I have a potential client looking for a pro web cam solution. It's a big construction project that is going to take around three years to complete and they want to let the world monitor it live via bunch of web cams.
I've never done this and will probably work with a hardware contact I've got, but I was wondering if anyone here had any experience of this kind of project?
I use a several year old (but still quite good) Axis webcam. They have an embedded Linux with a webserver in it, so the cam actually has a RJ45 network connector attached to it while being quite compact at the same time. Newer Axis cams have sound and tilt/pan heads as well. Axis also has surveillance grade network cams and servers.
Another company in that area is Mobotix - more involved in surveillance compared to Axis. Their cams are quite a show, designed for outdoor, poor light etc. They also have built in webservers and I think they also run on Linux.
Canon has a not very well known line of cameras which also have a network jack and come with tilt/pan heads. Last time I looked they were quite expensive.
Finally, there are a lot of free tools around to periodically upload pics from a el-cheapo USB $25 webcam. Some of these tools are quite sophisticated and can do surveillance as well. Downside is that you need a PC within USB-cable range.
If you need cameras mounted beyond USB cable range, look into video capture cards/DVR surveillance cards. There are a LOT of really great 4-input cards with very sophisticated software for under $100. I have seen fancier cards with more inputs (8 usually) plus audio for under $200. Once you have this, you can use VERY inexpensive cameras if they will do the job. It is also easier to mix and match standalone cameras for the site conditions than webcams. Also, you can run long coax cable to such cameras; 100 foot extension cords complete with power and/or audio can be found for under $15.
A few caveats: most of the DVR cards specify newer Intel processors and 32+MB video cards. Also, cards, cords, and cameras come with a variety of plugs, mostly phono and BNC. Adaptors are cheap, but I learned the hard way not to buy this stuff piecemeal. Finally, USB based surveillance units (4 input) are out there for around $60, but the performance was herky-jerky with only one camera and unacceptable with two on the unit I bought. I never tried 4 cameras but the literature said frame rate goes down to 2 per second, many of the frames being garbage too!
I haven't shopped much for webcams, but I think the break-even point is around 3 to 4 cameras a PC card-based system becomes more economical than webcams. Plus, I think Webcams often have a very low frame rate.