I have had several requests from people who want to set up some equipment for professional presentations at virtual events—a home or office studio that enables you to present live as if you were a TV weather person:
Here’s a list of most of what I use (with some links, mostly to the French Amazon site where I purchased most of it — I live in Paris). Note, these things is just what I’ve chosen to purchase for myself — I don’t get any referral fees etc, and no guarantees that these are the best options!
- There are lots of choice for camera, but I’ve just purchased a Sony A6400 – with a long HDMI cable and an Elgato 4K HDMI-to-USB adapter. It means (for example) that I can either record at 4K for maximum flexibility, or stream to a live conference (or even both at the same time!) without having to change camera / setup. (And you’ll need a power adapter so you don’t have to worry about the battery running out).
- Alternatively, you can go for a solution that combines the HDMI-to-USB ability with extra video-manipulation functionality built directly into a hardware device (green screen filter, picture in picture, etc.) such as the Atem Mini (pro). Some people really like it — e.g. it easily supports several cameras / HDMI feeds, and you don’t have to worry about bugs and software upgrades, your computer overheating, etc… I have one, but I don’t use it—I found it a bit awkward and limited compared to software video mixing (see below)
- I sometimes supplement the main camera with another web cam like the Logitech Brio 4K, an action cam like a GoPro Hero for a wide view.
- Note also that you can use your phone or tablet with some software that lets it act like a webcam. If you only want to do presentations occasionally, this might be a good choice: modern phones typically have excellent lighting adjustment compared to regular cameras, and have algorithms to help people look flattering on camera. The downside is that I’ve found the connectivity / frames per second isn’t as reliable (using the HDMI output instead can help)—and you typically want to use your phone for something else.
- Alternatively, you can bypass a computer completely and connect to your zoom call etc directly on an Ipad or phone. Again, this can give excellent image quality (WAY better than the webcam in your laptop), but you might want to use an ethernet adapter to get a wired connection for greater reliability than is possible with wifi (although a good 4G connection is still surprisingly effective). Of course, this limits your options to do picture-in-picture or green screen effects, etc.
- Here’s an example of non-live presentation using a Sony 4K camera in front of a green screen, and then using video editing software (I use Adobe Premiere) to change the background (in this case it was the Sony RX100 V7 — I stopped using it because it overheated this summer and started glitching in the middle of live presentations!)
- Some sort of tripod or lighting stand to get the camera to eye height. I find these lighting stands take up less space than tripods, and then I used this adapter kit to attach the camera to the top.
- Separate monitor that you put just under the camera to show the zoom call etc. — this means that your eyes don’t have to move far from the camera to see the people you’re talking to – I bought this Samsung monitor and an adapter to bolt it to the lighting pole above (and HDMI cable and/or adapter for your computer). Using a lighting pole also makes it easy to raise and lower the camera + monitor for either seated or standing presentations (although I’m lazy and always leave it up, because you still have to adjust the camera angle, which is a pain).
- Another monitor to put slides full screen when sharing to zoom etc. (and cables to connect it to computer) – can be anything, but has to be 16×9 native to fit the slides without black lines either side — I put it on a stand to the right of the other monitor. [key tip: in Powerpoint, switch the slideshow mode to “show in window” and then maximize that window on this monitor]. You can do without this monitor (i.e. use the one above for the slides instead of the zoom call), but having two makes everything else MUCH easier.
- For extra overkill, you can even use an Ipad as an extra screen, as in the header image. This was for a presentation where I wanted to follow the event from the audience point of view, because there was a long lag between my presentation and it appearing in the session (the Ipad wasn’t connected to my PC).
- I purchased an external GPU box because I found having two monitors and several cameras overloaded my system
– I use a sonnet breakaway box 650 and an AMD RX 580 graphics card (this helped with the screen problem, but didn’t add any discernible video editing power compared to my MacBook Pro’s internal GPU. At some point I might upgrade the card).
- Lighting – there are so many choices but I like this Fovitec lighting kit that uses a bunch of traditional-style bulbs to generate enough light (more light makes just about everything better in terms of camera quality, green screen etc.). LED panels are smaller and more flexible, but I’ve found they’re dimmer and give harsher light… These give lovely soft light and are much cheaper, and the top light really helps separate the person from the background and make it look professional.
- Below is my actual current setup, with ceiling lights bounced off a white wall, two old photography lamps with big LED bulbs, and a small Godox LED panel as a hair light (too small / dim) — attached with one of these “magic clamps”.
- Green screen system – at LEAST 3m wide, but ideally more if you have the space (allows for standing presenter). I use this one, but wish I had space for more – e.g. this one would be great, although a bit expensive.
- Note at this point, you also start needing to have enough room to actually put all this in and leave it up! If you’re restricted to a desk in a corner of a room, then this easy-to-pack-away green screen from Elgato may be useful, along with these Elgato desk lights (I haven’t tried these, but I have colleagues that like them)
- This is my traveling setup, showing the Fovitec lights in action. Here I’m using a Canon M100 camera (needs a hack to get clean HDMI out—the newer Canon M200 does not, but the 4K isn’t great / is cropped) and a traveling WIMAXIT monitor (practical, but too dim — wouldn’t buy again)
- Potentially extra pincer things to make sure the green screen is stretched right.
- Depending on the room, and what you’re trying to do (e.g. if you want somebody fully standing in front of a green screen), you may need some extra lights that you point at the green screen – this is where controllable LED panels can be useful – e.g. I have two of these Godox lighting panels on the floor pointing behind me when I present to help eliminate shadows that otherwise interfere with the green screen.
- Wired internet connection (this is actually pretty important!) – I purchased this 20m cord so it would reach from my internet box.
- Good microphone – I have this Rode lapel microphone and then you need a bunch of adaptors! For example, this adapter if you want to use it direct to the computer and this one if you plug it into the camera (recommended) and an extension cord like this.
- Then you need some sort of mono earpiece (I had one left over from something ages ago). Ideally without a microphone, but they’re hard to find! The closest I could find online still has a microphone that gets in the way. Or you could try something like this secret agent listening device (discreet, but the one I bought give bad sound, and unfortunately, my hearing wasn’t good enough… I just bought this one to try again).
- Video mixing software such as ManyCam or EcammLive or OBS Studio or Mimolive or Prezi Video or Personify for the live backgrounds, presenting in front of the powerpoint slides etc. Competition in this space is heating up fast, and some of the features are increasingly built into the conference software itself — e.g. Zoom has a beta feature that lets you present in front of your Powerpoint slides (but it’s not great / doesn’t look professional)
- Fairly powerful PC with lots of memory needed to get all of that to work without stuttering.
- Teleprompter. Highly recommended for the professional look, so you can read a script or notes while looking directly at “the audience” (i.e. the camera lens)! Again, there are lots of choices — I use this Parrot device (one of the benefits of getting a camera with a proper lens means it’s easy to attach to this) – and you need a phone to put in it (having to put in your own phone and take it out again gets old really quickly—so I purchased a second-hand iphone 7 that still supports the latest iOS), and you’ll need some software like teleprompter for mac or SmartPrompt (and potentially a cable to attach it to your PC).
- Here’s an alternative teleprompter setup, with a ring light and a larger parrot teleprompter using an ipad as the screen — this means you can see the person you’re talking to while still looking directly into the camera. If you’re mostly talking to people, rather than presenting, this might well be a better setup (warning: ring lights don’t work well for people with glasses — better to have two lights either side of the camera. If the distances/angles are right, you won’t get the distracting reflections of the lights in the glasses).
- System to move the slides forward and control the system etc. — you need to be able to easily consistently and easily move the PowerPoint slides forward even if you’ve just looked at the comments in the zoom call, for example, and so the PowerPoint window is no longer highlighted. I use a combination of Keyboard maestro software and an old Microsoft numeric keyboard, but I also have one of these Elgato Streamlink boxes. The basic idea is that can can set up global keys that will always work (via macros in the background).
- And you’ll probably need some sort of USB hub adapter, because you will have run out of the connections available on the PC. I use this one. It works fine, but be carefully not to pull on the cord where it connects to the computer, or it may get flaky.
- And you will have run out of power sockets, too – I can thoroughly recommend this compact adapter which includes USB power.
- And lots and lots of cables from all of these to all the rest — HDMI, power etc.
- And extra backdrops if necessary (see fake wall above). And a standing desk that makes it easy to reach the computer when standing for presenting.
- And finally, by using various different virtual backgrounds, and careful use of camera angles, you can make it look like you’re in a full virtual studio, or a news room, etc.
Best of luck! And any questions?
By: Timo Elliott
Title: An Equipment List For Virtual Presentations In An Office Or Home Studio
Sourced From: timoelliott.com/blog/2020/11/an-equipment-list-for-virtual-presentations-in-an-office-or-home-studio.html
Published Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2020 12:13:05 +0000
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