Turn Your iPhone into a Powerful Webcam with Camo

There’s actually a simple reason why. In the past, most TVs had mechanical tuners with a display so you could always see what channel you’re watching. When digital tuners became common, those displays went away. Today, you need to push a button on your remote control in order to see what channel you’re tuned to.

Additionally, thanks to cable and satellite, a given channel will appear on different channel numbers in different locations.

By putting a “bug” in the corner (or a banner across the screen, in the case of most news channels), you always know what you’re watching.

It also has the side-effect of reducing piracy. A recording of the broadcast will include the bug. If you try to redistribute the recording, everybody will know it’s a recording of a TV broadcast and what channel it was recorded from.

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That was quite good to hear, and I was glad to hear your comments, and that you were open to those suggestions.

I very much hope that the app is a success. It’s definitely a useful feature. I’ve purchased a “gooseneck” mount for my iPhone so I can continue to use with with Camo for the time being.

I consider it a good 1.0 and will be interested to see what the year ahead brings.

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I actually thought VH1 was genius for doing that at the time. It was helpful way to know what channel you were watching and distinguished it from MTV.

However, it’s important to remember what that initial logo looked like: it was small and transparent and quite subtle. It also wasn’t always there, just occasionally. You almost didn’t notice it unless you looked for it. Unfortunately, the copycats didn’t copy that part of the idea: they starting putting giant, obnoxious logos permanently on the screen.

The worst were channels like CNN headline news where people and businesses who left that channel on all day long starting experiencing permanent burn-in on their TVs. (You’d see a ghost of the logo even on other channels and while watching DVDs.)

Now, like the poster mentioned, channels have added animation and popups and scrolling text and all sorts of wickedness to promote other shows. The worst for me is when they cover up important content of the show you’re watching – such as subtitles, credits, and other items (HGTV is particularly awful about this).

Now I curse VH1 for their invention, though it’s not their fault. It’s not much different from anything on the internet that was created for good and then abused so that now we have spam and 15MB javascripts. :roll_eyes:

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Very helpful write-up from @glennf, and really wonderful to see @afit participating in this discussion! If a developer is that responsive and interested in feedback, I’m in. Now the trick is figuring out how to mount my iPhone in the right way. And I suppose I should clean up the background in my office.

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I just want to chime in to say that while I certainly want to be clear that I bear the developer no ill-will, I largely agree with a lot of tjluoma’s points.

This could be quite niche, but a sustainable and worthwhile product at $40/year and totally not at $20/year.

I also fully support businesses creating sustainable business models in order to keep development going and happily subscribe to products in order to sustain them, but that doesn’t just fundamentally mean that all subscription pricing is therefore reasonable. $40 would be a healthy one-time cost for what is basically a system utility, much less as a per-year subscription. $40/year is in the same neighborhood as something like 1Password or Fantastical (which offer far more utility, are seemingly more complex applications including web-services as part of the product, and seem to be doing okay sustainability-wise) much less compared to non-subscription software in the same price range like Affinity Photo. Maybe $40/year is the exact amount to the penny that is required to keep it going, but the value proposition seems out of wack from the consumer side.

At $20/year, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But $40/year just to make my Brady Bunch square in a Zoom call look a little nicer (even in 2020) is a tough sell—let’s not forget that most of the services we’d use this with are going to compress the holy heck out of your video anyway, whether you start out with 4k or not. So even though I’m totally in that niche, they’re currently earning $0/year from me.

aranpura
Now the trick is figuring out how to mount my iPhone in the right way.

The company wrote a very helpful article on the subject. https://reincubate.com/support/how-to/iphone-webcam-mount-guide/

It might be worth looking at the product documentation before critiquing, though. They have a list (on the site and in the app) of what they’ve tested for compatibility and a major workaround for some. FaceTime isn’t on the list yet, but it’s on their roadmap. I noted above as well that Camo has to stay in tune with dozens of apps with which its users might interact.

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Definitely an issue of audience. For me, the $40 a year as a business expense is no big whoop, because of the amount of time I’m spending dealing with videoconferencing and some upcoming recording plans. I have a mirrorless camera, but it’s actually a bit of a pain to set up to record video, while the iPhone is very straightforward to feed into my Mac with Camo.

As TJ notes earlier, he’s not sure any of the capture settings that come with the subscription are worthwhile to him. And I am not sure, either: it’s great to have photographic/image adjustments, but being able to shoot or stream 1080p or 4K from the iPhone is more important to me than the other stuff.

