Video chatting is increasingly popular since so many laptops and smartphones now have built-in cameras. At broadband Internet speeds, talking to and seeing someone on your computer screen with the clarity possible today would probably seem like science fiction to a telephone user of the early 20th century. But if that were impressive to them, the visual effects possible with many easy-to-use webcam programs today would seem completely magical. One fun effect you can use with your webcam makes your face appear against an artificial background, like a weatherman standing in front of his forecast maps. ManyCam is a free software tool that includes this effect. YouCam costs money, but offers more dynamic backgrounds and places you into the virtual scene in a more creative manner. Magic Camera also costs, but has other unique effects and features you may prefer. Use one of these pieces of software to joke around with friends or hide your surroundings from your video chat partners.

ManyCam

Step 1

Download and install ManyCam using the link in the Resources section.

Step 2

Launch ManyCam and verify that your webcam video appears in the main window. If it does not, find your webcam in the Sources tab and click it to activate it.

Step 3

Expand the Full Screen Effects tab and click "Backgrounds." The available background images appear in the bottom of the window.

Step 4

Click the background image you'd like to use. The first time you do so, a new window pops up. Click the "Take Snapshot" button, then move out of the camera's view for a few seconds. Check to make sure you aren't visible in the picture taken, then click "Accept." Now, when you move back into view, your face will appear on the background you chose.

Step 5

Click a different background to change the scenery. You won't have to re-calibrate the camera each time. Click the "Download More" button to find and download more background images.

YouCam

Step 1

Download and install YouCam using the link in the Resources section.

Step 2

Launch YouCam and verify that your webcam video appears in the main window. If it does not, click the gear button in the lower left part of the window, select your webcam from the Capture Device drop-down, and click "Ok."

Step 3

Find a background effect in the Visual Effects window to the right. The Scenes button, which has a butterfly icon and is selected by default, contains these effects. YouCam provides a slightly different effect than the other two programs discussed here: part of each background image is masked in white; this is where your face will appear in the scene.

Step 4

Click the background you like, and your webcam image appears in the scene. Click the button with the green globe and yellow arrow to download more scenes.

Magic Camera

Step 1

Download and install Magic Camera using the link in the Resources section.

Step 2

Launch Magic Camera and verify that your webcam video appears in the main window. If it does not, click the "Webcam" button to the right, select your webcam from the drop-down menu, then close the window.

Step 3

Click the "Background" button in the Effects Panel window. A set of background images appears.

Step 4

Click a background image to select it. The first time you do so, a new window pops up. Click the "Take Snapshot" button, then move out of the camera's view for a few seconds. Check to make sure you aren't visible in the picture taken, then click "Accept." Now, when you move back into view, your face will display on the background you chose.

Step 5

Click a different background to change the scenery. You won't have to re-calibrate the camera each time. Click the "Get More" button to find and download more background images. The backgrounds are in the Effects tab on the website that displays.