Microsoft LifeCam Software:
The software utility provided
by Microsoft with the Lifecam Cinema HD webcam is "Microsoft
LifeCam". My opinion of this release (vrs. 188.8.131.52) is
that it is very minimal. With the "Select Webcam" function,
I was only able to select the Microsoft Lifecam Cinema webcam
and none of my other non-Microsoft webcams. Video resolutions
can be selected but no information on maximum frame rate is provided.
There is no indication of the frame rate being obtained during
capture nor of dropped frames. Maybe this was done on purpose
by Microsoft to avoid low frame rate complaints?
Three settings of "ClearFrame"
are available. "ClearFrame Technology" is advertised
by Microsoft as offering " faster and smoother image processing".
The three settings available are:
Based on my indoor testing, I
found that using the "On" setting for ClearFrame, it
appears ClearFrame is a noise reduction application in software
as processor tasking is increased. It did a good job of removing
noise onscreen and in the captured videos, especially in low lighting
level conditions. It may also provide a slight improvement in
brightness of the video captured, but this was not dramatic.
Advanced Settings - Properties:
To change camera property settings,
there is a "properties button". Selecting it opens a
properties window with two tabs, 'Video Proc Amp" and "Camera
Control" as shown below. An "Auto" check box is
available for the white balance setting. The "Gamma"
setting is greyed out and not selectable. For astro imaging with
other webcams, I have kept the saturation level low and sharpness
set to "0", and this webcam behaved in a similar manner.
The "Zoom" is a 4X software zoom, not an optical zoom,
so it works after being modified for telescope use. This should
be useful for focusing. The "Focus" setting applies
to the original webcam lens that is removed during the modification.
There is an "Auto" checkbox that can be checked for
the exposure time. I tried various different astronomy software
applications to see if the webcam could be enabled to take long
exposures for deep sky imaging, but none worked.
30 Frames Per Second?
According to Microsoft, for the
webcam to capture video in 1280X720 HD resolution at 30 frames
per second (fps), a dual core processor is needed and that the
minimum requirement for HD capture is a 1.66 GHz processor, "however,
a 3 GHz processor is recommended". My newest notebook is
a few years old and is a Toshiba Satellite A105-S4134 with an
Intel Core Duo T2400 (1.83 GHz) processor and 4 Gig of RAM (3
Gig recognized by Windows XP Home Media).
Before buying the webcam, I read
many online reports of others that were unable to capture the
HD resolution at 30 fps, but instead only half that rate:
15fps. After all attempts to squeeze the maximum performance
out of my Toshiba notebook, the highest capture frame rate I was
able to get using the Microsoft Lifecam software was 15 fps.
The highest capture frame rate I was able to get using third-party
video capture software was 10 fps.
Uninstalling the Microsoft LifeCam Driver enables 1280X720 HD
video capture at 30 fps. See UPDATES at bottom of this page.
Video Capture Software:
I tested the Lifecam Cinema HD
webcam with other video capture software applications that I use,
some mostly for astro imaging. These were:
The Properties window when using
the Lifecam Cinema HD webcam with Open Video Capture, AMCAP, IC
Capture and VirtualDub appears as follows:
Note that there are a few additional
resolutions available when the above third party video capture
softwares are used with the Lifecam Cinema HD webcam. The maximum
frame rates selectable for each resolution however, are lower
than the frame rates obtained when using the Microsoft Lifecam
software. An example of this is the 1280x720 HD resolution; when
using the Microsoft Lifecam software a maximum frame rate of 30
fps is theoretically possible, with my actual maximum frame rate
of 15 fps, whereas the maximum frame rate available with the other
capture softwares is 10 fps:
With my other webcams I have been
using the lossless video codec Huffyuvv2.11. I don't know what
type of compression Microsoft is using with its Microsoft Lifecam
software. I have been able to reliably capture with the LifeCam
HD at 1280x720 (and 1280x800) resolution at 10 fps using Open
Video Capture and the other capture softwares tested. The low
light performance looks good from the testing I've done so far.
The LifeCam HD does not have an adjustment for setting GAIN as
some other webcams do and that is a useful adjustment tool for
Next I will test the webcam for
planetary, lunar and solar imaging. I will not be able to test
the webcam HD video capture at higher than 15 fps, since my notebook
appears to not be powerful enough to make that happen.
The circuitry for this webcam
is amazingly small. Here's a pic with it next to a quarter coin:
11/16/09 - 30 fps HD Video Achieved:
On the same Toshiba notebook computer,
I am now able to capture the 1280X720 HD video at 30 frames per
second after uninstalling the Microsoft Lifecam Driver using Control
Panel/Add or Remove Programs. Isn't it odd that you need to uninstall
Microsoft software that comes with the webcam, in order to get
it to perform as advertised by Microsoft? After you uninstall
the Microsoft Lifecam Driver, in video capture software the "Video
Capture Pin" properties window appears as below:
For "Color Space/Compression"
there will be two selections, YUY2 and MJPG. Selecting MJPG enables
the faster video capture frame rates up to 30 fps, including the
1280X720 HD resolution setting. In order for the MJPG setting
to work, you will need to have an MJPG codec installed on your
system. I tried a few I was able to obtain online and the one
that worked best for me is "picvideo
m-jpeg codec v4" by Accusoft Pegasus. A free trial can
be downloaded online to make sure it will work well on your system.
A low cost version can be purchased for home use. I'll be testing
other MJPG codecs. If you find another one that performs well,
let me know.
The importance of the 30 fps frame
rate for astro-imaging is that more 1280X720 HD frames can be
captured during a certain period. An example is the two-minute
window available when imaging Jupiter. At 10 fps, 1200 frames
are captured. At 30 frames per second, 3600 frames are captured
and this greatly increases the likelihood of higher quality frames
for stacking. I found that the software K3CCDTOOLS3 and Registax
4 & 5 opens the captured AVI files and processes them well.
To date, I have tested 9 video
capture programs with the LifeCam HD using the PicVideo 4 Trial
MJPG encoder to allow 1280X720 resolution at 30 fps:
1. IC Capture Trial - works perfect
2. AMCAP - works perfect
3. Open Video Capture - captures perfect but preview freezes during
4. K3CCDTOOLS3 - captures perfect but preview freezes during adjustments
5. VirtualDub - captures perfect but preview not available during
6. wxAstroCapture - dropped frames - low capture frame rate
7. Debut Video Capture - MJPG not an option
8. NeoExpress3 Capture Video - MJPG not an option
9. QCfocus - high definition resolution not available
12/01/09 - 30 fps HD Video Achieved with Lossless Codec:
I tested the webcam at 1280 X
720 resolution using the YUY2 and 30 frames per second using the
Huffyuv lossless codec. It worked and there were no dropped frames!
The captured AVI files are much larger using the Huffy lossless
codec but since it is a lossless compression, and storage space
is not a problem for me, I will be using it for most planetary
imaging. Here are the AVI file sizes when imaging Jupiter for