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One of the fiddlier things about webcam conversations on most PCs is that you have to set up the webcam and the audio separately. While most notebooks have a microphone built-in, PCs do not, which means you have to use an often poor desktop stand microphone, or a headset, which can be restrictive, clumsy and messes with your hair.
This is where a webcam such as the Creative Live! Cam Voice comes into its own. The microphone is built-in, so once you’ve installed the drivers all you have to do is plug in the webcam and you can see and talk without having to worry about anything else. The selling point that has enabled Creative to dig out its Live! name, is its noise cancelling technology that’s designed to cut out extraneous noises in noisy environments so you can hear and be heard more clearly. If you do want to have a private conversation a lightweight single earpiece headset is provided.
The webcam looks pretty funky as befits a camera at the top of Creative’s range with the lens set in the middle of a wide centre strip, surrounded by curves. Inside the bottom card is a light, which glows yellow when the camera is connected and changes it red when the camera is active. The camera is set on a stalk which is mounted on a clip, which can easily be attached to the back of a desktop LCD or laptop lid.
You need to install the drivers before you plug in the webcam or the audio features will not work. If you do plug it straight in the video side will be basically detected. I found when using it on three machines that the install process from the CD takes an excessively long time to complete even considering that there are numerous applications to install as well as the drivers. Even once installed the software runs an auto update feature which will go and check to see if you’ve got the latest software installed, which is quite slick.
After use Creative recommends unplugging the webcam, presumably to avoid it being hijacked by mischievous Trojans, but I found it was useful as sometimes the video wouldn’t restart after a previous use in Skype, which unplugging and replugging solved.
Along with the drivers you can install a Photo Manager application for handling the snapshots you can take with the camera and a Photo Calendar application, which lets you use the pictures next to a calendar and print them out, which seems like a rather odd inclusion. The main software is the WebCam Center from where you can record video click, take snapshots, and enable the Remote Monitoring and Motion Detection features which are useful for security, at least if if you can hide the webcam and PC so that they don’t get nicked too. There’s a time Lapse mode in there too.
However, I found that the WebCam Centre software quite buggy even with the latest updates and it was consistently unable to detect the camera, even though it was fine in Skype.
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