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It seems that webcams are important after all

For quite a few years I’ve believed that webcams are an important tool in the arsenal of personal communications. I’ve also wondered openly when they would evolve beyond a relatively simplistic state. For example, it took a long time for a USB 3 connected webcam to arrive.

This morning my wife was researching webcams for some of her staff. While she has a long history in broadcast production, she’s currently a public relations and corporate communications professional. Her staff are fielding requests from TV stations seeking to do remote interviews using tools like Skype, Zoom, Webex, etc.

Logitech Streamcam frontal

Since they have existing desktops, they don’t have built-in webcams. She was looking for webcams to add to these existing computers. Off the top of my head I recommended Logitech’s latest, which is known as the StreamCam.

Introduced in February of this year, the StreamCam is a brand new product. Unlike the Brio 4K webcam, reviewed here a while back, it’s USB 3.1 Type-C connected, delivering 1080p60. It’s likely a better solution than Brio 4K for most people.

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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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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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