Want up to date recommendations to up the teleconference game
June 22, 2020 8:26 AM   Subscribe

The world has changed and we're not likely to ever truly go back. Can you help me with specific product suggestions in the lighting, microphone, webcam, and headphone realm based upon some snowflake-but-probably-not-all-that-unusual criteria and budget specifications? I want to make sure I'm not making a terrible mistake before I recommend/purchase a non-trivial number on a finite budget with as little regret as possible.

I'm looking to improve things for my wife's business and, as the IT resource for the same, want to show her and others there that there's better, more professional, and not-that-expensive options for their current teleconference/zoom/remote working needs than a laptop's built-in mic/speaker/webcam alone.

Use case:
- One on one face to face meetings with clients account for 90% of the use cases/users.
- Semi-professional/social media blog type content accounts for the remaining 10% (probably more like 1 or 2%) of the use cases for their business.
- Employees work remotely but can also come into the office to see clients in person or see clients remotely.
- Everyone uses laptops that are adequate on the hardware side of things w/r/t ram/cpu and Windows OS updates.

Hardware wish list (not all users will use all the things but I'm looking for max flexibility and bang for buck here but I know each and every one can/will help everyone's experience):
- External webcam
- External microphone (boom or otherwise)
- Headphones
- Lighting


- Ease of use and bombproof reliability on the Tech side are paramount. One thing is I don't want to make work for myself as that's very much a diminishing return situation and second thing is that these users are not tech savvy for the most part thus,
- USB is the only option I'm considering for these products, no bluetooth as that's a bridge too far for me and them to work with. As plug and play as possible though I'm ok with some one time initial setup work/training as needed.

- I may be buying approx. 15 devices/sets of devices if this takes off. I'd like to keep those priced around $20 to $40 per device or $100 per person if possible for those users.
- I may be able to spend more for users who will be hosting group meetings or posting their videos to social media. Open ended (well, less than a few hundred dollars anyway) budget here within reason.

Desired Outcomes:
- Better look, sound, and UX for employee and clients.
- I'm looking for specific links to products that are available and, ideally, backed by first hand experience, doubly so for the tech support (or lack thereof) side of things.

Thanks, I'll thread sit and reply to any questions/concerns as best I can.
posted by RolandOfEld to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The lighting in my at home office space isn't ideal for video calls, so I purchased this desk lamp (Miady LED desk lamp). I think I came across it in a Wirecutter article. I am really happy with it so far! The lamp is lightweight, so it's easy to move in case I need to make a call from another room. The arm is flexible enough to adjust the direction of the light, and there are multiple settings for brightness and warm vs. cool light. (Note that I've only owned the lamp for two months, so can't speak to long-term durability.) I like that I can also use it as an all-purpose task lamp.
posted by oiseau at 9:16 AM on June 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do the computers have 3.5mm headphone/mic input jacks? There's a few decent options that will work with them.

Don't go with the trendy ring lights - their actual purpose is to provide an interesting reflection in the eye (usually with high definition photos), not video illumination.
posted by Candleman at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2020

Response by poster: oiseau: Thanks!

Candleman: Most/all of the laptops should have 3.5mm jacks but I'm not 100% certain as there is a bit of a mix across all employees. I can certainly survey them and/or buy a smattering of 3.5mm devices because, yes, plug and play with those should be rather easy.

So, I'd assume a 'trendy' ring light used as a normal light (not in a circle around a webcam or whatever other fancy method that I'm unaware of) would be fine right? Or is there another device I should purchase to fight the good lighting fight? Video production is not my forte here!
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:23 AM on June 22, 2020

Best answer: My husband, who is a tv editor, is using an umbrella light (another option is a softbox), pointed at him from slightly above and to the side. These make a softer washy light that prevents hard shadows on the face. I find that these kits on Amazon are the best deal over buying the components separately, just to get the telescoping c-stands and light mount, even if you decide you want a different bulb later.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:57 AM on June 22, 2020

Response by poster: Lyn Never: Huh, I would have thought those would be much pricier. Thanks. Though that's a bit larger than what I'll need/want for the normal users but could be great for the social media tasks or groups.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:23 AM on June 22, 2020

My employer just went through this exercise and the standard kit that they landed on for field salesepeople was as follows:

- Logitech C922 camera
- Webcam Mount
- Elgato Key Light (x 2)
- Elgato Green Screen
- Yeticaster Bundle

Many of the A/V nerds also swear by a separate USB mic and screen setup. I think this BOM goes a bit past your budget. The Yeticaster stuff could probably be dropped. One big issue, though, was availability. The cameras, in particular, had very long lead times.
posted by jquinby at 10:40 AM on June 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: jquinby: Yes, this appears to be on the higher extreme of what we could manage, even for the 2% need category. I'm also seeing the lead times/surge pricing being an issue with cameras as well. If you know what USB mics they're using (not the Yeti stuff as it's a bit high end for our needs hopefully) let me know or I'll dig into 3.5mm options, lapel maybe, as mentioned above.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2020

Best answer: I asked around and it looks like the crowd is sort of split between the blue Yeti and the Samson G-Track Pro. Both are USB microphones and probably leaning heavily towards the 'overkill' end of the spectrum. This also came up.

I use a Logitech Pro 9000 camera. It has a built-in mic and everyone says it sounds fine. My office is reasonably well lit and I have a not-egregious background (bookshelves, basically), so I've never bothered with a green screen.

Some of our choices were almost certainly driven by the fact that we've got the supreme trifecta of nerd:

- A/V geeks
- in IT
- some of whom are also musicians and/or audiophiles
posted by jquinby at 6:48 AM on June 23, 2020

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