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Item specifics

Condition:
New: A brand-new, unused, unopened, undamaged item in its original packaging (where packaging is ...
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Speed Class Rating:
UHS-I
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UPC:
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EAN:
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Brand:
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Format:
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The Ultimate 2021 Home-Office Video/Zoom Kit: Lights, Camera and Backdrop

Let’s face it. Looking bad on Zoom is now the professional equivalent as having bad breath and a cheap suit. For the past few years I’ve worked remotely, and since Covid I’ve been experimenting with technology and production equipment to optimize the experience — for myself and to look professional to clients and colleagues. In this 4-minute read we’re going to cover lighting, web cameras, backdrops, audio (mic/headphones), monitors and some basic Zoom hacks.

Figuring all this out took countless hours since most articles about “best webcams for Zoom” or “best lighting for video calls” are mostly rubbish. I have the advantage of having YouTube experience as well as TV and video production experience that goes back to circa 1980s. Below is the following sections:

  1. How to light yourself well without spending a fortune
  2. What web camera to get (but it’s less important than you might think)
  3. Using a pro backdrop (no virtual Zoom backgrounds please)
  4. Extra monitor if you need one
  5. Audio (mic/headphones)
  6. Some important Zoom hacks (and a bonus hack to fake your attentiveness)

But first let’s call out the cheesy personas of video calls. Have you met “Nathan the Neck,” who plops his laptop on his lap so the camera reveals an unsightly upward shot? I did a parody video 15 years ago on how to lose 10 pounds in 20 minutes – it shows how much the angle matters. Or “Sean the Silhouette” whose backlighting is so bad he’s a black blur. Then there’s “Paul the Pop-Up” who frames his camera shot like he’s using his first computer. Who am I missing (comment below and I’ll add it)? I should add “Larry the Look Away,” who stares way off screen making him look distant and cold. And Chroma-Key Carl, who uses the stupid virtual background and so parts of his hair and face are missing.

What You Need for a Professional Zoom Call:

1. Lighting: A well-lit face is the most important thing you can do for a professional video-conference call. You don’t need hundreds of dollars of studio lights, but here’s an article about 3-point lighting (key light, fill light, and back light). All you really need is a room with decent lights and a cheap LED light on either side of your face. To avoid that silhouette stay away from any bright light sources (like a window) in the background. I have a lamp with 3 normal LED bulbs that I use to light the background. For the past year I’ve been using this $40 pair of LED lights that are adjustable. But they clutter the desk with wires and mini tripod stands so not ideal for smaller desks or a portable set-up.

Instead, I highly recommend this clever clip-on gooseneck LED pair with a tripod mount. You only need one of them, and you can easily position the two lights and adjust the brightness. It has a clip but you’ll want to be sure your desk has a place to clip it. This is the one video-call item I would recommend without hesitation. The best $19 I’ve spent for my home office. It has a mount for your webcam so you can adjust it to the place closest to where you’re looking (see hacks for more on that).

This thing is brilliant. Go get one for under $20. Mine arrived the next day.

2. Camera: The web cameras built into most laptops aren’t great but they’re usually good enough. After hours of research, I have learned that the highest-rated, reasonably priced webcam for 2021 is a “somewhat dated but high-rated” Logitech C922 (here’s the pack I bought with a mini tripod and USB adapter). This is the Logitech C922 alone I’d recommend it if you don’t mind spending nearly $100.

The BEST-rated webcam is the Logitech Brio at about $180).

The C922’s high resolution (1080p) and the default lighting/focus settings are solid. That said, I’ve experimented with a handful of expensive and inexpensive (like this $25 knockoff on Amazon) and they’re nearly as good. They do lack the Logitech software (Logi Capture) which allows you to make some modifications to the contrast/brightness and remove stupid Logitech watermark (can’t believe those are default). But Zoom and other video-conference software give you some options.

This is me with the vinyl backdrop, a Logitech C922 and a pair of $25 LED lights. Get a cheaper webcam and you’re all set for under $100.

3. Backdrop: If you have a beautiful home then show it off. Just do NOT use the virtual backgrounds that come with Zoom. (Unless you’re a sophisticated videographer with a green screen, it’s going to look ridiculous and annoying as parts of your hair and face get chroma keyed out).

Instead, pick up a $20 backdrop that’s about 5×7 or 8×10. They’re made of a thin vinyl so they hang like paper but don’t wrinkle and rip as much. My favorite is this fancy apartment loft backdrop and people almost always think it’s my real place. eBay also sells a variety of photographic backdrops that are inexpensive but sometimes take weeks to arrive. I think I own about 10 of them. Just check the ratings and make sure you don’t get something too small (with a 5×7 you’ll need to be very close to your wall or the edges will show. You can buy a stand that allows you to hang this anywhere but they’re either expensive or cheaply made and a wall is fine. Use painter tape to avoid ripping your wall like I’ve done.

