How to improve the quality of video calls? For many of us, video calling is an important part of both our work and personal lives, but many people still forget to take a few simple steps to get the best results. Here are some simple steps you can take to get the most out of video calling – no matter what software or hardware you’re using.
Optimize your internet
If you’re using a desktop computer or laptop for video chatting, one way to reduce the number of problems you have with your conversations is to make sure you have the most reliable internet connection. You can do this by switching from Wi-Fi to a wired connection by connecting an ethernet cable directly to your computer.
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If you have to use Wi-Fi, make sure your device is as close to the router as possible. Also, if possible, turn off all other Internet connections on other devices that may be wasting your bandwidth. And while you’re at it, close other programs, as well as any web pages, to further improve the quality of your call.
Deal with your camera
The camera built into your computer or laptop will certainly do the job, but depending on what type of equipment you’re using, the built-in cameras don’t always boast the best video resolution. There are several ways to fix this – including simply buying a separate webcam with better video output, or using a standard DSLR camera as your webcam. The latter option is a little more complicated, but it will give you much more control over the quality of the image.
Keep in mind, however, that camera lenses are surprisingly good at catching smudges and marks, which can degrade the quality of the image for other participants in your chat. To avoid such mishaps, be sure to wipe the lens with a soft cloth before starting your video call.
Let there be light
Whether you’re chatting with friends or brainstorming with colleagues, having decent lighting is one of the easiest ways to look your best during a video call. First, make sure that the main source of light – natural or artificial – is not directly behind you, as this will turn your head into a silhouette. In other words, make sure that the main light source falls on your face to emphasize your features.
If you don’t have natural light in your room, experiment with ceiling lights and any bulbs you have. If artificial light seems too harsh, try putting some parchment around the light source to diffuse it. These days, you can find plenty of USB lights designed specifically for video calls, so finding a light that’s perfect for your workspace, wherever it is, is pretty easy.
The right angle
The camera angle is also important for looking good. If the camera is too high or too low, it can distort your facial features and make you look a little weird. To avoid this, try to keep the camera at eye level to get the most accurate image of what you really look like.
If you’re calling from a smartphone, you’ll probably want to keep it in landscape mode, especially if you know that most callers are using PCs. Also, try to secure the handset or place it on something stable, otherwise the image will constantly shake, leaving those around you wondering if an earthquake has started.
Fine-tuning the microphone
If you’re using a desktop computer or laptop, do you know where the microphone is located? Make sure nothing obstructs or obscures it so your interlocutors can hear you without having to constantly stretch your neck or fumble with the volume buttons.
It’s also worth paying attention to the acoustics of the room you’re in. If your voice is even slightly echoing, it will sound much worse to others in the conversation. Covering hard surfaces with sheets or blankets can help dampen the acoustics and eliminate echoes.
You can also improve the sound quality of conversations by using an external USB microphone or similar device.
Get a pair of headphones
Your device’s built-in speakers will do a good job in most cases, but for backup, it’s best to use a pair of headphones to have a better chance of picking up everything that’s being said during a video chat. Using headphones also ensures that other participants in the virtual room don’t have to put up with echoes or other feedback resulting from your microphone picking up the sound of your speakers, which can be annoying and unpleasant. Some video calling platforms use an echo cancellation feature, but it’s not always reliable.
Set the record straight!
Think about your background. Sure, if you’re just chatting with friends and family, you may not care about the pile of laundry stacked behind you. But if the call is work-related, you might want to present a more respectable scene. Also, many modern video conferencing and chat programs include virtual backgrounds that you can add if you want to hide your surroundings. You can often add your own background.
If you live with other people, try to make calls from a room where they can’t disturb you – unless you want to risk becoming world famous, as South Korean reporter Robert Kelly did after a failed interview with the BBC in 2017. Of course, if you have kids, keeping them out of your room can be problematic, and you’ll just have to deal with the fact that they’ll suddenly barge in. But if you live with roommates or adult family members, it’s best to warn them that you’re going to make a video call to avoid possible awkward or embarrassing mishaps during the conversation.
Know your software
There are many chat platforms on the market today. You may be using several different platforms to chat with friends and family, and another to chat with co-workers. Either way, take some time to familiarize yourself with the different settings and options that each one offers. Most platforms come with a number of features that will help ensure high quality video and sound, and the right settings can noticeably improve the quality of your conversations.