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How to improve your video call quality for better meetings (on Zoom + other tools)

Illustration of a person looking at a loading screen

Two years after the pandemic started, almost 60% of us are still working from home. That means a lot of video calls.

It’s more than okay to turn off video for some of your meetings, but sometimes you need a face-to-face for a better virtual meeting. For these meetings you’ll want your video quality crisp and clear so people can see you, not a shadow of the person you could be.   

While Zoom does support 1080p HD video for group meetings on Business and Enterprise plans, you can’t enable it for three or more people on a free plan.

But if you want to improve your video call quality in other ways, here are 9 things you can do right away, whether you're using Zoom or another video conferencing tool (like Vowel!).

1. Make sure your browser is up to date.

If you’re accessing Zoom or another video conferencing platform through a browser, start by checking that you’re using the latest version. And which browser do you use? (If it’s Internet Explorer, we have some news for you…) 

Here are some well-supported browsers we recommend for the best video quality:

Desktop:

  • Google Chrome

  • Safari

  • Microsoft Edge

Mobile:

  • Chrome

  • Safari

For these browsers, we recommend these versions:

Desktop:

  • Chrome >=89 (stable ~ 10 versions back)

  • Edge >= 89 (stable ~10 versions back)

  • Safari >=14

Mobile:

  • iOS system version starting at 14

  • iOS Chrome >=89

  • iOS Safari >=14

  • Android system version

  • Chrome Android >=89

2. Set proper browser permissions

Again, if you’re accessing Zoom or another video conferencing tool on a browser, check that you’ve given it the permission it needs to access your browser. 

In Chrome, for example, click on Chrome in the top-left corner, then Preferences. In the left-hand menu, click on Privacy and security > Site Settings > Camera

Privacy and security settings in Google

Make sure you’ve enabled Sites can ask to use your camera. Scroll down and you’ll see a list of sites that can currently access your camera. 

Granting your computer camera access

When you access your video conferencing tool, you’ll be prompted to “allow” access to your camera. But what do you do if you accidentally denied access?

Look at the URL in your browser — click on the lock icon beside it. Click on Site Settings > Camera > Allow

Allow camera setting

If you’re using Windows 10, your settings may look different. In your case, launch the Settings app > Privacy > App Permissions > Camera. Under “Allow apps to access your camera” give access to Zoom or the video conferencing platform of your choice with the toggle.

Camera access on Windows

Image credit: Technipages

3. Improve your wifi connection

Some basic things you can do to improve your wifi connection are to move closer to your router or mute yourself when you’re not speaking. But start by checking how good your connection is in the first place.

When you Google “wifi speed test”, Google’s speed test tool will pop up. 

Internet speed test description

Click on “Run Speed Test”. The tool will run tests for your download speed and upload speed (measured in megabits per second), and for your latency (or ping) rate

Internet speed test results

Zoom bandwidth requirements are 1.2Mbps (up/down) for 720p HD video and 3.8Mbps/3.0Mbps (up/down) for 1080p HD video for 1:1 video calling. For group calls, you’ll need 2.6Mbps/1.8Mbps (up/down) for 720p HD video and 3.8Mbps/3.0Mbps (up/down) for 1080p HD video. 

For latency, anything below 150 milliseconds is good, and anything below 20ms is considered great. 

4. Close apps that are hogging memory

If your wifi connection is fine, your device may be running browser extensions or apps that are hogging a ton of memory and slowing things down. 

To check how much memory your Chrome extensions are using, click on the three dots in the top-right corner of your browser. Click on More tools > Task manager.

Task manager on Chrome - close browser extensions

When the Task Manager opens, sort by Memory by clicking on Memory Footprint. This will show you which browser processes and extensions are taking up the most space so you can shut them down. (You can re-enable them when you’re finished with your video call.)

Certain apps that use Location Services can also slow down your device. On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Location Services and turn off the ones you don't need.

Location services settings on a Mac

5. Check your video settings (and disable HD video if needed)

When you’re in a call, you can check your video settings by clicking on your Start Video button in the bottom-left corner of your screen, then Video Settings

Camera settings in Zoom

If you don't see your camera's video, click the drop-down menu and select another camera.

Also: If your wifi connection isn’t great, you may need to sacrifice the HD video. In Zoom, you can do this by clicking on Preferences > Video > Unchecking HD

Uncheck HD option in Zoom

6. Adjust your video settings

If your video is working but it’s doing the bare minimum, you can play with some additional settings.

In Zoom, click on Preferences > Video. Under My Video, you can “touch up” your appearance with a slider that will “smooth” that beautiful skin of yours even more. Or, if you don’t have access to natural light, use the “Adjust for low light” slider to brighten up the place. 

Tip: Using Vowel for your video calls? Find out more about changing your camera settings. A "touch up your appearance" setting is coming soon!

7. Sit in front of a north-facing window

Photographers know — natural light is gold. If you have a north facing window (and you live in the northern hemisphere), rearrange your office so that you’re looking out through it. 

A north facing window will make sure you don’t have the sun in your eyes but that you have plenty of light for your face. Depending on the time of day, you can rotate your chair a little to cast a shadow that will give you some depth. 

Bonus: Check your video recording after your meeting

If you’re on Zoom, you can record your meetings no matter what plan you’re on. If you’re on Zoom’s free plan, you can save recordings to your computer as an MP4 file. On Zoom’s Pro and Business plans, you get 1GB of cloud recording storage space per license (learn more about where Zoom recordings end up).

We’re sometimes so preoccupied with our meeting that we’re not aware our video quality isn’t what it could have been. If you’re concerned about what your video looked like and want to improve it for next time, have a look at the recording and determine whether you need to pay attention to lighting, your background, or the video quality itself.

There’s another way to have better video calls: Vowel

If you want to use a meeting app that’s better than Zoom and accessible through your browser, use Vowel. 

Vowel isn't just another video conferencing tool. It's a meeting OS that gives you everything you need to plan, host, act on, and revisit meetings...all while looking great!

Team video call in Vowel, a video conferencing and meeting tool

When you have a meeting in Vowel, anyone can turn on recording to start a live transcription and bookmark key moments in the meeting as they happen. Everyone can contribute to shared notes and assign action items, etc.—and all of this will be available in your transcription to share with anyone who couldn’t make it.

Zoom is a great meeting app for just … having a meeting or hosting a webinar. But if you want to have more productive and high-quality meetings, sign up for Vowel.