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Reader Tip for improved iChatAV image quality
Posted: 9/25/2006 (later updated w/replies)

Hi Mike, I've found something interesting through experimentation with iChat AV. It may be old news, but if so, I have never run across it.

We all can understand that the quality of a videoconference can vary based on hardware, bandwidth, and lighting. I've always wondered if iChat modifies the quality for datarate purposes on-the-fly.

I noticed that when I initiate a videoconference, that the quality of the video can be greatly enhanced by adding a third party to the conference, then disconnecting them. Usually, the video quality for the first conference improves markedly. I usually use Apple's test accounts for this purpose.

My setup is an Intel iMac 20" (circa February 2006) on regular cable, using the built-in iSight.

I'm attaching a few examples of screen shots of before/after the add+disconnect of a 3rd conference. A small example is inline in this e-mail. I think that the difference is marked.

Screen shots are done at different sizes to show the difference. I know you probably aren't too interested in the full-screen shots, but they're still interesting. Makes you wonder why the quality isn't that good all the time?
Regards, Michael

before tip

after tip

I asked Michael if this was repeatable. If anyone else sees an improvement from this let me know.
Update - here's some reader replies:

" I have the same problem on my Mac Pro with Apple's test servers. I use an external iSight. But in my case (the Mac Pro), closing the 2nd chat does not clear up the 1st one. The 1st one is always blurry (and I use an 8Mbit cable connection.)

I didn't have this problem with my 20" iMac Core Duo though.

On my 2.0GHz MacBook Pro, on a 802.11B connection at work, I get the exact same behavior the others described. I get blurry/blurrier/clearer as I add another video chat in and then close it.
-Paul "

" Hi Mike, I tried the iChat tip today and it worked when using the Apple test sites, but did not work when I tried it with a buddy and one of the Apple test sites.

With the Apple test sites, I got results similar to his. With my buddy, when I closed the Apple test site I got an image that looked worse than normal. It seemed very pixelated. I usually get an image similar to his first image, which is somewhat blurry, but not pixelated.

We are both using the same machine as the poster, 20 inch intel iMacs. He is on DSL and I am on cable modem.
Regards, John (AKA jmac) "

With a DSL connection (1.5Mb/sec max, less real-world) I've always seen a 'soft' image in iChat connecting with family that also has a DSL connection. (Both of us using older macs with Firewire iSight.) I always wondered what the image quality would be like with a faster connection.

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