Review by Al Giovetti, 12/18/96
Price: $499 with camera, $299 without
Genre: Video conferencing unit
Manufacturer: Philips Electronics
Requirements: 16 bit ISA slot, 640x480 monitor, Windows 95
The Easy Cam video conferencing unit comes with the standard equipment, a small monitor top color digital video camera, 16 bit ISA interface card, and all the software needed to do video conferencing. You simply plug the interface card which contains hard wired video compression routines, such as MPEG-1 enabling the computer to perform the hardware and software intensive process. The package uses PixelShrink software to perform the MPEG-1 encoding.
The ISA interface also processes the included camera feed over a proprietary plug, S-video, composite video, line-level audio, and microphone feed. Included with the package is the popular CU-SeeMe software utility for sending and receiving either two way or one way video, audio, and data. CU-SeeMe is used by Digex (www.digex.com/isptv) to broadcast my television show on computers over the internet. A reflector broadcasts the signal but does not receive messages, while the program watcher simply uses the receive side of the CU-SeeMe to receive audio and video signal and watch the show. The receiver need not have a camera or mike since they are not sending but are only receiving with the software. This is a simple alternative to distance learning and video broadcast over the internet which can be received over POTS (plain old telephone service) phone lines.
An interesting utility, VidUtil, allows you to capture full motion video or still signal from the video stream. These images can be stored as AVI files for the video and bitmaps for the still. The still images can be manipulated by any software that uses bitmaps or AVI. Digital Video Producer also comes with the Easy Cam which allows you to edit the video images to make semi-professional video presentations.
The one item conspicuously missing from the package and from Vetran Bryan Rizzo's review was any information on the modem or telephone connection required. Many video conferencing units require an ISDN or faster telephone connection or a modem which is compatible with video and audio transmission as well as data transmission.
New technologies should open up and make these wonderful opportunities for education and communication that all will benefit on. Computer technology is a 100 foot tidal wave that is breaking on the shore and you can either be swept away or ride the wave.
Bryan Del Rizzo, Boot, volume 1, number 5, January, 1997, pg. 96, (70%).