How to Use a Microsoft LifeCam
By Jeff Grundy
Whenever you hear "Microsoft," you probably think of the company's Windows operating system or perhaps its Office productivity software. However, Microsoft also produces an extensive line of high-quality hardware peripherals and devices that includes webcams. Microsoft's LifeCam series of webcams allows you to create high-resolution photos and videos, video chat in real time and stream videos from your home or office to viewers on the Internet. Doing these things with the LifeCam is relatively simple when you know the basics.
Installation and Configuration
Before you use any of your Microsoft LifeCam's many features, you must first install and configure the device. In most cases, installing a LifeCam is as simple as plugging the device into an empty USB port on your computer. If you don’t want to use the included LifeCam software, you don’t have to if you have another webcam application you prefer. If you choose not use the bundled LifeCam software, you are done as soon as you plug in the camera and Windows recognizes and configures it automatically. If you want to use the bundled LifeCam software, insert the CD in your system's optical drive, follow the prompts in the setup wizard and remove the CD when prompted. In most cases, no reboot is necessary. If for some reason, you don’t have the LifeCam installation disc, you can download the software from Microsoft.
Just as with most other webcams, the main reason many people purchase a Microsoft LifeCam is so that they can stay in contact with friends and loved ones via video chat. The Microsoft LifeCam works with all common instant messaging and video-calling applications such as Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger. After you connect the LifeCam, log in to your chat application and click "Options" or "Preferences" on the menu bar and look for the "Video Setup," "Audio/Video Setup" or other similarly named option. After installing the LifeCam, it should appear as the default camera or webcam device in the chat program automatically. If it does not, though, the application should provide easy-to-follow prompts that enable you to detect and configure the LifeCam and its internal microphone with a few clicks. After you set up the LifeCam in your chat program, click the name of a contact in your buddy or friend list and click the "Video" or "Camera" icon. When the other person answers, you can view each other and talk in real time as long as he also has a connected webcam on his computer.
Creating and Capturing Audio and Video Recordings
While you may use the LifeCam webcam for video chat most of time, you may also want to record videos or audio with it occasionally. The LifeCam application bundled with the webcam -- as well as many other similar programs -- allow you to create audio or video recordings you can share with others via email, on a personal website or on social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+. Creating recording audio or video content is relatively straightforward and requires only a few clicks. To create a recorded video, click "Start," "All Programs" and then "Microsoft LifeCam." After the LifeCam application launches, choose to create content by clicking the button on the toolbar that represents the type of file you want to create. To record a video, click "Start Video Capture," position your LifeCam so that your face is visible in the preview window on the screen and start talking. If you want to record your voice only, click "Start Audio Capture." To stop recording audio or video, click "Stop" and follow the prompts to save the new file in your Videos library folder.
Taking Snapshot Photos
In addition to creating audio and video recordings with the Microsoft LifeCam, you can also use it to take regular still image photos. If you just want to take a snapshot photo with the LifeCam, click "Capture a Photo." Every time you click the "Capture a Photo" button, the application snaps a photo with the LifeCam and saves it in your Pictures library folder automatically. If you open your Pictures library folder after taking snapshots with the LifeCam, you will find the photo files saved as files that use the date and time the photo was taken as filenames.
In addition to using the LifeCam's streaming capabilities to video chat with others in real time, you can also use the device to stream live video to the Internet so that you or others can view the feed in a standard Web browser. Using free Web services such as Livestream Procaster, Stickam and Ustream, you can embed video streams on your personal website or create a free Internet TV channel. After you install your LifeCam, open your Web browser, visit a free streaming site and set up an account. After you create an account, you can copy and paste the code provided to you to stream the feed from your LifeCam on your website or view the feed on your own custom channel. Live streaming is an effective way to talk to many viewers simultaneously or to monitor the area around your computer when you're not at home.
Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.