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Audio/Video Conferencing with iChat AV
Pages: 1, 2

Video Conferencing Using iSight

(This section contributed by Derrick Story)

If you want full-motion video to accompany your audio, then you might want to pony up the $149 US for the iSight webcam (the previous audio examples were illustrated using the standard built-in microphone and speakers on a Mac). You'll need at least a 600 Mhz G3 Mac and a broadband connection to handle the video transfer.

After you plug-in iSight to your FireWire port, make sure the camera is enabled by clicking on "Video" located in iChat's menu bar at the top of the screen, and double-checking that "Camera Enabled" is activated.

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Hopefully someone in your buddy list has a camera too, indicated by the icon next to his or her name. To initiate a session, click on the buddy's name, then click on the camera icon at the bottom of the iChat window, or simply click on the icon next to their name. The connection process can take a minute or two, so be patient.

If you want to preview your camera position (and possibly comb your hair while you're at it), click on the camera icon next to your name at the top of the buddy window, and you'll get a preview screen in full-motion video. Be sure to turn on a desk light or two for the best rendering, otherwise you'll come across as quite the shady character.

If you don't have iSight, but do have a FireWire-enabled DV camcorder around, it will most likely work too. The biggest complaint from camcorder users is that they often "time out" after 5 minutes or so when on pause, thereby dropping you into a black hole out of site from your buddy. But aside from that, DV cams are a great way to test iChat AV or to serve as an extra camera for someone else to use.

One final note about this new functionality -- I've been advocating that iChat AV users send a text hello to buddies first before initiating an audio or video session. In a sense, this is like calling before you stop by a friend's house for a visit. That way the person on the other end can politely accept or decline with out having to engage in a real-time conversation.

Sending Files Using iChat AV

Besides voice and video conferencing, iChat AV also allows you to send files to another user. To send a file to another user, right-click on the recipient name and select "Send File" (see Figure 8).

Screen shot.
Figure 8. Sending a file using iChat.

The recipient will see a display message indicating that there is an incoming file (see Figure 9).

Screen shot.
Figure 9. Receiving a file.

To receive the incoming file, click on the message and click the Save File button (see Figure 10).

Screen shot.
Figure 10. Saving the received file.


After fiddling with iChat AV, I have this feeling that Apple is going to popularize video conferencing with these two new product launches. Though the capabilities of iChat AV have been around for quite sometime (most notably MSN Messenger and other instant messengers), Apple's solution seems easier to implement, and the results are quite good.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.

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