The major new feature with the recently released Skype 3.6 for Windows is the High Quality Video (“HQV”) which provides 640 x 320 VGA resolution at 30 frames per second (“fps”). (As a reference point, my previous Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Deluxe would only work on video calls at 320 x 240 resolution with <10 fps; even so I had reasonably good quality video especially when using SightSpeed). But this new camera along with Skype’s HQV software “changes the picture” (no pun intended) by setting new standards for video calling quality.
A few pointers when installing:
- Requirements: a Logitech HQV camera, Skype 3.6, broadband Internet connection (>384kbps upload) and QuickCam 11.5 software. And with four times the resolution, one needs Intel Duo Core processing power.
- Do not install the Logitech QuickCam software provided on the CD that comes with the webcam. Go to Logitech’s website and download the version 11.5 driver for your particular camera.
- Uninstall all previous Logitech QuickCam software, including the Camera Driver.
- Reboot your PC and ensure you have an Internet (and, if applicable, LAN network) connection. You may find, as I did, after uninstalling the previous version 10.5 software that you no longer have any network connections for your PC. Fortunately I had encountered this issue back in June and reported on it. (Or go directly to the fix.).
- Quit Skype and any Skype Extras and Skype partner products such as call recording, collaboration and archiving applications, etc.
- Install the Logitech QuickCam 11.5 software (and, of course, ensure you have Skype 3.6 installed).
- Check that the webcam is working using the Logitech QuickCam software; for the purpose of Skype video calling check out the picture with 640 x 480 (VGA) resolution. An audio tuning wizard comes up to adjust microphone, speaker and echo cancellation settings (there is a microphone is these cameras).
- Upon launching Skype it will come up with a window announcing that it has found your High Quality Video camera and taking you directly to Skype’s Webcam Settings screen. You will also be asked to confirm that you want “Communications_Helper.exe” to link into Skype.
- Using the webcam settings tools, adjust the zoom as well as the pan-and-tilt to obtain a satisfactory range.
- Keep in mind that the Logitech 9000 Pro includes a microphone; installation may change your default audio mic settings (for both Windows and/or Skype).
While the real test will come tomorrow when I connect with some of my Skype contacts (late Sunday evening does not find very many online), some first impressions:
- 640 x 480 vs 320 x 240 comparison; see the images. (Reduced proportionally to fit within the column width of Voice On The Web posts). Much more detail at 640 x 480.
- The Carl Zeiss Optics in the HQV cameras has a wide angle lens which provides a significantly wider viewing angle; whereas previous cameras had a much smaller viewing angle such that images that would simply cover head and shoulders at close range, the Logitech 9000 Pro showed a significant portion of my office; now I have to clean up my office.
- It takes a few minutes to “warm up” to the full video potential while making lighting adjustments using the “Right Light Sensing” feature. And the Skype video software, accessed via Tools | Options | Video Settings, appears to soften down harsh reflections (like overhead lights off an uncovered bald head) compared to using the raw QuickCam images.
- When switching to other applications, such as SightSpeed, it does require that you disable video in Skype. Speaking of SightSpeed, it only supports 320 x 240 video with the HQV cameras at this time.
- I can readily switch between Skype and SightSpeed for video calls; however, since it always uses the webcam when open I must close down SightSpeed when using Skype Video. At this point SightSpeed runs at 320 x 240 resolution with this webcam and my cable Internet service (800 kbps; it only supports 640 x 480 VGA resolution when your upload speed is over 1.5 Mbps; however, I’m sure they’re working to reduce this bandwidth demand.
- Colo(u)rs are rich and show every detail across a significant depth of field.
- Putting a business card up to the camera once again shows the versatility of the Carl Zeiss optics: at about a 6 inch (15 cm) distance, one can clearly read the card.
While Skype 3.6, etc. are required to be a “transmitter” of High Quality Video, anyone with earlier versions of Skype (at least for Windows; Mac to be verified) can view an HQV “transmission”. I did have a demonstration last week, viewing a remote party with my Skype 3.5 client, during which the video was superb quality.
At this point I simply wanted to share my installation experience. While having had a Skype video call demonstration I want feedback from a wider range of viewers; there will be more to report after doing some Skype video calls with fellow bloggers such as Phone Boy.
One question re the Mac: does the MacBook webcam have the potential to match the Logitech HQV cameras for optical quality and frame rate; HQV is a lot about the hardware optics! And the Pro 9000 requirement is for Windows XP and Windows Vista only.
Tags: Skyype, Skype 3.6, High Quality Video, Logitech, Logitech QuickCam 9000 Pro, Carl Zeiss Optics, QuickCam Drivers
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