Commercial Integrator 2023 - 52

Working From Home
Selecting Video and Audio
Devices for WFH Setups
Employees working from home
have a range of options to
choose from when building
their workstation, ranging from
low-cost, simple solutions to
high-quality, more complex ones.
By Bryan Hellard
SEVERAL OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE for high-quality audio
and video experiences when working from home. My advice is
not to just buy the cheapest device available and possibly have
a poor experience as a result. First, let's look at use cases; then,
we can dive into the device types themselves.
There are several questions to ask before considering a
new device. Are you on video calls several times per day or a
few times a month? Alternatively, are video calls a rare occurrence
that you need to be ready for just in case? Do you have
a dedicated home office or are you mobile, taking calls in other
parts of your house, on the road or at a coffee shop? Are
your video calls always on a single device, such as a laptop, or
do you use multiple devices as the need arises?
Understanding the Environment
Once you understand your use case, it's a good idea to understand
the environment where you'll have calls. Primarily,
that refers to the lighting and typical noises you may be faced
with. Variable lighting conditions - say, through a window -
require either a camera that auto-adjusts to the conditions
or a method of controlling the light (e.g., blackout drapes).
Acute noises, such as that of cars with loud mufflers driving
by or barking dogs, can be difficult to control. This should be
considered when you choose a device. Lastly, there is the
difficulty level of the device as regards its setup and use. For
this article, we will classify the solutions as beginner, intermediate
or advanced.
Now, let's talk about the devices. We can break down the
options in the categories of cameras, audio and hybrid devices.
Cameras include USB webcams, DSLRs and integrated
options, such as those in laptops and tablets. Audio devices
include those integrated into laptops and tablets, headsets,
52
Commercial Integrator JUNE 2023
NOSOROGUA/STOCK.ADOBE.COM
Think about these questions when judging new WFH devices:
Are you on video calls several times daily or a few times
monthly? Do you have a full home office or are you mobile?
earbuds and speakerphones. Audio devices can also be
wired or wireless. Hybrid devices, known as USB video bars,
include a camera, microphone and speakers, all built into a
single device. Although service-based video bars that have an
embedded operating system are included in this class, they
are not included in this particular discussion.
Considering Cameras
USB webcams are a good all-around choice for PC and laptop
users. They suit beginners to advanced users, and they're
appropriate for rare to frequent use. They are considered
portable, but they work very well when attached to a single
computer in a permanent setup. Better USB cameras have
management software to update firmware and to adjust
settings either for controlled or variable lighting conditions.
Many webcams include microphones.
For those who want the highest quality of video - both for
videoconferencing and for recording - many people choose
a DSLR camera. With a DSLR, you can control multiple
settings, including depth of field, to present the best view
possible. However, there are a few cons to using a DSLR
camera. Typically, you will need an extra cable to get the video
feed to your computer. The cable required may vary by the
camera manufacturer. These cameras are also much larger
than webcams are, and they aren't considered ultra-portable.
The learning curve associated with using a DSLR makes it
best for frequent, expert users. DSLR cameras will likely be
much more expensive than webcams are.
Laptops, tablets and smartphones have integrated cameras
that are an excellent choice for beginners or infrequent
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