Tuesday Tip: 8 Tips for Better Video Calls - a Green Solution for Connecting with Family when You Can’t Fly Home for the Holidays

So many of us have family and friends all across the country or the world. We’d love to be with them in person, especially during the holidays. When we can’t, do the next best thing – a video call.

For environmentalists, flying poses another dilemma: air travel accounts for 4% - 9% of the total climate change impact of human activity. The overall impact of aircraft emissions is a warming effect that is 1.9 times that of carbon dioxide alone.

If you’re not going to be with beloved family members this season, you can do the next best thing - enjoy a video call. Whatever your app of choice—FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Google Duo, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat—a video call is a good and hassle-free way to spend quality time with family and friends.

Unless there is a glitch, of course. Then your intimate conversation can quickly get exasperating. The sound is garbled. The lighting is weird. You spend half the call distracted by the self-view and wondering if you always look like Bela Lugosi.

Happily, you can take steps to ensure that your holiday video calls are almost as good as being there.

Make sure your app is up to date
App makers improve their apps with each new update. So if you’re still running the same version of the app that you downloaded two years ago, you’re probably going to get the same quality you had two years ago (i.e. not so good).

If your apps are not updated automatically, on your Android device, go to the Google Play Store, then tap the menu icon at upper left. Scroll down and tap Settings, then tap Auto-update apps. On your iPhone or iPad, open Settings and go to iTunes & App Store. Under Automatic Downloads, look for Updates and toggle the switch on. (For automatic updates to work in iOS, your iPhone or iPad must be running a recent version of iOS.)

Use headphones
Or earphones or AirPods or whatever you have. Your sound will be louder and clearer if you’re using a headset of some sort. You’ll hear better and your mic will pick up less background noise. Also, you won’t accidentally end the call while you’re pressing your cell phone to your ear.

Light yourself well
Let there be light—but let it be in the right place. Overhead lighting is not good for a video call. It will cast a shadow under your brow and you’ll look kind of like Marlon Brando in “The Godfather.” Also, don’t place yourself in front of a bright light or sun-filled window or you’ll be a mere silhouette. Natural light is best. It gives you a healthy glow. Sit by a window, facing the window, so that the light illuminates your face. Or use several soft-light sources at approximately eye level.

Find a stable background
If you’re in a crowded cafe or the flat-screen TV behind you is showing the Rose Parade, move to a different place. The more motion you have in your frame, the more work your app will have to do to capture the image and the choppier your video will be.

Be on the level
The best angle for a call is eye level, so hold your device there—and keep it as steady as you can. Also, try to look at your screen and maintain eye contact with the person at the other end. It’s annoying to have a conversation with someone whose thoughts seem to be elsewhere.

Close other apps
Video calls require your device to do a lot of work. Shut down other open apps to free up bandwidth and your call should perform better.

Have a charger handy
Video calls are battery-intensive. If your battery is low or tends to drain quickly when taxed, keep a charger handy so your call won’t end suddenly.

Dress correctly
Your top can be important—and not for fashion reasons. Pinstripes, herringbone and other fine patterns may cause aliasing or moire on some cameras. It’s that effect you notice sometimes on TV when a newscaster wears a check suit that seems to shimmer on the screen.

Wherever you spend them and whoever you spend them with—at home or on the phone—happy holidays from us here at CREDO Energy.

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