When remote working, video conferencing, and the equipment you use isn’t just a tool, it’s the lens through which your colleagues, clients, recruiters, etc., see you. Therefore, it’s a good idea to think a little about how you create your setup. Here I will focus on the equipment I use, not the environment.
I use a pair of over-the-ear headphones, particularly AirPods Max. Using excellent quality headphones or earbuds helps keep what people are saying private and produces clear audio to understand better what others are saying. While there can be issues with wireless headphones, I find that the minor issues I run into are outweighed by not constantly snagging the cord. Use whatever is best for you. Noise cancelation also helps cut distractions.
I find that using the mic feature of Bluetooth headphones dramatically cuts into the audio quality going both ways. By using a separate, high-quality mic, this issue can be bypassed. The call software may complain that you are using a different audio device for input and output and may cause feedback issues, but using headphones or earbuds eliminates this issue.
Get a good mic, like what Blue offers. I don’t know how often I have been on calls with people with poor mics who don’t pick up their voices well or drop out entirely. A good mic can make you sound like you are in the same room. You don’t have to go for recording studio mics, but certainly something above average. I use a Blue Yeti mic.
Travel tip: It may not be feasable to travel with a wired mic. Try using your latop’s mic instead. Test the audio quality by recording an audio snippet locally to make sure it sounds good. You may find your Bluetooh audio device has better quality. It’s a tradeoff.
It’s no secret that webcams are notoriously bad. They don’t represent colors well and struggle in situations where there is a large dynamic range. There are guides for using a DLSR for incredible quality, but such setups are expensive and bulky. New cameras are coming to the market with better image quality. However, there are not that many as of writing, and they are relatively expensive. There’s another solution, however. Everyone probably already has a solid camera that does well in most situations: their phone.
I first used my phone as my meeting camera when I discovered Camo Studio. This app is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android and has free and paid tiers. The app comes with many features, from exposure control to filters. The best thing is all the effects run on the phone, and your computer only needs to deal with the video stream. Camo supports both wireless and USB setups. Camo is a fantastic app that I cannot recommend enough.
For Mac users on macOS 13 and later with devices on iOS 16 and later, there is a similar feature, Continuity Camera, right out of the box with no additional software. Continuity Camera doesn’t have nearly as many features. Still, it is much quicker to set up, and I have noticed that the video has a bit less lag.
You’ll want to get a phone mount to position your phone appropriately. I purchased a cheap mounting arm at my local big box store, which nicely sets the phone above my primary monitor.
Using your phone is a fantastic way to upgrade your video dramatically. If you’re a mobile developer like me, you probably have an extra phone you can primarily dedicate as your webcam. Even if you don’t, the best thing about using your phone is your camera will get an upgrade every time you upgrade your phone!
Things to Try: AI Audio Enhancement
One thing I would like to try is any number of AI audio enhancement tools thave have been released in recent years. It would be nice to cut out road, fan, keyboard, and other noises. I’m not currently in a position to try this out, but it is worth trying out.