The freedom and flexibility of whiteboard makes it a great tool of communication. Unfortunately when the pandemic happened and we started to WFH (work from home), we found ourselves communicating through camera and microphone over VC (video conference).
Luckily, the whiteboard made a quick turn back to my toolset with a cheap but convenient setup. Since so many people ask me how I set it up, here’s everything you need to know to set it up at home including the BOM (bill of materials) for my exact set up and some tips to think about when purchasing yours.
A typical webcam with one missing feature: autofocus! You don’t want the camera to switch focus everytime your hand enters its field of view. I got a cheap webcam from Amazon which was very bad for VC but fits this purpose perfectly well!
2. Camera stand
Just a flexible stand that can support the weight of the camera.
This is a flat whiteboard surface that lays on top of the work table next to the keyboard and mouse. Prior to turning this corner of the table into a whiteboard, there was a pile of useless papers and letter there.
4. Cable management
This part is optional but since I slide my hands under the camera to write, I prefer that there’s no cable in the way. Plus it looks much better and costs nothing.
Self explanatory. The obvious requirement is that they should be whiteboard markers but also thin enough not to look like a giant is learning to doodle! You want it neat and ideally easy to hold. I use a tissue to clean the whiteboard so that’s not included in the BOM.
Here’s a picture from my setup in its full glory:
Bill of materials:
- Camera: EIVOTOR Webcam Full Hd 1080p (200 SEK). A simple USB webcam with no AutoFocus.
- Camera stand: Volking Webcam Mount with 5.4" Gooseneck Camera Tripod (141 SEK). It is a flexible and compact stand. One can use a scissor arm like this one (224 SEK) which is more solid but it takes more space.
- Whiteboard: CKB Ltd® Shiny Dry Magnetic Whiteboard Fridge Magnet A3 (80 SEK). This also comes with a market which died after a couple of months.
- Cable management: GothicBride Cable Ties 50 Pieces Velcro Straps 150 x 12 mm (90 SEK). The afformentioned camera stand comes with some cable management, but I got this one because I needed the rest for other stuff too
- Markers: Staedtler 301 WP4, Multi-Colour, 4-Piece (64 SEK). Love the quality of these markers. The package can also be used as a stand.
Which brings the total cost to 575 SEK.
I’ve hooked the camera to a USB port which means my computer has two cameras. On Teams, Zoom or Slack, I change the camera to the whiteboard whenever I need to draw. The other parties can “pin” my video if they want to see it larger, otherwise the whiteboard is going to be seen as big as other faces in the call.
I use this almost on a daily basis and lately started using Slack’s async video messages to share scetches in a DM (direct message) or channel.
I recommend this setup to anyone who is stuck WFH and needs the flexibility of whiteboard to convey a message: software architects, managers, SREs, UXers and basically anyone who doesn’t want to murder the audience using PowerPoint presentations!
One of my colleagues mentions that you can use OBS Studio to feed the input from two cameras into one virtual camera. OBS Studio also unblocks a whole new bunch of fancy stuff as well: