye level or directly at the activity you’re demonstrating. That way, guests feel like you’re speaking directly to them and can easily follow each step.
- Keep all the action within the frame. If you’re teaching a class on juggling, for example, make sure the camera is far enough away to capture all the movements.
- Alternate between wide and close up shots. When the camera zooms out, people can see more of your environment. When it zooms in, guests can connect more with you and the various elements of your experience.
- Create a sturdy surface for your camera by stacking books to eye level and placing your device on top.
- Sit about 3 feet away from the camera and frame it so it captures the triangle of your forehead to your left shoulder and right shoulder.
- Use multiple cameras and set them up at different angles to give guests multiple points of view and add an additional layer of engagement and fun to your experience (example: one camera aimed at you, one on the activity, one of the entire room).
When filming with multiple cameras, you can connect to Zoom with each one. This allows guests to pin the thumbnail of the angle they like best, and works especially well for music and concert experiences.
Find your lighting
You’re the main event, but it’s also important that everything you intend to show your audience is clearly visible. Lighting plays a big role in how you and your experience appear to guests—daylight is your best friend when you’re on camera and if you can host during the day, it’s best to. If your online experience takes place in the evening, point a lamp or two towards your face.
After setting up your camera:
- Position yourself and your camera near a window if you’re hosting during the day.
- Avoid standing with your back to a window or you’ll be “backlit” and guests won’t be able to see your face.
- Position lighting nearby to illuminate your materials and other important elements of your experience.
- Be careful of any glares or back-lighting that make you look like a silhouette.
- Avoid overhead lighting because it creates shadows under your eyes.
- Natural light can create a warm feeling and also higher quality video. This only works if the light is coming from the side or behind the camera.
- When filming under overhead lighting, use 3 natural, soft light sources: 2 behind your webcam (one on the left, one on the right) and one behind you.
- If your light source is too bright, point it towards a white or light colored wall or ceiling—the light will “bounce” off and diffuse throughout the room.
- To get more ideas on how lighting can help you look good on camera, check out this article from The New York Times.
Check your sound
After you arrange what guests will see, it’s time to set up what they’ll hear. Audio issues will limit how you and your guests interact and engage so sound quality is very important and based on multiple factors: The microphone you’re using, size of the room, number of people hosting, and types of sound (such as a multi-person band) all make a difference.
If you’re using a computer, laptop, or mobile phone for your video, you can also use it for your audio. You can also connect an external mic. Whichever you choose:
- Stand or sit about 12 inches away from the microphone. This ensures your audio will be clear and easy to hear.
- Close windows, doors, and any openings so noise from the street or other rooms doesn’t interrupt or distract during the live stream. That said, if it helps establish a sense of place, don’t be afraid to let your audience hear the soft and ambient noises of your environment—it can help guests feel like they’re sitting right next to you.
- Turn off any alarms, computer or phone alerts, and other interruptions that might show up in your space or on screen.
- Set up and familiarize yourself with the Zoom audio settings (learn more in the Getting to know the Zoom basics article)
- Clear stereo sound is great for music-related online experiences (sound directed through 2 or more speakers so it sounds like it’s coming from more than one source). However, your microphone needs to be able to process audio in stereo—you can learn how to enable stereo audio on Zoom in this article.
- If your experience includes music, make sure the music source is at an acceptable distance to be heard, your sound isn’t distorted, and that guests can hear you when you’re speaking. When necessary, pause the music when you talk.
- To better hear and speak with guests, consider getting an affordable USB microphone used for podcasting and tabletop experiences and using bluetooth headphones or earbuds with a built-in microphone.
- To ensure guests are muted when they join your experience, you can also mute them yourself from the “Manage Participants” setting in Zoom.
The most important aspect of ensuring you have the best camera, lighting, and sound possible? Practice, practice, practice! Before you host your online experience for the first time, we recommend that you:
- Perform a quick video/audio test to make sure everything is working correctly.
- Make sure your WiFi connection is strong during your video/audio test. We recommend checking your bandwidth using Speedtest.
- Host your experience on Zoom, with friends and family as your guests, then ask for feedback from a viewer’s perspective.
It also helps to record your rehearsals. Watching them back will allow you to see and hear what guests do, give yourself some feedback, and make your experience even better.
If you’re interested in upleveling the audio and for your online experience, please find gear recommendations here.
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