How to Use a Webcam for Remote Working & Learning

Kai Ping Lew By Kai Ping Lew - updated May 2nd, 2023
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As remote work and study become more prevalent, the initial step is purchasing the right equipment, but effectively using it is just as important. This guide aims to prevent awkward situations such as talking in video meetings with no audio, audio mishaps such as sound playing through laptop speakers instead of headphones, or using the wrong microphones that result in an echoing effect. It also addresses popular tools used for video conferencing, file sharing, and overall organization.

Starting with a quick checklist! Does your Laptop/PC/Mac have...?

- Speakers/Headphones (for receiving audio)

- Headset/Microphone (for joining in with voice)

- Webcam (Often built-in for those on a laptop, macbook or chromebook, but USB Webcams typically enjoy better quality and positioning)

Windows & Webcams

If yes, you're all set to join in - let’s test our setups quickly as below. 

(We've broken this next bit into parts, covering the operating systems Microsoft Windows 10, Google Chromebooks, & Apple Mac.)

How to test and configure your webcam, video and audio in Windows 10.

First press the Start button and type "camera", pressing enter our clicking the camera app that appear in the start menu.

This will launch the camera app in windows 10, by default it starts in photo mode so select the video icon on the right menu (video is one option above photo).

Clicking this same video button again will start to record a video, clicking it a second time will stop the video.

While recording, look directly into the camera, say a familiar sentence or quickly recite the alphabet - anything easily repeatable is great to test the audio.

When you push stop you'll see a little thumbnail to the bottom right of the camera app, clicking on this will allow you to reply the video so you can check the your microphone is picking up your voice clearly, and that you can hear the audio through your headphones. 

Is the audio still unclear? Let's check the audio settings to make sure we're using the right inputs and outputs.

At the bottom right of your windows 10 desktop is the date/time, to the left of this is a little speaker icon. Right click on this will open a text menu and select the top option “open sound settings”.

In this menu you can select both the output and input, so first select your headphones as the output and then scroll down and select the microphone on your headset for input.

Open up the camera app again and re-test, everything should be sounding great now with only a few adjustments needed to bring the mic closer or further away from your mouth as needed!

Apple Macbook Webcams

Apple Macbook are another popular option, and the process for getting them ready for remote conferencing is similar.

First click on the little magnifying glass icon top right to open finder, then type "Photo Booth" and click on it to launch the program.

You’ll now see yourself on the screen, by default it's set to photo mode so first click on the little film icon at the bottom left of the window (Video is the one of the right side of the three).

Clicking the red button with the video icon in it will start recording, pressing the stop button will end recording.

While recording, look directly into the camera, say a familiar sentence or quickly recite the alphabet - anything easily repeatable is great to test the audio.

Once you've captured your test video and pressed stop, a little thumbnail will appear below and to the right, click on this to check your quality. 

Is the audio still a bit unclear? Let's check the audio settings to make sure we're using the right inputs and outputs.

On your Mac the audio settings can be found by clicking the little Apple icon top left, then select System Preferences.

In the preferences menu select 'Sound', then select 'Output' to select your headphones, select the 'Input' tab to select your headset microphone.

And you're good to go! Now repeat the test to gauge the differences in audio quality. MacBooks are renowned for their built-in high-quality microphones, so depending on the results, you might only need headphones for audio output.

Setting up default devices ensures quick and seamless usage of any program others are utilising, with minimal delays. While it's possible to customize input and output settings for each specific application, it's better to do that later, once the chosen programs are determined. More details about those options are below!

Chomebooks with Webcams

For the Google Chromebook OS,

First click the launcher button located to the bottom left of your screen.

Then type "Camera" and press enter or click the camera app that has appeared.

By default the camera app is in photo mode, select the video option just above this.

Click the red dot to start recording a video.

Look directly into the camera, say a familiar sentence or quickly recite the alphabet - anything easily repeatable is great to test the audio.

Clicking the same button will stop recording. A thumbnail will appear to the bottom left of the camera app showing your most recent recording, click on this to play your video and check the audio quality.

Can you hear yourself talking clearly? Let's check the settings to make sure we're using the right inputs and outputs.

At the bottom right of your ChromeOS desktop is a little box that shows the date/time, clicking this will bring up the expanded settings menu.

On this expanded menu you'll see a slider for volume, and to the right of that, a little 'headset' icon will appear when it's plugged in.

Clicking this will show the input and output options you can choose from, adjust your selection to suit and test that video again to ensure it's all running perfectly. 

Live Streams - Best Software Options for Hosts

Numerous programs are available for private live streaming, including widely recognized options like YouTube, Skype, and Facebook. Many software solutions offer trial versions before committing, so explore a few to determine the best fit for you!

