1. 54
    1. 15

      Bad title, but actually interesting read. Except this part:

      A good webcam, in my opinion, is a device that provides a decent sound quality

      Maybe I’m just realistically pessimistic but years of experience with people and their shitty audio setups made me swear to never ever use a room mic myself for a video or audio call.

      1. 11

        When using a MacBook Pro for video calls I can get away with using the inbuilt mic as others tell me I come across very clearly and with no background noise / echo etc. I’ve noticed the same with other callers on Apple devices.

        Those on our company’s (expensive) Dells all need to wear headsets to be heard properly and avoid noise / echo.

        I don’t know what Apple is doing with their mics and processing of the audio but it works.

        1. 11

          The Apple mic array is doing a ton of digital signal processing behind the scenes – identifying voice-like noise and “steering” to it using phased array techniques. That stuff is really cool but expensive to develop.

          1. 2

            It sounds cool, but in reality it is not that hard to develop. And they only have three mics, that gives only a very crude beam-steering abilities.

            1. 2

              I wonder why other device / OS manufacturers aren’t providing something similar then. Perhaps it’s encumbered by patents or is much harder to implement if you don’t have your hands on both the hardware and OS. Windows drivers should have enough access though, I’d have thought.

            2. 1

              Crude is good enough to distinguish between the voice directly ahead of the camera and other sources. If two people are directly in front of the camera, the chance is good that both intend to be heard.

      2. 2

        I use one and it works (and I’m conscious enough of these things to have spent almost €1k on conference quality improvements, and some of it was my own money). Location is everything. My microphone is far from my keyboard, somewhat directional, and I’m alone in the room.

        if I wanted to build a good-quality product I’d probably spend a lot of effort on using two or three good microphones and driver code and training/calibration tools to be able to boost the voice and suppress noise sources (typing on the keyboard, construction work in the neighbouring offices, neighbours fighting, whatever). And I’d forget absolutely 4k.

        I’m sure 4k resolution is useful for something, but being able to count the hairs on people’s chins during video conferences is not likely to help the conference achieve its purpose.

        1. 2

          That and probably no current videoconferencing system allocates users enough bandwidth to transmit 4k anyway, even if their internet connection suffices for it.

      3. 2

        My solution to all this, is I bought a good microphone. I have 2 now, a blue yeti, and a rode podcaster. The former is a condenser mic, so its a bit finicky on room noise pickup. The latter is a shotgun mic which is way better for meetings. I bought an arm for them as well.

        My only problem with all this is I kinda want the whole thing in a package, so I’m tempted to try to buy a new arm with in arm cable management (I HATE CABLES DIE DIE DIE), and to then get an rpi4 with the camera module v2 and make this whole setup work off the boom arm and setup obs there to act as a usb camera passthrough for say 720p. I’m also wondering if I solder up an led light array powered off usb too by the camera. Lighting seems to be the biggest issue with most live meeting setups.

        Then I can just use like xpra to connect to obs on the pi and all the stupid software on any system I plug this crap into will “just work” and think of the entire thing as a mic/camera but I’ll have sane audio filters.

        I’ve started down this path actually but not entirely sure I want to do the entire race. It all seems like a ton of silly work for little gain. Depends how bored I get this winter.

        1. 1

          Is OBS running on a Pi really good for that? I mean, I’ve thought about building a webcam out of a Pi and a HQ Camera module (and by my suggestion a friend did so), but he used Ethernet/RTSP from the Pi, and I thought about just getting a UVC stream from the Pi and using OBS on the computer it’s plugged into.

          I guess the real question I have is, how well does OBS run on a Raspberry Pi?

          1. 1

            Great question. I’m not entirely sure to be honest, I have a spare 4b 8gig I can test on. But my fallback option is this: https://www.lattepanda.com/products/3.html

            For 1080/720p should be enough and i’m also trying to have the goal of it doing all this over usb as a device not over ethernet/wifi which is a huge pita. The wifi is the only thing i’ll use and use it for having xpra run obs so I can disconnect/reconnect to things. I might just abandon the pi as the backbone and just use x86 instead because its a lot less of a pain to maybe do something that could be booted/installed off of pxe.

