Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Internet Camera in a Bird House (1 of ?)

After the Time Lapse Videos of the Garden project I got thinking about how to get round the issue of nothing being visible at night. If you haven't looked at that project the basic issue is that the infared light generated by the camera is reflecting off the glass of the window making it impossible to see outside.

Two solutions instantly came to mind:
  1. Turn the IR on the camera off and flood the garden with infared light from a source already outside.
  2. Move the whole camera outside.
From the two I've decided to go with the 2nd one. The first idea may actually be easier as you can already buy outdoor infared lights and all I'd have to do is connect the power to them and set up some sort of timer to turn them on and night and off during the day. However, I can't really justify the expense on what is just a 'for fun' project so I'm really stuck with option 2 regardless.

Thankfully this is fine by me because, as well as being doable with existing hardware, solution 2 also has some other great things going for it. First off it gives a much better view of what we are looking at, namely the garden, as the camera will actually be in the garden. Secondly it should be possible to get some pretty interesting bird videos since the mounting point I have in mind is the bird house in the middle of the garden. Finally it doesn't require as much hardware to control where as the first solution would need a separate timer for the lights and the camera and would need to be kept synchronised manually.

That's not to say it isn't going to be a pain free installation. The camera isn't an outdoor camera and as a result is susceptible to the rain and wind, I'll need to make some sort of protection against these. It is also mains powered so I'll need a way to power it outside. Thankfully it is wireless so provided my router gives out a strong enough signal to reach the middle of the garden connecting to it shouldn't be a problem.

The only other real issue I can see is the darn thing getting nicked!

As it happens I already have enough equipment to give this installation a trial run. The biggest problems I face are power and protection but since it is a sunny day I can pull out my 20 metre extension cable and set the camera up temporarily in the spot it is going to end up. As long as it doesn't rain suddenly and I don't forget about it this should let me test my wireless range and hopefully get a short video of the footage we can expect to see.

Here is the set up in place:

The webcam getting a trial run in the bird house.
Unfortunately you aren't able to connect to it when it is this far from the router. Bummer, I really thought I was going to get away with it as well!

A little bit of experimenting shows this is roughly the distance into the garden I can get before the connection is dropped:
The camera as far into the garden as it can go without losing network connection.
Only a few metres away from where it needs to be!

This is good though, it means I won't have to buy a range extender for my router (which I considered then reconsidered when I saw the £45.00 price tag) but should manage to get by by just moving my router closer to the garden. Currently it sits at the far side of our living room, if I bring it over to the near side that should be close enough to give a reliable connection.

I'll post up again once I've got it moved. Worst case scenario I'll have to move the router into another room (it would really make sense to have it in the bedroom, the room at the centre of the house, anyway).

Until then, happy gardening, happy computing and happy zombie'ing.


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