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How Do Web Cams Work?

written by: D Lamberti•edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 3/21/2011

A web cam is a digital imaging device that is used for sending images over the web, and it can be directly hooked up to your computer easily. You can use it for various purposes, but have you ever wondered how it works? If you're looking for the answer, you'll find it here.

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    What Is A Web Cam?

    A web cam is a digital camera attached to your computer that has the ability tWorking of Web Cameras o send images in the form of photos and videos over the web. The digital camera is just what it says it is, but it's unique in that it can be directly hooked up to your computer. There is additional software that comes with the camera to convert the digital camera into a tool for use with all web applications. With this web cam, you can send a video email to family and friends. You can use it for your business and videoconference with colleagues, clients, and customers so that you are in virtual contact with them. A face-to-face experience does wonders for business. You can use it while chatting with friends and acquaintances. If you so desire, you can even set up your own entertainment channel on the net for other people in your social circle to watch. You can also use it as a monitor to oversee activities in your house or surrounding areas, including checking on the baby sitter.

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    How Does It Work?

    A web cam is basically a digital camera linked up to your computer. It comes with software that will help you manipulate and use your web cam for whatever purpose you have in mind. This software essentially gets hold of (or captures) a frame from the installed camera at certain fixed intervals. You can then transfer this captured image to any location on the net for viewing. If you feel the need for a more or less continuous stream of images (similar to a video), you'll need to grab and transfer the images at the rate of at least 15 frames per second. A higher frame rate of 30 frames per second is ideal but to transfer these images at that speed, you'll need a high speed internet connection. You can also use a web cam with certain email or instant messaging applications (such as Skype) as well.

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    Webcam Email Tips

    Record your video through the web cam. Preview it and edit out unwanted images or duplicates. The software on your web cam will allow you to email or send your video. It may open your default email program and enable you to send this video automatically to the desired recipient. You need to be careful to monitor the size of your video message; you may not be able to send a large file, due to restrictions from ISPs, your own system resources, or similar restrictions at the recipient's end. Your recipient does not need any special software to view the video message, as the web cam will record in a format that is playable through Windows Media Player, which is programmed onto each Windows based PC. Macintosh computers should also be able to view video messages, as they come with Quicktime Media Player.

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    Video Chatting

    It is essential that both the parties using instant messaging have web cams. Aplications like Skype allow users to video call each other and have a face to face conversation via web cam. There is an option available on-screen in most instant messaging programs that will enable you to switch on or switch off your web cam. You may even be able to view your buddy list and see which of your friends are online and contact them instantly for a video chat.

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    Things To Keep In Mind

    • There is a possibility that your live chats can be hacked into, so you need to take sufficient security precautions to prevent this. A video message is a more secure option, for example.
    • A web cam generally includes a motion sensor function and can be used to mind your little ones or monitor your house when you are away.
    • Do not expect very high video quality. Webcams are not really designed for HD quality recordings, and raising the video capture rate to a higher resolution may lead to a jerky or erratic video.
    • Check whether your web camera has a built-in microphone. Some models may require you to install a separate audio system if this is the case.
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    Web Cam Etiquette

    Here's are some tips on etiquette. Look directly into the camera when you are chatting. You also need to dress presentably, depending on the purpose of the video of course. Most importantly however, just have fun while you enjoy the functionality of your web cam.

    Good Luck!

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons