MultiCam for video chat with multiple cameras

Announcement (12/17/13): Sadly, support for MultiCam has been discontinued. This page will remain intact to enable legacy uses of MultiCam to continue, especially for research purposes. However, the MultiCam software is increasingly likely to be incompatible with newer software, such as Windows 8 and recent versions of Skype. It may be possible to continue using MultiCam on Windows 7 with older versions of Skype, such as version 6.1.0.129 (just click on the link to install it; you will probably also need to disable automatic updates within Skype, via Tools|Options|Advanced|Automatic updates.)

Why has support for MultiCam been discontinued? The primary reason is that the code requires substantial maintenance to keep up with changes in Windows and Skype, and the resources to continue this maintenance are not available. Impending changes in the Skype Desktop API represent a particularly large challenge in this regard.

Thanks to all MultiCam users for their support and feedback! Although it has not happened yet, I still hope that the existence of MultiCam and similar utilities will persuade video chat vendors to provide more flexible built-in multi-camera support. Certainly, MultiCam has succeeded in proving that certain niche applications (such as online music lessons and other types of online tutoring) can benefit greatly from flexible viewpoint control at both ends of the conversation. Thanks again! -- John MacCormick

The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth?--Because one did survive the wreck. -- from the Epilogue of Melville's Moby Dick

Legacy content for unsupported MultiCam:

What is MultiCam?
How do I download and install MultiCam?
When should I use MultiCam?
How do I use MultiCam?
How do I report a bug?
Are other versions of MultiCam available?
What other software has features similar to MultiCam's?
Is the software certified by Skype?
Does MultiCam work with other video chat programs?
MultiCam tells me "This program is running with administrator privileges, and Skype will therefore refuse to connect to it." How can I fix this problem?
download MultiCam

What is MultiCam?

MultiCam is two things:
  1. 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.
  2. MultiCam is also a research project to investigate new ways of using multiple cameras with video chat.
To get the basic idea, here are a couple of setups that have been used successfully with MultiCam Skype chats:
MultiCam demo with 2 labeled cameras MultiCam demo with 3 labeled cameras
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 following screenshot:
MultiCam screenshot with 3 cameras
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 remotely:
MultiCam application screenshot

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 Microsoft's .NET Framework 4 Client Profile.

You will, of course, also need Skype (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?

  1. 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 that.
  2. Launch the applications: Start Skype as normal. Also start the program "MultiCam" from the Windows start menu.
  3. 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."
  4. 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.
    1. Open Skype video settings: In Skype, go to Tools | Options | Video settings.
    2. 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 MultiCam.
    3. Choose MultiCam: In the same drop-down list of cameras, choose "MultiCam."
    4. 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.
    5. Save Skype camera settings: Click "Save" at the bottom of this settings window.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 (jmac@dickinson.edu). 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 for vcam-log.txt.)

Most likely, additional details will be needed to track down your problem. To record these additional details, please take the following steps:

  1. Uninstall your current version of MultiCam. (In Windows 7, this can be done via Control Panel | Programs | Uninstall a program.)
  2. Download and run the version of MultiCam that includes additional logging.
  3. Reproduce the problem you would like diagnosed.
  4. Again email the following two files to jmac@dickinson.edu as email attachments:

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 MultiCam's?

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:

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 effort.

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.

MultiCam tells me "This program is running with administrator privileges, and Skype will therefore refuse to connect to it." How can I fix this problem?

[Many thanks to David Brosseau, who provided this workaround.]

You need to run MultiCam with a lower "trust level." This can be achieved using the Windows RunAs utility. For example, assuming you are in the directory where MultiCam.exe resides, you can issue the following command from the Windows command prompt:

RunAs /trustlevel:0x20000 MultiCam.exe
You can make this more convenient for yourself by creating a shortcut to perform the RunAs. First, make a shortcut to MultiCam.exe and place it on the desktop or any other convenient location. Right-click on the shortcut and choose Properties. In the Target field, paste "RunAs /trustlevel:0x20000 " in front of the existing target that is already there in quotes. The resulting value should be something like
RunAs /trustlevel:0x20000 "C:\Program Files (x86)\Erasmus Software\MultiCam\Multicam.exe"

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