Facebook has extremely easy to use group video chat functions, using the Facebook Messenger app on Android, iOS or Windows. You can see up to six people at a time but it actually allows for a whopping 50 people to join into the group - once more than 6 people are in the call, just the dominant speaker will be shown to all participants. It's an excellent option for face to face meetings with large teams, but doesn't have the ability to show desktop so we'll continue on with more options below.

Google Workspace for the Google eco-system is easy to use and you'll be able to connect, collaborate and create together with ease. The real trick with this one is most users will find the layout intuitive, it uses familiar google services, such as google drive, docs, sheets, slides, forms and combines this with chat, meet and more.

Skype is one of the most popular options in world, but it can get a little confusing for new users sometimes with the Skype Meetings App being only available for hosts in the USA - The good news is you don't need Skype Meetings to group video conference via regular Skype, it works well enough for face to face to face meeting between 3 people, but as it doesn't have the ability to easily show desktop, it's still not the ideal option.

YouTube on the other hand is absolutely fantastic for showing the desktop and hosts webcam as a private feed, with the only drawback being your team members can't join in via voice chat. It even saves a recording of the live stream that you can share with others, privately or publicly, and you won't need to download anything as it's all done via YouTube in the browser!

Zoom is designed for remote conferencing. In addition to being rather user friendly, Zoom can be accessed through both mobile and PC and works great via the popular Chrome and Edge browsers. You can create a free account to try it out for your business, and if you're using Microsoft Outlook there is a scheduler add-in that will allow you to easily add a Zoom meeting to any new or existing calendar event on the web too, for Gmail and Firefox users you'll find handy scheduler extensions available in their respective browser stores too.

Microsoft Teams is the best of the best, combining all the functionality for remote video conferencing with an outstanding messaging and organisation package. Once you try Teams you're sure to love it, and once the free trial end you'll be happy to know that it is included within the MS Office 365 Business Premium and Business Essentials software suites.

While the mentioned options are popular, there are many alternative choices for face-to-face meetings, lessons, or presentations. Regardless of which platform your team selects, the process of joining and participating is generally similar.

How to join a live stream?

All options above have the ability to send invitations via email. Simply click the link you've been emailed from the host and it will take you directly into the group.

Picture of Chat Download Alternative

At times, an invitation may prompt you to download a small program or app. However, remote workers may not have the necessary permissions to install them on work devices. In such cases, look for alternative options like "Continue in Browser," "Join Chat Now," or something similar, usually found below the download request. Most platforms offer these alternatives, allowing you to join the group chat without installing any software.

With your audio and video set up for optimum clarity and the knowledge to tackle common issues, let's explore additional useful software for sharing files with your team members.

How to Share Documents, Images and Files - Easily

Now that you’re ready to join in on meetings and presentations, it’s time to look at the best ways to share files between your co-workers or classmates.

This will allow all team members to view and simultaneously update the latest versions of spreadsheets, memos and more. Additionally, the cloud-based design provides essential features, enabling you to capture, save, and share signed documents using your phone.

Google Drive is perfect for all users, allowing you to create and store Google versions of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and more. You can share files effortlessly, enabling multiple users to edit and update collaboratively in real time. You can also keep everything organized with folders, or rely on Google's exceptional search and preview capabilities to manage your content. Set permissions for access to files and folders for specific individuals or share outside your organisation with a straightforward link.

Microsoft OneDrive, integrated within the Microsoft Office/Windows 10 ecosystem, is packed with robust business tools and shortcuts for effortless sharing within your organization. It allows you to work offline with mirrored folders and sync updates once back online. With seamless integration into Windows 10 and MS Office, OneDrive is the simplest cloud storage option. The free version offers 5GB of storage, but each Microsoft Office 365 subscription includes an additional 1TB of OneDrive storage per user. For instance, a 6-person license provides a total of 6TB storage.

Creating the Ultimate Working Space

Now that we can share files with ease, host and/or join video meetings without issue, it's time to start looking at ways to we can make our work space more comfortable. 

Creating an organised space is important for remote conferencing. If engaging in video chats, consider investing in a laptop riser to maintain a level perspective - an upward nosey angle might appear odd or unflattering, plus, it's better for your posture!

Headphones with Excellent Microphones

The recent demand for business headsets has eaten up a majority of the business versions from Logitech and Microsoft. However, there's still an excellent selection of everyday and gaming headsets well-suited for remote conferencing. Gaming models, in particular, often feature outstanding built-in microphones at competitive prices.

We hope this guide gets you quickly and easily set up for remote video meetings or classes - we'll keep on updating with the latest guides, product unboxings, technology reviews & more!


Written By

Kai Ping Lew

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1 comment

PeterB116

Wow! That is one comprehensive guide. Teams is such a savior during lock-down.

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3 years ago Reply Report