4. Extra Monitor: If you don’t have a second monitor I highly recommend one. It took me months to invest in an external monitor and you’ll thank me. It allows you to multi-task while on Zoom and easily reference different documents while creating a new one. Here’s the list of best-selling monitors on Amazon and this Acer is an absolute steal at $100 (it has 39K reviews that average 4.7). You will definitely want an adjustable monitor stand, and this is the one I own and it’s still on sale.

5. Audio (Mic/Headphones): Audio isn’t as critical as video as long as it’s decent. In the beginning of the pandemic, the kids all wore their Apple AirPods (so I made some fake fake ones, pictured below, by clipping the wire off of a regular set of headphones). I strongly suggest staying away from Bluetooth headphones because they’re always failing. But if you want a decent pair, check out Imagitarium Betta Circle Aquarium 2.0 Gallon Tank w/ bubbler. 1. I would avoid headphones unless you need them to hear. As for a mic, I’m usually fine with the built-in one or the dual mic on the Logitech 922, but here’s the mic bundle I own (comes with the adjustable stand and stuff). For some reason I also needed this phantom power thing to convert it to my MacBook.

Make your own Apple AirPods by clipping the wire off a regular pair.

6. Zoom Hacks:

Stay on mute if you have noise, and you can press and hold the space bar to unmute.

Keep yourself at a safe distance. In the photo above I’m going with the typical TV-framed position, but you could actually back up a bit.

Stare into camera to replicate eye contact with your fellow meeting attendees. If you have an external monitor be sure to put your camera close to wear you’re looking. It’s bad etiquette to be staring off to the side. Imagine doing that in an in-person meeting.

If you want to record a Zoom video that’s somewhat professional, see this video I made about simply recording with an iPhone while conducting the interview on Zoom. I was recently in a documentary and the producer sent me an iPad mini and lavaliere mic that makes for a professional recording.

In Zoom settings (preferences>video) you can customize things like “touch up my appearance” which is like virtual Botox. 🙂

Barbie The Class Act 1998 BOOK
If you use Zoom, select “touch up my appearance” in the video preferences but stay away from that virtual background.

Use Zoom shortcuts. Might as well learn some… especially the space bar mute/unmute thing. Zoom has the full list here.

Bonus Hack: See my video below on how to create a seamlessly looping video of you paying attention. You can then cover your webcam and do what you’d like (but stay attentive in case someone calls on you).

In summary, here is the Zoom survival kit*

The dual $18 LED lights that clip to your desk (an absolute must)

The fancy apartment backdrop

The highly-rated Logitech C922 (or a Carburetor For Husqvarna 350BT/150BT Backpack Leaf Blower-Walbro)

Extra monitor: $99 Acer

Decent wired headphones

* I use affiliate links so will make a small commission if you buy these things. But it doesn’t effect your purchase price and I’m not going to try selling you some crap that’s no good.

Now Your Comments: What am I missing?

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When Are Pranks Funny and When Are They Mean?

Buzzfeed featured my YouTube prank antics in an article today titled “An Early Dad YouTuber Reflects On The Viral Prank Videos That Made Him Famous — And Ones He’s Since Decided To Delete.” It’s part of an ongoing series by Tanya Chen about YouTube and pranks.

I discuss some of my experience with pranks, and when they’re funny and when they cross the line. Enjoy. And comment below. This blog has been dark for years.

How to Loop a Video to Fake Paying Attention on Zoom Calls

Getting tired of paying attention on Zoom calls? Here’s how you can create a looped video of yourself paying attention… so you can relax.

See the video here, and here are instructions:

  1. Record about 30 seconds of yourself using laptop (I hav a Mac so I use Photo Booth). Don’t make any extreme moves but move slightly and have your eyes peer across the laptop like you’re watching someone else or sharing a screen.
  2. In editing software (I use iMovie), import that footage in. Next, duplicate it so it’s in there twice. In iMovie, this option becomes available when you try editing the speed of a clip.
  3. Inverse the second clip (so it’s reverse). This ensures the 1-min clip has no “jump edits.” It begins and ends the same way, and the two clips show no edit.
  4. Open Zoom and go to “preferences”
  5. Select tab called “backgrounds and filters” (the same place as the virtual backgrounds).
  6. Import the completed clip (the one-minute one that combines the 30 second and the reverse 30-second).
  7. Importantly, cover your laptop camera (I use a post-it) or you’ll see two of you.

