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iSight : Mac Video Chat with PCs

As mentioned in the Title box - there are pages that were written a little while ago by EZ Jim, a poster on the Apple Discussions who contributed to iSight and iChat Discussions. The words the following pages are EZ Jim's

Use the the Information Column Menu for EZ Jim's pages

Mac Video Chat with PCs

First get iChat AV working with other Macs. Try Using iSight with iChat AV and Help for iChat AV 3 Problems if you need help. Move on to video with a PC after your Mac to Mac video works reliably.

In addition to your iSight (or other compatible1) camera, you will need software2 to do cross-platform video chat.

The easiest way for me to AV message with PCs is iChat AV on my Mac (included in Mac OS X 10.3 or later) and AIM 5.9 for Windows on my buddies' PCs. (Your PC buddy does NOT need AOL, only AIM, the AOL Instant Messenger.) AIM Triton v.1.0.2 (Became AIM 6.0) for PC does NOT allow video chat connection to iChat AV on Mac.
EDIT 24/08/2007: AIM 6.1 has now been out for some months and seems to resolve a lot of issues in this area

Edit 14/9/2008: SInce then AIM 6.5 and AIM 6.8 have come out. Their Web site used to have a clear FAQ that AIM 6.5 did not Video to iChat. this has now been tucked away somewhat See this article on "Realtime" as AIM class their Video Ability.
Under all the pics it says:-

What do I need to use Real-Time IM?

You and your buddy need to be using AIMŪ 6.8 or higher to use Real-Time IM. Unfortunately, Real-Time IM does not yet work with older AIM clients, iChatŪ, or AIMŪ for MacŪ.

Only AIM 5.9 and AIM 6.8 are currently download-able for Windows users, although AIM 5.9 does not work in Vista for those of you using BootCamp or Emulation Software.
This site lists many older versions of AIM IM applications and maybe of some use. I notice they don't have AIM 6.1 which is the Version on My BootCamp XP boot.
<End Edit>

iChat AV to AIM for Windows video works for most people if the computers at both ends are well maintained and if both ends of the connections meet all requirements. (AIM audio to Mac is supported ONLY as part of video chat. PC AIM users cannot do what they call "talk" to a Mac except as part of an iChat AV video connection.)

Whenever your connection does not work correctly, both you and your PC chat buddy should test with others to determine which end of the connection is the problem. (Use those in iChat AV Tester Buddy Names if you do not already have several buddies who will test with you. The link has been unavailable to me a few times since 13 Nov, 2005. Try again later if it does not work.) (Ralph edit: This is now more stable and I have linked it to it's Permalink URL)

BOTH you AND your PC buddies will need to meet ALL the requirements of Ralph John's FAQ titled How do I Get Video and Audio Chats with PCs? (Link edited). This is crucial to your success. Double check everything.

For more info, see Ralph's GREAT iChat Pages. (You may want to bookmark Ralph's site as a primary iChat AV reference.) Particularly, the "... girlfriend ..." And "Service Pack 2" sections give specific info on setting up to video with a PC from the very beginning./p>

The "girlfriend" section also tells your PC buddies how to add AIM (or Trillian - see below) as an Exception for their Windows XP SP2 firewall. In addition to their parts in the "How do I Get Video and Audio Chats with PCs" FAQ, if you have problems, your PC buddies should also check out the AIM® Video IM - Frequently Asked Questions to be sure their ends are configured correctly.

Info from Common Problems with AIM may also help PC users in trouble shooting their AIM for Windows installations.

"Tuning" AIM 5.9.

Whenever you get no audio on your Mac from an AIM for Windows user, check to be sure your speaker are on and your volume is loud enough to hear other sounds on your Mac. If you still cannot hear the audio from the PC but the PC on the other end has a mic and can hear you, the PC user should try "tuning" the preferences for his camera and / or Mic from within his AIM software. That usually resolves the problem. Some PC AIM users report that they need to reboot their PC after tuning to make the changes effective. Some also have reported that they must re-"Tune" whenever they make ANY camera or mic change, even as simple as unplugging and later plugging the same item back into their PC. Help site on Tuning read from Message 570 onwards.

The requirements for PCs to receive one-way video from your Mac are the same as for two-way video except for the PC's camera. However, note that a PC with neither camera nor working microphone is likely to be incapable of anything but text messaging to iChat AV because iChat AV apparently interprets the lack of BOTH video AND audio signals to be "not responding."

One-way video between an iSight-equipped Mac and a correctly configured PC is possible for most users. However, some users report that they can NEVER get it to work. We do not know why that is. Adding any compatible USB web-cam to the PC system (and "tuning" correctly after the addition) will usually let you make video connections.

If you have problems making iChat AV connect with your PC buddy after using these suggestions, post the details for both systems, their connections, and their symptoms in iChat AV Discussions along with that you have already tried. We will be happy to try to offer additional suggestions based on your details.

