How do I share my webcam across multiple applications?

I have a webcam that I like using for different applications, however when I’m using it in MSN Messenger for example, I can’t use it in another application. Is there any way I can use it in more than one place at a time?


Most people using a webcam will come up with the question at some point or other. For example, I use a program to upload a snapshot from my webcam to my blog every 30 seconds. If I try using MSN Messenger and use the video conferencing facility, I’ll get an error from my uploader within a few seconds , because it’s tried to grab an image and my webcam is already in use. (Speaking about webcams, I need to get one of these Dymo labels for it, just to make sure no one tries to nick it)

Anyway, the problem lies in the fact that the Windows interface that allows applications to talk to webcams creates an exclusive lock on the hardware and doesn’t allow other applications to access it. If you’re interested the API is called TWAIN, which allegedly stands for Technology Without An Interesting Name. So, TWAIN doesn’t allow multiple applications to access the same hardware, however it’s possible to find proxy applications that can abstract the images away from the hardware that produce it and thus allow multiple versions of it. I use a free package called ManyCam for this.

ManyCam is actually a great package. Not only does it allow you to share your webcam across multiple applications, but it also lets you have some fun in adding text, animation and images to the projected image. For example, you can specify that the image gets funny eyes, and when ManyCam sees something that that looks like eyes, it projects the image you selected onto it. Here’s an example:

It’s free and it’s lots of fun, so download it and check it out.

1 thought on “How do I share my webcam across multiple applications?”

  1. do you know of any open source split cam type software? i’m sick of the trojan infested Manycam/Splitcam proggies on download.com.
    those programs access private files in internet explorer and hook your computer to spyware/adware/trojans.
    using snort and IDS (intrusion detection software) i have traced several remote ip addresses (european mostly) connected to my computer, from both Manycam and Splitcam. the ports in question were always over 50,000 (classic trojan activity).

    thanks in advance

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