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Topic Title: aGent v5 webcam
Topic Summary: Anyone have any experience with this webcam?
Created On: 1/23/2010 6:43 PM
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 1/23/2010 6:43 PM
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DrJ

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Does anyone have any experience with this webcam? It's been mentioned a couple times on the site, but no one has posted anything about their experience with it.

I see Cowboy Frank (http://cowboyfrank.net/webcams/index.htm) has listed it as the best manual focus webcam out there.

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Dr. J
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 1/25/2010 3:11 PM
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CraigS

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I am very tempted to make that my next webcam. There are so few reviews and personally and unofficially I have learned not to trust webcam reviews at all.
The link you posted leads me to another webpage, supposedly updated, and may of the pic links are broken.

I see the review for the aGent V5. I don't see a review for Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro for Mac though, for example.

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CraigS
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 1/25/2010 3:23 PM
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CraigS

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I just discovered the site has issues in Safari. Images display OK in FireFox.

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CraigS
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 1/25/2010 3:38 PM
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CraigS

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BTW for those interested, I did do a test with Logitech QuickCam 9000 and found that it defaults to its largest frame size at a frame rate of about 5fps. While on Windows there is a driver to control frame size and frame rate (they're related) there was no control for that on the Mac in any app including iGlasses.

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CraigS
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 1/25/2010 6:41 PM
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DrJ

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Sad news about the QuickCam 9000, Craig, though I REALLY appreciate you sharing it with us. I contacted aGent v5's maker and asked for max resolution and frame rate via USB2 for a MacBook Pro. No response yet. I think I'm going to go ahead and order and order one anyhow. I'll report back what I discover.

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Dr. J
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 1/25/2010 8:02 PM
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CraigS

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Please do report back. I'm now using a Logitech QuickCam VisionPro and I have to use a lot of light (burning out part of the image) in order to get it to hit 30fps at 640x480.

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CraigS
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 1/26/2010 9:00 PM
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DrJ

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I just received an e-mail from James at Liquid Digital Solutions. According to him, resolution for the V5 "can reach up to FULL HD 1080P." However, the frame rate depends on the computer's performance. He says I "should achieve 30 fps at 640x480," but that the frame rate starts going down from there. [Sorry, I neglected to ask him how illumination affects the frame rate.]

I just won one of these in an eBay auction, so I'll report back again once I have some actual experience with it.

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Dr. J
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 1/27/2010 1:28 AM
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SierraX

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In Macs without a iSight (like Mac Mini) Logitech QuickCam VisionPro works good in my Mac Book its shite. A Friend plans to buy Handycam from Sony with FULL HD. Will the 4:3 problem with the Camcapture under SF2 fixed?

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 1/27/2010 7:45 PM
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CraigS

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VisionPro, for me, is 15fps unless I have so much light it blows out the image. Picture is good but I like higher frame rate.

4:3 problem or 16:9 problem?
The coders are still looking at camera capture improvements.
I've been testing HD with Canon Vixia 200 HDMI and Sony EX1 HD-SDI using Matrox MXO2. The coders have a bit more work to do on that though.
HDV support would be problematic due to the codec and licensing.

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CraigS
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 1/28/2010 8:59 AM
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DrJ

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I've thought of buying and using one of the Vixia models for my podcast. If I just record in SD, will it stream to SF2 so I can capture it live—or would I have to import it from an SD card? Speaking of using the SD card, if I have to go in that direction, can I import HD into SF2 that way? Or will I wind up with problems?

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Dr. J
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 1/28/2010 7:33 PM
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CraigS

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Vixia sends via HDMI and analog out live (I believe analog but I'd focus on HDMI). I'll test both for you.

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CraigS
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 2/1/2010 5:18 PM
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DrJ

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aGent V5 webcam arrived today.

Initial impressions: This thing is only about half the size of an original iSight, but shaped and mounted similarly. Nice clip for laptops, other interesting mounts, camera includes a "sort of" 1/4" plastic threaded socket on the bottom.

