Ralph Johns

iChat Information Pages

Version 3


iChat Icon

These iChatAV (Version 3) pages are coloured Orange and have the iChat 3 icon on them that was in use at the time, so you know where you are. The icon differs from Version 1 by having the camera logo added and from iChat 2 by losing the Running Man

iChat (Version 3) How-to A/V Chat


Basically additional information to the info on How to Start a Chat that is specific to A/V Chats.

Video an Audio Specifics

iChat 3 allows you to use a Camera and Microphone to conduct Video or Audio Only Chats. In this context Video chats include Audio as well. Compared to iChat 2 you also get the chance to do multi-way Video (3 Buddies + you) and Audio (9 Buddies + you) chats

The Default camera to use when it first came out was the External iSight that has since been taken off the market. However an USB camera with drivers for your Mac and OS version plus a utility now called iUSBCam can make a USB camera work. There are issues with certain USB 2.0 cameras if you Mac has a USB 2.0 capability that can cause issues about obtaining a Mac Driver for it. I will revisit Exceptions lower down.

Menu Bar Control

There are two menus that control your ability to Video or Audio Only chat

The Menu to the right of Buddies Audio or Video
Video menu

This menu will display Audio if you only have a Microphone. It will display Video if it sees a suitable camera.

iChat 3 expects the Video camera to be a Firewire camera and the output of that camera to be DV. There are ways of getting a USB camera to work

Both the Enable items need to be selected with a Tick to be "On" (Selecting the items toggle them On of Off).

The View Menu
View Menu

This menu needs the Show Audio Status and Show Video Status to be selected for you to see the relevant Green icons in the Buddy list.

For Buddies with iChat 3 and 4 that can also do multi-chats the icons appear Stacked or Layered Video Stacked icon or Audio Stacked icon

If you turn them Off the Buddy List will be shorter as the icons tend to make the line for the individual Buddies deeper but not having them means that starting from the Buddy List then needs you to highlight the Buddy and use the icons at the bottom of the Buddy List (Or start from the Buddies menu).


The iChat Preferences
Video PrefsClear gif

In the iChat Preferences > Video section you get to choose the Microphone in a drop down and an extra drop down will appear if you have two or more cameras. It is the Video section even if you do not have a camera.

The Microphone Drop down may well show the Line-in option even if nothing is attached. The Microphone choice here must match the Input device selected in System Preferences > Sound > Input tab.

If you have a camera that is Always On like the external iSight one tended to be, then there is an option here to make that start up iChat. It is a useful feature as it will also make you Login to AIM if you lose the Login connection like a auto re-login.

Summary So far

  1. You need a suitable Mic.
  2. A Firewire Camera of some sort. (Exceptions to follow)
  3. To have the Menus involved set correctly
  4. To Have the iChat Preferences and the System Preferences > Sound items to match the Microphone choice.
  5. If you have a Second camera to have the camera choice made.

Camera Exceptions

By default the Camera input was designed to be the external iSight and this had a DV format.

Any other DV Firewire web cam or even a DV Camcorder over Firewire will work with no further drivers.

Any USB 1.1 camera can be made to work with iChat. It needs a Mac Driver and the Utility from Ecamm now called iUSBCam (Previously iChatUSBCam). The Ecamm site includes a Camera Guide page with two tables to match current and older cameras to Driver pages.

Care should be taken in buying a camera if using iChat 3 as many cameras are now USB 2.0 and these if "Vista Certified" tend not to have specific Mac drivers as the OS at and after 10.4.9 includes a generic USB 2 camera driver for USB Video Class compatible cameras which "Vista Certified" means. (Other cameras may well say USB VIdeo Class (UVC) Compliant as well).

This generic USB 2.0 UVC driver is not a driver for USB 1.1 cameras or for those that are not UVC compliant.

To be clear. A USB camera can fall into to three categories:-

  1. USB 1.1 needing Mac Specific drivers.
  2. USB 2.0 but not USB Video Class (UVC) Compliant - needing Mac Drivers
  3. USB 2.0 UVC compliant but will only work in OS 10.4.9 and above.

As those in group three are the newest and aimed at Vista on the whole, there tends not to be Mac Drivers for them effectively excluding them from use with lower versions of the OS and iChat,

If you have a USB 2.0 Card or ports on your Mac as standard then make sure you can get a Mac Driver before buying the camera and paying for the iUSBCam Utility. On the whole go for a USB 1.1 camera where a generic driver from Macam or IOXperts (see links on the Camera Guide page) is more likely.

