Free Video Calls

September 17, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Computers, Media, Online services | 1 Comment

It may not be apparent to you, but making video “phone calls” is now quite possible with free software. Many of the Instant Messaging programs offer a video call option if you have a web cam plugged in. Many computers or screens these days come with one. I’ve tried it with Google Talk. Skype also allows you to simply click on the camera to send your picture to the other party – 2 way if you both have a web cam.

This does of course require more system resources so it’s best to shut down other programs before doing this – especially resource hogs like Outlook.

As I touched on over on Video Connectivity, you can use a regular video camera for a better picture and the ability to pan, zoom and such. Mac’s allow you to simply plug the camera in via Firewire. PC’s need a bit more work.

Thus, you have the foundation for having free video conferences. Programs like Skype give the voice precedence, so you’ll tend to hear the voice stay decent but the video fall out of sync or break up some. But still, it works and is sufficient to improve communication and add in body language and such.

I set up a video conference a couple of weekends ago that was quite successful given the limits of the technology.

IM programs and Skype use peer to peer technology. This means it is using your reources to sustain the call, not the systems. If for example, you use cable Internet, the potential is there for higher speeds but cable also uses a hub network so anyone in your area doing serious downloads or serving can affect your call quality. ADSL is simply distance from switch – you’ll probabaly have a more consistent speed but it may not be as fast.

Services like .Mac use more server resources so are said to allow better quality video calls. This though is a subscription service and I believe requires a Mac computer.

Commercial grade video conferencing services I’ve looked at are MUCH more expensive all around. Although there are some modest cost software services appearing.

Anyone try other systems for video calls that worked well? Anyone try things like eyeBeam?


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  1. […] Web Apps | Leave a Comment I’ve been using the Internet for making long distance calls and video calls for awhile. I’ve not even had a traditional “land line” phone in a couple of […]


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