            You could run obs on the host computer as well instead of on the soc, my goal here was to more to have “obs in a box hooked up to a camera and mic”. It won’t connect super fast if I power it off the host bus and will have to boot but the tradeoffs seem worth it.

      4. 1

        At work, I have a fairly expensive VoIP phone with a speakerphone mode that I use exclusively as a microphone. It works very well in my office. In my home office, I’ve been using the microphone built into my Surface Book 2. That also works very well, though it works far better with Teams than Signal. As far as I can tell (having not looked at the code), Teams is doing some dynamic measurement to detect the latency between the sound and the speaker. This is really apparent when you use a wireless setup (for social things, I sometimes use the WiFi display functionality of my Xbox to send video and audio to the living room screen and speakers - this has about half a second latency, which Teams is fine with but Signal can’t handle at all).

        My webcam actually does have a microphone but I’ve not tried using it.

      5. 1

        Bad title, but actually interesting read.

        I’m open for suggestions on improving the title :)

        Maybe I’m just realistically pessimistic but years of experience with people and their shitty audio setups made me swear to never ever use a room mic myself for a video or audio call.

        It is actually possible to make a good audio setup with room mic. Of course, in some cases it is very hard, if someone is sitting in a crammed open space, but this product is supposed to be used basically at home, where it is much easier to do.

        1. 1

          I’m open for suggestions on improving the title :)

          Buzzfeed it! Top 10 reasons you can’t buy a good webcam, #10 will shock you! I think its fine as-is though, but I am also annoyed that getting good video and audio even for zoom stuff is sooooo more effort than i’d expected. I appreciate the people that put in the effort on calls now though. So much background noise that could be eliminated with a filter through obs or some other audio processing that would remove my headphones letting me hear every wash cycle of their clothes. (also, why do people not mute when not talking or try to do laundry when they’re not on a meeting but I digress)

          1. 1

            Top 10 reasons you can’t buy a good webcam, #10 will shock you!

            Ughh, thanks, I hate it :)

            So much background noise that could be eliminated with a filter through obs or some other audio processing

            When in a meeting from PC - sure, it’s possible. When someone is on a meeting from phone it’s both really hard to do anything custom and generally a lot more noise, because someone is walking by a busy street, or standing next to a grinding coffee machine… Or does their laundry, as you say.

            Seems like the only solution here is to convince people to buy some noise-cancelling headsets for their phone.

        2. 1

          I didn’t say it’s impossible, but I seem to have exclusively worked with people who don’t care about others in the past. I’m regularly the only one using a headset with a microphone, some people at least have earbuds with a non crappy mic, but environmental noise or static is more common than not. And yes, maybe I’m just grumpy because nobody seems to care a bit.

          Regarding the title: I think “good” is very subjective here, especially given the many different use cases. Yes, my ThinkPad one is horrible, but for team meetings where I have the people on a 14” laptop screen the one in e.g. 4-5y old Macbooks is totally fine. Also I kinda like the Logitech ones (forgot the model) that were actually just 70-100€ and maybe? catered to streamers. No, it’s not 4k but I honestly don’t see the need for that, many people I know never watch this on big enough screens to even notice.

          1. 2

            the Logitech ones (forgot the model) that were actually just 70-100€ and maybe? catered to streamers

            Maybe the C920 HD? They’re excellent, especially for their price. Not sure about the quality of the built-in mic, I always use a headset, but it’s overall a very solid product.

    2. 5

      I recently bought a Logitech Streamcam (1080p60) with a good 1/2.0 aperture and very good image and sound quality. While browsing the market, it seemed to be the only sensible choice (who needs 4k when no service transmits at that resolution?). Much more important than image quality to me is high framerate (i.e. 60 FPS). The image quality of the Streamcam is really good and it works natively with the basic UVC-drivers in Linux, even though there still seems to exists a race-condition in its firmware that will probably be fixed soon.

