By WHITSON GORDON
While it isn’t realistic to expect the same level of quality Skype shows off in their commercials, you can probably make your chats look better, sound better, and generally run more smoothly with a few simple tweaks at home. Note that for some of these, we’ll be using Skype as an example, since it’s the most popular video calling application. However, you can apply almost all of these tips to any video chat program. We’ll note where the tip is Skype-specific.
Note also that these tips go for both parties — in many caes, your video chat partner will have to implement these too if you want to see better video.
Make sure Skype is updated to the latest version. They improve the quality of video chats with each new version, so if you’re still running a copy from two years ago, you’re probably going to get the same crappy quality you had two years ago. This also goes for iChat and any other video chat programs. Web-based apps like Google Chat and Facebook Chat should stay up to date, though you might want to check and see if they have any updates or add-ons that improve the quality.
Wear headphones. If anyone is hearing echoes in the audio, it’s because the other party’s speakers are too loud. Wear headphones and this problem disappears instantly. Any headphones are fine; earbuds are nice since they don’t distract from your face. Note that this depends on a bit of communication between you and your friend: if you hear an echo, they need to wear headphones, but if they hear an echo, you need to wear headphones. Photo by Dan McKay.
Adjust your light. Again, this is a small tweak that can make a world of difference. Make sure you have a lamp or other light behind your monitor, pointing toward you, and that you don’t have too much light behind you. If you’re on a laptop, make sure the camera is at eye level and not pointing up at the ceiling lights, or down at the floor. Better lighting can mean the difference between talking to a real person and talking to a grainy silhouette.
Make sure your background is stationary. If you’re in a bustling coffee shop, or you have your family watching TV behind you, move somewhere else. The more motion is in your shot, the more work Skype will have to do and the choppier your video will get.
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