Having said all of that it is reported that people have got USB cameras to work on Macs with specs as low as a G3/450 Mghz Processor.

Analogue Camcorders and Stills cameras with a TV or other non DV output can be made to work with a DV Converter. However these are several times the price of a Web Camera and iUSBCam combined but may be an option if you wish to get other Video in to iMovie, for instance, as well.

Starting Chats

Video Invite Send

This is much like starting a Text Chat in that you can click on the green icon your Buddy has in the Buddy list.

When this is Video Chat you see this from your end with the "Waiting for Response from ..." Message across the top. When they click Accept at their end it will change to "Starting Chat with..."


Visible Invite

In turn your Buddy see this Window in the top, middle of his screen floating over other windows, which he can choose to Click to Accept or Deny a Response once he has clicked on it to deal with it.

Video Chat in Progress

A Successful chat then will then resolve into this Chat WIndow where your Preview shrinks to become the Picture-in-Picture. This particular Chat was over Bonjour between my two Macs so that they are two views of me which is a bit confusing. (this and the following picture are from iChat 4 hence the Effects Buttons. But iChat is consistent with this across all A/V versions).

However note the orientation of the Pic -in-Pic. My view of myself is as if I was in a Mirror. This is a feature of iChat compared to other Video able messengers.

I have also increased the size of the Pic-in-Pic to demonstrate it. In percentage terms it can be as big as this, a quarter of the Picture or as small as a 1/16th I have an extra button on the bottom as I am running an Add-on called Showmacster and this arrow like icon on the right controls the Pop out drawer it has.

3 way Invite

More Buddies.

Just click on another Buddies Video icon and they will be added to the chat. The window slides your current Buddy to one side and adds a Spotlight area until they are connected. The bottom part af the window becomes like a shiney black table top reflecting what is in the Incoming Video.

End Chat Message

When a chat is ended it will also have a message across the top if you were not the person to end it with the red Button (top Left of Chat Window). The Picture-in-Picture disappears and you see the last Video frame sent as the picture. As you can see the Buddy view is switched to the correct way round. The background and my pipe are on the other sides compared to the Pic-in-Pic (and Previews) I see on the G4. (And there is no Showmacster Button in the bottom bar)

Connection Doctor with Error

If the Chat fails with an Error message a brief version appears where this pic says "Ralph G4 has left the Video Chat." Longer versions of any Error message appear in the Connection Doctor from the Video (or Audio) menu.

In iChat 2 this Error part is not visible in the Connection Doctor as an option it just appears when there has been an Error. What it says can be interpreted with a bit of experience to say what or where the problem lies. As you can see the header line of a following Error is just visible and the area is scrollable.

During a successful chat the top part shows your Frame and Bitrates followed by your Buddies and then a graphical representation of the Audio and Video feeds in percentage terms. Most times it will just read 100% and show Green but it can drop off to yellow then red and then nothing if there is a Problem from their end.

Audio Chats

These are exactly the same except for the moving picture element. You do get to see how Loud you appear when talking though. The Visible part of the Invite appears slightly more right of Center but still at the top of the Screen.

Window Positions

The Picture-in-Picture is always in one corner in One-to-One Video chats. It can be dragged anywhere within the chat window but when you let go it will go to the nearest corner. In 3 way and 4 way chats you become the bottom picture or "south" of the table.

Outgoing chat whether Audio only or Video will always place the window wherever you had the Last outgoing chat of that type.

Incoming Invites always appear on the same place on the screen and the Chat initially is in the same position so Incoming Video chats are Top Center and Audio Chats are Top Right. Both can be moved to where it is more convenient such as Video chats as close to where the camera is, so that you appear to be looking at it more.

Information Block

This site is about iChat from Version 1 through to iChat 4.x.x

It has a mixture of basic info and problem solving help.

The sections below will change for Specifics about info on the page on view

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About This Page

This is a somewhat long page on items that are specific to Audio and Video Chats. This looks again at the Menus involved in controlling the camera or Microphone and the exceptions to Cameras that might be needed now External iSights are no longer available.

As iChat can remember the position of Windows and this may be of more use to you in holding Video chat I have included the information about that here at the end.


Confirmed to work with Win/IE 5.5 and later (should work in 5.0, but not confirmed), Firefox 2, Safari 3, Opera 9, iCab 3.02 and later, Mac/IE 5, Netscape 6 and later

Old browsers (IE version 4 or earlier, Netscape 4 or earlier) should only see a text-based page which, while not the prettiest option, is still entirely usable.