Five things we’ve learned this month about videoconferencing

Everyone’s finding their way through videoconferencing from home, from tech-phobic grandparents to professional broadcast media correspondents who really ought to know how to do it well already. Here are five things we’ve learned from our video calls here this month.

  • The built-in microphones in computers really aren’t great. OK, so it doesn’t really matter when you’re calling your dear old mum, but honestly, I expect better sound quality when the economics editor of a national broadcaster is phoning in a report. Unless they really are broadcasting from a cave. The best quality we’ve found is when the caller is using a set of Apple EarPods or equivalent. And we should all be able to afford those.
  • People look terrible when the cameras are looking up at them. Seriously folks, if you’re using your laptop’s camera, stick the computer on a box so the camera is at least eye height. Nobody wants to talk to your chins.
  • Computer cameras can’t handle near-darkness. Computer cameras are reasonable (and smartphone cameras are amazing), but no camera is going to give a sharp image in candlelight. I hide a bright light behind my computer screen, pointing upwards to bounce loads of ambient light off the walls in front of me. And bang – the graininess is gone.
  • Video calling requires a decent internet connection. We may not be able to do much about the speeds that our ISPs provide, but there’s no excuse for connecting from the very edge of the wi-fi router’s range and losing connection. Also, while we don’t want the kids bursting in on us during our important video call, keeping them occupied with bandwidth-hogging YouTube streams may not be the best way to get rid of them.
  • Video meetings require the same concentration as physical ones. Do you think the other people on the Zoom call can’t see you typing away on some unrelated email while they’re talking to you?