Blog Post

How to: boost Mac’s iSight resolution for Skype video calls

Integrated_isightSlow news afternoons are made for browsing forums; that’s where I’ve been for a bit today. Specifically, I was nosing about the Skype forums since I’m such a big Skyper. Using Skype on the MacBook Pro is a joy thanks to the built in iSight camera and there’s a way to boost the resolution for Skype video calls thanks to a simple tweak. I’m not sure what the supported res of the iSight is, although I believe it to be VGA or 640 x 480; someone smarter than me in the ways of the Mac will chime in for sure here. Unfortunately, Skype doesn’t natively use the full resolution of the iSight cam; here’s how to change that.

First off, you’ll need Skype version or higher installed and you’ll want Skype closed when you make these changes. On your Mac, you’ll want to find your Skype configuration file, which is aptly named "config.xml". I found this file quite easily with Spotlight, since on my system there’s only one file instance with that name. If you need the full path of the file, you’ll find it at: /Users/your account name/Library/Application Support/Skype/your Skype name.

Just open the XML file in a text editor and look for these settings:


Once you find these elements, simply add the following ones to allow Skype to use the iSight in full VGA resolution; look at the two capture elements:


Now, just save and close the config.xml file and fire up Skype. You’ll immediately have all new video calls  streamed in 640 x 480 resolution. Bear in mind that you’ll be requiring more processing power and bandwidth; something that your callers might not want or need.

Here’s a shot with the standard settings:


and here’s a shot with the modified settings. Both screenshots were captured on my Vista machine; the only change was the Skype client on the Mac.


It might not be dramatically evidenced here, but in "real life", the tweaked Skype settings show less softness and more detail. Oooh…the higher res photo shows that I didn’t shave today. :)

Ideally, I’d like to see a future Skype client to have a configuration setting for this resolution boost; although it’s easy enough to make this change, it should really be in the GUI. Going a step further, it might even be desirable to these settings applicable on a per-contact basis. For example: Joe might want to receive my Skype video calls in VGA but Jim does not. If I could easily set those parameters on a per-contact basis, it would provide value to all the parties involved.

Until we see a client configuration setting for this, you can quickly boost (or reduce) the res of your iSight video Skype calls with this quick tweak.

6 Responses to “How to: boost Mac’s iSight resolution for Skype video calls”

  1. Help! Your directions seem very simple but I can’t find my config.xml file or settings for the isight camera. Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong? I tried to spotlight search it a million ways.

  2. Sixto Jesús Flores Romero

    With the LED-Backlit MacBook Pros, Apple has moved to using a sensor capable of 1280×960 pixels, but when accessed using provided APIs, the image is re-sampled to 640×480 pixels. However, Quartz composer allows access to the 1280×1024 pixel video stream. They can also be used for Photo Booth.

  3. jayme capurso

    great post kevin, skypes crap video is well known. Your pics are the proof that this is well worth doing, now all I need is for the new MBP’s to come out. :)