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For many people, talking to someone online — and watching a live broadcast of them on a computer monitor — is something that belongs in futuristic movies. While they might know it's technologically feasible, they figure Web broadcasting is either too expensive or too confusing.
Anyone who has these assumptions is wrong on both counts.
A good Web camera costs as little as $80. What's more, setting it up is so basic that a Web camera is considered virtually "plug–and–play". There's not much more to installation than plugging it into your computer.
Other than the purchase of the camera, the only other cost associated with Web broadcasting is the Internet access fee you have to pay to be online in the first place. (Web broadcasting doesn't make your Internet access fees any higher.)
You can use a Web camera to conduct online meetings, interviews, and sales pitches. You can also use it to keep in closer touch with loved ones. Here's a review of the equipment you'll need to start.
|What you need||Keep in mind||Importance|
|Web camera (or a digital camera with a PC camera feature)||Look for a model with a built–in microphone.||Required|
|USB cable||Make sure your computer has a USB port.||Required|
|Instant messaging software||Download it for FREE at MSN, Yahoo, or AOL.com. Some cameras include it for convenience.||Required|
|DSL, cable, or satellite Internet access||Check availability in your area||Strongly recommended|
|Speakers (if your computer doesn't already have them)||Some computers may not have speakers. You need either speakers or a headset to hear people communicating/talking to you.||Recommended, but not necessary. You can see a Web broadcast without hearing it.|
You only need to log onto your instant messaging service to start communicating and talking with other people. No special Internet sites are required. If someone wants to initiate a broadcast, you'll receive notification as long as you're logged on to instant messaging.
You can broadcast over the Internet using dial–up access, but the image that comes through will be slower to load and blurry whenever the subject of the broadcast moves.
Many people wonder if both parties in a Web broadcast need a Web camera. The answer is no. Here's an example of the popular usage combinations that are available:
Frames per second (fps): The rate of image broadcasting. While almost all cameras can handle a full–speed broadcasting rate, some instant messaging programs allow for a maximum rate of 7 frames per second. 7 fps is a little choppy. 14–15 fps is almost full–motion, and is supported by the newest (and still free) instant messenger program from MSN.com.
Pan/Tilt/Zoom: Web cameras with this feature allow you to control camera movement and zoom with your mouse.
Face tracking: Higher–end cameras track you as you move — so you don't have to sit still during the broadcast.
VGA sensor: Web cameras with a Video Graphics Array sensor will produce a higher–quality image.
CCD sensor: Higher–end Web cameras will come with a CCD sensor, which broadcasts images even if they're in poorly lit rooms.
Pixels: The more pixels a Web camera supports, the better. Look for a camera with a pixel resolution of at least 320 x 240.
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