MultiCam for video chat with multiple cameras
Important notice, posted April 22, 2013: The most recent
update to Skype appears to be incompatible with MultiCam. A fix for
this is being worked on, and will hopefully be available
soon. Meanwhile, you can still use MultiCam by installing an earlier
version of Skype, such
188.8.131.52 (just click on the link to install it). You will
probably also need to disable automatic updates within Skype, via
What is MultiCam?
MultiCam is two things:
To get the basic idea, here are a couple of setups that have been used
successfully with MultiCam Skype chats:
The webcams are circled in green. As you can see, a standard approach
is to use one or two cameras trained on individual participants or
objects of interest (such as a baby). In addition, it can be useful
to have a camera surveying the whole room, as in the 3-camera setup on
the right, where a camera on top of the TV screen performs this role.
The people on the other end of the chat in this particular 3-camera
setup can opt to see all three camera views simultaneously, as in the
But the participants in the Skype chat don't have to watch all
the cameras at once. With a keystroke or mouse click, they can switch
between each of the individual camera views, and/or the tiled view of
all cameras. A particularly interesting aspect of MultiCam is that
the participants at either end of the conversation can switch
between cameras at either end. Here is a screenshot of the MultiCam
application, showing the ability to switch cameras locally or
- MultiCam is a free and open-source software program that lets you
easily use multiple cameras during a Skype video chat. You can switch
between cameras with a single keystroke or mouse click, you can view
all cameras simultaneously in a single window, and the person you're
speaking with can also switch between your cameras.
- MultiCam is also a research project to investigate new ways of
using multiple cameras with video chat.
How do I download and install MultiCam?
Download and run the MultiCam installer. (Apologies to Mac
and Linux users—this works on Windows only. It's been tested on
Windows 7; earlier versions of Windows may encounter difficulties.)
You may be asked to give permission for the installer to alter
settings on your computer. Your Web browser may also give you some
warnings about downloading and running the installer, but you can
safely ignore these.
If you don't have it already, you may also be required to install
Framework 4 Client Profile.
You will, of course, also
(the free version is fine).
By the way, earlier versions of MultiCam, and the latest
development version, are available on the
separate downloads page.
When should I use MultiCam?
MultiCam is designed for standard two-party conversations, not
conference calls. It's most effective when both parties are running
the MultiCam software, but MultiCam can still be useful even when it's
running at only one end of the conversation.
Obviously, at least one of the parties should be using multiple
cameras—otherwise, there's nothing for MultiCam to do. But that
is the only restriction. For example, MultiCam is definitely useful
when one end of the conversation isn't even using video, provided the
other end has multiple cameras. Similarly, MultiCam is again useful
when one end of the conversation has two or more cameras, and the
other end has only one. And of course, MultiCam is also useful when
both ends of the conversation have multiple cameras.
How do I use MultiCam?
- Plug in the webcams: Plug in any webcams you are planning
to use. You can use a built-in webcam as one of your cameras, of
course. Most cameras are automatically on, but if one or more of your
cameras needs to be turned on or activated somehow, you should do
- Launch the applications: Start Skype as normal. Also start
the program "MultiCam" from the Windows start menu.
- Give MultiCam permission to communicate with Skype: Soon
after you launch Skype and MultiCam for the first time, an alert will
pop up near the top of the Skype window, saying "MultiCam.exe wants to
use Skype." Click on "Allow access."
- Configure Skype to use MultiCam video: This step is only
necessary if your computer is using multiple cameras; if your end of
the conversation is not using video, or you have only a single camera,
there is no need to change your Skype settings.
- Open Skype video settings: In Skype, go to Tools | Options | Video settings.
- Choose Virtual Cam: In the drop-down list of cameras,
choose the option labeled "Virtual Cam."
- Note that you might need to scroll through the drop-down
list, and the scrolling controls aren't always obvious
until you try to start scrolling. If all else fails, press
the up/down arrows to get to "Virtual Cam."
- Once you've successfully selected Virtual Cam, you'll see
a pattern of random colors in the video window. This is
intentional. It turns out that for obscure technical
reasons, it's not possible to switch directly between a
real physical camera and the artificial MultiCam
camera, which is why we have to temporarily select
this random-color virtual camera before and after using
- Choose MultiCam: In the same drop-down
list of cameras, choose "MultiCam."
