This page was edited heavily in February of 2019. It was started in 2010, to promote someone else's software for viewing CCTV across the internet. That product, "WebCam Looker", is still around today (!), but in the course of this page's evolution, the page has become more about how to use IpCams than about WebCam Looker.
If you are viewing this on a computer, may I suggest, before you give yourself eyestrain, if you haven't already done so, that you make your browser window take up less than the full width of the screen? Everything will flow properly .. and you will have more readable text.
Here you will find some stuff that was "crammed in" with too many other things, and which, frankly, at February 2019, was quite dated. It mostly concerns configuring a good but old application for using images from IpCams and various other video sources.
The rest, the best bits of the old page, are now in...
The new LookFar.... notes about the quirks of specific IpCams, including the codes for fetching a still image from them for the use of other software. (Discussion of that "other software" remains on this page.)
... and ...
... a general discussion of the issues involved in using the "secret codes" most IpCams (and many other IoT devices) have which allow you, say, to fetch a still image from the camera, for the use of other software.
I offer a separate page with general instructions for setting up IP cameras. (Opens in new tab... just close it to come back here later.) That page speaks mostly in general terms. This page skims though some of the general principles, but concentrates on specifics relating various models... and gives links to even more details for some cameras. Parts of what you will find here depend upon you having a good grasp of things covered on the general instuctions page. Starting there might be helpful.
Back in 2010, I spend many happy days playing with a wonderful piezo of software called WebCam Looker. Since the days of WebCamLooker's primacy, the same software house has released a newer, better WebCamLooker- Xeoma. (But WebCam looker remains available too. (2/19)
WebCam Looker could "gather up" video feeds, or static images from video feeds, and make them available via a website.
Also, I have something called "FarWatch", which, among other things, can post images from IpCams to an internet accessible webpage. FarWatch is a family mostly free Windows applications which allow anyone with an always on internet connection... even without a static IP address... to monitor things at a premise from any internet terminal in the world.
FarWatch is now a family of solutions, having evolved, just as WebCam Looker has. There's a "small" version- reports temperatures, but no images- that runs in an Arduino clone on the watched premises for about $30. (And fancier ones, with images, etc. They can monitor the weather... and much more.)
WebCamLooker accepts feeds from a simple USB camera... remember those?! And IpCams. And CCTV via video capture cards or USB units. So, I believe, can Xeoma... indeed I think it can accept almost any video feed. (I haven't (yet) tried it. So many projects- so little time.) There's are (sensible) free trial versions of both. (If I were starting today, I'd go with Xeoma), and a "lite" version. LOTS of choices.
For some readers, everything they want will be in Specific notes for various cameras, and/ or the IpCam "secret codes" section. Either section can be read in isolation, if that's all you want.
Two things that were here, are now elsewhere...
Eat your vegetables. Boring, I know. You just want to play with your camera. But...
As scary as doing firmware updates is... and you should be (moderately) scared... I would recommend that you seriously consider doing a firmware upgrade of any camera, especially if you bought an elderly eBay bargain. Do the firmware update (almost) before you do anything else with it. If you don't know where it's been, do an "upgrade", even if you camera already has the latest, greatest version of the camera's firmware.
For those who are not seasoned updaters of firmware, I have written a beginner's guide to firmware upgrades.
Mistakes can be very tedious, even though the process is not rocket science.
If you refresh the firmware early on, not only will you be spared fighting with things that weren't right in older versions of the camera's firmware, but you will protect yourself from the remote but serious possibility that something nasty has been put into the camera by an evil doer. Your camera will be able to see things that are important to you. It probably has a microphone. You will probably turn off your firewall at least once during the fight to get it working. You may have tell your browser that you "don't care" that the ActiveX control the camera wants to use is uncertified. Hmm. Sigh.
Onward to more fun things!....
Yes- You can buy IP-Cams with all of the FarWatch elements built in... but if you go that route, your solution lacks flexibility. And you don't have the weather/ premise systems monitoring, either. FarWatch can use an IP-Cam, and for very little extra expense you get more features, more control. You can also take a middle road: Set up an PC to do the serving, and use WebCam Looker to take care of some of the things that the full FarWatch would give you.
