Cell phone mounted on a tripod for video recording

Upgrade your audio and video: Tips for remote teaching

Boosting your audio and video quality will enhance the remote teaching and learning experience for you and your students. Here are some simple tips to up your A/V game. At the end of this article, you will find a hardware recommendations guide.

Fortify Your Internet Connection

If possible, use an ethernet connection instead of wi-fi to access the internet. An ethernet connection is faster and more reliable.

Upgrade Your Video

You can improve your video significantly by adjusting your lighting and camera position and by using a better camera.

Optimize your lighting  Better lighting will improve your video quality tremendously. Natural light is your friend: If there’s a window in the room, arrange your setup so the window is behind the camera, and the light is hitting your face. (If the light is at your back, your face will be in shadow.) If you don’t have a window, find another light source, like a desk lamp or a ring light, and place it behind your camera, facing you.

Reposition your camera  Make sure your webcam or camera is at eye level, facing you head-on. You might need to adjust your chair height, or raise your laptop by stacking it on a couple of books. You can also consider purchasing a standing desk or riser for your laptop.

Use a better camera  If the video from your laptop’s built-in webcam is poor, you might do better with your smartphone or tablet camera, or, if you have one, a digital DSLR or mirrorless camera. (Use a tripod with your smartphone or tablet if you’re using it as your camera.) Alternatively, you can purchase an external webcam — there are many decent ones available for under $50.

Upgrade Your Audio

Studies have shown that people will watch poor video, but they won’t listen to crappy audio. So if you have limited resources for upgrades, apply them to your sound setup.

Use a headphone mic  One cheap, fast thing you can do to improve your audio is to use a pair of headphones or earbuds with a built-in microphone. If you have a smartphone, you probably already have a pair. The audio quality from a headphone mic is noticeably better than speaking into your device’s built-in mic. Also, sometimes when you speak directly into your device, others in the meeting hear an echo of themselves talking.

Attach an external microphone  If you want to level up your audio, an external USB mic or a clip-on (“lavalier”) mic will provide better audio quality than the built-in mic on your device or headphones. Make sure you actually select the external mic through Zoom’s audio settings — your computer will most likely default to the lower-quality built-in mic. To connect a USB mic to your tablet or phone, you’ll need an adapter.

Use a pop filter or windscreen  Pop filters and windscreens are inexpensive accessories for external mics. These devices reduce the undesirable “plosive” sounds caused by strong air blasts from certain consonants, including T’s, K’s, and most notably P’s.

Use the mute button  Another easy audio fix is to mute your microphone when someone else has the floor, so that any background noises on your end (trucks, motorcycles, sirens, etc.) aren’t heard by the rest of the group.

Hardware Upgrades for Better A/V

If you’d like to go beyond your smartphone’s headphones or the built-in mic and webcam on your laptop or tablet, check out this list of hardware recommendations.

Further Advice

You can find additional technical tips and general best practices for video recordings in this NYU Media Production article: Tips for Recording Yourself on Video.

De Angela L. Duff is an Industry Professor in Integrated Digital Media (IDM) at NYU Tandon and an Associate Vice Provost at NYU.