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I'd like to use my camcorder for video conferencing.

On the one end, the camcorder outputs HDMI. On the other end, the PC takes USB input. How do I convert the HDMI video feed to a "webcam" USB connection in real-time*?

* Where "real-time" is defined as latency of 300ms or less.

UPDATE:

  • The recorded video must be at least 1080p, 30fps.
  • The target PC is a low-end laptop so assume I can't use a built-in capture card and the built-in CPU is weak.
  • I am more interested in finding a solution that works than one that is cheap.
  • I must use a camcorder (instead of a webcam) because the camera-man is expected to use manual controls (e.g. lighting, zoom, focus, view-finder) to shoot a broadcast-grade video. Imagine I am shooting a TV show consisting of individuals in remote offices chatting with one another. The video conferencing nature means low latency is vital. The TV show means the camera must be broadcast-grade.
  • What ports does the laptop have? USB is going to be too slow (unless it's 3.0). Does it have an ExpressCard port? – David Schwartz Mar 12 '13 at 5:35
  • Yeah, USB 2.0 is only going to capture SD. Can you record in the camera and use the output video to feed the webchat? Also, are you recording each end separately? You're not assuming 1080p delivery to the remote end are you? – LilCodger Mar 12 '13 at 17:30
  • @DavidSchwartz, you can assume the existence of USB 3.0 ports but no ExpressCard. I'm using the Lenovo Yoga as a reference. – Gili Mar 12 '13 at 23:36
  • @LilCodger, Can you record in the camera and use the output video to feed the webchat?. That's precisely what I'm trying to do but can't figure out how. Yes, I will be sending 1080p over the network using a very big pipe. – Gili Mar 12 '13 at 23:37
  • So broadcast grade camera + 20+Mbps pipe but "low-end laptop"? Okay then. I have used BlackMagic products for streaming before via Skype,Adobe Flash streaming, and other methods. I have not used the Intensity personally, but if you have USB 3.0 available I would expect it to work, depending on your software. Latency on BM hardware tends to be pretty low. Latency on your software I can't speak to, but streaming latency is usually pretty horrible (20+ seconds on QuickTime and WMP solutions). – LilCodger Mar 13 '13 at 0:09
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I have been a videographer most of my life... I have successfully connected HDMI output from a high end camera to an Intensity Shuttle from BlackMagic Designs... around $200. there are 2 flavors, one for PC that is USB and one for Mac that is Thunderbolt. I hope this helps. I am about to try this cheaper one $140 from NewEgg called The TNP UH60 https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1HE6ME9980

8

First, you need to understand you can't just slap some simple converter on the end of an HDMI cable that will turn it into USB, and make the computer accept it and do what you want.

What you need is a video capture system of some sort. This will be a device that will accept a video input, and provide (or connect to ) software that will allow you to view the video input. There are simplistic USB based ones like the VA11A from X10 which accepts a composite video connection, and works with webcam software. The picture quality isn't great, and it makes the computer handle the processing, but it is simple. Unfortunately, that example is not one that fits your needs... but the point is that it is more than a simple converter.

So... you need a USB video capture system that accepts HDMI. That means that if you start somewhere like at Newegg.com, first bring up all the USB video capture devices. Then, cull the results by looking at only the ones that have an HDMI input. That's how you are going to find what you want.

Unfortunately, because you need an HDMI input, you aren't going to be looking at devices that are limited to small resolutions.... which will translate to your choices not being what most people would classify as "cheap". But, depending on your budget, you might like the prices you see.

UPDATE

  • We cannot recommend products to purchase, as this is against the policy at Superuser.
  • I presented the link to that specific X10 product because A) it was NOT something you could use, thus it did not violate the policy at Superuser and B) it was an example of how a simple cable converter was not what you needed.
  • You did not detail anything about the laptop you intend to use, and most laptops (almost none) come with built-in video capture devices. In point of fact, if the laptop you were going to use did come with a built-in video capture device, it would not be a low-end laptop.
  • I detailed exactly what you need to search for, namely "USB Video Capture" and +HDMI. A search for that in Google will present you with a number of devices. At that point, you can easily sift through the results to find the product you wish to purchase. Again, once you are looking at USB Video Capture devices, you would then cull those results for ones that had HDMI inputs. However, I said all of that.
  • Again, if you are expecting to see product recommendations, you are in the wrong place. Shopping questions are not allowed.
  • I've updated the question requirements to explain why a low-end converter will not do. – Gili Mar 12 '13 at 4:19
  • I've updated the answer to explain that I already took that into consideration, I explained what you needed to do to find the product you needed, and I did bring price into the equation, in that the more you spend, the better it will be. – Bon Gart Mar 12 '13 at 14:24
2

Short answer: buy a webcam.

I've had luck with BlackMagic cards in DirectShow capacity (what most Skype/video-conference software uses), but I don't believe it is supported. Something like the Intensity Pro line might get the job done, but you're looking at about $200 on the low end.

I pretty much always go with a nice Logitech USB webcam, even on some boxes that already have expensive capture cards in them.

Is there a reason you're intent on the camcorder?

  • I've updated the question to explain that I am shooting broadcast-grade videos. – Gili Mar 12 '13 at 4:24
  • Intensity Pro only works with NEC USB Chipsets which 80%+ of computers do not have. – John McLear Aug 20 '15 at 16:12
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There are devices available which would allow you to capture HDMI. You can choose between PCIe, USB3 and Thunderbolt interfaces. So hardware is not a problem. Software support is. None of the devices I am aware of support DirectShow (API needed for the capture device to be recognized as a webcam-compatible device). So no popular video chat software will be able to use it.

  • Does the Intensity Shuttle exhibit this problem? I was under the impression it'll show up as a webcam. – Gili Mar 12 '13 at 4:28
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It's funny how you want broadcast quality using a handy cam, a cheap laptop, and only cheap equipment. If it could be done, TV stations needn't have to pay companies like Sony, $10k just for a video camera, in addition to the tens of thousands for the back-end hardware and software and also the fibre-optic cables.

Be realistic, your best best is go buy a $10 webcam. Or simply use a SD signal by connecting either the Video out or Component cables to an analog capture device. The fact is if you try doing 2-way full HD conferencing with a slow computer and without a leased line, you're asking for trouble.

You'll all be sitting and waiting for the feed to buffer, there won't be any conferencing as data is dropped, you'd be lucky to even get any coherent conversation going.

  • 2
    If you re-read the question, you will find that I wrote I am more interested in finding a solution that works than one that is cheap. – Gili Jul 30 '13 at 19:39
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Why bother with an expensive videoconferencing system if it is not really needed? TV is often not what it seems, so you can deploy some "movie magic" to get the job done at low cost and complexity.

As long as the broadcasting does not have to be live (e.g. for a news segment), why don't you do a regular webcam setup, and additionally record each participant with the broadcast-cam? Have the camera-operator upload the footage to you afterwards, and cut it together offline.

If it must be live-tv, then perhaps it is a better option to rent a studio and/or someone with the equipment and expertise to do the recording at each site. Even if you do get the HDMI-to-USB converter, you will still need to put in major efforts into everything from lighting/sound to compression schemes (avoiding video/sound artifacts and noise) and latency issues that may or may not occur... if it's supposed to be broadcast quality and not something you can pull off with a regular webcam anyway.

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