This year, a lot of people are using video chat for the first time, and a lot of them might not be comfortable with technology in general. If you’re trying to have a vacation video chat with your family, what’s the easiest way for each of them to get on board?
The answer is, as you might expect, complicated. It usually depends on what platforms you’re already comfortable with and how many people in the chat you want to hang out with who are also comfortable with them.
The simplest option: Facebook Messenger
Facebook Messenger (and its associated video chat feature) is probably the easiest and most reliable way to have a video chat with your friends and family right now. It works well, and there’s a good chance that most or all of the people you want to talk to already have both a Facebook account and a compatible gadget. It can be accessed from almost any computer or mobile device. All you really need besides a web connection is a browser (for laptops and desktops) or the Messenger app (for phones or tablets running ios or Android). If you are using a desktop computer, you will also need a webcam.
From the main Facebook interface, click on the Messenger icon (the little speech bubble with a zig-zag inside), start a conversation with someone from your friends list, then click on the video icon in the corner. Bam, you’ve made a video call. Of course, you can chat with as many people as you can fit on the screen at a time, up to 50, but there is also the option for a group video chat: just start a conversation with multiple people and tap or click the video icon.
Facebook sells a dedicated video chat device, the gate. It is available as a photo frame and webcam format (ideal for using a TV), but these are not required to use Facebook Messenger video chat. They can be a good alternative if you are chatting with someone who is new to computers or mobile devices. However, there is a high entry cost for Portal, which should be taken into account.
For Apple households: FaceTime
FaceTime is Apple’s proprietary video calling system (not Facebook’s – yeah, that’s a little confusing). It comes preinstalled for free on virtually all Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and MacBook laptops.
FaceTime may be the simplest and easiest chat system on the planet, and the quality is pretty good too. It is integrated with the iPhone dialer and the contact system of your Apple account. To start a FaceTime call, simply bring up your contact’s name or phone number, then tap or click the FaceTime icon (the small video camera). You can also switch to FaceTime in the middle of a standard voice call, assuming the person’s number or Apple account is registered in the system.
Using FaceTime with a group is almost as easy. For that, you’ll want to open either the dedicated FaceTime app or the Messages app, and then start a new chat. Put as many people as you want (up to 32) in the “To” row, adding people with the + icon. When you are ready, press “Video” to initiate the call. You can add new people to the call at any time. If you have an existing group chat in Messages, just tap the FaceTime button at the top of the app.
For everyone: Microsoft Teams
Of course, a lot of people don’t have Apple-branded devices, and Apple was very determined not to let anyone else join in on the FaceTime party. And despite the fact that an account is free, there is many reasons to stay away from Facebook. If you want to video chat with people who have no options, Microsoft Teams Tool is the easiest free way to do it.
Teams is a lot like Skype, designed specifically for businesses to talk to workers remotely, but it’s also free for personal use. The Teams app is available on ios and Android devices, as Windows app download, or on any laptop or desktop (including MacOS and Chromebooks) as a web app. You should register on the Teams site (any email address will do), and once you’ve launched the app, you can invite anyone by entering their email address. If they don’t have Microsoft Teams yet, adding their email will automatically send an invite. To start a video call, just tap or click the camera icon.
Because it’s designed for large businesses, the maximum number of participants allowed in a Teams call is 20, which should be enough for even the largest families. Team calls can last up to four hours.
Bring everyone together
If you have one or more locations with a large group of people, it can be difficult to see them all on the screen at the same time. Cameras on phones, tablets, and laptops are usually intended for one person at a time.
There is a solution to this problem: use a computer and a dedicated webcam with a wide angle lens, such as the Logitech C930e or the Lenovo 500. If you place a laptop near a TV and use an HDMI cable, you can place the webcam on top of the TV and use it as a monitor for a fairly easy and inexpensive big screen gathering, even if the sound isn’t. maybe not excellent.
Of course, dedicated webcams are becoming hard to find during the pandemic. If you have a camera Cannon, Nikon, Sony, Wyze, or many other manufacturers, you can plug it into a computer and also use it as a makeshift webcam.