Here’s what’s important. You need to keep the preference window open and your mouse over the “none” option (no filter). That way, if you need to speak up, you can simply click it to remove background loop video and then remove your post-it (or lease cover) in a seamless, quick move. Another option is to turn off your camera, select no-virtual background, and then turn it on again. Pretend to have tried to unmute but you hit the camera button.

You’d be surprised at how few people notice this. Occasionally I’ll get a Slack that says “hey smile” because my face is largely flat.

Let me know how it works for you!

How to Hack Zoom Call with Fake Loop Video in Just 7 Steps

Getting tired of paying attention in Zoom calls? Here’s how to create a looped video of yourself to make people think you’re paying attention.

See video here (it’s only 2-minutes and it’s for Apple/Mac not PC)

1) record about 30 seconds of yourself using your phone or Photo Booth (using same shirt and background as you’ll have in actual Zoom call).

2) import it to iMovie and use clip twice.

3) Reverse second copy (so beginning and end of video are identical, avoiding a jump edit.

4) In Zoom preferences, select “virtual background” and import your video.

5) Note that you will see yourself AND your recording… so the camera has to be off. I cover it with a post-it for easy on/off

6) Practice the timing of simultaneously turning off the video background look and removing the post-it note. That allows you to rejoin, and simply looks like you turned your camera on and off by accident.

7) Stay alert during call and be sure you’re on mute since your lips aren’t moving in the loop.

Bert Healy from Annie: “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”

My son and I were in Annie over the weekend, and I played Bert Healy, the host of the Oxydent Hour of Smiles. He sings “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” Yeah I bought a Barber Shop hat (Skimmer) but the director wanted me in this little baseball hat.

The video is annotated to hopefully help others who are cast as Bert Healy. I found a ton of YouTube videos with great singers, but few that helped identify quirks to give the character.

Here’s the video that wifeofnalts took. 🙂

Here are the lyrics and dialogue…

Continue reading “Bert Healy from Annie: “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile””

How to Create Killer Online Video for Marketing

Here’s an infographic from Entrepreneur magazine, in an article titled “7 Ways to Create a Killer Marketing Video” authored by Emily Conglin.  I have some additional thoughts, as a marketer (currently leading strategy for an Omnicom agency) and as an author of Beyond Viral,” which was written for marketers seeking to capitalize on video online. The book is now ancient in online terms, but still has some tips that have stood the test of time.

One of my key messages in Beyond Viral is that advertisers should not “over produce” videos. Go for volume of efficiently produced video rather than creating one or two expensive ones.  I still see a lot of that violation in advertising, where creatives want to shoot one single video and spend tens of thousands of dollars. As I still say, of my thousands of videos on YouTube as Nalts, I never knew which one would gain traction. For me, it turned out to be “I Are Cute Kitten,” a video seen 47 million times as of this writing.

So volume helps… especially since marketers can use online-video for a variety of stages in the consideration-to-purchase funnel.

The infographic urges marketers to begin by identifying the target market and the video’s business objectives. The intersection of those customer needs and business needs is the right way to begin.

Another temptation for marketers is to sell, sell, sell before providing value to the target customer. As the infographic points out, most viewers abandon a video in those precious early moments. We once did a sponsored video for Kodak, and the agency insisted that we open with a promotional slate. As a result, the viewers were basically told “this is going to be an ad” before they ever got to the story. I encourage marketers to resist the urge to force a business objective on the audience before providing them value.

What ya think? Comment below and check out the infographic. Any infographic with an orange monster must have some important information.

To see full infographic, click and visit Entrepreneur magazine

 

Online-Video Spending and Insights

Since I was dangerously close to having a “dark blog” here, I thought I’d share some recent online-video information that’s worth knowing.

Online-video ad spending continues to grow (May 2017)

Online-video ad spending continues to grow, with 2017 looking to be passing $9 billion this year (it was $6.8 Billion in 2016). That’s according to recent research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) as reported in “Digital Content NewFronts: Video Ad Spend Study.” Advertiser Perceptions surveyed 358 US agency (47%) and marketing (53%) professionals to inform projections.

Secondly, Think With Google offers an infographic about some recent YouTube trends…

Top 10 Stats About Online-Video Usage and Advertising for 2016 and Beyond

What do you need to know about online video for 2016? Here’s a convenient “round up” for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s a guy looking at mobile video. It’s trending.