      Anyway, I’d pick that if anyone asked me for a recommendation. The next step basically seems to be to use a DSLR and a USB-HDMI-streamer, but this is just overkill for meetings. I’d think about it if I was a high-ranking executive in a company being in meetings all day or something.

      1. 3

        Anyway, I’d pick that if anyone asked me for a recommendation. The next step basically seems to be to use a DSLR and a USB-HDMI-streamer, but this is just overkill for meetings. I’d think about it if I was a high-ranking executive in a company being in meetings all day or something.

        Some Canon cameras have a webcam driver, and i’ve been using it on and off (with a Rebel T6) since it came out earlier this year. The trade-off is you get great optics (I love how I look in a wide-angle lens, and a big lens makes the lighting vs. sensitivity & shutter speed trade-off less pronounced), but the weight of those optics (450g body + 385g lens) makes it less flexible to position than a normal webcam (Logitech C920 is 162g) on an articulated arm. I have done a few calls that really benefit from a big studio-type setup where I can spend time setting it up, but the daily or weekly meetings don’t really need that.

        1. 2

          I use a 2012 vintage Canon EOS M (which I picked up off Ebay for ~$150) and a cheap 1080p USB HDMI capture card. I was drawn to the EOS M because of its great support for Magic Lantern (an Open Source camera firmware) which allows for clean HDMI output.

          1. 1

            Oh wow, that’s a very cute camera :3

            Mine sadly doesn’t have Magic Lantern yet, and no clean HDMI either.

        2. 1

          Is that by using the EOS Webcam Utility or does the newer models come with webcam support built in?

          I’ve previously tried the webcam utility beta version with a camera when it came out (can’t remember if it was the 6D or 550D/Rebel T2i I used) and it wasn’t really usable since there was a very noticeable delay in the video input which wasn’t the case for the audio (it came directly into the laptop).

          I didn’t look into ways of delaying the audio to sync it up with the video, but I guess it could have been usable if I got that worked out.

          1. 1

            It’s the webcam utility, yeah. I didn’t notice any difference in latency between the camera and a USB mic or Bluetooth headphones.

    3. 3

      You can buy gigabit ethernet c-mount cameras for around the same price as a nice webcam, and less than a DSLR.

      Or alternatively Niklas Fauth is building one from scratch. https://twitter.com/FauthNiklas/status/1265017260575465474

      1. 2

        Can you easily use the video from those cameras with Zoom/Google Meet? (i.e. does it act like a local webcam?)

        1. 2

          Yes, on Linux at least. UV4L has an IP stream to v4lc converter that makes them available as standard camera sources. So it’s not total plug and play, but very achievable.

      2. 1

        What’s the latency for these ethernet cameras? Can they be used for video calling?

        1. 2

          Yes, plenty good enough for video calling. Way less lag than the call itself has.

    4. 3

      I enjoyed this little walk into the economics of commoditization.

    5. 1

      I have a Huddly GO which works pretty well with a Bluetooth speaker mic (Jabra Speak 710). They aren’t cheap, but I was able to find a used one for ~$140. It has a ridiculously wide angle lens (150°) and good image quality even in low light.

    6. 1

      Just before the lockdown here in Victoria I bought a Sennheiser Presence earpiece.

      It runs all day on a charge, can be switched between ears to alleviate discomfort in a day packed with meetings, and the noise cancellation on the mic is amazing.

      I have walked down a busy high traffic street with roadworks, and carried on a voice call without issue. Working from home, it does a stellar job of quietening echo and background noises from three children and two greyhounds.

      An expensive bit of kit but worth every cent during the pandemic.

      1. 2

        I bought this based on the initial reviews but the shipping units are having a lot of trouble getting a good picture. They’re very sensitive to having perfect lighting and the software is pretty buggy (and basically useless on macOS, where the lack of pan/tilt/zoom and the high field of view make it less suited to video conferencing than all the cheaper options).

        In short, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    7. 1

      On the contrary, I want a low budget low res cam for chatting with my developer friends. I bet there is a good market for this, but zero supply for this in my region.

        1. 2

          Show me webcam from this link looks interesting. Will try next year hopefully.