VERY sharp resolution. I can fill my whole SF2 1024x640 canvas and not see any pixelation. With normal room lighting, it looks as if SF2 is recording it at about 15 fps. That's through a USB, folks. [I've been one of those struggling with recording two FireWire devices on my laptop. Had to add an express card with another port on it. Just another thing that could go wrong, in my opinion.]

I am liking very much this so far. I'll post more once I do a full podcast using it.

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Dr. J
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 2/1/2010 7:40 PM
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CraigS

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That's good to hear especially regarding the resolution. Is there any way you can push it to 30fps?

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CraigS
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 2/10/2010 8:11 AM
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DrJ

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OK, I have a bit more experience with the aGent v5 now. It's been really frustrating. The software included with the unit allows many different styles of compression (codecs), but I am having trouble selecting one that looks good in SF2. Tried recording at 30 fps w/o compression at best color and resolution. It was a disaster. Audio [from a separate source] and video would not sync. I'm assuming one of the links in the recording chain couldn't keep up [SF2? the USB 2 buss? my 2.4 Intel Core Duo processor? surely not my new 7200 rpm internal Seagate drive!]. I know little about the various codecs, so am out of my depth here. [Remember, a compressed video recoding saved in SF2 will probably be re-compressed during export. The result can be awful—and I am only recording clips of 2-3 minutes!] My company asked me to back out of the aGent v5 and return to the Apple iSight for now.

The video from the webcam is very sharp. It also has a more "blue" (daylight = 5000K) native picture than the old Apple iSight (soft light = 2700K). The color can be adjusted in ManyCam, which seemed to work well with aGent v5's software. The mounts are superior to the old iSight, though I found myself wishing for a regular 1/4" photo tripod socket. Build quality seems good, though my webcam needs tilted about 20° counterclockwise to record properly [I am guessing the image sensor got rotated inside the housing at some point before I received it.].

Warning: this is NOT a plug and play webcam. Expect to invest some serious time to explore the best settings for use in SF2. However, I believe this could be a great webcam, if someone were willing to invest that time. I am going to try to get a couple of podcasts ahead of schedule [We produce one every week.] before I play with it again. Meanwhile, if someone here has the time and expertise to explore its compression settings, I think we'd all benefit.

Any takers?

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Dr. J
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 2/10/2010 5:46 PM
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CraigS

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While I don't have the aGent I have read a bit about it. I've seen one or two others mention the "counterclockwise" issue so I'm not sure if it's standard or maybe they have an issue that slipped passed their QC so you should check with them on that.

Are you saying the cam has software controls? I'm not sure what you mean about "30fps without compression" as USB itself has limits which is . . . why it's not firewire which the old external Apple iSight used if memory serves me. USB may not have the bandwidth if you crank everything up. You don't mention frame size but if that's controllable with their software that certainly can have impact.

I'm also not clear about the sync issue. Are you able to achieve sync with any other USB webcam and external audio source that you're comparing this to? And what is that external source coming from, USB, firewire, computer line in? Was the sync an offset or was it drifting over time?

I've played with ManyCam a bit with my Quickcam Vision Pro and it looked like it was doing some "damage" to the signal even if I wasn't adding any FX. I thought it was lower the frame rate which was already at 15fps to start with.

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CraigS
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 2/11/2010 9:06 AM
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DrJ

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Hmm..., lots of questions. Let's see if I can tackle them one at a time.

First, I bought this webcam used. Wonder if I got the review sample that had the sensor rotated. Could be just this single unit...

Second, this webcam is plug and play. Works fine for iChat and Skype. It will also record in SF2 without syncing problems. I found the unit's integral mike OK for chatting, but not good enough for my podcasts. However, all this means there are no adjustments available for the webcam, other than SF2's minimal ones. [Sorry, Craig, I thought Telestream should have at least included a white balance in SF2]

Want adjustments? Then the fun begins. The webcam comes with WebCam Monitor, but it uses ManyCam as a bridge. You have to install both, at which point ManyCam gives the adjustments for zoom and pan, RGB color sliders, saturation, brightness and contrast, rotation, etc. WebCam monitor allows tweaking the sound of the aGent v5 mike (sample rate, mono/stereo, bit rate, volume, gain) and compression settings. The [working] video tweaks are relegated to choosing a source and compression. I counted 14 different kinds of compression, each with its own set of adjustments (frame rate, color depth, resolution). By now I was getting a headache...