- Test MultiCam: This is a good time to test out the
MultiCam functionality: find the MultiCam application window, and
click "Switch local camera" a few times. The video
should cycle through each camera in turn, including an additional
mode that combines all cameras into a single view.
- Save Skype camera settings: Click "Save" at
the bottom of this settings window.
- Launch a Skype video call, and start enjoying MultiCam:
Once you've started a video call, take a look at the MultiCam
application window. The two main buttons here are labeled "Switch local
camera" and "Switch remote camera." Hopefully, the
meanings are obvious: "Switch local camera" switches to a
different camera on your own computer, whereas "Switch
remote camera" switches to a different camera on the computer of
the person you are talking to. If your computer doesn't have
multiple cameras, the "Switch local camera" button is grayed
out. Similarly, if the computer of the person you are talking to
doesn't have multiple cameras (or that computer isn't running
MultiCam) the "Switch remote camera" button is grayed out.
As mentioned above, the "Switch camera" buttons cycle
through each camera on the relevant computer, including an additional
mode that combines all cameras into a single view.
- Use keys instead of mouse clicks to switch cameras: If you
want, you can switch the remote camera by hitting the spacebar, and
you can switch the local camera by hitting the Enter key. These
keystrokes work from any window, which is particularly useful if you
want to maximize the Skype window, or go into full screen video mode
within Skype. However, there may be times when you want to turn off
this switch-by-key feature (if, say, you are typing while video
chatting). To do that, uncheck the "Enable switching cameras
using keys" box.
- Switch cameras with Skype chat messages: If you're talking
with someone who doesn't have MultiCam installed, they can still
switch between the cameras at your end, by sending Skype chat
messages (also known as IM messages). Your local camera advances every
time a message is received. To turn off this feature, uncheck the
"Receipt of chat message switches local camera" box.
How do I report a bug?
If you encounter a problem, please email the author of MultiCam, John
MacCormick (email@example.com). Attach the following two files to your email:
(To do this, click the "Attach" button in your email program. Now
browse to "Computer", then "Local Disk (C:)", then the "temp" folder,
and select the file multicam-log.txt. Do the same
Most likely, additional details will be needed to track down your
problem. To record these additional details, please take the
- Uninstall your current version of MultiCam. (In Windows 7, this
can be done via Control Panel | Programs | Uninstall a program.)
- Download and run the version of
MultiCam that includes additional logging.
- Reproduce the problem you would like diagnosed.
- Again email the following two files to firstname.lastname@example.org as
Are other versions of MultiCam available?
Yes, all released versions are available on
the downloads page.
Is the source code of MultiCam available?
Yes, source code is available on
the downloads page.
What other software has features similar to
There is an excellent free product
called ManyCam which has some
features in common with MultiCam. The main advertised purposes of
ManyCam are to add interesting overlays to a single camera, and to use
a single camera with multiple applications simultaneously. But you can
also use it to do the reverse of this: that is, you can use multiple
cameras with a single application. And you can even switch between
cameras using a single keystroke, provided you have the ManyCam window
open and active. Thus, ManyCam does achieve one of the main features
of MultiCam. But there are some significant differences in the
feature set. The most important difference is that in MultiCam, a user
at one end of the conversation can switch cameras at the other
end—ManyCam has nothing resembling this feature. Here is a more
complete list of the pros and cons of the two programs:
- Advantages of ManyCam:
- Works with any video chat program, not just Skype.
- Works on all recent versions of Windows and Mac operating
systems (MultiCam is for Windows 7 only).
- When viewing two cameras simultaneously, the user can move
and resize one of the two views.
- Advantages of MultiCam:
- User at one end of the conversation can switch cameras at the other end.
- User can have Skype in full-screen mode and still switch
cameras using keystrokes.
- Includes a tiled view of all cameras simultaneously (ManyCam
is limited to viewing two cameras simultaneously).
- MultiCam is open source (ManyCam is free but closed-source).
Is the software certified by Skype?
No. The software is not created, certified, or officially endorsed by
Skype. The software was created through a non-commercial, volunteer
Does MultiCam work with other video chat programs?
Somewhat. Some features of MultiCam are Skype-specific, but others
should work, in principle, with any video chat software. Specifically,
switching the camera locally should work with any video chat program,
but switching the camera remotely requires Skype. However, MultiCam
has been tested carefully only with Skype. At the time of writing,
MultiCam appears to work reasonably well with Yahoo Messenger and
ooVoo, but it has technical problems with Google's chat software.
to John MacCormick's