Before you go out and spend money on a webcam, take note: The camcorder you already own can do the job. That’s right, almost any digital video camcorder can be used as a PC webcam.

The key is a program called DVdriver that costs just $20. It tricks your PC into thinking a Firewire-connected camcorder is just a standard USB-connected webcam. With DVdriver running, any software in the world that works with a webcam will work with your camcorder, guaranteed.

Saving the cost of a webcam is reason enough to look into DVdriver, but there’s another reason, too, and that’s video quality. The optics of the average camcorder are vastly superior to those of a PC webcam.

So, you’re not just turning your camcorder into a webcam, you’re turning it into a sort-of “super” webcam, with beautifully crisp video quality, realistic color, and optical zoom. You’ll never match the video quality of a camcorder with any of the PC webcams on the market.

DVdriver is available for free trial download, so you can make sure it works for you before you lay out the $20. It works with any digital video camcorder that has a Firewire (also known as IEEE 1498 or iLink) connector.

There are some wonderful bonus features included in DVdriver, too, that are worth the price of admission in themselves, if you need them.

The first is optical zoom control. If your camcorder is a Canon ZR or one of several other compatible models, DVdriver is able to control the camcorder’s optical zoom from your computer. Just clicking a control with your mouse makes the camcorder’s lens zoom in or out.

There is also digital zoom, which works with any model of camcorder.

Another bonus is video stream duplication. That means you can feed the video from you camcorder to several applications simultaneously. You can video-chat in Yahoo while saving the same video to disk using a video capture program and/or video chatting with someone else on a second system like MSN Messenger. It’s a handy feature when you need it and hard to find.

To round out this look at the possibilities of using your camcorder as a webcam, let’s take a quick look at a hardware accessory that can give you the ultimate in souped-up webcamming. It’s called an IR-Pod and it’s newly available from the same company that produces DVdriver.

The IR-Pod is a small, dome shaped unit that you mount your camcorder on to. Inside are motors that tilt and swivel the camcorder up, down, left and right. You control the movement using a hand-held remote control like the one you use with your TV or VCR. With it, the invisible tether that kept you to within reaching distance of your computer and camera vanishes for good and you can move around naturally while pointing the camera where you want to and keeping yourself within the picture frame.

The combination of a camcorder, DVdriver, and IR-Pod brings serious users to a whole new level of webcamming.

The free trial download of DVdriver and full details on the IR-Pod are available at