HD is the new tall
How we present ourselves has unreasonable effectiveness on how our message is perceived. Aesthetic qualities can, unfairly, be translated into a greater sense of authority.
In the era of Zoom meetings, one way to do this is with an excellent AV setup. This document goes through my setup at home. I got this information from a professional interviewer, and tweaked things to my liking.
One of our investors saw the setup and made the quip “Oh, HD is the new tall” which I quite liked. Tall people have an unfair advantage when it comes to perceived authority. HD is like that, but anyone with around $2000 and a day’s time to set everything up can achieve it.
I use a mirrorless camera with zoom and real-time auto-focus. These tend to cost about $1000.
You need a bunch of peripherals to make this work:
A charger so that you don’t have to deal with batteries
Elgato Cam Link 4K an external capture card, which effectively mounts the HDMI connection as a webcam to your computer
A simple tripod to mount the camera
And optionally, a remote
This setup is identified as a normal webcam by your computer, can run continuously throughout the day, can zoom in tightly on your face, and looks great. I frequently get asked after calls “What is your AV setup? You look awesome”
Only half of that is the camera though. Lighting is as-if-not-more important. I often see HD camera setups with horrible lighting and it looks worse than a normal Macbook pro camera.
Ideally, you can set things up so that you have beautiful natural light. Assuming that’s hard (it’s hard for me) you need good lights.
I use these. They’re about $200. They’re plenty bright, come with good stable tripods that can adjust to any height, and have adaptable coloring. I use a master-slave orientation for them and tune the brightness up or down on one in order to control both.
Again, don’t bother with a nice camera if you don’t also have good lighting
I use the following:
Shure MV7 a solid recording microphone, similar to what professional podcasters use
Suspension Boom arm stand to position the mic right up against my mouth
The sound coming out of this feels impressive.
Typically I bring the mic pretty close up to my face, and then zoom the camera in so that the microphone is just out of frame. This makes me sound good but without the distracting podcast-like setup that some people prefer.
Also, this microphone has good enough sound isolation that I don’t have to bother with headphones. I just use the speaker within my MacMini and this mic doesn’t pick up the echo at all.
When I do screen recordings I like to have my body super-imposed directly on top of my screen. I do this with a green screen.
This one folds up nicely so I leave it by my desk 99% of the time. When I want it I can set it up in less than a minute. It has nice fold-out feet for stability and comes up high enough to cover me (I’m tall).
When in live meetings I use Zoom or whatever.
When doing screen recordings I use Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). It takes about half-a-day to configure everything. In particular I needed to set the following up:
Add in the right microphone and camera settings
Add the right delay to the microphone (about 300ms)
Create a chroma-key filter for the greenscreen
Whatever output settings to get appropriately HD video without overwhelming things