A "disclosure": In 2010 I really struggled to get going. But it was worth it. Although I had used computers for many years, this project brought together several challenges. While I like WebCam Looker very much... so much that I haven't bothered to try the alternatives (yet.. despite having a licensed copy of an alternative product, which I bought during an earlier stab at these challenges)... While I like it very much, I do not mean to imply by anything that follows that I was able to set it up, just so, on the first attempt. And when I was "done", I was still struggling with a few "little features" that I hoped one day to bludgeon into submission.. but I moved on from WebCam Looker. Nothing "wrong" with it... just other priorities and home grown solutions. If you want something that will "just work", and read your mind, guess what you wanted, and do it your way.... then stop reading, and throw out your computer.
Another reason I persisted with WebCam Looker was that even back then, it had been around for a while. This is usually a Good Sign. Buggy software doesn't usually remain in the marketplace... unless it has a certain huge monopoly behind it, killing off any products that try to compete... let alone survive over a decade (2/19), AND give rise to new generation software (Xeoma).
If you just want to "do it", as I said at the top of the page, I have a page for you that is less theoretical and less comprehensive with instructions for getting started with an IP camera. Maybe that will be what you are looking for? I wish I'd had something like it when I started!
Perhaps I should also mention that my only connection with Felenasoft is as a customer. Yes, I liked their product; yes, I sent them feedback. No, I do not get a commission! And those comments are past tense only because, as I said, I've moved on.(2/19)
Back to the story of getting things like WebCamLooker and FarWatch working well with IpCams...
That the setup described below was good for my requirements. If you are looking for something even vaguely similar, I would be surprised if Xeoma or WebCam Looker can't be configured to do what you want to do.
Alternatively, set up something from my FarWatch family.
DS025 generates a web page which FarWatch serves to anyone asking for the state of the monitored premises.
The ini file of DS025 provides a way to specify a graphic to be included in the served page of HTML. I tend to call that graphic FWtmp.jpg. Totally independently of DS025, if what is in the file changes, then what you see when you "visit" the premises will change. For testing purposes, put an unchanging file in the right folder. (There's more on configuring DS025 elsewhere). When you've got FarWatch serving the static image, you're done with the FarWatch/ DS025 setup.
You don't, of course, have to use WebCam Looker to create and update the graphic file... but I'm going to give you the details, in case you decide to try the tested answer.
My goals do not include a video feed... and all of its overheads. You could have a fairly high resolution new image every two minutes with what I will describe. I am quite content with a system which updates the image on the webpage once every twenty minutes... but two new images per second would take some bigger changes. I suspect that the same hardware and software I am using can give you near video images... but I haven't gone down that path. One "frill" I have in my system is that the image "freezes" in the early evening. People checking my site in the night hours don't see a black rectangle. (Of course, if I were to change the camera to an infra-red model, I could show pictures through the night.)
In a fancy setup, Xeoma (or WebCamLooker) work together. (And either can be used on its own.)
For now, put FarWatch/ DS025 to one side. (It can use images captured by WebCam Looker, but it just fetches an image from the local hard disk. How it gets there doesn't matter. Indeed, I have programs to duplicate that part of what WebCam Looker did.)
If Xeoma or WebCam Looker is going to be part of your final system, now is the time to download and install one of them. Connect your camera(s). I was successful (2010!) in setting up the following for use with WebCam Looker ...
1) A Linksys WVC54GCA IpCam
2) A Panasonic BL-20C IpCam plus a Logitech USB-cam.
3) Though I haven't used it with WebCam Looker (yet!... it "should" work with it!) I would also like to mention to you the Wansview NCB541W. (Link to details further down.)
4) A CCTV-cam connected through a Pinnacle video capture card.
IP-CAM: An "IpCam" is a device which can be connected to a local area network (LAN), and supply images (at least still, maybe still and moving) to a web browser, e.g. Firefox. These devices often are capable of much more, but for our purposes, that's all we need. And we don't need the camera's supplier's proprietary software cluttering up our PCs, either. Typically, you connect the IpCam with a cable at least once, and then use a browser to go to a URL like http://192.168.0.2 to access the camera's control panel. There, you set various things like the resolution you want, and, if the camera has the feature, the settings for the wireless networking connection. You then disconnect the cable, and if all is well find the camera connected to your LAN by its wireless circuits.
With just an IP Cam FTPing to a server, and the free IrfanView, and the free VDub (both on Win7), I made an amusing 3 minute YouTube of the dreadful snow of "Spring" 2015 in coastal Connecticut. Well. It amused me, anyway.
WEB CAM: What is quite properly called a "web cam" in many contexts I shall call a USB-cam in what follows to underline the fact that I'm talking about the everyday "cam" that is either built into your laptop, or connects quickly, inexpensively and simply to your PC via USB. (Those of you "new" to computing don't know what a blessing USB is, compared to what went before. May you never have to learn!) When you first plug the camera in, some necessary drivers will have to be installed, but that is usually painless, and is often automatic. You don't need are the various fancy "support" packages which are often bundled in addition to the basic drivers.
