Guide to Video Lessons
Hopefully you now have your phone or webcam mounted over the centre of the keyboard. (If not and you want to know how this is done, see How To Video a Piano Keyboard from Overhead).
Here we take a look at a few useful accessories that might improve your set-up, starting with extending your USB webcam's USB lead.
USB Extension Leads
If you are using a webcam, unless it is connected to a laptop on top of your keyboard there's a high chance its USB lead will not be long enough to reach. The solution is a USB extension lead, such as the Ugreen lead shown above (view it now at Amazon), which can be bought in various lengths.
The actual limit of a standard USB 2.0 lead (the total distance between devices) is around 5 metres. However, this can easily be exceeded by use of a special kind of USB lead, known as an Active or Active Repeater lead. These contain electronics that basically boost the signal to make greater distance possible.
While you can get leads in excess of 25m, it is likely something shorter will suffice. Longer means more expensive, and the more spare you'll have to coil up and tuck somewhere.
For webcams the lead usually need be USB 2.0 Type A. Type A is the classic rectangular shape found on a computer mouse or keyboard, while USB 2.0 is an older USB standard, less expensive than a comparable USB 3.0 lead. The extension lead has a female connection at one end and a male at the other.
While unlikely, some may find they need add a powered USB hub (a USB hub that takes mains power). This has not been my experience when using PCs and Chromebooks (with a 15m lead), but it may be necessary in some situations. With the powered hub connected to your device via USB lead, one end of the extension lead goes into the hub and the other to your webcam.
While most modern phones and tablets hold enough charge to breeze through an hour long Skype call, some older models may feel the strain.
If running out of charge is a problem, the obvious solution is to plug your device into the mains (or another nearby powered USB port) for the duration of the call. A longer than usual USB lead may be required.
If there is nowhere convenient to plug in your device, consider using a portable charger. These come in various sizes, each one holding more charge and costing a bit more as you move through the range.
One consideration is how much charge you need. The smaller models, such as the PowerAdd EnergyCell 5000, will provide 5,000mAh of charge. This is enough to get at least one full charge into your phone, maybe more (depending on the phone).
At 11cm long (under 4.5 inches) and 2.7cm diameter (a tick over an inch), and weighing in at 99g, this is light and fits easily into a pocket or bag, making it highly portable (view it now at Amazon).
Another consideration is what else you might use it for. They are great for keeping your phone at hand while charging, and charging on the go. Good for eReaders too, especially when sat under your favourite oak tree with a blank screen.
If you need more charge, other models boast 10,000 - 30,000mAh (albeit at increased size and cost). Most of the larger models can charge more than one device at a time.
I use the PowerAdd 20000mAh, which offers a good combination of charging ability and portability. At 16.6 x 6.3 x 2.4cm (6.5 x 2.5 x 0.9”) with a weight of 364g it is noticeable when it's in your pocket (assuming it fits).
It works with a USB PD (Power Delivery) chargers. If you have one of those a top up takes 5 hours from empty. A standard USB charger will also work, it justs takes a bit longer (view it now at Amazon).
Reusable Cable Ties
Reusable cable ties, such as a Zacro 20x200mm 30 pack will keep the webcam's USB cable out of shot and - if you have had to attach a thumbwheel to your webcam - provide an extra level of security (view it now at Amazon).
Should the sticky pad work loose over time on your webcam, you could see your webcam bouncing off your keyboard. Or your head. Or one then the other.
You can prevent this by using cable ties to tie the USB lead to the boom arm. Place the first one as close to the mount as you can, then add at least another two equally spaced along the boom. Use only moderate force when fastening them; they need to lightly grip your cable, not crush it.
This will prevent the webcam plunging to the ground in the event the sticky pad fails and increases the chance of your equipment remaining unscathed in the event of a failure.
Keeping the first cable tie as close to the mount as possible minimizes the distance of the fall, and thus minimizes the potential damage.