Learning how to use a webcam is not a difficult task, and is a great way to save money while expanding communications. Web cameras are typically plug-n-play, which makes them very easy to install, even for someone who is not used to computers, or is even completely computer illiterate. Downloading free or very cheap video conferencing software, such as Skype or Trannyroulette (as brand), is also quick and easy for inexperienced users. With a robust Internet connection, a web camera, and a few minutes worth of downloading and installing, long distance calling charges are a thing of the past.
Web-based Camera Set-up
A web-based camera, commonly called a webcam, is usually very easy to set up. Most webcams are made to be easily installed, by simply plugging the webcam’s USB cable into an available USB port on the computer.
- Identify an available USB (Universal Serial Bus) port on the computer that will host the webcam video conference. USB ports are wide and flat, and denoted by a symbol of a trident, or three-pronged fork, with each of the three tines ending in a different symbol – a circle, triangle, or square.
- Connect the webcam’s USB cable to the USB port.
- Watch for the computer’s “New Hardware Detected” message.
- Web Conference Solutions
Web conference solutions, such as Skype, provide online video conferencing for free. Skype will only work between two users that both have the software installed. The process for downloading Skype is the same on most computers, although there is a different file for a PC versus a Mac.
- Download Skype for Windows here to install the conferencing software on a PC.
- Download Skype for Mac OSX here to install Skype on a Mac.
- Download the beta version of Skype for Linux here for computers running Linux.
After downloading the software, follow on-screen instructions for installation, and set up a user account. Use email addresses or names to find the other conference call members, and connect.
T-1 Internet Access for Video Conferencing?
T-1 Internet access is provided through either copper or fiber-optics, and offers speeds of 1.544 megabits per second. This robust bandwidth ensures that a video conference using web cameras can take place without audio or video drops, but is not absolutely necessary. Any broadband connection, including DSL or cable Internet, provides enough speed to support online video conferencing. Want to check the speed of an Internet connection? Read Compare Internet Service Providers With Speed Tests.
Long-distance Conference Calls Via Web Camera
Make long-distance conference calls with a web camera using Skype, and avoid expensive telephone calls and phone bills.
How To Improve A Webcam’s Image
Anyone that has used Skype or another video chat client has doubtless seen some very bad quality video images.
While the price and quality of a webcam may be a decisive factor in determining just how good of an image a user can get, it is totally possible to get vibrant, rich images from even the cheapest webcam. Making some simple adjustments to the overall environment around the computer can greatly improve webcam image quality.
The four key areas are:
- Light source
- Monitor adjustment
To fix many webcam image quality problems follow these simple instructions.
Use A Good Light Source
Many people use fluorescent lighting in the workplace to save energy, but fluorescent lights often give off a bluish colored light that makes the subject looked washed out and faded. While it may be possible to adjust for this in the software a more practical alternative is to make sure the light source is providing realistic light on the subject’s face.
Traditional light bulbs work well for this, especially soft-white bulbs. Lower wattage bulbs are often sufficient for this purpose, and some professionals recommend filtering the light further by passing the light through a piece of paper to diffuse the light and make it less harsh in close up shots. Also consider the location of the light source, if it can be moved position it in a place that will not cause reflections off of the user’s glasses or other objects.
Frame The Subject Within A Good Background
While this is not a primary concern for most people, the color and images behind the subject of a webcam image still need to be considered. Solid color backgrounds work best, and can be lightly or darkly colored depending on the subject’s personal taste.
Avoid having photographs or other images with reflective glass coverings in the background. Remember that the background image can affect a person’s impressions of a conversation. A cheap, dark wood panelling background would not work well for some situations, while a plain, white background would be inappropriate for others.
Focus On The Subject
Although many webcams come with auto focus the vast majority of cheap webcams use manually focused lenses. Get the subject in frame, in the position they will be when the video is being taken, and adjust the focus ring on the camera lens until the image is sharp and clear.
Don’t Be Afraid To Adjust The Monitor
One of the most common problems with webcam video images is the reflection of the screen on a user’s eyeglasses or painting the user’s face with a wash a color from the monitor. Turn the brightness of the monitor down to the point that it does not cast any colors or reflections on the person being captured by the webcam.
Once all of these suggestions have been taken into account if the image is still not at the quality level required the next step is to attempt to make some adjustments in the webcam software.
Between these two areas of adjustment (environment and software) most webcam images can be brought up to acceptable quality. Some users will have success using an online tool to help adjust their camera software settings. If not, the one remaining option is to try a different webcam and repeat the suggestions shown above.