How to perform your best on Blinder calls
We call it “video hygiene.” And if you work from home, it’s possibly more important than your personal hygiene. After all, no one can smell you on the internet.
Looking and feeling your best on camera can make or break your interviews. So, if you’re stepping into video calls for the first time, or you want to get the most out of Blinder’s toolkit, you’re at the right place. Here are a few ways to keep your editing team happy and hungry for more.
1. It's not you, it's your bandwidth.
If a tree falls and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? If you have the world’s best camera and a poor internet connection, have you wasted thousands of dollars? Yes, to both.
Testing your connectivity
The network connection is the heartbeat of the video call. For a stable connection, we recommend at least a 20 Mbps download speed and 5 Mbps upload speed. For best performance, aim for 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
Don’t know what any of that means? Don’t worry. Simply Google “speed test” from your preferred device, or visit Fast.com to test your system on your available networks and see what speeds you're capable of sustaining.
Even in the same location, your internet connectivity speeds may vary based on device and network.
Wi-Fi or cellular?
If you’re on a mobile device, check that your cellular signal isn’t stronger than the nearest Wi-Fi. Then go with the stronger option. If you or someone else in your household is streaming video (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) -- that's an absolute video call killer. Get bossy and ask them to turn it off while you're on your call.
Stay fully charged
Be sure your computer, tablet or smartphone has enough energy to burn during your video call. Have it fully charged and, if possible, keep it on the charger during the call. Naturally, a video call is very demanding on your system’s resources so be sure to close any other applications and browser tabs before starting your call. Even if they’re in the background, they’re using energy that would otherwise optimize the quality of your video.
Mobile phone vs. computer
While using a desktop or notebook might seem like the best choice, a newer smartphone may have a higher resolution and higher recording frame rate on its front-facing camera.
Just don't sacrifice frame rates too much for the sake of resolution. Realistically, your audience would rather view an SD video (480p) at 30 frames per second than HD video at a choppy 15 fps.
Headphones are a must. Regardless of whether or not they have a built-in microphone, headphones will prevent extraneous sounds made by your device’s speakers from being looped back into the call. Even the very best devices have a microphone feedback loop sensitivity that will create a digital interference effect that sounds like you’re making popcorn. They are the professional way forward.
2. What’s that sound?
Stellar videos rely more on sound quality than they do on video quality. Your environment and microphone have a greater role to play in the performance of your call than your camera actually does. A frame-skipping, pixelated video with seamless, clear audio is much more forgiving to a viewer than a crisp 4K display with an unintelligible conversation.
Most importantly, use a controlled space. Forget about sitting in front of the fancy degrees on the wall above your obsessively-perfect bookshelf. Be in the quietest room you can find, far away from ticking clocks, swirling ceiling fans and inconspicuous electrical appliances. Sit in your controlled space, close your eyes and listen for even the slightest hums, clicks or pings, and eliminate them.
Try different headphones and microphones, as the one installed on your device may not result in the best performance.
3. It’s “LIGHTS, camera, action” for a reason.
The correct lighting improves the quality of your video (and how good you look) more than any other tangible effect. Lighting may seem technically challenging, but for video calls, it’s very easy: keep shadows off your face.
The primary light source goes on your face from in front of your face. Not from above. Not from behind. Not from the side. The end.
And additional, artificial lighting should be used when possible, indoors or outdoors. At my home office, I’ve fixed a simple, cheap LED light bar above my webcam with dramatic results.
A little light in the right place goes a long way.
4. Field of view.
Your position on the screen is the primary reducer of distractions for the viewer. Keeping stationary throughout the call will also prevent your camera from seeking different light sources and causing a motion blur effect that creates choppy, pixelated-looking videos.
Sit in a comfortable position and then set your camera at eye level. Place phones and laptops on tables and against books or whatever else you can find to keep it in a fixed position. Also, be sure that you provide a wide range of focus. Sit far enough away from the camera so that it doesn’t cut off your head or chin and leaves plenty of space on each side for nice formatting in 16:9 use cases.
Pro tip: When you’re speaking, try looking either directly at the camera on your device, or look slightly to the side. You may actually want to resist looking at the person you’re speaking with (or yourself, you narcissist). It does help you to speak more fluently and coherently when not responding to the cues of another face.
That's all, folks.
It's pretty simple, actually. And if you don't like reading, here's all you need to know again in a list!
- Check your network strength.
- Go to a quiet place and wear headphones.
- Light your face.
- Sit still!