Fun with iChat AV

Judging by my column the past couple of days you'd think that I didn't like iChat AV or something. Au contraire!

Judging by my column the past couple of days you'd think that I didn't like iChat AV or something. Au contraire! I only point out it's deficiencies because I think that video conferencing is nothing short of revolutionary and I want Apple to invest more R&D into iChat so that more people will start using the tiny cameras embedded in their machines rather than less. I switched to iChat AV from Adium when I got my MacBook Pro because iChat AV supports video chat and Adium doesn't.

ChatFX v.1.2 (US$20 shareware) is a must-have plug-in for iChat AV that allows you to enhance your video chat with Quartz Composer effects. Quartz Composer is the graphics stack in Mac OS 10.4 Tiger that combines the capabilities of Cocoa, Quartz 2D, Core Image, OpenGL, and QuickTime. Pictured above is an effect called "Mercurial Me."

You pick the video effect in ChatFX in iChat's video preview window (Video > Video Preview). ChatFX adds a disclosure triangle to the bottom of the video preview with a drop-down menu loaded with video effects. The effects range from the simple (Pencil Sketch, Charcoal, Comic Book) to bizarre (Foggy Blend, Interplanetary Message) to absolutely insane (My First QC, Wipe off the Snow, Kero in Torus).

The real fun begins when you start playing around with the bluescreen effects. Included in the just released beta version (1.2) of ChatFX are three bluescreen effects that allow you to place your Mac desktop, a still image or even a movie in the iChat video window. You can even pick the key color to drop out if you don't have a blue wall or bed sheet handy. ChatFX makes it easy to use a picture of your office, dorm or bedroom as the background for your next video conference. Use a video in the background and things get even crazier.

The installer puts compositions into /Library/Application Support/ChatFX. Creating your own compositions is as simple as copying one of the included compositions, changing its name and restarting iChat.

ChatFX is an excellent way to mod iChat AV and freak out your friends and is well worth the download. Check it out.


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