Behind the scenes tour of Jason’s Fishcam

‘Anonymous from the UK’ asked about my fishcam setup. I plan on describing it in more detail on my projects page soon but for now, I’ll just give you a quick summary of the hardware and software I use for this streaming video.
First the hardware: Everything is run from a computer I have in my living room. This computer (2.9 GHz Celeron) is also hooked to my enterainment system and functions as a PVR, file server, print server, MP3 player, DVD player and game machine. It’s been a good little work-horse. The two cameras I have looking at my aquaruim work in slightly different ways. One is a traditional USB webcam (old Intel model) that plugs into my computer through a long USB cable. The other is a little camera that has an RCA style output (puchased from Supercircuits). I have it plugged into a PCI video capture card (ATI TV Wonder VE…. it’s a piece of crap, don’t buy one). One camera is help in place by a tripod and the other is stuck to the top of a soup can (cream of mushroom, I believe). The fishtank itself is only 3 gallons (11 liters). The aquarium light is set on an automatic timer I bought from a hardware store.
Now for the software: Since I have a dynamic IP address, I’m registered with No-IP and use their DNS update client tool to keep my IP linked to a static domain. The video streaming is taken care of with WebcamXP. It’s the nicest video streaming tool I’ve used so far, plenty of options and ways to customize it. I’ve had a few incarnation of “Fishcam” and this one is by far the nicest. I’m using a blog template and free weblogs tools from Blogger to manage the updating and user comments. I would have to say that it’s made keeping a webpage fun again.
Ok, I hope I’ve given enough information for any other budding fishcam’ers to get started.
A few last tips:
1. If you can, try to find a webcam that uses a CCD image sensor. Most cameras now have a CMOS sensor which are cheaper but the colors appear washed out. Also a CMOS camera can’t handle low light conditions well either. You’ll probably have to go on ebay to get one. I use an Intel CS330 webcam which I highly recommend.
2. Find an automatic timer for the aquarium light. It’s light only so many hours of the day, no one wants to watch a dark tank!
3. Make sure the camera is anchored well. One bump of the webcam and “Jason’s Fishcam” turns into “The Streaming Video of the Wall Beside Jason’s Fishcam.”
4. Make sure your fish have some color to them!
5. If your webcam server is stuck behind a firewall or proxy server, check out this post on how to get around that problem.

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