Can you hear me now?

As I draft this note we continue to shelter at home and are continuing to see an increase in virtual meetings. I cannot begin to imagine how we would have conducted this work even two years ago. Changes in technology and the adaption of new systems have certainly facilitated this new normal!

As a follow up of our last post on looking your best on video, this post discusses how to sound your best on the call. We have all struggled with the sonic quality of conference calls in the past. Now that we are working from home and social distancing ourselves there are a lot of different sonic issues we experience.

The first is the common “can you hear me now?” question. When video starts and you see folks at the far end and you see your pip, Picture in Picture, you assume you are being seen. But when it comes to audio, there are several boxes that need to be checked:

–            Do you know how to turn you microphone on within the conferencing system that is being used for the meeting? GoTo Meeting, WebEx, Zoom, Teams, etc. are all a little different. The call I am on as I type this (yes multitasking while waiting for my agenda item to come up) has folks that cannot turn on their computer mic. Or they leave their mic muted. With a head set system, you need to check what is muted – the pc or the actual headset.

–            Once we have figured out how to be heard and seen, we need to focus on the quality of the image and sound. When we work on Video and Movie postproduction spaces, the producers always state that the audio experience is more important than the visual experience. For example, a client stated, “until recently, I always had the video shut off and just called into meetings”. In commuting between our east and west coast offices, I have spent lots of time looking at images on the seat back video screen for the person in front of me and much of the movie was lost without the sound.

We know from our audio system and room acoustic designs that the closer we can get the microphone to the talker (and therefore take the room out of the equation) the cleaner the sound will be. Headset microphones are great and work well if you are the only person on your end of the call (and you don’t mind looking like Mickey Mouse with your big muffs on your ears – or you can find a vanity head set that minimizes its visual impact on the call.)

If you are in a room, it needs to have the background noise as well as room acoustic finishes controlled. We have been contacted almost monthly over the last two years to look at rooms that have the far end complaining they cannot understand what is being said in the near end room.

The following link will take you to our website where there are recordings of what the far end of a Zoom call heard (http://ta-inc.com/audio-examples/)

  • The first is one of the rooms we were asked to fix. It had a gypsum ceiling, concrete floor, two gypsum walls, and two glass walls.
  • The second is a traditionally finished board room.
  • The third is my office with my web cam microphone.
  • The fourth is my office with my laptop microphone.
  • The final is my office with my headset microphone.

As we said in the past, the old adage was dress to impress; the new adage is to be seen and heard is to impress.

As always if we can help you with any acoustic, technology, or lighting design issues, just let us know!

Thanks,

Steve Thorburn