As the bassist and backup singer for legendary rock band Bon Jovi, Hugh McDonald admits that his performances rely on trusted legacy equipment and he doesn’t concern himself too much with following the latest performance gear and technology. But after a year of canceled tours and countless hours using the integrated webcam and microphone on his laptop, McDonald recently recognized that, in his own words, “There has to be a better way to do this.”
“When I finally had to do a recording, and I was setting up the laptop, positioning it in the room, it really felt cobbled together, like a subpar solution,” says McDonald. “The band ended up doing a lot of video from our homes for various organizations, plus solo videos to prepare for a live session in Nashville, and now when I look back, I wish I had upgraded my collaboration gear earlier.”
After a brief chat with some industry friends, he opted for a ClearOne Aura Versa 50 package, which combines a UNITE 50 ePTZ camera with a CHAT 150 speakerphone and a Versa USB Hub. According to ClearOne, the camera offers a 4K, 120-degree ultra-wide view lens with a 3x digital zoom, while the speakerphone delivers HDConference audio and plug-and-play simplicity with the Versa USB Hub.
“Everyone is using video calling on a daily basis now, so this new equipment has made all of our communications way better, to the point where I’ve actually said ‘Wow’ out loud,” he adds. “My wife is launching an online store for jewelry she makes that will include videos, and we constantly use it for family chats, and I’ve already noticed that calls feel better and more confident…”
As the industry evolves and artists increasingly invest time to connect directly with fans, audio and video quality will continue to be a critical component for the success and enjoyment of collaborations or recorded performances. With the uncertain timeline for the return of regular live events due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, more and more artists, musicians and other performers are seriously considering how they can work from home to earn an income and stay busy.
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From McDonald’s point of view, part of the equation is making sure that any virtual performance or collaboration must feel as personal and real as possible.
“When I’m in a virtual session performing with bandmates or even for an audience, there has to be a visceral sense of connection and shared excitement, which can be instantly ruined by grainy video or scratchy audio,” he says.
“There’s no downside to having a better camera, microphone and speaker that offer vastly improved quality with more functions. The small physical size of the gear is great, too, because we can easily move it from my office to my wife’s computer, or take it on the road so we always present our best.”