How To Start Your Live Camera

Welcome to Live Camera

If you search "Live Camera" on the Internet, you can find lots of different ways to install this.  It varies from very simple implementation to the most sophisticated one.  Please first understand what is your purpose, your budget and the environment in order to choose the best option for you.

We just wanted to view how our turtles are doing when we are away from home.  We were not looking for something expensive nor monitoring security as such.  We chose a relatively simple solution so it might be of some help for those who just want to try it.

What do you need?

We connect the camera with our home PC and there is a software running on the PC to update our home page automatically every one minute.

Unless you want real live movie or need to control the camera remotely over the Internet, this approach is more than sufficient.  So you probably need the following.

 
PC
Camera
Software
Your Home Page
Internet Connectivity

I try to explain each item below.  But please feel free to send e-mail to Ponta if you have any questions.

PC

You don't need any special PC as long as those are the model within the last few years, the older one may work though.  We use one of the Windows 2000 notebook PC from SONY.  There are some points you need to be aware when you choose one for Live Camera.

  1. Your Camera can connect: The most obvious reason but you should check your camera to see what OS or model of PC they support.  Some of the camera require USB connection, which may not be available in old Windows machine.
  2. Internet Connectivity: Your PC needs to connect with Internet.  You don't have to be able to connect full time but it should support automatic connection from the software if it is dial up access.
  3. There is a software: You can write your own program to automatically upload the picture to your home page.  But probably you want to use something already available.  So make sure you have the software you can run on your PC.
  4. 24 Hours Running: You need to run your PC 24 hours and 365 days if you want to keep your live camera home page up to date.  Of course, this is up to you but if you want 24 hours operation, please consider its power consumption, heat, noise and so on.
Camera

When you go to the shop, you can find different type of cameras you can connect with your PC.  They may be called as "Web Camera" or "PC Camera".  There are two types of photo devices, one is CCD and the other is CMOS.  Don't ask me the technical details but CCD is considered to be much better in its visual quality.  Most of digital cameras and video cameras use CCD.

Also our turtles live outside in our balcony.  So we wanted to find some camera which works fine even outside under any kind of weather.  However, we found that this type was very expensive.  Eventually we came up with the solution that we can install the camera just inside the window so there's no need for the expensive one.

We use the model called USB-CCDCHAT from I-O DATA.  It costed us JPY 8,800 but you can find less expensive model.  So please choose whatever you like as long as it is compatible with your PC and some software.

There is another option.  You can use your video camera or digital camera.  Basically you use its video signal output and capture it via video capture board into your PC.  I haven't personally done this so you better check with some expertise around you.

Also there are web cameras which can connect directly with Internet or the software to update the picture is built in.  These are more expensive but you don't need to buy your PC so it might be more economical eventually.

Software

What you need is a tool to take the snapshot periodically, save it as a digital format such as JPEG or GIF and upload those files to your home page via FTP.  When I first went to the shop and asked them, they couldn't give us many information about the software.  They told me some of them is compatible with VFW (Video For Windows).  Initially I bought a book to explain this interface as I was thinking to write some tool by myself.

However, I have found there are already several freewares available on the Internet.  I assume there are many of them but I chose the one called "LcLight ver1.03".  This is an entry version of more sophisticated one called "ListCam".  But it is more than enough for our home page.  Please see the link below for more details.

Your Home Page

If you want to start real time movie site, you may have to install your own web server and also to obtain a global IP address, which is far more extensive process.  But simple version like us, every minute update with only snapshot pictures, you can start with your personal home page.

Please check your Internet service provider to see if they have any personal home page service.  Many of them have free home page support with about 10MB of data space.

As picture files tend to be larger, depending on the resolution of the photo, the size of the individual file and the number of files, 10MB may not be enough.  For your information, this home page contains one 640x480 size photo as the most recent shot and 60 of 320x240 size photo for the history of last one hour with one minute interval.  These only take approximately 2MB as a total.  So 10MB could be enough.

Obviously your home page needs to support FTP update function when you revise the contents.

This home page is put together by combining multiple providers home page services.  So there may be the features 10MB basic service cannot offer.  If you have any question about how this home page is developed, please feel free to ask Ponta by e-mail.

Internet Connectivity

Yes, you need the connectivity to Internet.  Fortunately, we live in an apartment which supports FTTH or optical fiber to have full time fast access Internet.  ADSL or ISDN is also enough to do the same thing as we do.

If you have only dial up access Internet via modem, it should be still possible to do the similar thing.  You need to consider how to balance among the size of files to upload, the speed of your connection and the frequency of the update.  For example, it takes about 10 seconds with 28.8kbps connection to upload the photo on our top page, which is 320x240 with about 30KB.  The enlarged photo (640x480 approx. 100KB) will take 30 seconds or so.  So you don't update the page every minute with these speed.  But every half an hour or one hour shouldn't be a problem.

Another thing to consider is that when you upload the files to your home page, you use FTP command.  If your connection is not full time, please make sure the software you use can automatically initiate the Internet connection.  You may need to set up automatic dial up connection on your PC.

(Last Update:30-03-2008 )

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