Using CamTwist to use an iPhone as a Webcam for FREE on MacOS
I’ve been using EpocCam to turn my iPhone as a webcam which works well majority of the time. However, I would face frustrating connectivity issues with EpocCam at least once a day which is really frustrating. Online searches continues to only recommend the EpocCam (or similar) solution. But I’ve finally found one that works better. Best of all, it is also one that is free of charge! All you need is a software called CamTwist, your iPhone and a lightning cable which you would already have.
Using your iPhone as a Webcam for free
Most of you would already know that MacOS has a built-in capability to record the screen of your iPhone. The cool thing is, I discovered that the CamTwist Studio can leverage that capability and use it as a video source on CamTwist. And once you’ve set it all up, you will be able to use your iPhone as a webcam for free as shown in the photo below.
What is CamTwist Studio and why?
CamTwist Studio is a video switcher app to manage video feeds on for live streaming and broadcasts. The secret sauce that CamTwist has to make all this work is that it is one of the very few video streaming applications that has a virtual webcam capability on MacOS. The only downside is that CamTwist’s development is abandoned few a while now and its honestly surprising that it still works well on MacOS Catalina. Thankfully the developer has the foresight to release CamTwist as a full fledge 64-bit application. And if all you want is to use your iPhone as a webcam, CamTwist works perfectly fine.
If you are looking for a proper video recording and streaming software, there is the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). But it still does not yet have a plugin to output its stream as a virtual webcam on MacOS.
On this post, I will just focus on how I got the iPhone to work as a webcam using CamTwist. I will not be going deep into any of the other capabilities of CamTwist Studio, though there are some pretty interesting things you can do with it. An example is to a live stream of your desktop with a PIP view of yourself, transitioning different streams and more. Just like what you see on TV!
A step-by-step instructions
As I’ve mentioned, this setup is one where you will be using your iPhone as a webcam. To do so effectively, I recommend using a phone holder with a flexible arm. The photo below is one I found on Amazon that is similar to what I am using.
As mentioned earlier too, this will be a tethered setup where you will need to connect your iPhone with the lightning cable to your Mac. It is not a wireless option.
Step 1: Install CamTwist Studio and update the preference to support 720p @ 30 FPS video output
Download CamTwist Studio from this link here. As you will notice, the website has not been maintained and updated to support https and there are some PHP errors too. But fret not, the link is valid and the application will install well.
Once installed, you will see the CamTwist main window as shown in the screenshot above. It’s a little daunting if you are not immediately familiar with what the application is made to do.
By default, CamTwist sets itself up with a low frame rate and video resolution output. You can change that by going to the Preferences ( ⌘ + , ) and change Frame rate to 30 FPS and the Video Size to 1280×720.
You can also use a custom size of 1920×1080 if you want a full HD resolution. However, I found it to be quite intensive on the CPU on my MacBook Pro 13”. Therefore, I just kept it at 720p resolution since it’s mainly for video conferencing use only.
Step 2: Setting up the iPhone as a Webcam video source
On the CamTwist main window, select Webcam and click the Select button. If this is the first time you are using CamTwist, you will need to allow the necessary permissions. Click OK of course.
You should see your iPhone’s name in the Camera dropdown list. If you don’t see it even if the cable is already connected, it could be because you have not yet trusted the connection to the Mac on your iPhone.
Next, it is time to save the setup so this setup will remain whenever you reopen CamTwist.
To see the video stream in action, head to the View menu and open up the Studio and Preview window. Or just use the ⌘+S and ⌘+P hotkeys.
You should see the your iPhone’s screen now on CamTwist. The preview window displays what’s being streamed out of CamTwist. The Studio window is where you can setup multiple video settings to switch around. I won’t go into the details of that here in this article.
Step 3: Using Camera as the webcam camera
Option 1: The free option using the iPhone camera app
The free and easy option is to just use the iPhone camera app.
But you will want to remove the camera app buttons and borders. Thankfully, CamTwist has a “effect” that zooms in on the video feed.
Search for the Zoom effect in the Step 2 list and click Add. It will then show up under Webcam in the Effects in use list. Next, adjust the slider on the settings until all the camera app’s buttons and borders are gone, showing only video display of yourself. On my iPhone 8 Plus, I found 3.24 scale settings zooms the display in just about right. You will want to save the setup again so the Zoom effect is also saved.
Next, you will also want to change your iPhone’s display auto-lock settings to Never. Otherwise, your phone display will turn off and your video will turn black.
You can find the settings in Settings -> Display & Brightness -> Auto-Lock.
Note: If you don’t see the Never option, especially if your iPhone is a corporate issued one, it is likely because that option is disabled by the MDM (Mobile device Management) profile. Option 2 will be the one you have to use.
Option 2: Using a clean camera feed app option
You can actually find a few apps on the App Store that does exactly what you need here. That is to provide a clean camera feed on your iPhone without any distractions and keeping it from auto-locking. I have to use this on my corporate issued iPhone as it does not allow me to never auto-lock the iPhone. The app I’m using is called Clean Camera Feed ($3.99).
Update: I’ve also came across this app called Overviewer recently that also provides a clean camera feed. While its been designed specifically to function as an overhead projector, it functions just like any other clean camera feed apps. Best of all is the developer has made it a free download to everyone! I will be testing and using Overviewer moving forward and see how it works better than Clean Camera Feed.
With an app like Clean Camera Feed, you will not need to use the Zoom effect to take away any distractions from the video feed.
Step 4: Unsign Zoom app (or any other apps) to use the CamTwist virtual webcam
As I’ve discovered when trying to get EpocCam to work with Zoom, you will also need to make sure you have already unsign the Zoom app in order to see CamTwist’s virtual webcam as an option. You can find the complete step-by-step instructions here on my other article. But the long story short, you need to install Xcode command line tools, and then run the codesign command to unsign the app.
xcode-select --install sudo codesign --remove-signature /Applications/zoom.us.app/
When that’s done, you will see CamTwist as a camera you can select in Zoom.
Apple should make this an official support
I think Apple should make this an out of the box capability on an iOS and MacOS. The ecosystem already supports cool Continuity capabilities such as taking a photo from your iPhone when working off your Mac. This additional live video feed from an iPhone would be a killer feature. But until then, I hope CamTwist continues to work well on MacOS.
There’s also now no real need for me to get an actual webcam. The iPhone works just as well, if not better. Plus, an actual webcam requires you to plug in via a USB cable anyway. The only upside is you don’t have to go through the hassle of using CamTwist as the intermediary application and the unsigning of apps to get it to work.
So really, Apple. Please consider this as an official support in iOS 14 and MacOS whatever-the other-California-locations-you-want-to-use-as-the-name.