To set up a WebCam you'll need the appropiate WebCam hardware which will fit 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
- Card based (ISA,PCI,AGP)
On a Mac:
- USB port
- Card based
- 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). USB seems to be one of the most standard solutions for novice and advanced users, while Firewire and certain card based systems can get you in trouble (harder to set up, often carry conflicts with software and/or drivers), so they're recommended for advanced users only.
Network cameras are a type of camera where a computer is not needed at all. While Wireless cameras are a reality today, the future will bring much needed improvements to these devices.
The PnP (Plug and Play) camera devices have the advantage of being cheap and easy to install, but often offer lower frame rates than regular cameras connected to a VideoCapture Card, since the connection with the computer is made thru a Serial/Parallel/USB port. They provide high qualitty images, though.
Usually, these cameras drain power from the keyboard plug or USB connector, so you don't need an external power supply and don't have to mess with extra cables on your computer area.
Before buying one of these, be sure you have a free port available and if the camera you want to buy will be supported by your system. Our advice is to buy USB cameras, since it is a new way to connect up to 127 devices in the same port (chained) even without turning off your computer. Just be sure your Operative System supports USB ports.
All of these cameras can be put many feet away from your computer if you need to... just try to find one of those cable extender kits or some sort of device that will amplify the data signal.
So, PnP cameras are good for novice level users, users who actually just want to post live pics (no video or limited video) on a Web and users that don't want to spend too much money on this but begin to do something WebCam related.
Video Capture Devices & Cameras
Generally, cameras that require a video capture device are expensive, but they offer the highest frame rate available (24fps - 30 fps). You just need to acquire a videocamera (or use the one you have to film your family and friends on holidays, for example ;) and a Video Capture Device which will fit in your system. Just keep in mind that the Capture Device must match the video system used in the videocamera: NTSC for US/Japan, SECAM in France, PAL in Europe and so. Contact your hardware dealer if you have doubts on this.
Power supply will vary on each camera and country, so be sure the camera will fit your country's need. Video Capture Card drains power from your computer's slot, so you don't have to actually worry about it.
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 that are connected directly to a Parallel/USB port of the computer and then the videocamera connected to it (Snappy, QuickClip). They're an alternative when you don't have enough free slots inside your computer.
So, VCC cameras are good for advanced level users, users who actually want to broadcast live video (you can obviously upload images only) thru the Web and users that don't actually care about money to spend to set up a video conferencing system (thru the appropiate software).
Network & Wireless Cameras
This is a small group of cameras which have the ability to connect directly either to a Network or deliver the images thru a modem without needing to set up a computer to connect them to.
They're usually expensive, but cheaper if you think that you don't need to buy a computer to host the camera. Usually they offer good qualitty and frame rates and just need either a LAN connection or a phone line to retrieve the images from.
It is an alternative that is being used for security/surveillance purposes or just to put a camera where a computer can't be mantained (top of a mountain, for example!).
Digital cameras are becoming quite popular lately. The easiness of snapping shots everywhere and don't having to buy and process a photo film makes people get these kind of cameras. A small portion of them allows you to use them as true video cameras to use them in videoconference programs, or, why not? as a WebCam.
If you already have one of this kind of cameras, check with the manual or with your hardware dealer to see if the camera has a video-compatible
driver for your Operating System. If you're planning to buy one, take the WebCam/video support in consideration :-)