  1. Mobilization. Mobile advertising is growing 66% and desktop is just 5 percent. What’s interesting to me is that 36% of our time is spent on TV, and 39% of the ad spending is there. But we’re spending 25% of our self on mobile, while only 12% of ad spending is on mobile. Implication: watch for way more advertising in your apps, on mobile-enabled site, and perhaps even while you text. (KPCB Internet Trends, June 1, 2016)
  2. Mobile vs desktop tie. By 2020, online-video advertising will be about 50% mobile and 50% desktop.
  3. Pay TV is stuggling. About 86% US Internet users think pay TV is too expensive. Some forecast a decline (source: TVFreedom, : SNL Kagan as cited in Video Advertising Bureau, 2015).
  4. TV ain’t dead. According to eMarketer “TV will continue to grow and remain the top video advertising format through 2020.” That said, our time with digital video (versus TV) changed in 2012 and the gap has widened, with digital outpacing TV (Nielsen, eMarketer).
  5. Netflix is rocking it for time. The streaming time of Netflix is growing insanely. 600M hours in 2009 and 42 billion hours in 2015. And originals are the reason (Netflix and Cowen & Company, 2016)
  6. Digital Video Ad Spending is Growing But Slowing. We’re seeing about 30 percent growth in digital video ad spending this year, but in the next few years the growth will slow somewhat…. Down to 20 percent next year and about 10% by 2020. Still growing, just not as radically.
  7. Watch out. We’re gonna block that online-video ad on mobile.

    Video ads need help. Many Online video ads are ineffective. About 80% of us mute video ads, and the majority (62%) are annoyed with pre-rolls. And 93% consider using ad-blocking software (Unruly Future Video Survey, July 2015). Given mobile use behavior, online videos are going to have to adapt.

  8. Block You. You know that thing about mobile users being annoyed by ads? The growth of mobile ad blocking is happening radically faster than desktop (as cited by the KPCB report, PageFair & Priori Data 2016 Adblocking Report.).
  9. What works in mobile video ads? Keep it less than 10 seconds, shoot it for mobile, and try for full-screen delivery. (Snapchat and other sources).
  10. What makes for good video ads? Unruly’s recommendations: be authentic, entertain, evoke emotion, go personal/relatable, be useful, give viewers control… and work with sound off and in non-interruptive ad format.

See more at eMarketer. Or KPCB for internet trends. Or Invisia for more.

How to find the missing file you opened via Outlook on a Mac

Can’t find that file you saved from a Microsoft Outlook attachment on your Mac? I run into this problem every couple months and it takes me 15-30 minutes to find the solution. And it’s usually when I have a deadline, so end up starting the document all over again.

Here’s that familiar scenario: you double-click a email attachment on in Outlook on a Mac. You make changes to the file and (because you’re really smart) you rename it. 

Oh no where did my file go? I’ve lost it forever in the bowels of Outlook in some cache temporary folder. Or DID I?

But WHOOPs you forgot to save it to a specific folder! Now you’re SCREWED. It’s VANISHED forever. Google results will tell you to look inside a cache temporary folder (Library>Caches>Temporary), but you won’t find that folder — much less the damned document. You can even see the document name in other Microsoft “save as” paths, but it won’t let you find or open it again. Is it lost forever? NO!

The top-secret 911 solution that Microsoft and Outlook don’t want you to know:

  1. Open the finder (the smiley face on the bottom left of your menu). Or double click any folder or the hard drive on desktop)
  2. Select GO menu (forth one on top of screen), then choose the last option called “go to folder”
  3. Paste this in window: 
  4. ~/Library/Caches/TemporaryItems
  5. Sort by date. There it is. There’s that sweet file.
  6. Send me a thank you

Your Outlook email attachment file didn’t vanish forever. You just have to know where to find it on the Mac inside a secret temporary folder

 

YouTube Prankster, Edbassmaster, Debuts Television Show

Another YouTuber is moving to mainstream with “The Ed Bassmaster Show” premiering on Country Music Television (CMT) this Thursday, April 14, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Bassmaster is a YouTube comedian and prankster from Philadelphia, and has garnered a half-billion YouTube views featuring his alter egos like Skippy (the lovable yet annoying nerd who oversteps boundaries), Mumbles (unintelligible accent) and Teste (his low-IQ Philly cross-eyed dude).

Skippy is one of the dozens of freakishly funny characters played by Ed Bassmaster

Click to see the very funny trailer for the new Viacom show, which is produced by the folks who launched MTV hits like “Teen Wolf,” “Kesha: My Crazy Beautiful Life” and “The Andy Milonakis Show.”

This is one funny bastard and one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in the YouTube community. Nalts met the fellow prankster back in 2007, soon after he parodied me in a video. He later joined me in the YouTube Presidency as my VP running mate (or I might have ditched him for Winekone; I can’t be sure). And while shooting a documentary with Shaycarl at my house, we pranked him and Destination Departure Flagship Aviation Kneeboard. But few things amuse me more than the video he made of us called “Nalts Likes Dogs.” Feel free to sing along.

This article in the Guardian provides plenty more examples of how YouTubers are moving beyond the video-sharing site into television and film. It’s nice to see it happening to a humble and hysterical guy.