There are times when you might need to snap a photo or record some home video with your PC’s webcam. Mac users have PhotoBooth at their disposal, while Linux users can always count on the amiable Cheese. Unfortunately (and surprisingly), Windows users are left in the dust.
Most of the purchased laptops and netbooks do come pre-installed with Cyberlink Youcam, but it’s not free and you won’t have it once you format your system (unless you’ve an HP computer). For the rest of us, there are some very unusual yet useful tools that’ll do the job just fine.
Windows Live Movie Maker
We start with unusual tool #1 – Microsoft’s own Windows Live Movie Maker. As its name suggests, WLMM allows you to create casual movies and personal videos from an input stream of photos , music and videos. For what it’s worth, it can also record and create videos from your webcam.
Download and install Movie Maker from here, and launch it from your Start menu. Now click on the “Webcam Video” button on the ribbon, and Movie Maker will turn on and show your webcam.
You can then record to your heart’s fill and Movie Maker will create a nice video for you. To get photos, you have to split the video into frames and extract the required frames from it.
The ‘geekier’ media players, like VLC and Media Player Classic, can stream directly from your webcam which you can then record using built-in functionalities.
Media Player Classic
Launch Media Player Classic, and press Ctrl + V (or go to File –> Open Device). Choose your webcam, set your audio source to “Video capture device” (you can use your built-in microphones, but I always got a very loud static-like noise from it), and click OK. Media Player Classic will now stream your webcam, which you can then record using Capture Settings (press Ctrl + 8, and tweak your settings).
In VLC, press Ctrl + C (or go to Media –> Open Capture Device), and choose settings as shown in the screenshot. As with Media Player Classic, you might want to turn off the audio to avoid the irritating noise. Once VLC shows your webcam, you can either record it (as detailed in this post) or simply take snapshots using Video -> Snapshot.
When your webcam is connected via USB, Windows will show it as a separate device under Computer (My Computer in XP). You can also find and launch it from Devices and Printers in Windows 7. Windows allows you to take snapshots from USB connected webcams.
Cameroid (all platforms)
Cameroid is an online webcam app that offers PhotoBooth-esque effects and allows you to save your snapshots, or share them online. The app is Flash-based, yet surprisingly lightweight and easy-to-use. There must be numerous other similar webapps, so do let us know if there is anything else that you use.
Taking occasional snaps or recording family clips with webcams will never be a tough task again, with these nifty tools at your disposal.
Gouthaman of PC Geek Blog has pointed out the snapshot taking ability of Skype – this definitely should’ve been included! Anyway, to take a quick snapshot, fire up Skype, go to Tools –> Options, and click on “Take a video snapshot” under Video settings. A new window will pop up, where you’ve to click on the “Take a snapshot” button.