Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Clip-on webcams

The clip-on webcam perches on the top of a flat screen and is perfect for a portable videoconferencing setup. One of the big advantages of a clip-on webcam is that it overcomes the common drawback of the casual videoconferencer. That is, most people stare at their screen, at the video image of the person they are talking with, rather than look into the camera. Unfortunately, most cameras are placed in an awkward position, so it doesn’t make sense to look into the lens. It makes much more sense to watch the person on the screen. But then you have two people not quite making eye contact in a medium that’s supposed to connect people face to face! Although anchoring a clip-on at the top of a screen helps aim the lens, some clip-on webcams pivot to allow some subtle adjustment of the lens. You pivot and aim the webcam at your face while you test the software settings for your clip-on. After it’s set, you don’t have to worry about the awkward stare into the computer.

Some clip-on webcams, such as the Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks, have a digital Face Tracking feature (rather than a motorized lens tracker, as described previously) that keeps you in focus as you move toward or away from the lens. The camera doesn’t move, but the software detects faces and makes adjustments to keep them front and center. If you are talking and suddenly lean back in your chair, the image zooms out to show you and the room around you. When you lean forward, the software tries to keep you in the viewing area by zooming in and eliminating the background. If you don’t want to use a wired headset and microphone, you can take advantage of your webcam’s microphone and noise cancellation feature without having the webcam active (heaven forbid you have a bad hair day). In this mode, the webcam’s microphone can continue to work even if the webcam settings in Skype are not enabled.

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