First, your gear needs to be USB ready. This means you can plug it into your computer, refresh your browser and that's it, it works. It's ready to be used by Livestorm and all web-based apps. This is the best way to have your material ready in seconds.
However, you can still use traditional microphones or DSLR as webcams but it'll require some additional hardware.
What if I need to use clip-on microphone (aka a Lavaliere microphone) with a regular plug?
In that case, you will need to hook your laptop with an external mixing system like a Focusrite Scarlett to bridge analog microphones with USBs ports. This will apply to any kind of non-USB ready devices.
Your webcam also needs to have a USB plug. The most important factors when choosing a webcam are the image resolution (1080p, 4K, etc.), the frames per second, focus and field of view.
Image resolution will define the "quality" of your image, or at least its potential. Frames per seconds are the number of images you display per seconds, the more images you have the smoother the video.
This is a good example of 1080p resolution at 60fps:
The auto-focus mode defines if the webcam can focus automatically on the presenter. This helps to keep the image sharp even if you move (too much).
Finally, the field of view is the difference between having a 60° wide angle and a 90° angle. The larger the angle the more space the camera will capture on your left and right.
First, to get a 4K stream you need a computer with the right graphic card, a webcam that supports 4K but, most importantly, a bandwidth with enough upload speed to upload a 4K stream. But it does not end here, your attendees will need also to be able to download a 4K stream.
Hopefully, with Livestorm, the stream can be downgraded on the fly for those people who cannot download a good video quality. YouTube is also a great example.
So, in the end, you should always try to find the right balance between streaming the best resolution possible and your attendees' bandwidth.
Recent computers usually have a pretty decent native webcam in terms of resolution but you will have a low frame rate, low light and a very narrow field of view.
At Livestorm, we are very happy with the Logitech Brio 4K. It's super easy to use and it comes with a bunch of presets for frame rates, angles, and a settings panel to play with. It's battlefield tested and we highly recommend it.
We've also been in touch with the great people at Huddly. Even though they have an incredible piece of hardware it's the software inside that impressed us the most.
It comes with amazing resolution, dynamic light optimization, an adaptive field of view depending on the number of people behind the webcam (I know, right?), and a lot of other good stuff.
This point is critical! People can forgive getting a bad webcam stream (or not having a webcam at all) if they can hear everything perfectly. Audio drives comprehension, so make sure everyone can hear you loud and clear.
Good audio also comes with lowering or removing everything that may disturb your attendees. Here are some things you can do now to improve your sound quality:
Talking from your computer's microphone will create a distant sound. Plus, the computer will capture any ambient noise. A first good approach would be to use your earbud's microphone, Apple's EarPods are actually pretty good.
To get a warmer, rounder, sound you should probably invest in a podcast microphone like the Blue Yeti or a shotgun microphone. Shotgun microphones can be placed outside the frame and still capture a good loud sound.
Here at Livestorm, we use the Blue Yeti microphone, the silver edition. It's a very good compromise between quality and price. Plus, it comes with different settings for different scenarios: face to face interviews, panels, podcasts etc. And you can add a pop filter to get an even better sound.
Tripods are very interesting because they can help you maintain your webcam at eye level without raising your computer. This will give a more natural "conversational" look.
Lights are also very important. Indoor lights will make you look red/orange, you need to have a white/pale natural light coming towards you slightly above your head.
Wistia posted a really cool article about building a DIY lighting kit. We highly recommend it.
If you don't mind shelling out few bucks you can get this set from Neewer, it's a pretty good start and will help you get a better light when you don't have a good natural source of light.
As for an USB audio interface (in case you need to convert XLR inputs or jacks into USB inputs), we use the Scarlett 2i2 at Livestorm and it works great. We also reviewed it on the blog .
We hope this has helped you get a better understanding on how to deal with webcam, sound, and lights. Feel free to drop us a line if you need more information. We would be happy to help.