Let there be lighted Zoom calls [Setups]

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You, too, can have a clean, well-lighted place for Zoom calls.
You, too, can have a clean, well-lighted place for Zoom calls.
Photo: UGenya806@Reddit

Redditor UGenya806, who works in marketing for San Francisco-based DocuSign in Germany, takes appearances on Zoom calls seriously. After all, their job has always been remote and will remain so, even when others return to offices following the COVID-19 pandemic.

UGenya806’s setup centers on an M1 Mac mini tethered to dual Dell 24-inch 4K monitors and a CalDigit TS3 Thunderbolt 3 Dock. The mini is connected wirelessly to a Magic Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad.

A stand-mounted MacBook Air rounds out the mix, but is usually used separately as a standalone machine, not with the peripherals.

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Elgato Key Lights for lighted Zoom calls

But what jumps out at you in the setup photo are two Elgato Key Lights standing at the corners of the Ikea Bekant Desk.

The Elgatos radiate warm, soft light designed to make things look good on video. Perched atop the monitors is a Logitech C920 Webcam. UGenya806 uses the equipment for meetings and presentations.

Technical problems?

Although commenters brought up various potential technical issues they’ve experienced or read about using similar key lights, UGenya806 appeared to suffer none of them.

Any problem with the Wi-Fi connection? Negative. Any issues using the lights’ software? Negative. How about operating the lights over a mesh Wi-Fi network (asked a person who’d had frustrating results with Google Nest Wifi)? Negative. UGenya806 said the lights work perfectly with a Netgear Orbi Home Mesh WiFi System.

The lights also received high marks for build quality, brightness and adjustability.

Pro lighting advice

Some observers implied two large key lights is overkill in this situation, just one person at a desk wanting better lighted Zoom calls. But UGenya806 said they like the symmetry of the two lights. They’re set to just 8% brightness and used in conjunction with Zoom filters.

But according to some of the production nerds in the audience, perfectly symmetrical lights aren’t necessarily going to result in the best look on camera.

“Small tip from back in my production days. Set one brighter than the other by a decent margin,” said one commenter. “Many people light evenly from both sides, and while well lit, you lose the dimensionality of your face, making it look fake or unnatural. Beauty comes from contrast, so embrace at least some shadow.”

Another commenter added, “Different heights/angles would help the dimensionality as well. Try moving one down and to the side a bit or even slightly behind.”

Then UGenya806 will be ready for their closeup.

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If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.