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by Megan - -

The advent of webcams was really exciting, especially for us computer and technology lovers. They’ve gotten quite advanced over the years, and most modern USB webcams now have great resolution and very good optics. But even so, we have a bone to pick with webcams. They auto-set everything. Okay, okay, now we know that having things automatically done for you can be great, but when it comes to making iStopMotion animated movies or producing live TV with BoinxTV with a webcam, the auto-settings can really get in the way.

USB webcams auto-set everything from exposure to white balance to focus. For stop motion movies, that can result in flickering animations when the camera suddenly readjusts to changing image content. You might remember we recently added the ability to manually adjust white balance and exposure on our iStopMotion for iPad app, so when taking a time lapse of something like a sunset, the camera wouldn’t auto-adjust and spoil the lighting continuity. For BoinxTV, when the white balance is auto-set, it makes setting up chroma keying nearly impossible. This is because any change in lighting (for example, simply walking in front of the camera and casting a shadow on the green screen) destroys all of the settings you created in BoinxTV.

So, why are we telling you this? We recently discovered a great app that gives you manual control over all of the relevant settings of a USB webcam. The Webcam Settings app lets you adjust all of the settings on many USB webcams, so your iStopMotion or BoinxTV creations will look picture-perfect.

To use it, first open your video app and select the camera you want to adjust (Webcam Settings doesn't give you a preview, so you need a video app to see the changes you make). Now launch Webcam settings and open the Webcam Settings Panel.

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[Screenshot 1] First, select the camera at the very top. In our example, we’re using FaceTime HD Camera (Built-in). Now (1) either set the camera to manual (if possible) or to aperture priority. "Manual" is always the best choice, but some cameras don't support it. When set to manual, you can adjust the exposure time (2) using the slider. While you move the slider, take a look in the video app to see the changes you make. You can also alter the Aperture if needed. Uncheck the Auto White Balance box (3) and use the slider (4) to adjust the color temperature.

[Screenshot 2] Setting the focus is also possible with some cameras. To do this, go to the “Advanced” tab, uncheck “Auto" (1) in the focus section and set the focus (2). It's incredible how close some of these cams can focus. The Microsoft Cinema Cam HD can focus up to an inch in front of the camera without a problem.

Most cameras are set to 60Hz out of the box. In the US, that is not a problem, as your electricity also has 60 Hz, like that of light bulbs (which flicker at this speed, invisible to the human eye), so it doesn't create issues. In Europe, electricity has 50 Hz, causing image artifacts. Many webcams can be set to another Hz value to fix this.

When you’re finished manually setting the focus, exposure and more, your iStopMotion animation will be flicker free and your BoinxTV chroma keys will remain the way you originally set them up – leaving you free to exercise your amazing creative abilities!

Note: Webcam Settings is not able to permanently store the settings in the camera. So if you close Webcam Settings and your video app, or reboot, the settings will be lost and you’ll need to re-set them.

Because we like you so much, we did a bit of research for you! Here is a list of cameras we have in our office that we tested, including results:

Built in FaceTime HD Camera
* Manual Exposure
* Aperture Priority
* Adjustable Aperture
* Manual white balance
* No focus control
* Powerline frequency control
* Backlight

Logitech C910
* Manual Exposure
* Gain
* Aperture Priority
* Adjustable Aperture
* Manual white balance
* Focus control
* Powerline frequency
* Backlight

Microsoft Cinema Cam HD
* Aperture Priority
* Adjustable Aperture
* Manual white balance
* Focus control
* Powerline frequency
* Backlight

Agama USB Cam
* Manual/Aperture Priority
* No manual Aperture
* Powerline
* Backlight

PEVO
* Powerline

Editor’s note: This article was written with great help from Boinx’s all-things-video guy, Bastian Wölfle – thanks Bastian!

iStopMotion | BoinxTV |


 

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