VIDEO CARD CCTV CAMERA: If you have been trying to move old VHS recordings from your tapes to your PC, you may well have a card or external device to make this possible. People with some forms of video recording cameras will also connect to their PC this way. The nice people at Pinnacle have a strong presence in the field. You can buy a fairly good CCTV camera which will plug into one of these cards from eBay for $40 (and some pretty rotten ones, too... but for even less, and even those will do for experimentation. They DO produce an image!) If you see NTSC or PAL or "composite" in the specs, you are probably looking at this sort of device, which I will call a "CCTV-cam" in what follows. Mention of "RCA connectors" also probably indicates one of these. If you don't mind connecting up some wires, you can buy the heart of this sort of device from Sparkfun (At 2/2010: $32 for a 640x480 color camera, or $35 for a 640x480 B&W with IR illumination built-in (for night viewing) (That camera works fine, too, for scenes illuminated by visible light, but the image is still B&W, of course.)
Oh dear... a digression, Sorry.
When I went to the Sparkfun site to look up the details of that camera for you, I came across another lovely toy at the Sparkfun site: A very small (about 1 cm on a side!) 1.3 mega-pixel (1300x1040 pixel image) color camera from Toshiba with the standard data+I2C interface. Offers on-board JPEG compression. $10 at 2/2010.
I doubt that one of these will "just work" if plugged into the FarWatch/ WebCam Looker system... but this does seem to be an interesting device with other possibilities.
Of course, today (2/19) one must also consider using a Pi with one of its cameras. Pi plus camera... $35? (Can't be a Pi Zero, I don't think.))
Back to "work".
Speaking of CCTV-cams: It may seem to good to be true, but "baluns" do actually work. They let you send CCTV images over "simple" wires. They require no power. I bought a pair for less than $6 from SmartNightGuard on eBay and have a signal traveling about 18m in just two wires of a piece of Cat-5 cable. (It is probably best to put the power supply as close to your camera as you can, though.)
DIGITAL I/O: Let's start with what this does not refer to: When I speak of a given camera having digital I/O (input and output), I am not talking about how the image is rendered. I am saying that the camera in question has places where you can connect external electronics or electrics. Such cameras can, for instance, set off an alarm bell when they "see" movement. They can be "told" to take a picture and email it, or store it, when, say, a PIR detects someone present. I have a page for you with more on IpCam digital I/O. (It will open in a new tab or window. Just close that to get back here easily.)
Further on CCTV cams: Ever better dedicated "video recorders" are appearing on the market. They are like the PVRs we use to record TV programs to a hard disk for playback later, but are designed for security cameras. Not as much fun as "making your own" system, with IP-cams, or other... but quicker!
(Remember: This portion of this page is dated... created around 2010. I haven't even edited it to change the verb tense. Where it says "To use it the way I am using it...", it really should be "Then, to use it the way I was using it...")
This page assumes you are already familiar with the general skills of sending command codes to IoT devices.
In both cases, the USB-cam was only connected because I'm human, and wanted "a bit more". It was only used to watch for motion, e.g. a postman coming to my door. It snapped pictures when it saw motion, and stored them on my hard disk. WebCam Looker has, as in most areas, a range of options open to you in respect of how much disk space it will use, and what it will do when that space is full. It can then just wait for you to make decisions, or it can be set to "wrap around", and over-write the oldest images whenever new things come along. Typical of why I like WebCam Looker...
To use WebCam Looker the way I am using it.....
You set up your "sources". Each of your cameras is a "source". In my case, the USB-cam camera was "discovered" by WebCam Looker without me having to do anything clever. The CCTV-cam was "discovered", but I had to make some settings. In particular, although the source type ("Device") was correctly detected, I had to go into the details, and "advanced details" from there, if memory serves me. Eventually I reached a place where I could change the "Crossbar" settings. I had to make the input "VideoCompositeIn" for my camera. I also needed "YUY2, 720x526, 25fps". (That seemed to work as well as the 29fps that another application was using.) Those settings, I think, arose because I had a "PAL" format camera. In the US, you will probably have "NTSC" cameras. After you make what you hope are the right settings, and click the "ok"s to get back to the main screen wait for a bit for the preview to come up... perhaps 10 sec.
