Vidio Chat in 3 Easy Steps.
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Author: Kirschner, Suzanne KantraSection: What'sNew
What you need to put a face on your online communication.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Suzanne Kantra Kirschner
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