21 August 2011

Hangouts Are The Coolest Thing Since . . Well Since Ever!

Part of Google's new social platform - Google+ - includes a group video chat feature.  Google Hangouts allows up to ten people to video chat with one another. Hangouts are FREE and easy to use once you download and install a browser plug-in you’re all set.

In my experience, it does make a difference  what type of webcam you use.  The first time I tried to participate in a hangout I was using my Asus Netbook that has a built-in webcam, microphone and speakers.  It was very frustrating - a huge lag in the video to voice, constant freezing up of video and issues with the speakers.  I tried plugging in a headset with microphone and it made things a little better with the speaker sound but still had the lag and freezing.

So on the advice of Mark Olsen, I bought a Logitech HD Webcam C525.  It came with software but after reading reviews of the webcam, I elected not to install the software.  All I did was plug it in to the USB port and Voila - I was in video chat heaven.  

I am sure that any brand of webcam will do the trick as long as it has the following capabilities:

Resolution - The higher the resolution the better. Low resolutions make the video appear "grainy."  A minimum of 640x480 is suggested.

Frame Rate - Frame rates are measured in frames per second, so look for "fps" on the webcam packaging.  Low frame rates produce images that freeze.  You must stay above 15 fps in order to stream video, and you're better off staying closer to 30 and higher.

Auto-focusing and automatic light adjustment are also features to look for.

While in a Hangout, I feel like I am in the same room talking with people.  It's like magic being able to see and talk to other genealogists who, because of logistics, I might never have had the opportunity to meet in person.

If you are not over at Google+ and need an invitation just leave me a comment and I will happy to send you one.

Disclosure - Mark Olsen only suggested the Logitech brand to me, I chose the specific model.  And no one compensated me to mention this in my blog.  However if Logitech or Mark Olsen would like to make me a poster girl for their company, I might be able to find the time.  They know where to find me.   


  1. I appreciate the advice about a webcam. Like you, I have one on my netbook but it's untried and untested, and sounds like I should forget it. I'm eager to try hanging out. Until I resolve my webcam "issue" will the big kids let me in the sandbox without one? :-)

  2. Brenda Baby you are welcome everywhere! Try it with your netbook, it may be different than mine. Also try it with a headset. If the webcam part ends up not working, you can still be in a hangout with just voice. Let's set up a time to play around with it!