XSplit VCam

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with using my camera on stream, so in the past I have tended to only use it ad-hoc or when doing charity events.
I know it’s fuelled in part by my own self-image, but there was always some unknown factor that I struggled to nail down exactly what it was.

Since March when we left the office to work from home, I have had to get used to being on camera for longer periods of time attending virtual meeting often 6+ hours a day, this became the norm and I once more pondered using my webcam on stream. Of course one of the features that many of these video chat software offer is removal or blurring of background, this one feature was key to me feeling more comfortable being on camera a lot more.

Seems that unknown factor was down to having more control over what’s visible on the camera.

Blurry

I don’t have a lot of space for my Streaming setup so my Camera is going to be limited to a monitor mounted one, I get that other focus techniques exist on other equipment, but this isn’t going to be a option for me, at least at the moment.
So I went on the hunt for a webcam blurring software, in part fuelled by the fact I had a community goal in October for a jump scare play-through of an old game that scared the crap out of me in my youth.

After playing around with a demo for bit, I signed up to try Xsplit’s VCam software to give me the background blur effect that I was looking for, it has other options such as removal or replacing the background (just like those conference calls I’ve been in all year) but for me, Background Blur was the main thing that I was seeking.

I signed up for the monthly price with was $5.95 (before tax) which meant I was able to do a good few streams using the software before I had to renew it, there are some other payment options that bring the price down if you are wanting to invest for a longer period.

The software does a fairly decent job considering that I’m always wearing headset, which it sometimes determines is part of my head, and on occasion the gap between my head and the headset will show un-blurred content, not a massive concern for me at this stage as I’m frequently not in full screen and it normally only lasts a fraction of a second before vanishing.

However the Software will blur my mohawk 100% of the time when I wear it up 😆

Masks

After ensuring that VCam delivered the features I wanted, I then turned my focus on picking a camera mask that trimmed the view down to the area I wanted to appear on stream, of course you can alter the dimensions of the video input, but masks just allow you to shape the video input into something more unique and to your liking.

If you would like to try out some masks I suggest that you check out the following blog post from Hey Shady Lady, which contains links to guides on setup and with a download for 30 webcam masks that she has created for free https://littleshadylady.com/blog/webcam-masks-for-your-streams/.

Going all in

I had been using VCam for two months when a discount came up around Thanksgiving for the Lifetime Licence, I had been pleased with how it had been working and could see me using this long term not only for Streaming, so it was an investment that made sense, plus with the discount it would also save me about $12 of the normal cost.

In November another feature of VCam was announced, XSplit Connect : Webcam, which allows you to use your Android or Apple Device as a camera connecting it to VCam over WiFi which is handy if you haven’t got a webcam or you want to show off projects in more detail without having to unplug or re-arrange your camera set-up, but isn’t a feature I see myself using at the moment, but with some future Lego stream, it maybe a option to consider. The software is free and your license for VCam is the key part.

RPG Notetaking

I always like take notes when playing Tabletop Role Playing Games, however moving into the digital world I have found it tricker to do.

If course I can use a pen and paper or one of the numerous erasable notebooks. The paper solution is kind of wasteful, but when the games run on for years it can be difficult to find the right note book/pages or you may have destroyed the notes in that time.

So I’m sold on writing and keeping them digitally, there are a number of solutions that take your notes and digitise them but that again suffers from the difficulty in searching through them.
I have tried to use a note on Roll20 to keep track of them however as I have my windows pop-out of the main window, which when it goes into edit mode, re-attaches itself to the main window, vrenders it frustrating as it’s in the way of the scene.


So for the last month I’ve been testing out CherryTree which as the name suggests makes use of a tree structure to allow you to build a hierarchical structure for your notes.

The application has a huge list of features that I won’t begin to list but I’ll pick the most useful for me and my TTRPG note taking my requirements which are fairly straightforward.

  1. Customisable Colours and Fonts
    I want a dark scheme but not always black or grey, I need to able to read it comfortably.
  2. RichText
    An editor that allows me to highlight words and even cut and paste
  3. Link between Nodes for cross referencing
    To help referencing information between different areas
  4. Ability to search
    Straightforward I know but I want to be able to find data as and when I need to refer back to it.

So far I’m very happy with the application and I can even export nodes into PDF if I want to share anything with other team members.

7 out of 10 OS’s

I have been recently pondering when I rebuild my gaming PC if I should go for Windows 10, I have been happy with Windows 7 and so far haven’t really had a strong enough reason to switch.

Pros

  • DX12 support
  • Fast boot
  • Smaller OS footprint

Cons

  • My experience of Windows 10 is that I have seen more Blue Screens in the 18 months of using the OS than I have ever seen with Windows 7.
  • I still regularly hear stories of unexpected or breaking OS updates hampering gamers.

So I decided to see what the take up of the OS from fellow gamers has been, visiting the Steam Survey site, I have to say I was quite surprised by what I found.

