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Editors Note: this is an outdated page. The kit described
is no longer sold, indeed the US Robotics company exists only name these days. There are equivilant kits out there
and most tv cards for the PC will take composite video in, so you are free to use what ever camera you like. YMMV
Initial Review of US Robotics Big Picture kit
The USR Big picture kit comes with a CCD color camera and PCI bus capture card. Software
bundled with it includes VDOPhone demo, VDO Line browser add ins, Asymetrix Digital Video
Producer and Asymetrix Digital Capture packages. The VDO phone and VDO Live programs work
well with this particular camera. While I could get the Asymetrix capture to work, I was
not successful in getting the producer program to function properly, yet.
I had purchased this product over the others on the market due to the fact that it advertised
an NTSC color camera. Most of the other packages use a digitally scanned CCD head that
interfaces through the parallel port. This one, however, offered a real camera! Once I
opened the kit, I was pleasantly surprised to see the size of the camera head. I looked it
over carefully and confirmed that it indeed had NTSC out, included a microphone and even
had a green tally LED located on the front (active with power on). Controls on the rear of
the unit include Contrast (a push button), BLC, White Balance, and Power On/Off. The power
for the camera (5VDC) is supplied through a coaxial power jack located (handily enough) on
the PCI based frame grabber card. Installation of the hardware was a snap. I was up and
running in less than an hour.
After the inital new rubbed off, I decided to find out all I could about the camera and
digitizer board. I eventually discovered that the board is a Hauppage WinCast board, modified
to USR specifications. The camera had me stymied, though. Eventually I discovered the source,
which has since dried up. If you have a relativly recent VGA card with the overlay capability,
(I use the ATI All-IN-Wonder PRO) then you can overlay the video on the background!
I am fairly happy with both the board and the camera, so much so, I
may consider purchasing another of the cameras from the above source. I have discovered that the
camera is not very sensitive to low light level conditions, say a darkened room, but thats common with
CCD Color cameras. It is usable with a 60 Watt bulb overhead, though barely. Contrast is adjustable,
but I noticed that there is interaction between the BLC control and the contrast adjustment control.
All in all, a fairly neat little toy. Look for it on the air soon! Incidently, for those who are
curious, I have fired up the camera independently of the wincast card. It takes 5VDC (Center pin
positive), but puts out about 1 vPP nominal video. It looks outstanding on a high resolution monitor.
The lens is a barrel shaped screw-on affair. You can adjust the focus from about 2 inches to
infinity by rotating the barrel. Removing the barrel provides access to the front surface of the video
CCD chip (caution).
This is the camera:
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