Spending all day on video and audio calls now that you're "remote" and working from home? Need help setting up your home office, but don't know where to start?
Here's how to get up and running (and look and sound like a pro) for as little as $300 (even if you're brand new to this whole online business world).
Someone recently asked me about my video and audio teleconferencing setup. He wanted to know what equipment he needed so he could sound and look professional while he makes calls from home (virtual meetings weren't a thing in his industry until just recently).
He's not the only person to ask me this question -- and since I've been podcasting / blogging / youtubing / livestreaming / virtual summiting / webinaring / newmediaing (or however else you want to label such things) for going on close to a decade, I figured I could help.
Below, I break down my home office video and audio setup, including the "core components," which are the basics for busy professionals who want to look and sound great on their next virtual team meeting or client call but don't want to have to get a degree in sound and video engineering to make it work. It's also a great setup for part-time podcasters and side-hustlin' youtubers who don't want to spend an arm and a leg on unnecessary equipment.
What I mean is, you could easily blow $5,000+ on a similar setup to the one I'm about to show you, with little discernable difference in "finished product" quality.
The setup I'm showing you (my own) is basically the same setup I've used for the past 5+ years to produce hundreds of podcasts and host, present, and run hunddreds (maybe thousands) of webinars, live streams, and virtual workshops. So it works, it's been vetted, and it sounds and looks great for what I use it for.
Hope it helps!
Here's the full breakdown of my video and audio teleconferencing home office setup:
In this video, I review my home office teleconferencing setup, including:
I use the Logitech C920 (HD 1080p webcam).
The Logitech C920 is a solid, reliable, easy to use HD webcam. It produces good looking video and images and doesn't require a tremendous amount of processing power, so should work with most mid-level or above computer or laptops produced in the last 3 to 5 years.
This is the perfect webcam for conducting video calls on Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts - and it plays well with just about every streaming platform I've used (I don't know why it ever wouldn't, but still!).
Drawbacks: it's only 1080p when things are moving toward 4k resolution. That's not a big deal for me because I don't need it (I don't think my internet bandwidth could handle it...another thing to consider for all my comrads who live in remote wilderness locations).
It's possible, depending on your industry (or upload speeds) that 4k video is worth investing in. But for me, I prefer inexpensive, reliable, and easy to use over best-in-class, bleeding edge, super hi definition alternatives (that can easily run over $300+).
At a price of around $200, the Logitech C920 isn't crazy expensive, but it's definitely in the higher price category for webcams (though I believe that's because most of the webcams you can buy for under $100 aren't worth investing in...your basic laptop camera may be better than most of these offers - just another reason for basement bargain buyers to beware).
So whether you're looking for a good starter webcam, or looking for an upgrade to your built in laptop webcam, the Logitech C920 is a good place to start.
Moving from a stock laptop webcam to a dedicated webcam like the Logitech C920 is a good starting point to improve your overall video conferencing pedigree...but if your face is dark or obscured, or you're in an office with terrible backlighting, than your video will still look like garbage (albeit 1080p high definition garbage).
A single LED light to illuminate your face can change that in a second.
I like it because it's simple: it has one on / off switch + a knob that allows you to adjust the brightness, going from a soft warm to a crazy bright white.
These lights are powered via batteries, and they're small, making them easy to setup in your home office for the best result (plus, it makes for a great "on the go" video setup solution, for my nomadic brothers in arms out there).
At about $100, this LED lighting will make a big difference to your webcam image and video quality.
Here's a comparison between my laptop camera webcam and the Logitech C920 - with and WITHOUT lighting.
As you can see, the clear winner is the Logitech C920 + the Aputure Lighting setup (and I'm only using one Aputure LED light in the images above when I'm showing off the difference. One is more than enough unless you have really bad backlighting).
Of course, the best video in the world won't save you if your audio is intolerable.
I've used a few microphones over the years, and I've interviewed hundreds of people on dozens of different setups.
The ATR2100 is a directional microphone, so it doesn't pick up a ton of ambient noise (great for people working from home!). Plus, it only requires one USB plug to operate. I plug it directly into my laptop or desktop via USB, and boom - instantly better audio that people complement me on (could be my silky smooth voice, but I think the microphone has something to do with it).
Another reason I recommend a simple USB directional microphone for people doing video and audio conferencing is this:
Who wants to mess with a complex audio setup for each and every call? If you're just using this for business meetings, calls with clients, online workshops, or even hobby podcasting, then I don't believe you need anything more advanced than this.
Yes, there are more expensive microphones in the world, and you could go the cardiod route, complete with a tabletop sound mixer, with lots of dongles and doodads, but I'm not a sound engineer, and I'm guessing you aren't either, so who wants to waste time (or money) on a more complex setup?
When time is money and you just want something simple that will make you sound WAY BETTER on calls, then this is a great starter microphone.
Plus, the ATR2100 is a reliable microphone. I've owned three over the past 5+ years, with 2 still in use.
The original that made it around the world with me eventually died, but that's because I broke the USB end of it...so user error, not the microphone itself.
Besides the microphone, you may want to invest in a pop filter and a proper microphone swivel arm for your desk.
Sure, you could use the scrawny mic stand that comes with your ATS2100, but having a mic arm makes a huge difference (at least for me, when it comes to comfort, ease of use, ability to adjust the height and distance from my face so it's optimally set, etc.).
The above is all you need to get started looking and sounding 100x better on your video conferencing calls.
But a few people asked me to share more about my home office setup. So here are a few more recommendations, based on 3+ years of remote business / home business use.
Have kids? You'll want a pair of these.
This is the first and only pair of noise cancelling headphones I've ever owned, so I'm no expert...there may be less expensive alternatives, but this was one of The Wire Cutter's top rated bluetooth headphones, so I went with it. I'm not disappointed.
I recommend the Logitech m570 mouse. If you've never used a "thumb ball scroll" mouse like this, you are in for a treat. After I got my first, I immediately upgraded all my workstations to include them. There's no going back for me now. I highly recommend.
I compliment the Logitech m570 mouse with the Logitech ergonomic keyboard. Nothing to write home about, per se, except that I find the keyboard extremely comfortable, and I can crush words-per-minute on it like a boss (aka: no drop in productivity...possible increase).
If you have a home office, and you can control your setup, I see no reason you shouldn't have multiple monitors. Maybe I'm spoiled, but I find it difficult to work with only one screen.
Last but not least.
If you're working from home, you should really consider a stand up treadmill desk.
I don't have a "treadmill desk" per se. In fact, I wouldn't recommend the "all in one" solutions. Way over priced.
I bought a Lifespan treadmill (stand alone, no desk attached), and just placed it under a Gladiator workbench (which you can find at any Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, etc.). All in, I believe it cost about $1,000...compared to "all in one" treadmill desks, which can cost upwards of $2k+.
What can I say, I love a good looking, inexpensive DIY solution.
What's your at home business video and audio conferencing setup?
Share your setup / rig / thoughts / ideas below.
Have more questions (about my home office setup, or anything else)? Submit your questions here.