Steam Survey Jun 2018

In the last 5 months there has been a vast change in the Steam user base (that have given information for the survey) shifting massively from Windows 7 64bit to Windows 10 64bit.

I know that Sea of Thieves released in mid-march, which was only available on Windows 10, but could that have impacted the metrics so much?
Yesterday Microsoft reported that more than 5 million people have played the game since launch, bearing in mind that in the the first week the number of copies solds was 2 million, it’s not a terrible figure to wave about.
Admittedly those figures cover both PC and XBox but it’s interesting to think that it may have spurred people into updating, but maybe not the sole reason.

Perhaps like myself it was just a natural time for a large number of people to upgrade their machines, taking the opportunity to move OS’s too.
Are DX11 is more performant on Windows 10 and people want to get the most from their existing games?

As more upcoming titles begin to opt for DX12 the last bastions of Windows 7 will start to crumble, maybe I just have to endure the random updates and blue-screens with everyone else.

Android Apps 2018

Outside of the regular applications on my Android devices, I decided to list some of my frequently used applications.

Pixlr

[Free/Paid] Aside from the usual photo focused applications, I often find that performing simple tasks like rotating or trimming a photo isn’t always that straight forward so my goto app is Pixlr. Another feature that I use Pixlr for is the ability to create a varied number of photo collage.

Google Keep

[Free] I use Google keep for all manner of purposes, as you can cut and paste all sorts of things into a note, it’s become my goto application for saving notes and links when I’m out and about. I can then access them via my tablet or desktop when needed.

Pocket Casts

[Paid] This application remains my favourite Podcast, I haven’t discovered a feature that is missing yet. It does cost, but then I’d been using it for years and believe it to be my best android purchase to date

WifiScheduler

[Free] I know there are alot of apps that focus on automating tasks on your devices, however I didn’t want something that need to be tweaked for disabling and re-enabling, Wireless, so this app will switch on and off on a schedule. Which means I’m not spending half the day with Wifi enabled and no networks.

Nova Launcher with Belle UI Icon Pack

[Paid] I can’t imagine going back to a stock Launcher for my Android devices now, the ability to configure small homescreen details is something that eluded me for so long, Grouping Applications on tabs means I only see the common apps first, plus I can hide app I don’t want to see, like the build in HTC apps.

Ticket to Ride Scoreboard

[Free] If you play any Ticket To Ride board game in real life, then this application is a must for taking the pain out of verifying and calculating scores. There are a few apps that do the same thing but had adverts, but this one I have been using for years without a sniff of adverts being added.

My Data Manager – Data Usage

[Free] I’ve been using this app forever as originally I only had 1GB data and the default apps if not changed can burn through data with automatica update pretty fast. This app was a godsend in locating what app are using the data but also daily usage alerts if you are predicting to go over your data plan.

A humble brag

I’ve always enjoyed the offerings from Humble Bundles and I have purchased a large number of deals from the website in the last few years. Mostly for 1 maybe 2 of the games in each bundle and I have a healthly game backlog growing

So when the monthly subscription was announced I was more than happy to give it a whirl, because who doesn’t like a mystery box.

So far I’ve received 3 monthly bundles containing a good mixture of games, these have been:

  • November 2015 Humble Monthly
    • Steam Keys
      • Legend of Grimrock 2 [Preorder]
      • Towerfall Ascension
      • Besiege
      • Valkyria Chronicles
      • Lethal League
      • SanctuaryRPG: Black Edition
      • Saints Row IV
    • DRM Free
      • Legend of Grimrock 2
      • Towerfall Ascension
      • Besiege
      • Towerfall Ascension
  • December 2015 Humble Monthly
    • Steam Keys
      • Banished
      • Rust (Early Access Game)
      • Chroma Squad
      • Neon Struct Deluxe Edition
      • Company of Heroes™ 2
        • Company of Heroes™ 2: The British Forces
        • Company of Heroes™ 2 – The Western Front Armies: US Forces
        • Company of Heroes™ 2 – The Western Front Armies: Oberkommando West
      • Payday 2
        • Payday 2: The Big Bank Heist
        • Payday 2: Gage Mod Courier
        • Payday 2: Gage Assault Pack
        • Payday 2: Dragan Character Pack
    • DRM Free
      • Banished
      • Chroma Squad
      • Neon Struct
      • Neon Struct : The Dulce Archives
      • Shadwen Sneak Peek [Only for monthly subscribers]
  • January 2016 Humble Monthly
    • Steam Keys
      • The Talos Principle
      • The Masterplan
      • Mushroom 11
      • Grim Fandango Remastered
      • Spelunky
      • A Fistful of Gun
    • DRM Free
      • The Masterplan
      • Mushroom 11
      • Grim Fandango Remastered
      • Spelunky
      • A Fistful of Gun

Thankfully I have mostly received games that I don’t already own, with a few exceptions but then the normal bundles can often have the same issue. One of the things that I enjoy the most is that unlike Loot Crate or Nerd Block, the only thing that get cluttered up is my steam library, which is easily resolved.