How to Improve Skype Video Quality
By Dan Ketchum
As of 2013, half of all Skype sessions last more than 30 minutes and half of Skype users use the program at least twice a week, according to Skype owner Microsoft. That's a lot of time spent looking a video feed. Getting the most out of your Skype time means getting the best video quality possible, but there's no magic switch for crisp, clear video. To get there, you'll have to employ a combination of methods.
Sometimes when you experience poor video quality on Skype, your webcam is the culprit. Standard-definition webcams only record 480-pixel high vertical lines of resolution, which simply does not look as good as high-definition webcams that broadcast in 720- or 1080-pixel resolutions. Bad lighting makes for bad video as well, so turn on the lights, open your blinds and avoid backlighting, which casts your face in shadow. For best results, keep your light sources facing you from behind your webcam.
Tweaking your webcam's video settings in Skype may make for better video quality. To access these settings, click “Tools,” “Options,” “Video Settings” and then “Webcam settings.” From here, use the drop-down menu to select the highest possible resolution -- for instance, choosing “640 x 480” looks better than “320 x 240.” Click “Advanced” to adjust video features such as brightness, contrast and saturation on the fly.
Video quality often takes a hit as a result of a slow connection. Skype recommends closing other online applications and canceling any downloads before making video calls. If using a wireless connection with a weak signal, plug in directly for better video quality. Likewise, make sure your connection meets minimum bandwidth requirements and scale your expectations accordingly. For video calling, Skype recommends upload and download speeds of 300 kilobytes per-second, or 500Kbps for high-quality video. For even crisper high-definition video, Skype recommends upload and download speeds of 1.5 megabytes per-second. You'll need high-speed connections -- 512Kbps upload speeds and 2 to 8Mbps download speeds, the latter depending on how many people participate in the call -- if you want to make group calls with high-quality video.
Too much strain on your computer can also cause Skype to output less-than-impressive video. Make sure you're using a computer that meets the minimum system requirements for Skype and that you're using the latest version of the program (see links in Resources). Close resource-hogging programs before making video calls and unplug any USB devices on your computer. If you use a firewall or a virus scanner, try disabling them during the call for better image quality. Avoid using power-saving mode if you're on a laptop.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.