Webcam Woes

webcam

COVID-19 has forced a lot of us to change the way we do business. Until the virus hit, I was doing most of my readings in a face-to-face setting, either in private appointments or at events and parties. For the foreseeable future, that side of my business is no more. All my services at the moment are virtual.

When I first started, I only offered emailed written readings with a photo of the cards I drew. Then I added recorded video readings. But I have never offered live video readings before. 

When giving in-person readings, I’ve always made a point of showing people exactly what I saw in the images on the cards. I had people sit right next to me, as opposed to sitting opposite me at a table, so they had a better view of what I saw, and so it would be easier to point things out to them. I’ve even found that sometimes, the person I’m reading for saw something they believed to be relevant in the images on the cards – and I love when that happens! 

I applied the same principle to my recorded video readings. I bought an adjustable gooseneck phone holder so my phone could be positioned over my desk so I could easily show the cards in the video.

When thinking about live video readings, my ideal setup is to use two cameras – one to show me, and one to show the cards on the desk. Recently when testing live readings on Zoom, I used the webcam on my laptop pointing at me, and my phone in the gooseneck phone holder pointing at the cards. This was not ideal, as I often had to access my phone’s screen, and that was inconvenient when it was in the clamp of the holder.

I started looking for a separate webcam to use pointing down at the cards. I follow a few deal-spotters online, and one offer caught my attention. It looked like it had impressive specifications at a really good price. The product listing also stated that it came with a tabletop tripod, which I thought might be handy. It was a new listing on Amazon, so it didn’t have any reviews yet. I took a chance and ordered it.

It arrived pretty quickly, but when I opened it, there was no tripod. I contacted the seller via Amazon, and they responded, saying that they would send out the tripod within about two weeks. But when I connected the webcam to my laptop, I was horrified with the results. There was a massive “fisheye” effect. When I put some cards out in a row, the two cards in the middle looked great, but beyond that, the cards appeared to drop off out of sight. I tried to correct the effect with software, but it didn’t improve things. Not only that, but after a day or two, the joint between the bracket (made to hook over a laptop or monitor screen) and the webcam, which was supposed to allow a degree of positioning, went floppy, and there was no way to tighten it up. When I went back to the listing on Amazon, I noticed that it had been amended to omit mention of the tripod. Then I saw that there were recent reviews, which all mentioned the same things that I experienced. I contacted Amazon immediately, and they quickly refunded my money.

Once I started looking again, I realized that webcams are in short supply post-Covid, presumably because so many people are using them for work or school. Lots of cams with good reviews are out of stock, and there seems to have been a lot of cheap, poorly specified cams that have been dumped on the market to fill the gap. 

So for the time being, as I prepare to announce the official launch of my live video readings service via Zoom, I’ll have to start by using my phone as my second camera, while I keep an eye out for the return of a decent webcam at a good price.

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