WORKSHOP

Image by Igor Stromajer for the digital performance Stealth Stories

How to better webcam

In lockdown time, the use of webcams for social interaction is a must but for most of you working remotely, in the safety of your home, it is an essential tool.

I’m sure that by now you have seen many different styles when it comes to webcamming: the one that abuse close-up, exposing every pore, the ones that adjust their camera just to show the tip of the head or the ones that do live-streams from their kitchen letting you see the amount of food their family or housemate is eating… Yes! You have seen too much these days.

To avoid falling in the same mistakes or into more awkward situations, here are some tips that will help you improve your communication process when webcamming:

1 – Know your medium (device): make sure you have information on pixels, iso, and focal distance. Also, make sure you know the limits of the frame provided by the webcam.

If you are using an external camera, you will find this information in the box and, depending on the brand, in the webcam itself. But if you are using the one incorporated in your PC go to the setting of your camera – you should have this information available.


2 – Choose your location carefully: your set will determine the lights you’ll need for the streaming. Think that if you are filming inside of your house probably you will need to add a lamp to bring light to your face.

Remember your background can be seen by whoever is on the other side of the camera. Be careful. You are not only providing information about yourself and your house to possible strangers but also your background may distract people from you. For sure you don’t want your interactors to pay more attention to your house than to the content of your talk.

 

 


3 – Acknowledge the landing projection: following the previous paragraph, when online you may not know who is on the other side of the camera.

If you are teaching a webinar, for example, it is most likely that you don’t know who the participants are. The same for your video, you don’t know how is being received on the other side. How are you being seen: Is it in a screen projection? Is it on a laptop? Or on a smartphone? If you know this information in advance, great! Adjust your settings to the landing projection. If you don’t know, go for the best quality available to you by your Internet provider and your webconference platform.


4 – Decide if you are using direct or pre-recorded sound: considering that you are using webcams to work remotely from home, you will definitely need direct sound, otherwise people can not hear what you say. Not being able to hear the other due to a technical failure can be very frustrating (nerve breaking, even).

Sound can be the deciding feature that makes interactors leave or stay in your webinar, sometimes even surpasses the importance of image.

My advice is to use always an external mic. Don’t need to be an expensive microphone. Nowadays, any headset or earphones have incorporated a microphone. Use it. It will bring more clearance to your voice.

If you want to incorporate music or other sounds, check the features of the platform you are using to insert sound. Just make sure you are not overlapping your voice and pre-recorded sound.


5 – Look good for the webcam: this may sound like an unnecessary tip but believe me it is of extreme importance.

Considering that now most of your broadcasts are made from home, there’s a change of you getting more relaxed about your appearance and forget to dress formally for work or don’t feel the need to use make-up or to compose the way you look.

Be very aware of this, a camera is a camera. Even if you are using a low-fi device, such as a webcam, it can be cruel when showing your appearance. And even if you have taken care of framing and lights to show only the area above your chest please remember that it is most likely, during the conversation, you’ll need to stand, to pick up something, or your body does an involuntary movement, then the camera may show more than you want. My advice is if you are having an online meeting, dress as you are going to a physical meeting.

If you have any questions, doubts or want to know more about webcamming, please contact me using the email eunice.semaforo@gmail.com.