Create an effective security camera for your home or business using an inexpensive webcam and free downloadable software. Your do-it-yourself security system can be tailored to your individual budget and needs.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- USB webcam
- USB extender cable or wireless transmitter (optional, if the area to be monitored is far away from your computer)
- Internet connection
Place the USB webcam to monitor activity.
Connect the webcam to your computer. If the computer is too far away, you'll need to use a USB extender cable or a webcam with wireless transmission capabilities.
Download free (open source) Dorgem 2.1.0 software. (See Resources.) On the main page, you'll read that Dorgem has been officially "discontinued" by the developer as of July 2008. This simply means that the developer is no longer offering support or working on updates, but that last stable release (2.1.0) is still available for download. Despite the discontinuation of development, Dorgem is still arguably the best freeware option for a webcam security front end in terms of size, speed and overall system drain.
If you are uncomfortable using a discontinued software package, other freeware options include Vidis Lite 1.3 and webcams Watcher 2.0. Features are similar to those of Dorgem.
Install and configure the webcam software on your computer. You will need to choose whether to capture in still-frame or video format, as well as the rate and quality of capture, and the location to save the images to. Another important option is to decide whether you will capture at constant, regular intervals or if you will use Dorgem's built-in motion detection functionality to capture images only when the camera detects movement in the frame.
If you choose to capture images only when movement is detected (motion detection), you'll need to adjust your webcam's settings. High-contrast and high-sharpness setups will likely create some "noise" in every frame, causing false motion detection. But low-contrast, low-sharpness settings will reduce the detail in captured images.
Test your new security camera by walking through the monitored area. Review the captured images or video clip(s) on your computer and adjust the Dorgem capture configuration and webcam settings until you achieve satisfactory results.
Tips and warnings
- If you require high-quality images or constant video capture, you may need to beef up your home computer. Memory (RAM), CPU speed, hard drive space and hard drive seek times all play major roles in the results you can get from your webcam-based security set-up.
- If Dorgem, Vidis Lite or webcams Watcher are not feature-rich enough for your needs, or if you seek a software front end that is more user-friendly, there are dozens of other programs, both free and paid, on the market specifically designed to help you set up a camera for security use. For example, Emdem Software, the developers of Vidis Lite, also make a more robust Vidis Pro package.
- Dorgem allows you to configure and run multiple cameras at once if you need to monitor multiple rooms or capture the same area from different angles. Understand that this will practically double the strain on your computer with each new camera.
- Never use a webcam set-up to spy on people or monitor property that isn't yours. This is a serious invasion of privacy and legal consequences are a very real possibility.
- If you have serious concerns about protecting your business or family, remember the adage "you get what you pay for." A home computer, free software and a consumer-grade webcam are never going to be on par with a professionally designed and installed security system.
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