Tuesday 2 August 2011

How to: Setup Video Surveillance With Webcams

surveillance needs for home or office are a must because of rising thefts and crimes. Deploying professional security cameras, alongwith digital video recorders (DVR) for surveillance needs are very expensive. If you already own a webcam (or a number of webcams) you can create your own video surveillance unit at home or office in a very cost effective way. All you need is an application that can handle multiple camera feeds with a motion detection feature.

WebcamXP is one such extraordinarily powerful and yet cheap software, which can help in video surveillance for those on a shoe-string budget. Available in different versions, the WebcamXP free version supports only one web camera and is available for personal use. Download the free version from ‘www.webcamxp.com’. Powerful features such as streaming, monitoring, motion and sound detection, recording and remote monitoring/storage are a few key features of this software. So, let us begin setting up WebcamXP and deploy your webcam(s) to monitor your home or office.

Here’s what you would need to set up a small scale video surveillance unit:

The WebcamXP application (or any other similar application of your choice) HandiAVI is another great software.
One or more Webcams (IP cameras would also suffice using compatible software
A live IP internet connection (if you need the video to be monitored from another location over the internet or stored on a remotely available server).

Get started

Make sure you have your webcam installed on your computer along with the necessary drivers. Install or place the cameras facing the area, which needs to be monitored. Note: USB cameras do not have a lengthy USB cable and hence can be only stretched as far as 1.5 to 3 meters from the computer using a USB hub. If you need the cameras to be installed outdoors or at places at a greater distance, we would advise opting for IP cameras or wireless cameras. Wireless cameras would require a router for the interconnectivity.

Step 1: The Software

Once the cameras are configured and the software is installed, launch the WebcamXP application. Here you will see a large preview window along with four small preview windows for adding multiple camera feeds.

Towards the left are control and configuration icons which will help setting up the software for your surveillance needs. The bottom half gives you information of the camera connected along with options for pan, zoom and tilt. This option will be available only if your camera supports the feature.

Step 2: Connect the cameras

Right-click on the small preview windows (numbered as 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively) and select ‘PCI/USB (WDM Driver) | ’ from the respective list. If the camera is an IP camera, you would require entering details such as name, IP address and authentication details. Once done, WebcamXP will detect the camera and the video feed would be available on the main window and the small window respectively. Repeat the same procedure and install/connect all other cameras respectively. Remember, the trial version supports only one camera.

Step 3: Scheduling

Click on the ‘Scheduler’ tab and choose the required action to be taken by WebcamXP from the ‘Action’ drop down list. Choose the camera source number (the camera that needs to be configured) and the schedule for it to run.

Click on the activate button and relax. Let the WebcamXP software handle the rest for you while you are away from home or office. It can be beneficial in the night at home or office.

Step 4: Broadcasting

To broadcast the video feeds from all cameras over a network or the internet, click on the ‘Web/Broadcast’ icon on the left panel. Here enter the ‘IP Address / Host Name’ of your computer and enter a port number. Once done, click on the ‘Activate’ button. If your internet connection has a live IP, you can broadcast this feed directly over the internet and monitor it from anywhere across the world using any web browser. To access the broadcast, start the internet browser from another computer and type in the URL ‘http://:8080’. For example, if your computer’s IP address is ‘’, and you have set the port number to ‘8080’, then the URL you would need to enter would be - ‘’.

Here, you can choose the desired camera’s video feed by selecting the source from the ‘Source’ drop down list. Clicking on the ‘Multi view’ button will show you all the camera video feeds on the same page. Saving continuous snapshots from every camera is a very strong feature for surveillance in WebcamXP. In this feature, you can configure the software to take snapshots of every camera at specific intervals and save them to a desired folder. You can set the frequency of taking snapshots from one second to several hours. You can also select a single video source or all cameras or cycle through all cameras one by one while taking snapshots. These photos can be viewed over the internet by clicking the ‘Gallery’ icon. All the snapshots can be seen in a pagewise format. Clicking a photo would give you details of the photo — source camera and time and date stamps.

Step 5: Motion and audio detection

The main and most important feature of any surveillance setup is motion and/or audio detection. Click on the ‘Security’ icon and in the ‘Motion Detector’ tab, click on a video feed and hit the ‘Activate’ button. By using the mouse cursor, draw a rectangle on the video screen. This area will be the motion detection area, which the software will closely monitor. You can select particular sensitive areas, which need high motion detection priority or select the whole screen for an overall monitoring. A slider on the bottom half is available to set the sensitivity of the motion. So, set the sensitivity accordingly to avoid false alarms.

Sensitivity can also cause false alarms due to changes in lights. Features that can be enabled for motion sensing are recording, FTP uploads, HTTP posts, Email and SMS alerts, application execution, alarms and message windows. Usually at nights or when the light in the room is not sufficient, video cameras are usually useless unless you have an IR camera or IR lighting enabled for night vision. During this time, audio detection plays a main role. You can set the software to sense audio disturbances in the room/area and trigger alarms, accordingly. The audio source can either be the webcam microphone itself or a standalone microphone mounted in different areas.

Step 6: Email alerts and FTP / WWW storage

This feature will work only if there is an active internet connection enabled on the machine running the WebcamXP software. Using this feature, one does not need to monitor the cameras personally, but get alerted via email. Set the necessary values for SMTP gateway, username, password and subject line.

Once done, the software will mail you the photographs captured when a motion is detected. Uploading photos clicked by the cameras to a web server or FTP server is possible. This feature is helpful in case you need the video surveillance data to be stored anywhere else other than the location on surveillance to prevent the culprits destroying the storage and recording equipment to get rid of of any evidence against them.

Step 7: Recording

The DVR option is very simple and straightforward. Enabling this feature makes WebcamXP record videos from one or all cameras. The video can be set to record every minute or more with options of frame rates for a smaller file size. This feature is useful when you need to record every moment of the activities taking place in the area for viewing it at a later time. This feature allows you to record a new video every few minutes.

older files can be deleted by setting the specific period (for example, every 24 hours or more as per your requirement). The frame rates can also be set to lower the amount of data storage space required by the captured video. Every camera feed can be individually recorded and stored. Make sure you have the required hard drive space alloted, if you use this feature.

If you need your regular webcam to monitor an area at night or a place, which has very little or no light, deploying IR cameras along with an IR light would be needed. With it, you'll have a 24/7 security system in your home for hardly any cost at all, whereas professionally installed commerical systems can set you back by thousands of rupees.

Note: Once you hack the webcam, the CCD sensor becomes very sensitive to normal light and cannot be used in daylight. You can only use the webcam indoors. To use it outdoors, you will need an IR filter in front of the lens.

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