Everything Old Is New Again. Logitech Introduces C920s HD Pro Webcam.

Our friends a Logitech made some news recently. They introduced the C920s HD Pro Webcam. This model is a minor respin of their older C920, which was and remains, the most popular webcam in the world, despite the introduction of several new models.

C920S-frontal

What’s changed vs the older variant? Not much. The “s” in the C920s name supposedly denotes stereo microphones, which should impact almost no-one. It also has an external privacy shutter. That’s a nice thing. In the past those concerned about privacy bought one of these after-market solutions.

It’s curious to compare the C920s to the C922x Pro Stream Webcam which was introduced around 18 months ago. These two models are very similar. The major technical difference is the fact that the C922x can deliver 720p at 60 frames/second, which is potentially of interest to the game streaming crowd.

C920s vs C922x

From a bundling point of view the C920s gets the external privacy shutter, while the C922x comes with a 3 month trial of XSplit.

The C922x originally included a copy of Personify’s Chromacam. I’m told that offer has been withdrawn. I tinkered with ChromaCam but found it less than useful.  Such a tool trades performance for the convenience of not having to setup and light a green screen. I’ve rarely seen an acceptable result.

Xsplit now offers VCam, which is their own freestanding background removal tool.

I accept that my opinion may be harsh. It’s informed by direct experience with Ultimatte and broadcast production switchers in a past life.

The biggest change brought by the new model is the fact that it’s sold as UVC compliant. The old C920, while basically UVC compliant, by default installed a Logitech driver. That driver did not allow more than one camera to be used per computer. The XSplit team found that the Logitech driver leaned hard on the CPU, which was a problem for gamers streaming their game play.

It was trivially easy to hack Windows into treating the C920 as a generic UVC webcam. I did this so long ago I can’t even remember how. Happily, if you buy the C920s you won’t have to. The C920s will simply appear via the built-in UVC driver of your host OS.

While no driver is required, Logitech now offers their Capture application, which I intend to examine on its own. A Windows version of Capture was released into beta in Q4-2018, with a Mac version planned for later this year.

I suppose it was inevitable that such a successful product could not simply be retired. Logitech’s venerable C920 webcam lives on as the C920s, at a reduced price and with updated supporting software.

 

How-To: Using an RTSP Stream as a Source for a WebRTC application

This post arises from a question posed by someone via Quora. I’m not all that engaged with that Q&A platform, but this question seemed novel, so I offered an answer. I thought the answer worth sharing in a little more depth, so I offer it here as well.

The question was, “How can I use the RTSP stream from an IP camera as a source for a WebRTC application?”

There are two parts to solving this puzzle; (1) Connect to the RTSP stream and (2) Make it appear like a webcam to the client application.

Obvious Answer: vMix

At the outset, let me say that I would address this using vMix. vMix solves both parts of the puzzle handily. If this is all that you needed to achieve, the $60 Basic HD license would suffice.

Of course, you’d need to learn a little about the application, which is deep. To my mind it’s fun, but some might find it daunting. Further, vMix requires a considerable host platform. You’re not going to run it on trivial hardware.

Let’s just say that we’d like to solve the problem with less spending and requiring less knowledge overhead.

Less Obvious Answer: VLC & NDI Tools

VLC is the ubiquitous, open source media player. Available on all platforms it can play anything I’ve every wanted to open. Beyond files, it can open network streams. I’ve used it to listen to my local PBS radio station. I’ve also used it to watch video streams from our Grandstream surveillance cameras, as shown below.

VLS viewing RTSP stream

NDI stands for Network Device Interface. It’s a network protocol, developed by Newtek of TriCaster and Video Toaster fame, that allows low-latency, lightly compressed video to be passed over a gigabit Ethernet network. NDI is impressive, but I won’t wax poetic about that here.

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Webcams Where None Should be

It’s as if laptop makers have started playing a little game of hide-the-webcam. In their zeal to offer borderless displays the built-in webcam gets relocated to the most unfortunate places, often with terrible consequences.

Dell XPS

This trend started in 2015 with Dell’s XPS. While the InfinityEdge display was lovely, it forced them to move the webcam from the usual location in the top edge of the display. In their wisdom, Dell put it in the “chin” under the display, and even under the logo. It’s literally right above the keyboard.

xps13_c_3

This location makes for some odd viewing angles. It’s been referred to as the “Nosecam,” which seems appropriate. Others have more specific observations here, here and here.

Tom’s Guide even suggests you use a trick to rotate the webcam video and place the laptop on its side when making video calls.

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Deal Alert: Amazon On Logitech’s MX Master Mouse & C920 Webcam

As a rule, I only recommend devices or services that I have actually used. Today I see that Amazon is offering nice deals on two Logitech products that I’ve been using for a long time.

Logitech C920 Webcam

As you may know, I’ve had a long-running exploration of the world of webcams. In fact, I’ve tried an irrational number of models myself. The dregs of those experiments litter my office. That said, for everyday use atop my monitor, the venerable Logitech C920 remains my choice.

Logitech C920 Webcam 600px

Since it was superseded by the C922x model last fall, the price for the C920 has fallen from the $80 range to around $60. Today Amazon offers it for just $47, which is an excellent price.

The C922x model is, in actuality, the C920 hardware with a minor firmware update that allows it to stream 720p60. This new capability, while novel, is of very little real value in most use-cases.

Logitech MX Master Mouse

Early in 2016 I fell prey to a bout of tendonitis. Given my change in working circumstance, my physician was not at all surprised. He quickly recommended that I use a more ergonomically correct mouse. He was very specific about the Logitech MX Master, which he uses himself.

Logitech MX Master Mouse

The doc was right, the new mouse has helped a lot. Further, it’s a joy to use. Highly recommended, especially at today’s offer of just $49.

Logitech’s Brio 4k Webcam Pro

There’s a new webcam in the house…errr…home office! Yes, I have received a sample of Logitech’s latest, the Brio 4K Webcam Pro.

Even before the sample arrived I had a great conversation about the Brio with Dave Michels. Dave captured that discussion for publication on his blog.

I’ve put the Brio through a few simple experiments and learned a few things. At least superficially, it does what it says. Connected via USB 3.0 it delivers a 2160p30 (aka 4k) stream using MJPEG encoding to vMix and OBS.

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Logitech Launches A New Flagship: The Brio 4K Pro Webcam

With a commanding 73% market share, Logitech is the leader in webcams. They’ve been very successful at diversifying their product range, introducing the ConferenceCam, GROUP and PTZ Pro models aimed at business users.

These business oriented offerings have vaulted the company to new heights in the VC/UC space. Yet the meeting/huddle room focus left desktop users clinging to the HD Pro Webcam C920 and C930e. While these are both excellent products, they have been around a very long time.

All of that changes today with the launch of the Logitech Brio 4k Pro Webcam, their first completely new model in a long while.

This new model is a new flagship, offered to both business and consumer users. At first glance, Brio looks to be the webcam that we might have been expecting when the C922x launched last fall.

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