Thursday, June 25, 2020

DearMYRTLE's Basic Equipment List for Virtual Meetings

My previous post explains how Cousin Russ and I go about Managing an Online Study Group. This post explains the finer points of equipment we recommend for optimal video and sound quality. Over the years, we've tested all sorts of equipment, in a variety of configurations on both the Windows and Mac platforms. This post references Zoom, our current virtual meeting service of choice, but applies to most other service providers as well. NOTE: All links are non-affiliate links.

1. Wired Internet
2. A USB headset with mic (Microsoft Lifechat LX3000)
3. A full-HD quality webcam. (Logitech C920)

Although most virtual meeting platforms permit attending via mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, we recommend using a computer with wired internet access, particularly if you are the presenter. If your bandwidth is compromised by too many devices connected to the internet, you'll notice your voice is skipping or lagging. Best practices include:
  • Reboot your computer and do not open unnecessary memory-resident programs.
  • Close programs that access the internet in the background, such as BackBlaze, Dropbox, and Microsoft Outlook.
  • Ensure no one in the same network is live streaming something like an Amazon video or attending another virtual meeting.
  • Turn off 'smart TVs' that as they ping the internet in the background.
Cousin Russ and I experimented with our recommended headset/mic, the USB  Microsoft LifeChat LX3000, a laptop's built-in mic, and an inline mic and ear buds all in the same webinar. The results were subtle during the live event, but the headset/mic wins hands down for best sound quality in the recording.

An alternative high quality, stand alone mic is the Blue Yeti Microphone used with a microphone arm like this. Do not place the Blue Yeti on your desk, as any typing will be picked up by the pic. Add good wireless earphones or external speakers so you can hear.

That means 1080p. We currently use a Logitech C920, though there are newer models and much higher prices. This model sports a highly articulating base to clip on the top of monitors, and includes a female hookup for typical tripod mounts. Though my laptop has a built-in webcam, I use the external webcam for best quality video. It's all about looking good!

Genealogists are turning to two monitors to facilitate online research and having two also works well when attending virtual presentations. Since all elements of Zoom can be resized and rearranged, monitor 1 might be a full-screen view of the instructor's slide deck. Monitor 2 would have the gallery view of participants and the chat dialog box displayed as shown below.

However, Zoom requires a setting change in the Zoom Client (App) shown below to permit dual monitors, shown below right. Click "Settings", locate "Use dual monitors" option and click the box to the left to turn this on.

To provide a smart looking backdrop you don't need a fancy green screen that pulls down from the ceiling. A good friend stapled green fabric to a simple 2x4 wood frame. Another draped a large green tablecloth over the bookcase behind her chair in the home office. The Zoom Client (app) provides some basic background pics. You may add your own favorite pics for a  backdrop by clicking the plus sign shown below by the red arrow and red box. If you do not yet ave a green screen, you can deselect the option "I have a green screen" shown by the yellow arrow below.

As we have been staying home to be safe during the pandemic, we've noticed many genealogy societies, families, universities and workplaces are holding virtual meetings. Folks are beginning to see the benefits of the short commute to their virtual offices.

Now that virtual meetings have gone main stream, providing the best equipment is a must! 
If you value the interactive genealogy education provided in DearMYRTLE webinars, please consider donating. THANK-YOU in advance.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy
Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont

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