That said, too, as a subscription product, Reincubate has every motivation to keep adding and improving features, because there will be competitors and they have to justify themselves at each renewal.

I think I mentioned it well above, but from the business side, I can understand putting all the chips on a $40/year subscription cost, because it tells the developer immediately whether they can have and increase an audience of the size necessary to produce the product in the long haul. With a monthly option or a lower yearly rate, I’m not sure it answers enough questions or produces the short-term revenue they need.

I definitely will critique subscription prices I think are too high for the value. TextExpander never makes sense to me as a subscription product based on my use; the pricing is absolutely business oriented, and I really don’t make enough use of it for that. (I still use the previous, non-subscription release.) 1Password, on the other hand, I immediately signed up for a family subscription and it was a good deal all around relative to the previous standalone product prices and what value my whole family gets out of it.

The bottom row on US TV broadcasts is an FCC mandated chyron:

It was mandated by the US government to be available 24/7 on all TV broadcast stations in the post WWll era, at the start of the Cold War. At the time, threats of an attack on American soil were taken seriously. Chyrons were required to be at least one line of scrolling type, and all TV stations had, and still have to, do a monthly test that includes the annoying, loud bleating noise, which is still mandated to this day. The TV stations absolutely hated everything about this until the cable/satellite TV era, when broadcast technology had evolved enough so that the chyron could be expanded, and run in color. Then the stations got permission and could use it editorially and for promos when not in use for alerts, so they became happy about it. Then they got permission to sell ads in chyrons, which made the stations and operators, as well as Madison Avenue, fall deeply and madly in love with it. It’s not like a commercial that can be zapped by a DVR.

Question: is there an equivalent to TV chyrons in other countries?

But, as the cited article points out, the only part that is mandated is the use for emergency messages and tests of the emergency alert system.

All other uses are entirely up to the broadcasters.

Of course. But the chyron wasn’t available to broadcasters until TV broadcasting went digital. It took a while before the FCC allowed the stations to access the chyron. And because TV content had become more localized, FCC allowed it to be used for dangerous weather alerts first. the And in the Post War/Cold War era, a significant % of the US population was convinced nuclear war was probable. Anyone who attended public or private schools in the US from the mid 1940s to late 50s probably remembers the mandatory duck and cover drills:

FYI - just a heads-up… I tried to use Camo today to record video in QuickTime Player while recording audio from my Samsung USB mic, and the audio and video are completely out of sync. The video is lagging behind the audio.

Update

Customer support suggests this may be because the iPhone is plugged into a dock instead of directly to the MacBook Pro. It’s a CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt dock, so I’d be surprised if it couldn’t keep up, but I’ll try it directly connected next time and see.

n.b. The local QuickTime video had sync issues, but Zoom’s cloud recording had none. I have no idea what (if anything) that means, but I found it interesting, at least.

Update #2

Camo support confirmed today that audio/visual sync issues are a known problem when recording in QuickTime.

Even when directly connected to the Mac.

Seems like a fairly important shortcoming.

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Today I tried to use Camo on my Mac mini and I couldn’t. I have to contact support for them to deactivate the license on my MacBook Pro and then I can use it on my Mac mini.

For a $40/year application which requires an iPhone.

Seriously, if Fantastical acted this way about how many Macs I could use my calendar on, I wouldn’t think of re-subscribing.

(To be clear, they have a web portal where I have to login to manage my licenses, but I can’t deactivate it myself, they have to do it. I could always buy another $40/year license to use the same iPhone on two different computers, but that is definitely not happening.

Mind you, they still haven’t fixed the problem with the audio and video being out of sync when plugged in directly to a Mac and recording to QuickTime. Which is mind-boggling for a non-beta app charging such a premium. How can it not work reliably with the built-in application that ships with every Mac?

tjluoma - Aug 31

Today I tried to use Camo on my Mac mini and I couldn’t. I have to contact support for them to deactivate the license on my MacBook Pro and then I can use it on my Mac mini.

For a $40/year application which requires an iPhone.

So, practically speaking, this is an $80/yr application for me (if I feel the need to maintain the visual quality), because at least one or two out of 12 times each month the class I teach online has to be done from the road, as do meetings where we’re able to meet in person. The HDMI to USB converter @glennf pointed to is currently under $24 on Amazon—a one time fee to use a DSLR and tripod I already own.

That said, I already bought a ridiculously fragile tripod with a phone mount (theoretically a full sized tripod, but much more stable fully compressed and still tall enough to put the camera just above my monitor) and until Camo’s price comes down/as long as I can use the free version, that’s probably what I’ll do…but teaching only a course or two per semester on Zoom and hosting a couple meetings each month for non-profits I’m involved with, another $80/year is hard for me to justify.

