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HP Notebook PCs - Improper Lighting and Positioning Can Cause Problems with Webcam Facial-Tracking Function

The HP MediaSmart Webcam program can capture and manipulate video images from the webcam on the notebook computer. Some of the video features, such as facial-tracking, zooming, and Avatars, are controlled by software that interprets the image captured by the webcam to take an action.
For best results, the image being viewed must meet certain criteria. The programs may not operate properly if the criteria are not met. The actual programming algorithms and image criteria used by these applications are highly technical; however there are general rules of lighting, and composition or position of the subject that you can use to control quality.
The webcam is not as sensitive as your eye at identifying light values and textures, and the computer software is programmed to make decisions based on certain conditions. Most issues with poor video recognition can be resolved by considering the fundamentals of illumination and composition.

Best conditions for the use of a webcam

While a webcam can be used for a variety of purposes, you should recognize that the webcam is designed to operate best under specific conditions. The following general statements are presented for discussion purposes and are not to be considered as scientifically measurable conditions.
  • The built-in webcam is used to capture the facial image of one person positioned directly in front of the webcam at a fixed distance (about 12 to 24 inches), and the viewable area behind the image is of a uniform color and texture.
  • A light source, bright enough to identify differences in the overall image area, is positioned so that the light is shining uniformly on the image and is not directed at or reflected on the webcam.
  • Assuming that these lighting and composition conditions are met, the webcam programs can identify the area of the image that normally corresponds to a person's forehead, eyes, and nose. The webcam program can then perform functions such as the facial-tracking, zooming, avatar, motion-detection, and other functions. Insufficient foreground lighting can produce concerns with the facial tracking software on certain notebook PCs.

Identification of negative conditions that affect the performance of webcam programs

Making minor changes in the lighting and composition conditions can cause a significant change in the performance of webcam programs with facial-tracking features. If you identify multiple possible issues with your webcam, you should investigate and change only one element at a time, and then evaluate the performance.
Known Webcam Lighting and Compositions Issues
Placing two or more people in the image area, or moving hands or other object in front of the area of the image that is normally the face.
Placing the image far too away from the camera. The camera cannot determine what part of the image is the face and what part is the body.
Low lighting on the image area causes the camera to increase the exposure and contrast settings beyond acceptable range.
Backlighting the image by having a light source on the background that is brighter than the lighting on the image, causes the camera to reduce the exposure and contrast settings beyond the acceptable range, which leads to the loss of details on the area of the image that corresponds to the face.
Uneven lighting, or use of multiple lights on the image, causes bright spots and shadows that make the center part of face less obvious, or distorts the area of the image that is normally the face.
Dark room with very low ambient light will also lead to insufficient information picked up by the camera. There must be sufficient light illuminating the image to distinguish details
Using accessories, like sun glasses and hats or head coverings that hide characteristics of a human face.
Positioning the subject at certain angles or in a profile that does not produce the best image quality. Also, fast moving faces also cause detection issues.

Adjusting the webcam

In addition to making changes in the lighting and composition of pictures for a webcam, you should also verify that the webcam program is up-to-date, and that the camera settings are adjusted for the specific conditions.

Install latest software updates

As improvements are made, software manufacturers provide updated drivers. Download the updated HP MediaSmart Webcam Software. Or, go to the HP Driver and Software web page, to locate and download the drivers for your specific model and operating system.
Installing updates for the wrong model or operating system, may cause the component or the computer to stop working.
For a webcam operating in the Windows 7 operating system, run the HP Support Assistant on a schedule basis to check automatically for and install HP software and BIOS.
If the operating system is changed, you must use drivers and software designed for the installed OS.

Adjust webcam settings

The software controls for the webcam can be adjusted to maximize performance. For YouCam and HP MediaSmart software, start the webcam application and access the Settings. When making changes, you should make minor changes to one camera control at a time and then evaluate the difference the change made in the image.
Figure : Basic Webcam Setting
  • The Brightness control makes the overall picture lighter or darker.
  • The Contrast control increases or decreases the number of recognized changes between the brightest and darkest areas of the picture.
For better control of the image, click Advanced Settings to access additional Video Processing and Camera Control options.






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