The Volokh Conspiracy

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Tech Tips for Zoom University: Get a Good Mic, But Your Camera Doesn't Really Matter

Zoom compresses all video uploads, turning the most high-definition stream into grainy video


Over the summer, I investigated whether I could use a higher-resolution camera to obtain a high-resolution Zoom feed. Ultimately, I abandoned the project. Why? Zoom automatically caps your upload quality:

As our world comes together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and stays connected through Zoom globally, we are working to quickly scale our bandwidth during this unprecedented demand.

For the time being, standard video, not HD video, will be activated when 3 or more participants join a group meeting. HD video (720p) will be activated for 2 participants or when a Zoom Room or Conference Room Connector joins a group meeting. HD video (1080p) will only be activated for selective use cases such as large format broadcast events.

In short, it doesn't matter what kind of camera you use. Zoom will not let you broadcast in HD. Better lighting could help to reduce shadows, but the quality will still look like a grainy RealPlayer stream from the early 2000s.

The only technology that makes a difference is your microphone. Audio quality really matters. I currently use the Pyle PDMIUSB50 microphone. It sells on Amazon for about $55.