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Vidio Chat in 3 Easy Steps.

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Author: Kirschner, Suzanne Kantra

Section: What'sNew
Vidio Chat in 3 Easy Steps


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What you need to put a face on your online communication.

Video communication over the Web is not just for techno-geeks anymore.

In fact, it's quietly become one of the hottest Internet applications goingâ€"with 18 million webcam users and risingâ€"thanks to the increased use of broadband and free instant-messaging software that supports video. Admittedly, there's still a long way to go: True full-motion video has a frame rate of at least 24 frames per second, and most consumer services come up a little short. Powerusers may want to opt for more capable Web-conferencing solutions, provided by third-party hosting companies for a fee. No matter what your needs are, there are now a bevy of options to choose from. Here's our three-step guide.

STEP!

SECURE A WEBCAM

A basic webcam and its included softwareâ€"yes, even the one that came with your PCâ€"is good enough to create video greetings for grandma once in a while. The cheapest models cost around $25, with resolutions of around 300 by 200 pixels (about a quarter of your computer screen). If you plan to do a lot of video chatting, however, you'll want a higher-resolution webcam, something in the range of 640 by 480 pixels. Expect to pay roughly $ 100, but you'll get some useful videoediting software too. Security is another consideration, so make sure your cam offers password protection.

STEP 2

CHOOSE YOUR CONNECTION

You can jump on the video bandwagon with a dial-up modem, but we don't recommend itâ€"oflen voices don't quite sync to lips and movements are rather jerky. Again, good enough for the occasional video email but not much more. True fullmotion video requires a DSL or cable modemâ€"well worth the added cost if you're serious about Internet video.

STEP 3

PICK THE RIGHT SOFTWARE

You supply the webcam, and Yahoo Messenger 5.5 and MSN Messenger 5.0 (with XP) will supply a free realtime video connection. Downsides:

You're limited to one video chat at a time and neither can provide fullmotion videoâ€"Yahoo tops out at 20 frames per second, MSN at 12 fps. Logitech's IM Video Companion, a free download that works with MSN or AOL Instant Messenger, enables you to conduct a full-fledged video conference at 30 fps, though the frame rate slows proportionally to the number of viewers. If you're running a home business and need stable, robust videoconferencing, go with third-party hosting. Companies like Web Ex (www.vvebex.com) also allow the online sharing of documents so everyone can work on the same project in real-time. Fees vary.

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By Suzanne Kantra Kirschner



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