20 Feb

The SecuritySpy That Doesn’t Love Me

Almost immediately after I posted my last entry on the trials and tribulations of an EvoCam on life support, the software crashed again.  Fresh start, minimal other applications running, and poof. I cleaned up the mess, and then instructed my iMac to restart itself every Sunday at 1am.

If all goes as planned (stop laughing!), this will be enough to help keep EvoCam running between restarts.  If not? Then the next step is increase the frequency of the reboots until I can set up the Mac Mini, and start all over on that machine.

Because, I am all out of options as far as out-of-the-box software after giving SecuritySpy a close look this weekend. The results, as always, were mixed.

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10 Feb

Pros and Cons of Wide Dynamic Range

Recently I wrote about night vision and green screen, and I assumed that it was a trade off.  It kind of is, but maybe not in the way I thought.

Every time I make a change to EvoCam or to the Hikvision settings, something new occurs. Not necessarily good or bad, just new. And times like this I am simply baffled.

Again, it’s time to look under the hood.

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05 Jan

Options Are Always Nice

A few days ago I wrote about the new features I have added to the FarmCam. While writing the entry I stumbled upon actions settings in EvoCam that allowed me even more flexibility in the ways I share the views. However, I had a few concerns before I could decide if it would be a viable replacement for the current method.

My experiments in the last few days have resulted in mixed — but encouraging — results, and as promised I am sharing them with you. Read More

31 Dec

New Features for the FarmCam

In October my Australian cousin Peter, challenged me to create a different sort of time lapse.  He wanted to see how the view would look at the same time each day throughout the year.

I knew this would be easily accomplished with EvoCam by adding a new action set; so I set up a test, and let it run from 17 October through the last day of 2017. I used EvoCam to manually export the video to MP4 at 5 FPS. Below is the result.

During this experiment I learned a few things:

  • EvoCam software has location abilities, so I am able to have it do things at sunrise and sunset for my location. Therefore, in addition to the Daily Noon image, I have added a Daily Sunrise and Daily Sunset. These are still photos uploaded daily, and can be viewed with the other stills and videos on the FarmCam page. I will make time lapses from the images, but not sure if they will be seasonal or yearly.
  • EvoCam may be able to allow me to cut out my buggy Automator cron job. Right now the encoding from the EvoCam MOV to an M4V is done via default settings in Automator. Then I use the Automator app to convert the M4V to MP4 and upload the file via FTP.  I am running tests now to see if EvoCam can export the final video as an MP4 rather than a MOV. It has a feature for uploading the resulting video to the web server, which is a good thing.
  • If EvoCam can export as an MP4 then I can control the frames per second for playback as well. This allows me to slow down the final daily time lapse video, therefore making it more enjoyable viewing. Things that currently flash past, like animals, birds, cars, sheep, llamas, dogs, etc, will be visible.  The downside is that the video itself will be longer.  That may mean I will need to take stills once every 60 seconds instead of every 30 in order to reduce the final run time for the rustling time lapses.

I should have the answers to the experiment by tomorrow, and I can then make decisions.  Updates will follow.

Fingers crossed.

12 Dec

FarmCam Update – Dark Nights or Green Screens?

Example of Green Phantom effect.

For years I have been frustrated by a nagging issue where the screen of the webcam goes green.  Sometimes in flickers, and sometimes for long periods.  I always assumed the issue was something over which I had little control.  When I was using a digital camcorder, I had to hack it by leaving a tape out to have it in continuous record mode. Plus I was using an RCA to USB converter to get the signal from the camera to the iMac.  I just assumed there was something amiss with my hardware.

Example of Night Vision feature.

When the issue continued after I introduced the current outdoor, networked camera I still blamed my hack jobs.  The camera is currently connected to a POE which is then connected to an old Airport Express, which in turn is an extention of the wireless network to which the iMac is also connected. You can probably see why I would assume the issue is with the creator of this Rube Goldberg contraption.

So convinced that I never even tried to research other options.

However, lately the amount of green being captured and displayed has been a source of frustration, and I decided to take a stab at potential solutions. I had already considered using the extra length of the Ethernet cable from the camera, and running it directly to the Airport Extreme router, which would remove the POE and the Airport Express from the setup. Or even having the camera wired directly to my Apple Mac Mini server and run all the software on it rather than my office desktop.

Current night view … with LED lights on barn.

I still would like to do one of these things, but some poking about led me a random reply on a message board where the person suggested making “any adjustment” to the white balance settings. White balance in digital photography essentially refers to adjusting colors so that the image looks more natural. Most light sources do not emit purely white color. They have what’s referred to as a color temperature. For the most part I rarely have never given much thought to white balance beyond the default settings.

Logging into the web interface for the Hikvision camera, I looked at the settings all of which are presets. I tried each preset and sometimes the results where obvious and other times not so much. The obvious results were mostly the extremes.  The image would have a bright green shading or it was crystal clear. I also noticed I got different results if I adjusted the night settings.

My camera’s White Balance settings.

The plan is to try these new settings and watch the daily timelapses to look for evidence of the green screens. If none materialise then I will make note of them, and try tweaking the settings to see if I can improve the results or not.

The bad news is that I may have to forgo any night vision settings, which is disappointing as I just replaced the recently burned out lights on the barn with new LEDs.  The good news is that the daytime image has improved significantly, and so far the “Natural Light” white balance setting has not shown any sign of the green phantoms.

Stay tuned, and let me know if you ever see any unusual images, frequent green screens, etc. I’ll report findings later.