The default RGB compression looks like it has potential. The quality in SF wasn't bad at all. H.264 was a disaster. Remember, in both cases the SF2 product s likely to be compressed again when exported. Didn't try anything else. Like I said, I am out of my depth here.

The A/V sync issue happened with the compression. It was not a simple offset, but a drift over time. I was using my normal audio input (Focusrite Saffire 56 at 48KHz and 24 bit via FW). I has hoped the compression meant taxing the USB less. Instead, it looks like it taxed something [my processor?] more. As I said earlier, I backed out of the unit for now and returned to my Apple external iSight (a FireWire webcam).

I will say that the customer support for the aGent v5 has been very responsive. The rep is going to get back to me with some suggestions for compression settings. I will try them out, as I have time, and report on them here.

Just to be fair, I want to say my recording system is really unbalanced. I'm using $4K of audio gear with a $100 webcam. I really expect to go to a regular DV camcorder in the near future with a USB streaming output. I don't need HD, but would like to be able to zoom with decent resolution (any suggestions, anyone?). I thought I'd check out the aGent to see if USB 2 was up to the task. Not sure I've been able to answer that question yet.

Will report more as I have time to experiment.

Hope this helps!

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Dr. J
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 2/11/2010 5:03 PM
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CraigS

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Most webcams auto white balance (not that they do a great or consistent job of it). You shouldn't compress anything coming from webcam. I've used ManyCam with Logitech VisionPro and it always drops it to a lower frame rate. Webcams generally aren't a good source for audio as you know. I'd suspect that USB for video and Firewire for audio could result sync issues given the different signal paths. You might try using a separate USB Mic in for audio but that might still be an issue.

Ultimately DV is going to be much better. What you get may depend on your budget. Ideally 3 chip with XLR mic input. You can find used camera all over given that many people are upgrading to HD. There's also Canon Vixia HV40 which has a mic input. It's HDV/DV. You'd use it in DV mode for ScreenFlow.

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CraigS
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 2/11/2010 6:58 PM
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DrJ

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I tried recording from the webcam without compression at "best" at both 60 fps and 30 fps. That's when I had the slipping problem with syncing the audio to it. I had one recoding with RGB compression that seemed alright though. The difference between the native white balance on the Apple iSight and the aGent v5 is pretty dramatic, say the different between 2700K and 5000K. I don't look good as a zombie!

My next studio equipment "upgrade" is to DV. I don't really need any quality audio, just enough to sync the "good" feed from my current system. Would like to stream video though, instead of importing it afterward recoding it. I've looked at the Canon Vixia HV40, but then I have also looked at the Eos T2i! Now if someone here just happened to have an old DV camcorder laying around just doing nothing...

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Dr. J
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 2/12/2010 12:56 PM
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Torley

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DrJ, your detailed experiences are appreciated, and thanks for encouraging the discussion, CraigS — it's been so hard to find a really great, affordable plug-and-play webcam for use with Screenflow.
 2/12/2010 7:37 PM
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CraigS

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I can't help but think it's the general state of the Mac webcams. Maybe it's more likely the drivers as supplied by Apple. I would love to see some bold attempt at custom drivers. Logitech won't do this though. I tested the same Vision Pro on Windows XP with Skype and Skype's webcam controls was able to get rid of the overblown hot spots and get a clean 30fps. That leads me to believe it really is a driver related issue. I did contact ecamm and asked if the'd add ScreenFlow support to iGlasses.

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CraigS
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 2/12/2010 8:43 PM
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DrJ

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Thanks, Torley, I appreciate it. I'll try to post more as a I learn it.

