How to turn your smartphone into a webcam.
You may be making a lot more video calls than, say, two months ago. And your home computer might not have a webcam – but you don’t have to worry about buying one just for remote work meetings, you can use your smartphone.
Before we talk about the necessary software, it is worth going through the hardware setup.
The good news is that your phone’s camera has a higher quality than most webcams, but you need to make sure that it stays firm – a mini tripod or at least a workaround that lets you keep it still will work.
You can choose between the front and rear camera of your smartphone to act as a webcam and if you want more quality, choose the rear camera.
Finally, if the application you choose gives you the option of connecting the camera via USB instead of a wireless method, choose the most stable and fastest connection – that is, with cables.
There are some apps out there that claim to turn your phone into a webcam, but we are not convinced with most of them. We found two good options, though.
Using an iPhone as a webcam in Windows
The first is called the NDI HX Camera, developed by NewTek – currently available only for iOS. An Android version was available a while ago, so we hope it will return at some point.
|NDI HX Camera app creates a new camera option during your video calls.
There is a catch, though: the NDI Virtual Input utility that tricks the video call application into accepting NDI input as a webcam is only available on Windows.
Although there is an NDI Tools for macOS, it does not include NDI Virtual Input, which means that you cannot turn your phone into a webcam.
That is, the options are somewhat limited: you need to use an iPhone and have a Windows computer. If this is the case, the configuration is quite simple.
Open the app on the iPhone, then tap the NDI button to start casting. After installing NDI Tools for Windows, open NDI Virtual Input and right-click on its icon in the notification area – the iPhone camera should appear as an option, without further configuration.
After that, just open Zoom, Skype or any other software you are using for video calls and choose the “NDI camera” as your webcam. In Zoom, for example, click on the gear icon in the main window and then choose Video and Camera. In Skype, click on your avatar, then Settings, Audio & Video and Camera.
No matter what video calling app you’re using, you’ll always have an option to choose video input somewhere.
In the iPhone app, tap the gear icon to open options. You can control the zoom, brightness, camera flash, framing grid, microphone, which camera is used (front or rear) and the quality of the video stream.
Using an Android as a webcam on Windows
If you want to use an Android smartphone as a webcam, one of the most interesting options we found is the DroidCam. Again, it only works with Windows, through a desktop client, but the configuration is simple – open the app on Android and get the IP number to include in the Windows client and that’s it.
|The DroidCam Windows client connects to the DroidCam Android app in seconds.|
Touch the circular icon at the top right of the Android app to darken the screen while using your phone as a webcam. Touch the three dots on the right to adjust the white balance and exposure.
You can use the same menu to limit the frames per second sent to your computer and save the battery – but you need to disconnect the transmission.
With the broadcast active, the camera should become available for all video call applications. It worked well with Skype and Zoom, for example. Despite this, we were unable to use the phone in the standard Camera app that comes with Windows.
The $4.50 premium version gives you access to more functions in the Windows client. If you purchase this option, you can have the zoom control or activate the spread to reverse the video mode. The free version is enough for the most basic things, although some ads need to be dealt with.
None of these options worked as well as the NDI HX Camera and DroidCam, but you may be more lucky and able to make it work.
The other option is simply to use the Skype or Zoom mobile app to video chat directly from your smartphone, although this is often not as comfortable or as flexible as using a notebook.
Many video calling apps tend to reduce functionality and options on the phone. But at least it’s an option for your friends, family and co-workers to see your face.