Don’t Forget Lighting! part 2

I didn’t forget the promise for a post on daytime lighting for a video conference call.

Here’s an example of my office, with a typical issue I see when talking to people on VSee:

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For the love of God, please don’t do this!

As you can see, it’s as bad as being backlit at night, and possibly even worse.  The camera, even with a high-end camera, will pick up sunlight at a very high contrast to whatever shadows are in your office, so avoid having windows in your frame during daylight.

If you must have the window in frame (your office/room/etc. is arranged that you cannot avoid it), close your blinds and make sure you are lit from the front.  Even then, something along these lines will likely be the best you can attain:

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This is better, and acceptable if you’re unable to follow the remaining tips.

You can now see my face, although the camera is struggling with detail anywhere but where my blinds are.  Also note that your eye is pulled by the bright area because my blinds are translucent.  The camera is choosing to pick up as much light through them as possible, making the remainder of the room artificially dark.  We are programmed to look at areas of high contrast and brightness, and that’s why your eyes are pulled to the window rather than me.

In daylight, the first rule is to close any blinds.  If you have blackout curtains, that’s even better because then you’ll have full control of your lighting.  Otherwise, look at the contrast in the next two pictures:

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Here is my office with the blinds open.  Note how washed out the books behind me are.  Even were this a blank wall (I admit to a video no-no by having lots of darks, colors, and shapes in the background), there would be a bright splotch of light on the wall that would steal attention from me.

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For comparison, note that even even with the light on, that bright spot behind me is still distracting and the side lighting is still too strong.

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Here’s my office with the blinds closed, the window out of the shot, and the light on.

For comparison’s sake, I’ll put together a couple of the above shots over this one so you can see how much better it is.

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Comments ( 4 )
  • admin
    Rich Griffin says:

    Another great post John. In the video “biz” we have the rule of three “L”s: Light, Lens & ‘Lectronics (OK a bit of a stretch that last one.)

    Lots of folks don’t realize how important lighting is. The darker the subject, the more the webcam has to “squint” (boosting exposure, white balance, “RightLight2” etc.) This pre-processing of video happens through the webcam driver – taking lots of CPU cycles and adding delay. Without auto-exposure, the CMOS imaging chip in most webcams captures a digitally “noisy” image to send to VSee. VSee now has the onerous task of trying to compress this image. Compression works when predictable things can be acted upon algorithmically – algorithms that work on predictable things don’t work well on noise which doesn’t match the CODEC’s library of known things or doesn’t fit its heuristic approaches – so they don’t compress well – leading to more computational delay and more bit rate to accommodate less efficient compression.

    So…more light, better image acquisition, better opportunity for VSee to do what it does best. Basically what you said – only geekier. 🙂

  • admin
    Gullu says:

    Really you made my day by this tuts.. I always feel that my cam is not working due to light(darkness) but now its not my cam mistake its my mistake

  • admin
    Cherie Thompson says:

    Lighting makes a huge difference in web cams. Although I would say it really depends on the camera you have though. Stick to a 1080p.

  • admin
    Winston says:

    Excellent post! Lighting can be really terrible and I was looking for a way to spruce mine up when I found this. These are really awesome tips and I can’t wait to apply them.

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