One further thought, chiefly for @afit: I ‘feel bad’ about not needing all of the features Camo has in the subscription version and wish there were a less-featured version I could pay for, because it does meet a need very elegantly. As I finished teaching Greek via Zoom a few minutes ago and started shutting things down, I realized that I hadn’t even opened the Camo app on the Mac, but it just worked in Zoom, anyway.

I don’t particularly mind having the watermark and things look good even in low lighting (just a lamp so I can grab stuff off of the shelf to read resources I can’t share onscreen, without the glare of the overhead lights I’ve had to use in the past), so the only thing I would find essential in a paid, lower-level version would be enabling the camera to zoom. Setting focus would be nice and maybe necessary for others, but I don’t move much myself. Other than that, again, I need to have it on two computers, without having to constantly call—or even go online—to move my subscription between machines.

As I said, I can continue with the app as it is without a subscription, but I wish there were such a lower-level price- and feature-point, simply because I want to support future development.

Thanks for sharing this @Grabauski, and for your kind words.

We had a lot to do in launching Camo and there’s still plenty we’re working on adding. We had to go from 0 to 60 very quickly. The 1.1 release is hopefully just around the corner :slightly_smiling_face: The feedback’s been helpful:

re multiple licenses: there was a painful process to contact support to facilitate using two machines. We sorted that out at the start of last month, so there’s no need to contact us when using a second machine. (From a practical perspective, a third’s no big deal, either, if you drop us a note.)

re QuickTime: we squashed the that issue. We were super focused on video chat apps at first, and we then turned our attention to offline recording in QT, FCPX, etc.

re pricing, we started an educational discount program last month. You mentioned you were teaching, and that may be helpful. As present that involves emailing us (there’s a banner on the page). I’d like to do something more streamlined than that eventually, and we will. The feedback on additional things for the free version (or a lower tier) is helpful. Whilst we’ve no plans to change price, rolling more stuff into free or introducing more sub options is something we continue to think about and work on. It’s still awesome when people use the free version.

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I’m glad to hear that. Having at least two enabled from the start seems reasonable for people who have desktop + laptop. Knowing that you aren’t looking to tie licenses per Mac is a big relief.

I will confirm that this now works flawlessly.

I have to admit, I’m impressed to see it improve rapidly. I was pretty harsh in my original evaluation, but you’re winning me over. FWIW.

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No need for any additional software to use your iPhone as webcam on the Mac. Just plug-in, open QuickTime video recorder, set video input and voilà a mirror of iPhone is on your screen. Landscape, full screen mode included. Call is clearly managed from iPhone but native, without any plug-in or security exceptions required on the Mac. And if continuity camera is an indicator, QuickTime won’t be required also in the future.

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I’m looking for a solution for this for my wife (:flushed:) and was stunned by the price for Camo. I hate subscriptions to start with (especially the creep creep cost) but I find this really expensive for what it is.

There is little choice but I found this on the App Store (Mobile Webcamera for computer) and wondered if anyone had tried it. It involves an iOS app and a Mac app. The iOS app is available here however the Mac app is not delivered by the Mac App Store (similar to Camo I think??) and that makes me very nervous. It means giving access to an app I know nothing about. On the upside it costs 5.49eur for the premium/no-ads vs.

Has anyone had any experience with it?

I know I addressed this previously, but Camo is aimed at people who would otherwise be buying a web camera (much more than $40/yr or as much or more than $80 lifetime price). I love the idea of a product launching with a model that ensure continuous development without arbitrary checkpoints at which they have to drop everything to ship something compelling enough to bring in enough revenue to last another X months or year. It’s a sustainable way to make a product.

They do have a free flavor! It’s definitely not bad at all. And Zoom can’t even take advantage in most cases of 720p much less 1080p or 4K, so unless you need the color/image tools in Pro or absolutely need 1080p, the free version could suffice.

I wouldn’t worry about Mac apps that are delivered directly as long as they are signed and notarized, a requirement starting in Catalina. If macOS tells you the app can’t run because it’s not signed or notarized, that’s an issue for me, and I need to know a lot more about the developer.

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The $80 is going to give you a way better camera than anything else you’re going to get for anything less than several hundred dollars.

Of course, you’re tying up your iPhone when you’re on calls, but, well, nothing’s perfect.

I really love Camo’s “Portrait Mode”. It gives great results. Much better than Zoom’s attempt, for sure.