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November 03, 2005

Setting up a Barn WebCam - Part 2

One of the first pieces you will need for your webcam is the camera. I have tried several different kinds of cameras.

The first one I bought was a D-Link webcam camera. It comes with the webcam software already built in, and all you have to do is hook it up to Internet and set a few settings. But this kind of camera had some disadvantages, too. First, the more people who tried to access the webcam over Internet at the same time, the slower it would run.

Second, I needed a way to get the signal from the camera out in my pasture back to my Internet connection in the house. I could run an Ethernet cable out there, but the distance of about 600 feet was too long for that kind of cable to get a good signal back.

The camera had wireless built in, but its wireless transmission range was smaller than 600 feet, too, and it also needed a clear line of sight from the camera to the wireless receiver. I had a block barn, a few trees, and the wall of the house in the way between the two.

I also tried a third way to get the signal from the camera back to the house. There are little power line Ethernet adapters that you can get at the computer store. These plug in to a regular power outlet at each end of the line, and then you plug your Internet device’s (webcam, computer, etc) Ethernet cable into this adapter box. The box sends the network signals back and forth over the regular power line to the adapter box on the other end. The manufacturer told us this should work for our distance of 600 feet, but when we tried it, the distance was too far and the signal had deteriorated too much by the time it got back to the house.

This camera worked great when we had it hooked up in the house, and were only running cable a short distance from it to our Internet connection. So in short, I would not recommend the webcam cameras for places that are very far away from your Internet connection.

After we decided that the webcam cameras weren't going to work for us, I started doing more research to find other options. Many of you already have CCTV cameras set up in your barns so that you can watch them from a monitor in your house. That approach seems to work very well. But how do you get that picture onto the Internet?

After doing a lot of research and talking to a few other people who have set up webcams using CCTV cameras, I found a combination that works great for me. I have a regular CCTV camera hooked up out by my pasture, with coax cable running from it back to the house. This is probably a lot like what you may already have. At the house I connect the coax cable into a little adapter that sends the camera signal into my computer. I then use some inexpensive webcam software on my computer to make the picture available on my website on Internet. I'll go into more detail in a future article about the cable from the CCTV camera to my computer, and the software and adapter I use.

If you don't already have a CCTV camera to use, you can find a lot of good deals on eBay. Your camera doesn't have to be a fancy camera most CCTV cameras will work just fine. It is helpful if your camera is threaded to allow different lenses to be attached.

You will also have to choose between a color camera or a black & white camera when picking your camera. I have not tried using a color CCTV camera yet, but have heard they are more complicated to get set up and working right than the black & white cameras. My CCTV camera provides a black & white picture, and this has worked fine for me. One advantage to the black & white pictures is that they don't take as much time to transmit over Internet. They don't have to send all the color information for the picture, so the picture files don't take as long to transmit. This makes your webcam respond faster when you are watching it over Internet, and you can get a closer to real-time viewing experience, instead of having to wait a long time for the picture to refresh. After considering that, I prefer to use the black & white CCTV cameras.

Next time I'll share more information about different CCTV cameras and the lenses you may want to consider for yours.

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at November 3, 2005 03:56 PM