Craig, I suspect it isn't the Apple drivers. I just think that few companies are willing to invest the resources to program for Macs. We're still only 10% of the overall market. For instance, the aGent v5 does work pretty well out of the box (without installing their software). [Perhaps you're right that my conflict was between USB and FW streams. I'm curious now whether a USB audio source would have synced to the aGent.] Once I installed their supplied software, things began to go bad pretty quickly. It's obvious the company relied on ManyCam so they wouldn't have to program every feature of their own software for the Mac.

I see a niche market here for an enterprising company...

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Dr. J
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 2/13/2010 11:39 AM
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CraigS

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There might be merit to the point about companies willing (or not willing) to write drivers for the Mac but... When you consider how many people are satisfied with iSights on Mac laptops and iMacs, the market for webcam drivers is even smaller. You're left with MacPros and MacMinis which is a small subset compared to the former two. Then amongst that small subset how many really want detailed control of their webcams beyond what UVC provides?

I think Logitech provides a good example of the situation The Vision Pro is basically a modified 9000. Amongst other things they put the light sensor in hardware rather than write a driver to control it. If I use my Vision Pro on Windows, Skype allows me to override the exposure control so I can prevent overexposure and get 30fps. On Mac, Skype does not allow me to do this . . . nor does any other program including iGlasses and ManyCam. Logitech went to the effort to put stuff in hardware rather write drivers though.

I'm not sure if that's "market share" discouragement as they actually had to create hardware changes for a small subset of that 10% (maybe closer to 3% after eliminating laptops and iMacs). This is why I think there must be serious hurdles to overriding Apple's control of the drivers. iGlasses and ManyCam are probably doing post driver processing. Skype can control the webcam on Windows through direct control (even with the VisionPro) but not on Mac.

aGent and Logitech each handled the problem differently but I can't help but think they are running into the same obstacles. Logitech having to retool or redesign their 9000 for the Mac market subset that needs a good webcam is not a sign that they're ignoring that market IMHO.

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CraigS
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 2/13/2010 4:10 PM
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DrJ

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Good points, Craig. I hadn't thought about it from that perspective.

Then too, the whole webcam market is pretty low end by its very nature. Professional video work on the Mac usually involves Final Cut and some serious video hardware. I know several of us here are talking about moving to camcorders to improve the quality of our video. Perhaps webcam manufacturers just figure anyone really serious will do just that. I've thought about moving to Final Cut myself, but I'd have to import clips from SF2—and SF2 already does +90% of what I want to do anyhow (and it is SO much less expensive). As it is, I do expect to move to a webcam within six months (but plan to stay with SF2).

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Dr. J
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 2/13/2010 9:28 PM
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CraigS

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Webcams do present convenience though. My own hope would be 640x480 30fps. That's achievable . . . easily on Windows but not so on Mac. So the technology can achieve that. There's also a new round of 720p webcams . . . supported on Windows. While I certainly have my share of video cameras (lower end professional) one can't exactly attach one to every computer in the house if you have a few computers. Of course on the Mac that's mitigated because all Mac laptops and iMacs have iSight and that even frees up the use of a USB port. But these days there are fewer firewire based video cameras as most consumer cameras have moved to AVCHD with HDMI ports which would need either a Matrox MXO2Mini or Blackmagic Intensity Pro card. So there's a wide gap in price.

In short, I can understand everyone's frustration with the state of webcam drivers on the Mac which I think may be due to limitations the developers may face rather than a lack of desire.

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CraigS
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 2/14/2010 8:49 AM
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DrJ

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I am guessing the aGent v5 could do 640x480 30fps, with the right settings. I'll have to play with it when I get a chance. Blue's Eyeball claims exactly that resolution and frame rate.

Other potions:

The Hercules Dualpix HD 720p is UVC compliant, so it should be plug and play with the Mac.

The AVerVision CP355 (www.aver.com) has 3.2 Mp also claims 720p (at 24 fps) and comes with Mac software. It's pricy though (+$539!) and intended for archiving documents. Most of the reviews tout the Windows PC, but Aver offers drivers for the Mac.

