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Month: December 2014

Make Your Own Video Surveillance System At Home

Make Your Own Video Surveillance System At Home

Another DIY this Christmas season. Everyone these days wish to have their own video surveillance system at home either to watch out for burglars or just to keep an eye on your child, the uses are endless. But mostly the equipment are expensive and requires professional help. But this time we’ll create one out of some old PC hardware lying around. Performance entirely depends on the hardware you use and your network capability.

Things You Will Need

  1. An old webcam or digital cam
  2. A Linux PC(you can use any other OS but I’m using Linux here)
  3. A Network
  4. Infrared Light source(an IR LED or IR LASER diode will do)

Hacking the Webcam or Digital Cam(for Night Vision)

NOTE: This part includes removing the outer case of the camera to access the sensor and this may damage your camera permanently.Do this at your own risk.Firstly open the plastic case of the webcam careful not to damage the interior circuitry. Now with the lens assembly exposed you are ready to go.

Actually we are looking for the Infrared filter which is placed in between the focusing lens and the CCD. It is a thin small square sheet of glass usually placed underneath the lens. Be careful while removing the lens because direct exposure of the CCD sensor to light may damage it. Now locate the filter and remove it , either scrape it off with a screwdriver or use acetone to remove the glue but make sure that the lens in not damaged.

Now with the filter removed reassemble the case back. Test it on a computer for proper working. To see the magic, turn off the lights and take your TV remote,press any key and point it to the camera. A bright source is visible on the computer, now it is IR radiation. We use it to illuminate the dark, although it is invisible to humans, works well. Your normal cam is also sensitive to this light but with that filter removed the sensitivity will be around  10x more.

Setting Up the Camera on Your Server

Here comes the core of the system, where the actual recording and transmission takes place. Remember the Linux PC I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s actually working as  a server. There are many tutorials available on web about setting up a Home server  and of course I’ll do one soon. Actually I have one at home set up, you can use any Debian based distro as I’m using Debian here.

An ordinary PC with a network interface is well enough and you can download (easy to install) to set it up. I assembled my own from some old hardware. And for long time recording you need a greater storage capacity and it depends on the quality of the recorded video.

After installing the OS and network setup the Linux Server is ready, the uses of a server are very wide as it can be used to even automate your home and I’ll make it brief in my server tutorial. Now launch the terminal and type in the following command:


~$ sudo apt-get install vlc 

Type in your password and let the installation complete and skip this if already installed.

Now connect your Camera. Check if it is detected by running the following command:


~$ ls /dev/video* 

You will get something like this if its successfully detected:

video device list
It shows your device name (video0) note this because it is used in the following steps. Your device name may vary.

Now open vlc.

vlc - screenshot
Go to stream under media.

vlc - screenshot
Go to Capture Device in Stream window

vlc - screenshot
put the video device name as what we found earlier i.e. video0 for me

vlc - screenshotClick stream
vlc - screenshot
Make sure that the source is your video device
vlc - screenshot
Click Next
vlc - screenshot
Change the destination from file to HTTP

vlc - screenshot
Click add. Change the port to any desired port for streaming(should be unused) and provide a path(with *.wmv) which can be used to identify the stream. Activate Transcoding and change profile to ASF. Hit Stream.
vlc - screenshot
Almost there You created your stream. It’ll look something like this
vlc - screenshot
Again hit stream and your camera will be online.

vlc - screenshot
Now its streaming and you can watch the stream from any device supporting network stream(vlc the best).
To test if it is working, open another vlc window press Ctrl + N to get the network stream window and enter your stream address like this:


Hit play and it’ll stream your webcam. On other devices replace the localhost with the local IP address of your server. To get the local IP of your server simply type in this command on terminal:

~$ /sbin/ifconfig -a 

To stream over the internet you need some additional set up and security so I’ll describe it in the home server tutorial coming soon.

Use the IR light source to illuminate the subject so that it can be seen in low light and place it along with the camera. You may use a battery eliminator for power.

Hope it helps.. 🙂
Ubuntu