When we are in a room with someone and talk to them, we look at their eyes and their facial features and judge how they are feeling. However, in Zoom and other video conferencing systems we can either look at the camera and not see the other person or look at the other person and they can’t see us looking at them.
This is because of how the optics work. If we start with the camera obscura to see how modern cameras evolved and how a solution has been developed.
The Camera Obscura
Harking back to the early days before the development of the film camera was the camera obscura, a device that enabled the artist to draw on a glass plate what they saw, only the lens would turn the image upside down. The mirror is positioned at a 45 degree angle.
Matt from DIY Perks demonstrates the problem as well as fabricating a solution by using the technique the camera obscura used to direct light from the lens to the viewer is used to direct the picture to the web cam located at the bottom of the mirror.
The effect enables you to look at the person on the screen and the camera captures you looking at them as if you were doing it in person.
Of course, you don’t need necessarily need to use a laptop, if you have a desktop then you can make a similar surround to house the 2 way mirror and the camera. Unlike shop bought web cams, the USB cameras that come in laptops don’t have built in microphones, so you need an external microphone for people to hear you.