As an alternative to AIM, the PC application "Trillian" can be used on the PC to make audio-video connections with iChat AV on your Mac, but Trillian Pro (which is required for video connections) is not free ($25 at last look). Trillian Basic IS free, and it, unlike AIM, provides audio-only chat capability with iChat AV. Trillian is also Rendezvous compliant. Trillian 3.1 seems to work for most PC users, but some still find it more difficult to use than AIM. A few report that they never get it going. However, PC users who are having difficulty with AIM 5.9, want Trillian's larger video window size, or need some of its other features should try Trillian.

I do video chat with many PCs, and a few of my regular chat buddies use PCs. In the cases where I have encountered difficulty, the most frequent problems chatting with PCs seem to be:
- PC's broadband speed too slow, (Check your Broadband Speed)
- PC needs to use Windows XP and AIM 5.9,
- PC needs to install the "extra" Windows XP file to support A/V,
- PC needs to "tune" his camera/mic,
- PC needs to open his XP software Firewall,
- PC needs to set router ports AIM Video IM FAQ.

Links or more info on these items are in the Ralph's How do I Get Video and Audio Chats with PCs ? FAQ and/or AIM® Video IM - Frequently Asked Questions.

Improving the Video and Audio from the PC end.

Also, during a chat, a PC Buddy using AIM for Windows can alter his video quality and frame rate by bringing the preview tab to the front, clicking the icon at the right, pulling up the slider, and moving it to the left. This seems to help them sometimes, particularly if their bandwidth is on the low side of the useable range. Extremely low frame rates from PCs may indicate they have set their video quality too high.

To find the incoming Framerate and Bit rate you need to go to the Video menu in ichat and select the Connection Doctor. When this extra window is open it needs to be set on Statics in the drop down if it has error messages stored in the Errors part of the drop down.

If your PC buddy is still having difficulty configuring his system, there is a good, detailed description of setup requirements for the Windows XP PC at the Windows XP users section of MVL Design.com's Video Conference Tutorial page.

Not all my PC contacts give me trouble, but when they do, I check this list first.

Some, but not all, iChat AV users experience what we call the "PC Video Freeze" with some, but not all, of their AIM for Windows video chat buddies. This phenomenon is documented in detail in this iChat AV Discussions Thread: iChat MAC to PC Video Freeze after 6.5 min. (As documented in the thread, the actual time can differ.)

Note: This thread has been running for some time and is actaully in the iChat2.x Discussion although it also effects iChat 3 - PC chats. The Thread is now archived and can not be added to.

The "Freeze" is characterized by the video picture from the PC freezing at the Mac end while the audio continues to work uninterrupted. The PC continues to get normal picture and audio from the Mac.
EDIT 24/08/2007: Essentailly this problem between iChat 2.x and AIM 5.9 has now gone away. Mostly it is a combination of factors. Faster PCs to produce better frame rates, later versions of iChat 3.x and lastly AIM 6.1 for the PC.

I know of no instance of this problem being reported on a slow (sub-1GHz) processor PC. Other than that, there are few commonalities. If you want to know more, read the thread linked above or search iChat AV Discussions for "PC freeze" (without the quotation marks.)

For those who are victims of the PC Video Freeze, the best suggestion is to resolve any Possible hardware or software conflicts with connected TV/Video/AV devices. Some users report that this solves their problem.

All others must use the only known workaround: Close the video window and open a new one to get a few more video minutes. Repeat as necessary.

One caveat. I have tested with several PCs since I upgraded to Tiger and iChat AV 3.x. Most connected fine for us. However, I once had difficulty with a known good 3Ghz PC using AIM 5.9.3771. The PC was well maintained, had no other known problems, and met all requirements of How do I Get Video and Audio Chats with PCs ? FAQ. We tried everything the PC user and I thought relevant, and, although we eventually got audio, we could NOT connect video. This problem was resolved when the PC user replaced his previous USB webcam with a new Logitech QuickCam Fusion camera and its later drivers. We now get very good audio and video between my Mac and his AIM 5.9 PC. He has tested with several other Macs and confirms that his PC with the new camera/drivers can connect with properly working Macs. It is not clear whether changing cameras will correct other PC <-> Mac video failures for other PC users, but it has done so in this one case.

If all of the above fail, there are other cross-platform video chat and conferencing apps available. Some of them are free, but many require purchase of the applications and/or usage time. See Note 2 below for some examples and links to their info.

Finally, Common PC Chat Applications cannot take full advantage of your iSight's capabilities in connections with Macs. If your PC buddy will not consider any application but one of those listed, this link will give you more information about the associated possibilities (and limitations) of using these instant messenger (chat) applications.

Note 1: The iSight vs Camcorder or other web-cam topic gives info on camera choices.

Note 2: The Some Applications you can use with iSight FAQ links some other cross-platform video chat applications.


Written By EZ Jim

Made on Mac
Made on a Mac®

© 2005, 2006 EZ Jim
Updated September 2006

© 2005 Ralph Johns: Edited 24/9/2005, 5/5/2006
Updated September 2006. Moved to Gargoyles Mar 2007

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