Online Marketers: How-To Hold Branded Blabs

OnSip-SMBlabLong-time VUC sponsor OnSIP has been running a series of video chats they call #SMBLAB. Blab is a newer, kinda Hangout-like video chat tool built using WebRTC. This week I participated in one with Mike Oeth, CEO of OnSIP, Angela Leavitt of Mojo Marketing, and Randy Resnick, founder of the VUC.

Blab is dead simple to use. It integrates with Twitter for user authentication, allowing up to four people to join each Blab (call?)  The resulting video chats are recorded. Throw in good social media integration and you can see why it’s an online marketers dream.

As nice as blab is, it’s visual presentation is a bit generic. It doesn’t have the image overlay or lower-third capability that you find in Hangouts. That means that you can’t readily add your name or company logo.

That said, it doesn’t need to be this way! You can take matters into your own hands and deliver strong, visually branded blabs…if you want to. It takes a little effort in advance, but it’s not difficult…and it will strengthen your brand presentation.

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A Better Understanding of the Microsoft LifeCam Studio Webcam

Microsoft LifeCam Studio 300pxOver the last couple of years I’ve been exploring the realm of webcams. Along the way I’ve encountered some confusing things involving the Microsoft LifeCam Studio. To be more specific, some have claimed that it’s capable of delivering 1080p video, while Microsoft’s own information suggests otherwise. My recent experiments using vMix have shed some light into the actual capabilities of this inexpensive little webcam. I thought them worth sharing.

“You cannot change the laws of physics, Captain.” – Montgomery Scott

Remember that a USB 2.0 connected webcam is bandwidth limited to delivering a maximum of 480 mbps (60 Mbytes/sec) to the host computer. Because of this fact, and given that the video frames from the webcam are uncompressed, the USB 2.0 link can only deliver 720p30.

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Using Multiple Cameras with Online Video Services

Conference Room Systems (CRS) is an aspect of Haverford Systems, a Philadelphia area A/V sales & integration company. I’ve been watching this company for some time as they seem to have a better than average grasp on USB attached webcams for applications beyond the desktop. Not too long ago one of their team posted an article on Using Multiple Cameras with GotoMeeting, Skype, Webex or Zoom.US.

This article, based upon a SlideShare document with a few additions, is a bit on the thin side. The author starts with the ultra-simple idea that a user with a laptop can select an internal or external webcam as the video source. This is a great point, and well worth noting since an internal webcam tends to be quite lame. A good quality, external webcam can provide much better quality video. My current favorite is the Logitech C920.

He then makes a great leap to using an external video switcher to allow live switching between multiple video sources. While both are valid options, what he describes represents a rather dramatic leap from $0 to thousands-of-dollars.

three video switching options

There is in fact a middle option, which is the approach that we’ve be using for the VoIP Users Conference. You can use a software-based production tool to handle a variety of video sources right within your computer. There are a few different programs that fit this role. Some are inexpensive, or even free. More professional tools of this sort may cost a few hundred dollars.

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Webcams 5: SparkoCam & My Canon Rebel XSi

When is a webcam not a webcam? When it’s actually a DSLR!

Canon-Rebel-XSi-Asus-Monitor-SparkocamAround here we are strong believers in DSLRs. Our first DSLR was an Olympus E-10, but these days we have a couple of Canon Rebel XSi’s. Released in Q1-2009 these are not the latest and greatest by any stretch, but they’re nice cameras. We also have a small selection of lenses.

As DSLRs have come to shoot video it would make some sense that they could also be used the more sedate role of webcam. Our Rebel XSi’s don’t shoot video, but they do make nice 12 mega-pixel pictures.

It happens that many Canon cameras, including the XSi, have a feature called “Live View” that’s intended to stream the image to the LCD viewfinder or even across a USB connection.

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