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Dr. J
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 2/15/2010 1:16 PM
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CraigS

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Of course all this might change / improve further with USB 3 on the horizon.

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CraigS
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 5/4/2010 6:51 PM
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Torley

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I'm now in possession of an aGent v5.

My initial impressions: image is noticeably sharper than Logitech Quickcam Vision Pro, but framerate greatly suffers in dark conditions AND the low-lighting tech it has is prone to washing out my face, especially when several big, white windows are open on my screen. Haven't found a way around this, even using the included Webcam Monitor, so I've asked them for help.

Testing with Screenflow so far, video is paused with a static frame for several seconds at the beginning, so it helps to leave some lead time and not start talking and moving right away. Also, framerate is noticeably lower than recording in Photo Booth, which is odd. Quickcam Vision Pro appears choppy in the Configure Recording video BUT actually records faster. This doesn't seem to be true with the v5 so far.

These experiences are subject to change but I wonder how Screenflow is interfacing differently with the v5 than other apps like Photo Booth?
 5/5/2010 5:38 PM
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CraigS

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It seems the wash out is similar to what I've seen with the VisionPro. I tested the camera in Telestream Wirecast on Mac and Windows and found that on Windows I was able to lower exposure to avoid washout. Mac Wirecast can't do this. My conclusion is that it may be the Mac driver that's at issue and there's no hooks in to control it. In Windows Wirecast, lowering exposure also allowed me to use full 30fps at 640x480.

Are you saying frame rate of the v5 recording is as low as preview in ScreenFlow unlike VisionPro which previews low but records higher?

Please let me know what they say about Webcam Monitor.

I'm thinking that the Mac webcam driver has some limits.

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CraigS
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 5/6/2010 12:27 AM
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Torley

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My gosh, Mac webcam drivers suck! Looks like in many cases as we've been noticing, the hardware is capable but the software doesn't have the options to control the hardware. Our conclusions match and it's a TERRIBLE gap because on the Mac side, it's so much easier to do things like record system audio AND a mic. Why can't we have both?

For example, with the aGent v5, the Windows drivers have an option to turn auto-exposure OFF — similar to what you mentioned. I can't find any such thing on the Mac yet, argh! This appears to be the main culprit in a number of cases. When I disable auto-exposure on Windows, FPS is great, very smooth.

INTERESTING what you noticed with Wirecast.

Originally posted by: CraigS
Are you saying frame rate of the v5 recording is as low as preview in ScreenFlow unlike VisionPro which previews low but records higher?


Yes, I am! Overall I've gotten superior performance, both FPS-wise and image-wise, with the Vision Pro so far. The main problem with the Vision Pro, and precisely why I'm looking for a replacement, is that it doesn't reliably start when recording videos: unpredictably, sometimes the camera shuts off when Screenflow is initializing.

I heard back from Liquid Digital and they've requested a comparison, so I submitted this:

http://torley.com/temp/Liquid%...0is%20washed%20out.mov
http://torley.com/temp/But%20Q...o%20looks%20better.mov

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

I tried the sample app in http://www.phoboslab.org/log/2...a-control-for-mac-os-x and it CAN turn off auto-exposure on the Mac. The caveat is this early version can only do it for the sample app, and it doesn't persist for other apps. So it IS possible, it just isn't widely implemented.

I wonder, CraigS, are you able to let Telestream engineers know to look at that code, which is public domain?

EDIT: Check out this video, it shows what disabling auto-exposure does for me, WOW!

http://torley.com/temp/CameraC...xposure%20on%20Mac.mov

Edited: 5/6/2010 at 12:37 AM by Torley
 5/6/2010 11:22 AM
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CraigS

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Great verification that it can be done on the Mac. Yes Auto Exposure is the culprit. It's amazing that cameras that have built in apparently couldn't even get the "auto" to set correctly in real world environments. I'm going to show this to the coders.

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