          1. 1

            Nice, I had missed that link. Thanks.

      1. 2

        Many years back I bought a webcam based purely on it being advertised as ‘UVC’ and in theory therefore operable without third party drivers. It was extremely cheap and always worked perfectly - though of course the picture was only really adequate.

        Maybe cheap UVC cams still exist and might be an option if you’re looking for something useable but cheap.

      2. 2

        They might be sold as ‘USB security cameras’ :)

    8. 1

      I wanted to stop using my phone for video calls, so I also went researching. The linux information I found was confusing, so I just took a leap and ordered the Logitech Brio. I hooked it up with USBC. It took me a couple of hours to understand UVC, but in the end it works just fine in 1080p. It’s supposed to do 4k, but I don’t really care about streaming that kind of quality.. most of the people on the other end are on phones or laptops that aren’t 4k. I had some Jabra Elite 75t Active earbuds sitting around, and that was a waste of time. The Jabra subreddit is imformative on the brand. Linux support for bluetooth profiles with mic support is severely lacking and seems stuck in arguments. The brio presents it’s mics in two ways, one showing up as SPDIF. Choosing that and doing a little tuning with someone on the other end of the call settled it. Viber (I have to.) doesn’t let you choose the video resolution anyway. I can mute myself when I’m not talking if it’s not just one-to-one. Ubuntu 20.04.

      1. 1

        Jabra Elite 75t Active earbuds sitting around, and that was a waste of time.

        I’m curious if you tried with one of their Link adapters, or not? They had some discounts on Amazon, but I want to try with one of their Link 380 adapters. Based on what I’ve read on the Jabra subreddit, the use of one of those adapters with the consumer headphones and earbuds will make an improvement (although it’s unsupported.)

        1. 1

          Well, mine won’t firmware update, and it seems to be a common problem. Reading the subreddit gave me an idea that there are lots of such issues and their usual resolution was to defer the conversation somewhere private and offer warranty replacement. That isn’t viable for me. They’re sold as bluetooth earbuds and shouldn’t need a special dongle. If I replace them I’m looking at Sony or Bose.

    9. 1

      A struggle for me has been finding a good camera with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is more appropriate for video calls. Best one I am aware of is the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 from over a decade ago.

      Of course you can crop the image on any webcam, but I don’t expect this to be easy in most video conferencing programs, so I’m most interested in webcams that are natively 4:3.

      1. 1

        I have a 4:3 webcam (an ELP camera, I don’t know if the model is still available) with a 4:3 1/2.3 sensor. I’ve found that video conferencing programs (Zoom, Google’s solution) will crop it to 16:9 nowadays, because that’s what their UX expects.

        It’s a nice way to break the ice, people ask me why I’m sitting so close to my webcam, I explain that I’m not, it just LOOKS like I am, etc …

        1. 1

          I’ve noticed with Zoom that it crops to 16:9 when my image is fullscreen, but does pillarboxing when my image is in a grid or something. At least that’s what it seems like; don’t know what everyone else sees.

    10. 1

      I got a Logitech c920 from the company I work and the image quality is worse than that of the builtin webcam of my Lenovo X1C5. Actually, I never found a decent consumer grade webcam but if you’re willing to spend about 200$ for a cam then just grab Zoom’s Q2n-4k which can act as 4k webcam with proper microphones or as a mobile recorder. The best thing for me about the Q2n-4k is that it is compact and can be mounted on a regular camera stand or microphone desk stand using an adapter.

      Edit: typos.

      1. 1

        Update I bought a Zoom Q2n-4k as b-stock and the picture is a bit noisy in darker environments but still night and day compared to the integrated crap cam of my Lenovo notebook or the Logitech Webcam I use. Besides, the Zoom device also acts as a mobile recorder and the built-in mics are really good.

    11. 1

      I used to help run an Arduino hackathon, and a couple of the projects from years ago are now commercial specialty hardware products. So it IS possible. But none of them did it as a side project. Also, it helps hugely to have someone on the team who speaks Chinese and can travel to Shenzhen and make all the necessary business deals in person.