Monday, September 22, 2008

Setting Skype video options

To configure your Skype video options, choose Tools➪Options➪Video Video options require that you have a video device, either a webcam or software such as CrazyTalk (which animates a character’s mouth and mimics your lip movements as you speak). To use video, you have to select Enable Skype Video before continuing. You should deselect the When I’m in a Call: Start My Video Automatically option. You probably should also set the Automatically Receive Video From option to People in My Contact List.
Here’s a list of Skype options you may want to set:

Category Option
Privacy Allow Calls from My Contacts
Video Enable Skype Video
Video When I’m in a Call: Automatically Start My Video
Video Show That I Have Video to People in My Contact List
Advanced Automatically Answer Incoming Calls

Skype video is very stable. However, Skype is constantly improving its software and therefore continues to label its video feature in Beta mode,

Installing your video driver

Your webcam should come with its own installation software. Although each brand is different, all involve some common steps to install the software drivers. Following are some tips to consider.
Turn off your anti-virus and anti-adware software before installing new video drivers. You can turn them back on after the video installation. The webcam you may be using may not have the most up-to-date video driver for your computer and operating system. Check for updates from the
manufacturer on its Web site. (Hint: Look at the support and download pages for updated drivers.)
Don’t plug in your webcam before you install the video driver. In almost every webcam installation, you need to wait until the software prompts you to plug in your device

Shopping Guide for Webcams

While you’re webcam shopping, it’s a good idea to review the list of features published for each webcam you’re considering. Compare that list with the following items to get the most flexibility out of videoconferencing with Skype:

  •  Wide field of view
  •  Microphone included with camera
  •  Microphone contains noise cancellation capability
  •  Minimum lens distortion
  •  Low light boost
  •  Manual pan and zoom control
  •  Face Tracking software
  •  Avatar creation software included
  •  USB 2 enabled for fast transmission
  •  Wide-angle lens

The less you have to fiddle with your webcam, the smoother your video conversation will be. A webcam with a fixed focus nails you to the chair. You can’t move out of range, reach for a book, or lean back in your chair without slipping out of camera range. A webcam with a wide field of view that tracks your movement, keeps your features on-screen even in dim light, and doesn’t distort your features makes video chats a more natural activity.
Webcams with built-in microphones, especially noise cancellation microphones, give you a definite advantage. Microphone webcams eliminate an extra piece of hardware with extra wires that take up precious USB ports on your computer. If making a video call forces you to plug in a webcam, a microphone, and headphones as well as deal with the tangle of wires, plugs, and devices, you may just decide to forego the whole experience. One good webcam combines all these devices, simplifying the setup and letting you concentrate on what you want to say, not what you need to plug in to say it.
Often, you can take advantage of your webcam’s noise cancellation microphone even if you don’t enable video. You can choose your webcam as the sound input device in your computer’s sound control panel and not even have to set up a separate microphone! To do so, follow these steps:
  1. Choose Start➪My Computer➪Control Panels➪ Sounds and Audio Devices➪Audio.
  2. In the Sound Recording section of the Audio window, click the drop-down list and select your webcam.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When you should disable face tracking?

If you are a little hesitant to let your camera follow you around, you can always activate the manual pan and zoom option. To do so, follow these steps:
  1. From the Skype menu, choose Tools>Options>Video>Test Webcam>Webcam Settings.
  2. Select the Off radio button to stop Face Tracking.
Click the arrows in the Webcam Settings window that appear above the Face Tracking radio button choices to move the camera lens in any of four directions as well as to zoom in and zoom out. Disabling Face Tracking in the Webcam Setting window is preferable when you want the camera to stay focused on an object that you are describing, or if you want to control who is displayed in the video as you speak. If your mom were sitting beside you in front of a webcam as you spoke to your niece, you would probably want the camera on your mom’s reaction when she finds out that a great-grandchild is on the way. Use the manual pan toggle to make sure that the camera is exactly where you want it . . . on your mom’s broad smile!

Understanding Face Tracking Features

Motorized and “intelligent” Face Tracking is a feature that frees you from endlessly adjusting your webcam to keep your face in the viewfinder. The digital or motorized face tracker enables you choose to track one person or detect several people at a time. When a group is in the picture, the motorized face tracker adjusts to try to try to keep everyone in the frame, even if everyone is moving in different directions. Logitech’s Quickcam for Notebooks Pro software lets you choose Face Tracking for a single user or multiple users to follow an individual or a group.
Face Tracking doesn’t just make webcams easier to use with Skype.

Software that tracks facial features has the potential to perform other kinds of functions as well; for example, you may be able to have the software recognize a face, remember a face from a former videoconference, or look up and match a face from a library or photo album. Facial recognition is a handy feature for those of you who never forget a face but never remember a name. You may also be able to analyze the facial expressions and head motions of individuals in different cultures (great for businessmen and diplomats), follow an individual’s eye movements, or even have the software read lips. All these high-tech features are in the works and will eventually add power to our Skype video communication.

Understandng Web Cam Image Quality

The images rendered by most inexpensive webcams have a classic security camera look — jumpy black-and-white images that have more in common with Charlie Chaplin movies than Paramount Pictures. However, the newest webcams have made tremendous improvements in transmission, color rendering, and image resolution. Some give you a choice of image quality or size. If you pick one with a better quality image, though, you may run into some transmission problems.
Better pictures contain more information that must be pushed through those Internet cables to reach your Skype buddy. The general rule is to pick a size and resolution that’s not too large and not too small, but just right. Experiment with your equipment to figure out which size works best. If transmission is choppy, reduce the picture size in your webcam software preferences. To change your video image size, open the software installed with your specific webcam. You cannot change the image size within Skype software. It is important to explore your webcam software before you make a video call on Skype so that you can be prepared to troubleshoot if there is a problem.
If you are on a Skype video call and you don’t see yourself in your video window, reduce the pixel resolution of your webcam software in the video settings preferences. Chances are, you’ll reappear!