Using your DSLR for Zoom or other conferencing software

Jared Stanley
3 min readMar 5, 2020

I spend the majority of my work-week at home. A previous manager suggested that I leave my camera on during meetings. I tried this and now leave my camera on for all meetings — not only does it help me connect with other members of the team while remote, It forces me to shower, get dressed and start the day like a normal person…seems like a small thing but leaving the camera on is just part of my day provides a small amount of accountability; it’s definitely helped me to be more productive by giving consistency to my day.

That said, the default laptop cameras we use today aren’t the best.
I wouldn’t take a call in my pajamas, that would be a sub-standard experience for participants…would it be possible to improve upon the standard experience?
I have nice camera equipment laying around and wanted to see if I could use that as a webcam.

This is the default Macbook Pro internal camera on the left; I grabbed my wife’s studio light for the image on the right; it’s much better but still feels like a webcam.

TL,DR: I got it to work successfully. Here’s how I did it:

Hardware

I used a Canon 6D (MKI) and a 24–70 L-series lens, connected to my 15" Macbook.

Software

Surprisingly, this wasn’t as straightforward as I thought.

Camera Live

I used two different tools to get it to work. The first is Camera Live. This creates a Syphon server which allows the camera input to be shared with other applications. It’s actually really easy to set up — just plug in your camera via USB, Camera Live detects it and creates a live feed. So far, so good.

This is literally the entire GUI for Camera Live. Just a list of external sources (I only have one). Select the source and it activates.

It’s not as easy as that though — Zoom, Hangouts et al don’t recognize this raw Syphon server data; You need something to create a standard video stream

CamTwist

I found CamTwist: it’s a live-video switcher software — this is what the pro YouTubers often use when they have multiple cameras in their setup. CamTwist can interpolate that Syphon data and create a readable video stream. Here’s the UI:

To set this up, select Syphon from the source. Then select AppleScript (Step 2), and select the Syphon item in the ‘effects in use’ (Step 3).
Finally, choose Camera Live from the dropdown in the Settings pane. Note that I saved the setup for later use.

With that, your laptop now has a new usable video stream. Now just open up Zoom/Hangouts/BlueJeans and choose your camera source.

Here are some screenshots from within Zoom:

And then because it’s a DSLR you can zoom in and use DoF to really make it feel different:

this is a cool way to creep everyone else out on the call.

I tried it on one call and it was definitely noticeable — this is what my colleague saw:

It’s a virtual version of you and I sharing the same chair!

Summary

I’m guessing there are other pro solutions out there but this was an interesting experiment —not sure I’ll continue to use this; I’ll prob whip this out on the next large-team meeting for kicks though!

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