What’s unique? 640 x 480 Resolution at 30 Frames per Second over Broadband
Prior to November 2007, video calling services over broadband (cable and DSL) Internet connections could only support real time voice calls at 30 frames per second (fps) speed up to a maximum resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. November 2007 saw the launch of Skype’s High Quality Video providing video calling at 30 fps with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels (the VGA standard). The key achievement here is the ability to send VGA standard video over the broadband Internet connections that are widely deployed in both homes and small businesses.
To achieve High Quality Video Skype had to research the market for appropriate webcam hardware as well as develop software that could manage calls at this resolution and speed. In the end they found that Logitech was developing a new series of webcams using Carl Zeiss optics that had the potential to offer this level of performance. Skype then worked with Logitech to develop the required special drivers and other support software in preparation for the launch of this line of cameras as well as the release of Skype for Windows version 3.6, the first version that supports High Quality Video.
To achieve High Quality Video requires on the sending side:
- Skype for Windows 3.6 or later on a Windows PC (download latest version here)
- A PC with the Intel Dual Core Processor (Core Duo, Core 2 Duo)
- a minimum 384 kbps Upload speed (readily available with most cable and DSL broadband services)
- one of three Logitech cameras: QuickCam Pro 9000, QuickCam Pro for Notebooks or QuickCam Orbit AF
- Logitech QuickCam version 11.5 Driver Software: download from this link, select Webcam Model and Operating System (XP or Vista); do not use the driver software included with the webcam’s retail package.
For more details, see “Installing a Logitech High Quality Video Camera: The Experience“.
While the requirements above are the minimum criteria to send High Quality Video, viewing or receiving of High Quality Video is much less stringent; it simply requires a minimum 2 Mbps download speed and higher speed single core processors (>1.3 GHz). Also can readily be viewed on any Mac with Mac OS X v10.3.9 Panther or later.
Comments on High Quality Video
- While Skype video calling will work with most webcams to provide 320 x 240 resolution at 30 fps, once you see High Quality Video you will not want to go back. It turns video calling into a feature you want to use on most of your Skype calls (provided you feel comfortable about your appearance).
- Skype for Mac 2.7 will support sending 640 x 480 video at up to 25 fps. In practice, the usual maximum is 15 fps. Unfortunately the Mac program is such that it has not been possible to appropriately support the Logitech webcams at the level supported by Skype for Windows 3.6 or later.
- The designated Logitech webcams’ Carl Zeiss optics themselves are a major contributor to the quality observed. With both a wider viewing range and deeper depth of field, backgrounds are crisp and one can see details many meters away. On the other hand hold a business card about three to four inches from the webcam and you’ll read every detail.