With upgrading my weather computer to Windows 7, I found out the Canon PowerShot A520 doesn’t work with the Willing Webcam software. Though it is listed on the supported camera page, a second reading showed that it was only supported under Windows XP. I did some further research and found out that Canon stopped adding the feature that allowed remote control of the PowerShot line via USB cable a few camera generations back. I did find a possible alternative in something called CHDK. CHDK is short for the Canon Hack Development Kit. It is a technique to install an alternative firmware on a SD card and boot the camera to it. I had a newer Canon PowerShot SD780IS and gave it a shot. I tested it with a different time-lapse software called VideoVelocity which supported CHDK. Unfortunately, after all that configuration, it still didn’t work with either VideoVelocity or Willing Webcam. So, I threw in the towel and went back to the Logitech C910. It was fuzzy but worked under Windows 7 and Willing Webcam.
I had noticed reading through some forums that some people were using polarized filters with their weather camera. I noticed right away on my weather camera that the image seemed washed out. So, I decided to research a polarized filter.
The first option I found was a sheet of polarized film. This seemed like a good solution except for the price.
I settled on a standard 35mm filter. I was able to position it right in front of the web camera and the window glass.
The pictures did start to show more contrast which was nice.
After the initial configuration of Willing Webcam, I noticed a few things that I wanted to fine-tune.
- Codecs – Willing Webcam had three codec choices for time lapse videos: MS Video 1, Indeo video 5.10 and SWF. The default was MS Video 1. I noticed after a few days,\ that the video quality wasn’t that good. I did some searching around their forums and found a posting that said that was true and to try using the Indeo codec. I tested that for a few days and the quality was better. However, I initially had a problem playing the AVI back on my Windows 7 computer. I found a posting that said you had to register a DLL on Vista and Windows 7. I next did a test of SWF. The file size and quality was the same as Indeo. However, when I tried to open up the SWF in Adobe Premiere Elements, the SWF crashed the program. So, the Indeo codec was the selection. All three did upload to YouTube.
- Mounting – I was testing the web camera looking out our upstairs bedroom window. This provided a good vantage point for the view below. However, the noise of the old desktop computer wasn’t the best for sleeping. I decided to move the computer and camera downstairs but then I needed to figure out a way to mount the camera up high in the window sill. So, I made a small wooden frame and screwed it to the top of the window opening. It was behind the window blinds and I was able to route the USB cable around. I was able to position the camera so the horizon was in the bottom third of the image. Check out the Woicik Current Weather.
- Webcam controls – I left everything on the Logitech C910 as automatic. I did some testing to find out if it was better to turn off auto focus. I notice with the new mounting that the camera was focusing on the window glass. So, I turned off auto-focus and set the focus to be distant. I started testing the other settings like exposure, gain, color intensity and white balance. It didn’t take much to cause the image to be less than desirable but thought I found a good balance. The main reason I wanted to turn off the automatic settings were to prevent the condition I was seeing where a time lapse would radically change during the day. So, I checked the time lapse the next day. The results were terrible. I had tuned the auto settings on an overcast day. However, the next day was sunny and the image was washed out. So, I turned back on the auto settings.
With the Willing Webcam software, I was able to create time lapse videos of the weather. I was thinking it would be nice to add them to my personal blog. So, I reconfigured my personal blog to be Woicik Weather Blog. I was thinking a blog would be a good medium for the videos because the blog are organized by date. So, I did some research for possible WordPress plugins that might help with videos.
As I was doing this research, the idea of using YouTube came up. Obviously, YouTube is focused on videos. I found a WordPress plug-in that would automatically create a WordPress post from a YouTube video. The final piece of the puzzle was a way to upload the videos to YouTube.
For a technical explanation, please see my posts at ML2 Solutions.
After selecting Willing Webcam at my preferred weather web camera software, I did the following initial configuration:
- Video Device – I first selected the Logitech C910 as the video camera. I also set the resolution at 1280×720. I set the Location for longitude and latitude. I set the time zone offset and a –60 for the sunrise and a +60 for the sunset.
- Preferences – I selected JPG at 100. I also selected to Start with Windows and Minimize on Start.
- Text Caption – I entered the text to be “Woicik Weather Camera” at a vertical position of 10 and a horizontal position of 10. I set the font size to 18 with a color of blue and a background of white.
- Time Caption – I set the format to be “MM/dd/yyyy hh:mm am/pm” at a vertical position of 40 and a horizontal position of 10. I set the font size to 18 with a color of blue and a background of white.
- FTP Upload – I entered the Server, Username and Password information. I entered a filename of “woicik_weather.jpg” I set a Cycle of 5 minutes and enabled binding. I set the schedule to be from sunrise to sunset all week.
- Time Lapse – I checked to create a new file every day and a file name of “woicik_weather.avi”. I set a Cycle of 1 minute and enabled binding. I set the Compress to be “MS Video 1”. I selected filename format to “use time” with a time format of “yyyymmdd”. I set the schedule to be from sunrise to sunset all week.
I enabled FTP and Lapse and starting monitoring the work. Everything worked great. I did notice the CPU was being heavily used when the software was visible but was reduced when I minimized the software. I still needed to figure out a mounting system and tweak the Willing Camera settings but it works like this is one I will purchase.