Upgrade my workspace advice
February 26, 2021 5:14 PM   Subscribe

So over the pandemic I got a new computer and an amazing curved monitor. It fits in my little corner of the room nicely and performs really well. I got a webcam to plug in and everything. But the problem is that it's in the corner of a room with built-in bookshelves all around, including right over the monitor. The only lights are overhead or the huge windows that are exactly opposite my corner of the room. I'm a teacher, and even though we are probably going back to campus I'm still going to be on Zoom a lot, and I want to upgrade my sound and lighting in my little corner. It always look like I'm in a dark room and I want to be more visible.

There isn't any more desk space because those shelves form the left, right, and top of my desk space. The only space I have to mount anything else is really upside down, under the shelves that are over the space. I'm looking for a little soundbar kind of thing that I may or may not be able to stick upside down (wired or bluetooth, doesn't make a difference), and some kind of light that I can also put up there and angle towards me. I can close the blinds on the windows but that only helps a little. There is also a door to the outside that doesn't have a blind, and we aren't interested in covering that as yet. The sound is mostly going to be for listening to music; on Zoom the awful PC speaker is good enough and I worry about it interfering with the mic in the webcam.

So, AskMe: have you seen little angled lights that I can either power with USB or batteries AND mount with sticky stuff upside down, and some kind of really small soundbar that ideally would also be stickable upside down (aka not too heavy but still with *decent* sound)? I have a Bose Soundlink mini, but it's too heavy to mount up there. Thanks!
posted by Snowishberlin to Technology (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My solution was to put a floor lamp in front of the bookshelf. It sits about 2-3 feet off to the left and slightly in front of the line of my body. i have tochiere style (light is aimed upward and bounces off the ceiling) to minimize shadows. It has a very thin pole and small base is it is easy to just shift out of the way if I need to get to something on bookshelf directly behind it (and narrow enough that it doesn't block much) I can't find one like mine but this is similar.
posted by metahawk at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2021

Do you have clearance to mount a small panel to the edge of the monitor? Or to the webcam mount? There are video-conference lighting panels similar to a ‘selfie light’ in concept.
posted by janell at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use a snake mounted ring light that’s USB powered. Works great! I also have a webcam mounted with a snake mount as well. I use an Anker Bluetooth Conferencing speaker that I connect to my phone for teleconferencing. I like that because it has a big red light that shows me I’m muted.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

My wife and I each use one of these. They clamp to the back of your desk and can telescope up over most reasonable monitors. There's also a single-unit version available, if you don't need two, I think, but that's the thing I bought.
posted by Alterscape at 7:47 PM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Headphones and a decent quality mic will make everyone else’s zoom experience of you far more enjoyable. And quality headphones can be had for the cost of a far less impressive speaker.
posted by bug138 at 9:18 PM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

I got cheapo fill lights kind of like this and use portable USB chargers to power them. By combining the (flimsy, tbh) stand components, I managed to scooch one behind my monitor and I have the other propped weirdly on a higher shelf so that it shines down on me. I also use a camera filter program to adjust the color temperature because the color of the walls in my office mess with my webcam.
posted by desuetude at 10:17 PM on February 26, 2021

There are lamps that can be clamped to the sides of desks: Like this LED lamp on a swing arm, down to $22 after a coupon if I read this correctly.

Depends on your setup, you can "clamp" a ring-light to top of your monitor near your webcam, or even mount your webcam on a swingarm with the light. Many of these LED lights nowadays have selectable color temp and are very economical (like $20 to $30). Depending on their setup, you may even be able to clamp them onto the adjacent bookshelves.
posted by kschang at 5:54 AM on February 27, 2021

It's easy to get clip on lights and attach them to bookshelves. They don't all need to be aimed at you, ambient light is softer, experiment. Put several on 1 power strip for ease of management.
posted by theora55 at 5:54 AM on February 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My wife (who teaches acting classes) just bought one of these lighting kits. The mount is a sticky suction cup with a ball joint so as long as you can find a smooth surface it should stick. I found that it sagged over time when stuck to the back of our iMac, but that was on a scale of weeks, not hours. It plugs into a USB port to charge. You can adjust the brightness and color temperature as you see fit.

I would also consider drilling holes through the shelf above your monitor so you can hang another shelf just a few inches below, or even just use two 90° angle brackets to provide a vertical surface on which you can mount a sound bar.
posted by fedward at 6:38 AM on February 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all! Looks like the LumeCube recommended by fedward fits the budget and the needs! Fedward, one question: Do you think I could use the suction cup (or some other adhesive) to mount it upside down under the shelf, and be able to angle it towards me? Like, can it turn 90 degrees on its vertical axis? The analogous question is could you mount it on the back of a laptop or monitor and then turn it straight upwards?

Nice idea about the extra shelf and L brackets, too!
posted by Snowishberlin at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2021

The ball joint can be angled at pretty much any position. My concern with sticking it to the bottom of a shelf would be that it might be more likely to come loose, especially if the shelf has a coarse wood grain that prevents it from forming a tight seal. You won't really know how long it will hold on your shelf until you try it. They also sell it with a telescoping tripod stand, which we have decided we like better than the suction cup mount, but it sounds like you don't have room for that.

FWIW we find that we get more natural looking lighting if the panel is actually aimed a little bit above your head, instead of pointing directly at your face. That way you get both direct and indirect light.
posted by fedward at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great, thank you! I'll probably use some other adhesive and see if it works on the wood shelf, which was sanded and fairly smooth, but... Plan B is to stick it to the back of the monitor, plan C is to use the tripod. It's ordered!
posted by Snowishberlin at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2021

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