Cameras/Capture Cards

The question is often asked. “What is the best camera for use with NetMeeting?” – seems like a simple question. The answer is not so simple however. Many reviewers put a lot of emphasis on “performance” usually translated as the maximum frames per second capture rate.

This might be the most important measure if all NetMeeting video calls you were doing were across high speed LAN interfaces but probably is not the right measure even there.

These are the criteria I think should be considered:

  1. How does the camera handle low light situations? – most home users do not have their computers in brightly lit areas.
  2. How easy is the unit to install? USB cameras and parallel port cameras require no internal manipulations, no box opening. Parallel port cameras though can cause problems if you have a printer ( some have parallel port pass throughs which help)
  3. How is the camera going to attach mechanically to your monitor ?– some cameras ( the ball types especially) tend to be hard to keep fixed and roll around risking breaking and can be a pain in the neck. I often use a piece of Velcro to do this but not all cameras can be used this way.
  4. How is the camera going to attach mechanically to your computer? -some products have impossibly short connecting cables requiring awkward placement.
  5. What strain does the capture process put on the CPU ?– capture card based cameras tend to be best in this area – parallel port cameras worst – though sometimes depending on the skill of the driver developers parallel port drivers are more efficient than USB drivers
  6. Does the camera match the hardware/software combination you have? Not all machines have USB ports – and NT 4 does not support USB at all (Windows 95 is dismal as well)

Amazon’s camera buying guide may also have useful information.

A selection of cameras is available for sale at the NetMeeting store.

Handsets, Headsets and Microphones

The most critical issues in choice of a microphone/speaker or headset are:

  1. Elimination of echo — (remember echo you hear is caused at the other end – so echo elimination at your end is for the other party – for you to not hear echo the other end has to reciprocate)

  2. Elimination of background noise in transmission.

  3. Type of intended use -single use or group use situation?

  4. Effect on other uses of sound on the computer?

  5. Importance of hands-free operation.

A selection of headsets is available for sale at the NetMeeting store.

Others – Sound Cards

Critical issues in choosing a sound card for NetMeeting.

  1. Sound cards must have drivers for you operating system ( not all cards have NT drivers for instance)

  2. Sound cards should support Direct Sound if possible – NetMeeting will use this feature to cut down on latency caused by the sound encoding process if it is available.

  3. Sound cards should support full duplex 8K sampling rate sound — most modern sound cards do but it should be considered.

  4. A separate sound card for internet telephony may be appropriate – however most standard sound cards work well with NetMeeting.