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How to Properly Setup a Webcam

Looking to stream local weather

   
1:00 pm on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)



I have a Windows VPS server, website to publish to, and weather :-) I want to stream to my website of approx 5000/ visitors pet month.

- What's a decent/affordable weather resistant webcam you'd recommend?
- How do I get the data to my server and then to display on my website?
- I'd like to stream live video. Good / bad idea? If not, I might consider static images.
- What can I do to optimize the experience for my users? Save bandwidth?

Love to hear suggestions from those who've had success.

Thanks !
- John
3:25 pm on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



General pointers:

A static image webcam (refreshing every 30 seconds or so) is old technology but is easy to set up and uses very little bandwidth - ideal for some implementations depending on subject matter.

Live video streaming is extremely bandwidth intensive and generally requires two software servers (one to send the stream to your VPS and another to relay it from there). Free examples are QuickTime/Darwin Streaming Server (.mp4) and Red5 Streaming Server (.flv),

For video the bandwidth can be minimised by using a smaller size (in pixels) and bitrate. You will probably also need to open ports on your local firewall to get the stream out.

As this is an outdoor cam you need to consider what happens after dark.

...
5:31 pm on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



From my experience running a remote controlled 6 camera system with live chat at the (then) #1 beach bar in the world from 2004-2008.

Define decent :) I've had success with the semi professional range of Sony and Panasonic PTZ network cameras, which initially complemented an ancient Axis 2100 that had been running since 1999. Any camera can be made weather resistant by putting it in a dome...

All of these can be set up to upload a picture to your webserver every n seconds, or can be made accessible for live streaming (directly from the camera).

Note that you usually can only get a maximum of 5-8 concurrent streams when streaming directly. A nicer (scalable) way is to send a single stream up to your server and redirect it with a streaming server on your host. Microsoft used to have something called Windows Media Encoder. These days I'd probably look into VLC to do this.

To maximize the user experience, I developed a Flash front end that would automatically disconnect inactive clients after 15 minutes. A LOT (!) of people would leave their office PC's on all weekend and auto-refresh the image pages. In order to prevent circumventing the system, I allocated a unique id to each client based on their original access time and ip address.
7:19 pm on Apr 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



front end that would automatically disconnect inactive clients after 15 minutes

I understand the need for this, but how do you define inactive?

If there was anything interesting to look at then viewers would just sit and watch.

...
7:47 am on Apr 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Inactive = let it time out after 15 minutes. If somebody is actually watching, they will press a button if you ask them to. "Camera offline, press x to refresh..."
12:34 pm on Apr 20, 2011 (gmt 0)



Excellent replies - Thank you. Starting to get a better understanding here. A few refining questions:

CAMERA

Any recommendations for weather resistant, WiFi, good streaming video quality of (daylight) images approx 200 yds away, less than $300...? I've been reverse-engineering some feeds and keep coming across "Sony Visual Communications Camera" may times, however that cam seems to be outdated. Fixed position is fine.

STREAMING

Of the feeds I've been researching, most use the n/frames method. I wonder if you could upload 5-10 per second for an almost 'live' feel... or am I missing something.

Of course, the live stream is an attractive option - if I can pull it off. Checked out VLC (and Darwin next), but feel they might be beyond my technical abilities. Does there exist an easier "plug & play" service? I saw one feed using US Relay eLiveStream which looked pretty good. Any experience with that provider or maybe another suggestion?

Again, thank you for your help.
- John
4:14 pm on Apr 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



The ones I liked were Sony SNCRZ30 - I think there's a newer version now. Can't remember which brand we used for the weather resistant dome.

If at all possible, I would prefer a cable vs. wireless.

A 70KB image five times a second is 350KB... Multiply by the number of concurrent users and... Oops! Your hosting provider will soon send you a whopping bill ;) - While trying to find the various specs, I saw an email from our provider congratulating me for bringing down the average to 1.2mb/s with bursts of 10mb/s - this was after I blocked a bunch of auto-downloaders and added the session id's.

My buddy at the local radio station seems to be happy with livestream for his studio camera.