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How to set up a Webcam

Hardware & Software

Obviously, to set up a WebCam you'll need the right WebCam hardware which will suit your needs.

A computer needs to communicate with the camera via a hardware port. Current computers do have several communication ports:

  • On a PC: Serial port, Parallel port, USB port, Firewire/IEEE-1394, Card based (ISA,PCI,AGP).
  • On a Mac: USB port, Firewire/IEEE-1394, Card based.
  • Without computer: Network Cameras, Wireless Cameras.

Serial and parallel port WebCams are now old and obsolete (you may still be able to find products using those ports though). A USB is a reasonable solution for both a beginner and an advanced user. Firewire and certain card based systems are recommended for the more advanced user.

Network cameras are a type of camera where a computer is not needed whilst Wireless cameras are being improved all the time.

PnP Cameras

The PnP (Plug and Play) cameras are cheap and normally easy to install, but often offer lower frame rates than normal cameras connected to a VideoCapture Card, since the connection with the computer is made via a Serial/Parallel/USB port. They do, however, provide high qualitty images.

Usually, these cameras use power from the keyboard plug or USB connector, so you don't need an external power supply.

Before buying one of these check that you have a free port and if the camera you want to buy will be supported by your Computer. we recommend buying USB cameras, so long as your computer supports USB ports.

The cameras can be placed away from your computer if you can find one of those cable extender kits or some sort of device that will amplify the data signal.

Video Capture Cameras

Normally, cameras that require a video capture device do not come cheap, but they offer the highest frame rate (best quality)available (24fps - 30 fps). You will need a videocamera and a Video Capture Device which will fit in your Computer. The Capture Device must match the video system used in the videocamera: NTSC for US/Japan, SECAM in France, PAL in Europe. Check before you buy!

Just be sure to choose an ISA, PCI or AGP Video Capture Card depending on the free slots you have available in your computer. There are some alternatives: capture devices which are connected directly to a Parallel/USB port of the computer and then the video camera is connected to it

Wireless & Network Cameras

They're usually expensive and they offer good qualitty and frame rates and just need either a LAN connection or a phone line to get the images.

Digital Cameras

Digital cameras are becoming very common and many can be used as a WebCam.

Snapshot Software

The most easy and cheap way to addsome life in your web page and converting it to a WebCam live page.

Streaming Video Software

If you plan to broadcast live video you will need a fast and high bandwith connection. A modem connection will not be sufficient.

You will need a dedicated computer to host the video server with a fixed IP address.