This is a great question. Why buy a camera if there is already one built into your laptop?
A Bridge the Distance all of our trainers have a separate cameras for some very good reasons. Not only is the quality of the video better, but the quality of the audio is improved with the built in microphone if you are using the internal VOIP of your web conference tool.
But if those reasons in and by themselves aren’t enough for you to go out and spend another $50-100 on an external camera, here’s the icing on the cake. Not only do these cameras give better video and audio, but they also allow you to “adjust” the picture much better and much easier.
For instance, using the built in camera for my laptop, I have a slew of video settings. But like many electronic settings, these amount to too much of a good thing. I find in setting the picture on my TV, I can go in and adjust color, hue, brightness, etc. But I also find that there are a series of standard settings which tend to work very well. I simply toggle between these settings and pick the one that I like best. When I try to use the individual control I find I end up fighting myself.
I have an external Microsoft Camera on my computer. The video settings include brightness, white balance, saturation, exposure, contrast and powerline frequency. Two of these (white balance and exposure) have an auto button which works very well and one (powerline frequency– its designed to minimize flicker) has only two choices (50 or 60 HZ) which makes it also very easy to set. This leaves only 3 controls which gives me the feeling of control and which I can operate without a problems.
Learning as we’ve gone along, we used to set up for our training session with additional lighting, and moving the camera to the right distance to frame ourselves correctly for the best picture. Then one day we discovered the advanced tools.
The brightness control was our first discovery. It seems we didn’t need all those extra lights. All we needed to do was to increase the lighting in the camera. It also solved a problem what the extra lighting would show up as a glare in anyone who wore glasses.
And there is a second control panel (camera control) as well in the advanced settings. These included focus, zoom, pan and tilt. It turns out rather than moving the camera back and forth, we could simply zoom in (it goes from zero to 10X). The pan allowed us to move our position in the video window either left or right and the tilt allowed us to move our position up or down. The focus setting was another setting with an automatic setting or you can focus by hand if you like.
With the built in camera, you had no auto settings in the video settings and while the camera control did have most of the same settings, all but exposure were grayed out. What this meant was that the internal camera would have to get that extra lighting, and try to position the laptop so that it would frame your image correctly (try doing that without getting some of the ceiling in the picture) and it would be the correct distance from you for you to fill up the video window.
You may find that buying the camera despite the fact that your laptop has a built in camera may be worthwhile for leaders of online sessions and well as teams were people may be reluctant to use the camera because of the shortcomings mentioned in this posting.
Jaclyn Kostner, PhD, the Webinar Guru
See our new website at http://www.THEwebinarguru.com