Jump to content

[howto] Super Webcam (update: now with remote!)


moonlit
 Share

Recommended Posts

I had a 21 year old camcorder and a not quite so old webcam (Creative PD1090 - Mobile Webcam) and deiced to fuse the two together...

...and so that I did.

Pics: http://flickr.com/photos/9310898@N03/sets/72157600560590872/

1 )  Tear the webcam in two. Yours probably has screws in it, mine didn't.

2 )  Take the exposed PCB, put it aside.

3 )  Take a camcorder (preferably old), rip it to pieces until you have only the lens assembly and all motors intact, it's probably all in one section.

4 )  Discard the camcorder parts you won't be using, salvage anything you could use in a future project.

5 )  Now might be a good time to mount the lens assembly on something so you have a decent base to build around.

6 )  Mount the webcam's PCB with the CCD exposed (it's possible to do without removing the lens, but I prefered without) in line with the opposite end o f  the lens assembly to the bit you normally see when the camcorder's whole.

7 )  Make some kind of device to move the webcam PCB back and forth to aid in focussing the image from the lenses on to the CCD.

8 )  Fiddle, tweak, tune.

9 )  More of 8.

10) Enjoy your super webcam.

UPDATE:

Now it's got a remote control! Motorised zoom on a rechargable wired remote control made from an old cordless screwdriver.

1) Open screwdriver, 4 philips screws, easy.

2) Take out the motor and bit holder.

3) Use cable from an old laptop power brick to connect the rocker switch in the screwdriver to the zoom motor on the camera.

4) Screw the "remote" back together and add cable strain relief.

5) Charge the "remote".

Video from the cam just to test the zoom, lighting, focus and resolution's not optimal, but it's clear enough. (Anonymous video upload site, may be pending moderator approval.) http://www.nelsok.com/video/zoom_test__1_video_clip

Optional:

You can remove the IR filter from the webcam so it can "see" near-IR light.

You can replace said IR filter with one that doesn't let through normal light, only IR. This will make the camera capable of near-IR vision only. You can use a couple of blank squares of developed film negative, like the blank bits you get on 35mm negative. I used the filter that was on my camera's autofocus sensor, but you may not have this, it may not be suitable, or you may have broken it when you destroyed the camcorder. YMMV.

Maybe add a mic or mic socket if your webcam used to have the capability. You could add a 3.5mm mono or stereo socket to attach a microphone and send it down the USB cable, or whatever. Again, YMMV. Perhaps even save the hot shoe from the camcorder (if it had one) to mount the mic on.

The best optional extra I can think of is to make it motorised. Assuming you kept the motors intact, a fairly small voltage should turn the focus ring or move the zoom lens. Add a couple of buttons on long wires to control it and hey presto, a security camera. Maybe you could add a serial or parallel interface and control it all on your computer while you're watching the output.

If you take the IR route you could add IR LED arrays, which are basically a board with a whole bunch of IR LEDs on them, just like you find in a TV remote. You can't see this light but the camera can, so you can see without anyone knowing you can see.

You could be a little less covert and strap a flashlight on the top, and that would work if you didn't remove the IR filter.

Basically providing you're patient you can improve (and hopefully not wreck) your old webcam really easily with this. It's a fun project, takes some fiddling and involves optics, motors and USB, what more could you ask for? It's not too difficult, so I don't think there's much of a barrier to entry with this project except perhaps parts which can be salvaged from an old attic or basement - doesn't matter how old the camcorder is or even if it works, just as long as the lenses are still in there.

Have fun, don't cut yourself, electrocute yourself, blow anything up, kill computer, cats or people, etc, etc, and if you do, don't be whining to me.

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not as yet, I took a bunch of pictures last night but I lost 'em all 'cos I pressed the wrong button... :(

It's pretty good at macro shots at the moment though I'm pretty sure that with a little adjustment it should get some decent images at long distance, it's just a matter of getting it to focus right (that's why you need the ability to move the webcam/CCD back and forth from the end of the optics).

The IR filter I used isn't that great at filtering IR, but being near-IR it will play with the focus a bit, which requires more adjustment. It might be nice to be able to move the webcam/CCD remotely with a rack-and-pinion style system. Note though that the space between the CCD and the end of the optics must be light-proof, or near enough to it, otherwise you'll get light entering before the lenses which will wash out the picture and you'll end up with a blank, white image.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The original cam could do up to 640x480 at 15fps, or 320x240 at 30fps. Still frames can be taken at either resolution though obviously 640x480 is preferable. Low spec? Sure, but one of the main things wrong with cheap webcams is really crap, cheap, plastic lenses. This is why I suggest you remove the original lens from the webcam before you attach it to the new lenses - it's easier overall, and will take out the weak link as far as quality goes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The original cam could do up to 640x480 at 15fps, or 320x240 at 30fps. Still frames can be taken at either resolution though obviously 640x480 is preferable. Low spec? Sure, but one of the main things wrong with cheap webcams is really crap, cheap, plastic lenses. This is why I suggest you remove the original lens from the webcam before you attach it to the new lenses - it's easier overall, and will take out the weak link as far as quality goes.

Even with the high quality lense giving you sharper pics, aren't the images still going to be limited to the same sizes by the software in the camera? Or did you somehow modify it to take larger pictures? I thought the firmware of a webcam would determine its max size capability? What resolution or dimensions can you now capture images at?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The CCD limits the picture size.

Yeah, what he said.

The size of the images are the same, but the image quality is much improved. The advantages to this are ease of use (as long as it doesn't fall to pieces, I'll have to fix that), zoom and focus and better quality images. Also with the IR hacks you can get some cool other stuff with it like psuedo night vision and near-IR photography (the stuff that turns your hair grey, black shirt to white, and in theory see through clothes, though not very well).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why don't you take a look at the large format camera design that uses bellows? Its the same basic arrangement as you have currently (ie a lens and a image capturing medium each mounted on an adjustable stand linked via an opaque hood).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why don't you take a look at the large format camera design that uses bellows? Its the same basic arrangement as you have currently (ie a lens and a image capturing medium each mounted on an adjustable stand linked via an opaque hood).

That could work. I suppose in some way it already is that and moreso that is obvious, the focussing at the CCD's end is done using the rubber viewfinder cup which works sort of similar to the middle bit of one of the cameras you mention.

Still, might be interesting to try that route, might get better results in terms of ease of use and ability to focus accurately.

Awesome mod moonlit!

Cheers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Plus you can do some amazing visual effects with cameras of that type. would look *amazing* in video!

I might look in to that some time, sounds interesting.

WOW! Moonlit that pretty sexy :-P NJ man

Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...