Once you have added a source, by the way, you cannot change the sort of source it is. If you make a mistake there, you just delete the offending, unsatisfactory source, and start again to set up a source for the camera that you want to add.
Sorry... back to what we were doing before those little digressions....
You have various options for "marking" things at different levels. I like to keep things simple, so I applied my marks at the most fundamental level; I applied them to the sources. In particular, I put a date/time stamp on each. If you have two sources, if you put the mark for one at the left of the image, and the other at the right of the image, you can still see both timestamps even when the images are overlapping.
Each source, at any one time, can be connected either to "Preview only" or "Continuous" or "Motion Detect". That's the simple statement of What Happens. There is a twist to that, which we will come to later.
In preview only... for our initial purposes... you simply see on the screen of the PC running WebCam Looker whatever is being fed to WebCam Looker from the sources you have set up, and turned on. (There's a little "source on" check-box on each source's settings page). Quite sufficient for many users' needs! An easy, affordable way to multiplex four, or even more, cameras onto a single, live display.
I set my USB-cams to Motion Detect, and sent still images only, not video, to the archive when motion was detected. A tip for you: Do not "watch" the whole of the image for motion. Watch just the "middle" part, additionally excluding anything you wish to. The reason for this is that if you monitor the whole scene, you will get pictures of the nose of someone as they come into view, whereas if you'd taken the photo a moment later, by setting the detection area to be the "middle" of the image, you would see the whole profile when the nose invades the monitored region.
Setting up the motion detection routines went quite simply.
Don't imagine you're seeing a rough edge if the "detect here" areas flicker from time to time as you monitor the display. They flicker to say "We counted what just happened as 'motion'".
The sources (except if switched off, of course) send a "continuous" stream of images to WebCam Looker. This is not the sort of "continuous" we're talking about here.
When a source is set to "continuous" mode, it is continuously sending images to the hard disk of the PC. Note that the source can re-sample the scene on one schedule, say once every two seconds. This would give a near real-time display on the monitor. But if that is more data than you need to store, you can set the "continuous mode" to post a new image to the hard disc only, say, every 5 minutes.
You can post those images to the hard drive in either or both of TWO places:
1) The archive. This is a WebCam Looker managed folder. You can access images in the archive almost as if they were on a video tape, with the time the image was recorded displayed, and buttons to go forward, backward, etc.
2) To a destination of your choice. In my case, that destination is the file FarWatch/ DS025 will be using in the web page which you can access from afar. All sorts of other clever things are available, but I'm not sure if it is from here that you access them. At the moment, my WebCam Looker is undergoing a test, and I don't want to upset that by going into my settings pages... sorry!
So far, so good? Lots possible already. But now we get clever... even if it is at the cost of a little dip on the "obvious/ easy to use" meter.
When we are using the (record) continuously mode, the system does just that... it records an image as often as we asked it too... I used "5 minutes" in my example above. And it does this... continuously.... 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while power lasts!
To get fancier, we proceed as follows:
Almost entirely separate from what we've discussed so far is the Scheduler.
On the main setting page, if you have a source selected, you can click on the Scheduler button. That opens up a window where you can set all sorts of things. For my needs, I said I wanted to use the same settings as I had for that source in "Continuous" mode... but just between the hours of 6am and 7pm. (I could also have specified a range of dates, and/or restricted things to specific days of the week. Did I mention that WebCam Looker is very flexible??)
So far so good. There's just one little "trick" to be aware of....
Once you have set up both the settings under "continuous" and under the scheduler, you then set the source to run just in "Preview" mode! Some of the settings under Continuous will be noted when the Scheduler turns things on. By having the source set to "Preview Only", you don't get recordings 24/7, which is what would happen if you had it set to "Continuous". I suppose you could say that "Preview Only" is "Preview- plus- anything- scheduled- by- the- scheduler". And you have to grasp that the scheduler will look at the settings made under "continuous".
But! Having grasped that, the program does a great job of managing the cameras and recording from them, as I wanted things done.
While it wasn't what I needed, you can also set the system to go into motion detect on a schedule. Each source's behavior can be programmed separately.
Whatever you were looking for when you came here... I hope you have found it! And I hope you don't have to discover by yourself quite as many things as I had to. It is a pity that there are so many things to get right, and that many people won't make it to their hoped for destination... but that's computers for you, isn't it?
One little bit of humor to end with. The following appeared in one discussion I read while researching the above...
"This is an excellent camera. I used it to watch my children at home from my office. I have four of them and recommend to everybody."
Is that children or cameras of which he has four? Four of each, maybe?