Some notes on Streaming Webcams
Streaming webcam images requires some type of specialized server. Web servers such as Apache or Microsoft Information Services web server can not stream a webcam image by themselves, they are not designed to do that.
There are basically two ways to achieve a streaming webcam.
Install a streaming server program on the computer that your webcam is plugged into, or Subscribe to an external streaming service.
- Windows Media Encoder can stream an image very nicely, is easy to setup and is free. However, you need to know how to configure your router to forward ports. Internet Radio Station guide for instruction.
- A few webcam programs include a streaming feature, such as VisionGS Pro. However the number of frames per second is limited by numerous factors from the speed of your internet connection to the current delay factor over the path your image is taking across the Internet.
- Some webcam programs have begun using Windows Media as their internal steaming engine. These programs will give a smother motion than Java based streams, but you will also notice a delay in the image, anywhere from 3 seconds to a minute after real time. This is a normal process involving buffering, intended to reduce video pauses caused by Internet delays.
- It is impossible to obtain a streaming image from the FTP method. The very best you might expect is one image every 1 or 2 seconds. In some cases, once a minute is considered good.
- While you can get a good stream from services such as Yahoo or AOL, the image quality is generally rather poor. However, this may be the best choice for the non computer geek person who wants a streaming camera.
- Current home Internet technology does not allow for sharp full screen streaming webcam broadcasting. The required bandwidth is just too high. If you try high resolution full screen chatting, don't expect the image to be very good.
- Some programs such as Skype or MSN Messenger send their images directly between your computer and the person viewing your image, This is still using a streaming server, the server just happens to be on your computer rather than on a hosting company's machine.
- There are a number of streaming webcam services available, a few are free, others charge. Here is a short list of sites I have found. This list is in no way a recommendation for any of these services.
- Skype Free voice and video with extra pay features available
- Cam Streams Free limited streaming service
- Sight Speed Free, extra pay features available