Well, it is going to be another long dark winter of doing Zooms, so what are the best things for lighting. We have one setup that works well for podcasting with a single key light and a good Logitech BRIO camera plus a nice microphone (which are now down to $150 from their $199 list thank goodness), but the other setup doesn't have great lighting, so for my own Christmas present, I got the Neewer Studio Lights for $75. This is a great kit in that it has a desktop stand that goes up to 25" so it just gets over the video screen. And it comes in 5400K in its native form with a diffuser. It has two remotes for each side and is up to 1000 lumen so very nice for lighting
The result is that when I look at Open Broadcast Studio, the color quality is much better and because there are two lights at 30 degrees off-axis, there are no shadows. This plus a $30 green screen that mounts on your chair although, in retrospect, the square version by RGTBYWAN is better, it fits the aspect ratio of a camera better.
If you mount the BRIO above a 55" LG monitor it doesn't look too bad and the down angle is definitely more flattering than looking up or even straight ahead.
Using OBS and NDI to make it all work
If you have Zoom you are pretty much set, it has click detection so they can't hear you type and it has a bunch of backgrounds, but if you are using Google Meets you can use OBS to provide a nice studio quality to your Zooms. And if you've been meaning to do Vlogs, then you need the whole setup to make a nice 4K podcast.
The setup up for OBS is pretty bizarre and it is not clear all the things that you need but to summarize for an M1 MacBook Pro. And, you definitely want a fast M1 Pro to run all this. It runs at 50% CPU utilization on my M1 Max and it was at 100% and fans spinning on my 2016 MacBook Pro:
- OBS. This is Open Broadcast Studio. It's a confusing application, but basically,
brew install obswill get you most of what you need. Ignore most of the internet because now a virtual webcam is included. The two red herring here are there is a package streamlabs-obs which is a skin on top of OBS and you don't need it. There is also obs-virtualcam which is in the current obs so you don't need that either
- NDI. This is a Network Device Interface, it basically takes the output of OBS and routes it to the right spot. This is needed because a bunch of systems (looking at you Zoom and Google Meets) do not recognize the virtual camera from OBS and OBS does not today natively stream audio out. Unfortunately the core NDI is not in homebrew so you have to go to their site to download it. You have to give them your email (you can use a hidden email if you have Monterey or iOS 14) and they will send you a link to it for manual download
- OBS-NDI. This is the plug in that connects the too that you get at
brew install obs-ndi
Now you have all the pieces you need so here is the setup:
- Start OBS.
- Add microphone. In the second pane from the left on the bottom is sources. Click on the plus icon and add Mic/Aux and then choose your device. Currently the Logitech BRIO microphone is buggy on M1 and stutters, so I use the MacBook microphone, the thing is so good it sounds fine.
- Now close and then while the Mic/Aux is selected you will see a tool bar above and click on Filters and add Noise Suppression and choose RNNoise. This is a neural network that does a good job of filtering keyboard clicks. Zoom has this natively, but if you are using Slack you can take this feed (but not the video one, Slack doesn't handle video properly but you get audio suppression this way.
- As an aside they also have a noise gate which basically bars things and a Compressor to again get your voice out of the background.
- Note that the order of these filters matters. YOu want the Dedicated NDI output to be the last one so it picks up all the audio processing
Then for the video:
- Go to source and add a Video Capture Device and select what you want.
- Now the trick is that there is a Background Removal plugin which is not included and you need to download it and you then unzip it into the right place in OBS. After you do this in Audio/Video Filters you should see Background Removal appear.
- Then you need to select the right background color which is normally #00FF00 which is pure green and then adjust the threshold to make it match your greenscreen.
- Now go to the filters and add Chroma Key and sleect Key Color Type Green.
- With my Neewer I like the lighting that is 3000K rather than 5400K because it is less glaring to me in the studio, but you shoiuld install the Color Correction filter to get the right color from the camera.
- The last thing is the Dedicate NDI output which pushes all of this to the NDI driver.
The last thing you want to do is layout your image so that it covers the screen for you and you can now add a background video which is kind of the point:
- Go to sources again and add Media Source and then select a video and make it loop. Pexels is a great place to find these by searching for Zoom background and picking video and then downloading it.
And voila you have it all with this final trick:
- Go to Siri and start NDI Virtual Input, this will start a daemon and you will see it in the menu bar.
- When you click on it, you will see a few entries, if you have the dedicated NDI Output in the above just click on that.
- Alternatively if you click on OBS this will send the final output (this means that you can see preproduction if you like with NDI Dedicated output) by adding that to your filters. This is not necessary but nice.
- By the same token there is OBS preview if you want to see the shot you are about to switch to.