When I first read Videssence’s press release about their announced “See-Me Lites” for personal desktop use (subsequently renamed to "View Me Light"), I thought my prayers had been answered. My home office setup is absolutely horrendous for webcam video, lighting being one of the biggest problems. The room lights don’t fill the workspace well, especially when I have a backdrop set up behind me, cutting off even more light. I have used a variety of jury-rigged solutions, with desk lamps, reflective surfaces, torchieres, and other attempts to get a nice white light on me that lets the webcam do its job. Here is a webcam shot of me at my desk, taken only with available room light.
(All pictures taken with a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 using auto-focus and “right light” auto exposure activated)
You can see that the image is a little grainy because of the generally low light, and you can see the “hot spots” on my temple and top of the head.
I contacted Videssence and spoke to Gary Thomas, their regional sales manager. He was kind enough to send me one of their first production sets, which had been making the rounds at trade shows.
Each light is roughly 3” by 6”, with one side sloping in to form an irregular trapezoid. The light is produced from an LED hidden behind a front lip. It reflects onto a curved white surface, which shines the light back out through the front opening.
You have two choices for mounting. You can screw them onto pole stands that telescope from about 8.5” to 14.5” high. Or you can choose a bracket assembly that lets you stick-tape them to the top of a flat monitor (the brackets are an inch wide, so they won’t work on an ultra-thin knife edge monitor bezel).
Set up is technically easy. One light is the master. It connects to a power adapter that you plug into a standard wall socket. The light has a push button on-off switch located on the back. The other light connects to the master light with a supplied connector cable and turns on and off based on the master light’s switch.
Positive aspects first… The emitted light is a lovely white spectrum that the webcam likes. And my favorite feature is simply the fact that it is an LED. You can run these all day and they generate absolutely no heat. That means you can stick homemade diffusers on them such as wax paper or parchment paper without fear of something catching on fire. Here is a good shot using the lights:
Now why do I mention diffusers? The light is already reflected off the back surfaces, so you get no direct point-source glare from the LED. But the fact remains that the light is coming from a 5” x 1.5” opening. That’s a small, bright area. I had no problem with my glasses off, but as soon as I put them on, I ran into serious issues with reflections on my lenses.
I tried wax paper, parchment paper, thin typing paper, and even a borrowed overhead fluorescent light fixture diffuser in an attempt to remove the bright patch. My glasses still picked up the white rectangles, very clearly and intrusively.
I tried turning the units around and reflecting the light off paper, white cardboard, and corrugated foam. I either got a bright reflection or a shadow from the light housings. I even tried a trick I once read, spraying hairspray on an old pair of glasses. It blurred my vision, but didn’t eliminate the reflection.
So in the end, I had to bow to the laws of physics and work purely with positioning of the lights to angle them above or far to the sides. Unfortunately, my early evaluation unit only had a three-foot connector wire. I couldn’t get them far enough apart to cast a good oblique angle. I tried putting them closer to me and just outside the video frame, but it made for a rather eerie and unnatural glow:
And if I turned my head, the reflections were back in all their glory:
Gary assures me that the production units are shipping with a six-foot connector wire, so this should allow for much more flexibility in positioning. In an ideal world I would probably mount these well above head height and spread wide apart, angling them down and in towards my face. That should eliminate the reflection problem (and is the lighting angle used in professional video setups). I tried setting the stands on top of my speakers to raise them, but there is no way to angle them downwards when attached to the poles. They just shot their light out over my head and onto the backdrop.
So what is the verdict? If you don’t wear glasses, the View Me Lights are an excellent webcam lighting solution. If you wear glasses, be prepared for a lot of trial and error positioning, some cursing, and the need to avoid turning your head once you work out the magic angle. Positioning would be a lot easier if Videssence created a universal tilt and swivel bracket that would allow the lights to be mounted high and wide and then angled down and in towards the face.
The lights are not yet featured on the Videssence product page, but they are available for shipment. They can be special ordered by contacting the company. The retail price is $249 for two lights and stands.