My Online Tour Setup

When it became clear that for this tour I’d be doing all my events from my office, I went out and got a fairly nice webcam for streaming and whatnot. But it turns out that it plays only fitfully with my computer and also that my sound card kind of hates it. So this is how it gets done instead: My Dell XPS laptop and its built-in webcam, stacked up on a bunch of books so the camera is at eye level and you don’t get a view of my nostrils — unless for some reason I have to use my phone, in which case I have my charging station propped up on the books and you get a nostril view no matter what because the charger back angles slightly.

Otherwise, I’m using the phone as the streaming hotspot, because it’s five to six times faster than my dedicated DSL connection. I use my Pixelbuds (in the gray case there) to avoid feedback and to be able to hear other folks. The big monitor stays on for use as a fill light, and I have a Coke Zero on hand because when I’m doing events my throat dries out fast because I’m declaiming rather than just speaking. My usual keyboard is over to the side there.

It’s not exactly a high end set-up, but it gets the job done, and that’s what I need. Maybe for the next time around I’ll make an actual little home studio or something. But for now: Here’s how it happens.

23 Comments on “My Online Tour Setup”

  1. I’m surprised you were even able to get a Web cam. When my wife started working from home a few weeks ago we looked into getting one for her and we couldn’t find one that wasn’t ridiculously expensive and that would arrive before mid-to-late May. The majority of them were shipping from China.

  2. If you want something a bit neater, I would heartily recommend the Roost laptop stand. I’ve had mine for a few years now and it’s been so worth having. You might look at the price tag and think, “How much?!”, but the build quality is great. And whenever you get back to traveling, it’s super easy and lightweight to throw in a bag with you. Mine travels with me every day to my coworking space (or, it did).

  3. I’m impressed. I work as a computer programmer and none of us have cameras on our home computers. So all of our zoom meetings don’t have video or audio (all done on the phone). Yes, we’re supposed to be tech workers, but we program in a dead language (RPG) where the average age of the programmers is around 55. Not leading edge stuff.

  4. As someone with a Coke Zero addiction who has had to do a lot more voice performing from my house on an unusual schedule – for long days, consider something with less acid in it. You know your voice better than I do, obviously, but I find that the acidity helps if I need to push through when my throat is in bad shape already but absolutely accelerates getting in bad shape if I’m not already. I’ve been doing a lot of tea, with the soft drinks saved as my reward for making it through. YMMV, of course.

  5. Ah, but what’s behind your head? What are viewers going to be treated to? Your bookshelves? A blank wall?

  6. How much thought went into the stack of books? I see several of those that I also own.

  7. Is your “Tour” schedule posted someplace that I missed? How does one virtually attend? Seems like a prime time for me to see you since I haven’t been able to get to Phoenix any time that you’ve been through.

  8. My eyes went to your wife’s lovely picture first, and then the books, and I experienced a weird little OMG THE CITY WE BECAME I JUST READ THAT and now I feel extra dorky today. So thanks for that.

  9. Maybe this time you get to do a Portuguese book tour as well. :D
    I almost did a 12 hour trip (6 hours each way) to meet you in Spain last year but family and work got in the way. :(

    All the best.

  10. It might be obvious, but have you tried the webcam plugged into the Dell?
    That way you still get the positioning and quality.

  11. Makes me think installing high speed fiber everywhere would be a good public works project to get the economy restarted after the pandemic ends.

  12. (Not a paid promotion I promise, though now that i read it, it really sounds like one). I got an Elgato Cam Link which lets you use any DSLR/Mirrorless camera with HDMI output as the most amazing webcam ever. I’m loving it for work. They seem to be sold out at the moment but well worth it when they come back into stock.

  13. Glad you apparently have a decent cell phone signal from your relatively remote, rural location! Growing up on a farm, I’ve gotten hooked on watching many YouTube VLOGs from farmers. Many times they will live stream a session from their $250,00 plus tractor while doing field farm work. So I suppose that cell towers are reasonably prolific in many rural areas now.

  14. Two things. One, I appreciate the fact that your nostrils are symmetrical, it could be worse.
    Two, responding to the anxious comment above about the acidity of Coke Zero, my voice teacher in high school in the 1960s told us that Coke was the best thing to have a sip of before singing, as it cleared the throat. I still find it to work well that way, myself.

  15. My home video office is in my hall. I have the ironing board set up in front of the dimmable light on the wall, and add a box under the laptop. No nostril views! Pretty even lighting! I even watched a video on covering the bags under my eyes. Oh, the skills we are learning.

  16. Thanks! A useful post.

    What’s your lighting setup? One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a designer who told me, “Lighting is everything.”

  17. You may already have some musical equipment you can re purpose for the task. Yesterday, I used my Zoom H6 as an audio interface for my Windows 10 tablet in a Skype meeting. It was plug-and-play.

    I’ve been using a webcam I bought for $10 at Goodwill. I got it around the middle of February. It does 1080p recording, which is good enough for me.

  18. I have the same setup with my laptop balanced on a stack of books, though mine are all Shakespeare, since I find myself teaching that online. What’s handicapping me at the moment is my having progressive lenses, which mean I need to use the bottom of the lenses for close-up viewing, which creates more nostril views. Arrrgh.