Create a Webcam


Creating your own webcam is easy. All you need is a computer, a camera, an Internet connection, and a few minutes to set it up. HTML Class has all the information you need to make your own webcam.

Set Up Your Webcam

Get the equipment

The first step is to find a Mac and a video source. Yes, that's right, a Mac. Almost any Mac that can get on the Internet will do. Pull that old Mac out of the closet and put it to good use. For video, the best choice is usually a video camera and digitizer, but you can also use one of several USB or serial port-based computer cameras.

Using a video camera

For years, Apple has been making a portion of AV computers with built-in video capture. A sure sign your Mac already has video input is a yellow phono plug in the back of the computer. If your Mac doesn't have video capture already built in, you can add a third-party video-capture board such as the IXTV card (for PCI Macs). IMac users can add any of several devices for video input.

As for a camera, an older-model HandyCam from a discount electronics store will usually work fine. A surveillance camera will also work, but it will cost more. The cheapest solution is to find a used camera with a broken video tape mechanism. They're perfect for webcams as long as the video-capture part still works. Video cameras should last years if you just use them to capture video for a webcam.

Using a USB or serial camera

If you don't have a video-input source on your Mac, you can buy a third-party capture board, or use one that plugs into your serial or USB port, such as the QuickCam or ViCAM. The QuickCam for USB is nice because you can use more than one camera. The ViCAM has a higher quality picture, but currently you can only use one per Mac.

Initial testing

Once you have your Mac and camera, attach them using the manufacturer instructions. Basic video-capture software should have been included. Run it to verify you've installed the camera properly. You should see a video image, but if not, check the connections and see if there is any additional system software available.

Get the SiteCam software

Download the software SiteCam from the Rearden Technology website.

Once you've downloaded it, you can unstuff it onto your hard drive. From here, follow the simple setup instructions that walk you through the process.

Periodic FTP webcam vs. webcam server

You can set up SiteCam in two major ways. If you are like most and use a modem to dial into an ISP to get on the Web, then you'll be doing the Periodic FTP Webcam. If you are lucky enough to have an ISDN, DSL, cable modem, or T1 connection to the Internet, you can run SiteCam as a streaming video and Internet server.

Periodic FTP webcam

This type of webcam uploads a new video image to the Web at the interval you specify, such as every two minutes. SiteCam lets you choose the hours of the day that the camera is active, so your nighttime images don't have to be blank darkness.

To get started, obtain a webpage space from your ISP. Your ISP will provide you with a webpage address, and the FTP (file transfer protocol) information needed to make changes to your page. Make sure you know your webpage address, and the FTP address, user name and password required to make changes to your webpage. To learn how to build a website of your own, pass this class.

Your ISP should have information on making changes to your webpage using an FTP program such as Fetch or Anarchie. If you aren't already, make sure that you can download your webpages, make changes, and upload the changes. Your ISP or HTML editing software will have helpful instructions.

Now you can start SiteCam and follow the Quick Setup Guide for Periodic Update. This walks you through the simple steps that let you specify the upload interval, the FTP settings, and how the webcam image will look. You can add text captions, a background image, or embed a logo on your image to give it personality.

The last step is to Start Periodic Capture and your images will be on their way to your website.

Streaming video server

SiteCam includes a Web server that will showcase your streaming video. All you need is a dedicated Internet connection with static IP address for your Mac. With a high-speed connection, you can set SiteCam to act as a Web server and Web browsers can see either live streaming video (which updates as fast as the network will allow) or live on-demand images, which are snapshots that are always up to date.

Streaming video works by using either server-push (for some Netscape users) or via a streaming video java applet (for Internet Explorer and some Netscape users). Both methods work using standard HTTP protocols, which mean your video is not blocked by firewalls or routers and makes it available to the maximum number of users.

Get Fancy With Your Webcam

Other experiments

SiteCam has features you might not ever use, but they're waiting for you to experiment with them when you want.

Motion detection: allows your SiteCam to watch for changes in a particular area of your webcam image. If the change exceeds the threshold you supply, SiteCam can play a sound, take a picture, or run a script that can do even more.

QuickTime Time-Lapse: lets you record a movie over a long period of time with a very low framerate. Time-lapse movies are great for watching clouds go by or a flower opening, or observing the progress of anything over time. The movies you create can be automatically uploaded to the Internet for viewing.

AppleScript support: lets you program SiteCam to interact with other programs. AppleScript is a wildly powerful technology that involves learning a few basic commands in a plain English programming language.

PC Option: Webcam32

Webcam32 is an application designed specifically for Windows 95, 98, NT V4.0, and 2000.

Similar to other applications, Webcam32 allows you to upload static images from your netcam or video camera to the Web via FTP. You are allowed a one-hour, free test period of Webcam32. If you choose to keep it, you must pay $25.

Also available is a new streaming technology that allows your viewers to see the action in front of the camera in real-time. For an example of a streaming webcam, visit FreakOutCity. On the front page you will see a live, streaming webcam of TechTV's IT guys.

Visit the Webcam32 Overview Overview page for instructions of setting up a streaming webcam. As this procedure uses Java Applets, it is a bit advanced,but the site offers some good tutorials to help you on your way.

Even if you don't have a website, you can set Webcam32 to Autocam. A website with your webcam will be automatically generated. The Surveyor's Webcam Satellite Network offers a slew of webcams for perusal.

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