Mac mini + Big TV = video conferencing?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by b0redom, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. b0redom macrumors regular

    May 4, 2007
    Fairly seasonal question.

    I use my MacMini exclusivly for Plex at the moment, so it's hooked up to a big TV. Has anyone connected up a webcam for use with iChat on this kind of setup? Recommendations? Problems?

    It would be cool for the boy to see his grandparents on Christmas Day.


  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    Recently set my dad up with a Mini, 28" screen, and Logitech webcam (the Mac-specific variant of the Pro 9000), and it worked perfectly. So yes, that should work just fine.

    Two things to keep in mind:

    One, if you're going to get a webcam it might be worth spending a bit extra on a good one. That particular Mac-targeted webcam does the autofocus and contrast adjustment in hardware, rather than software, so unlike most webcams, which rely on the (Windows-only) driver to handle tweaking and so only provide basic functionality on a Mac, it looks just as good on a Mac. I also tried Microsoft's highest-end camera, but, while it did work, it didn't look good at all due to not having a Mac driver to adjust the focus and light level.

    An alternative is an inexpensive video camera (even an older one with a firewire output should work great). I've chatted with people using those before and the results are good. The notable difference is they're not nearly as wide-angle as most webcams (which are intended to have you right in front of them); if you're sitting way back from a big screen TV that might be a significant plus, rather than having tiny people in the middle of a large visible room due to a wide angle lens. You can also zoom in a bit to compensate for distance, if you want.

    I also discovered putting a camera just under the screen, rather than above, makes it look a little more like you're looking directly at the person you're talking to, rather than below.

    The other thing to be aware of is the sound; depending on how far away you are, it might be tough to get the microphone to register clearly without picking up a lot of echo from the speakers. One solution might be to have a separate desktop mic placed right in front of the people talking; this should minimize both problems with volume and echo (and you should be able to select the mic you want in iChat, even if the camera has one built-in). Alternately, having the camera much closer to the person than the screen and speakers might work.

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