I originally setup my weather camera to use a Logitech QuickCam C910 web camera. I did some previous research and the choices seems to be either a Logitech or Microsoft web camera. I liked the C910 because it said it was HD and had a good lens with auto-focus.
The operation went fine however over time I became less impressed with the C910 camera. My biggest compliant was the images were blurry. It didn’t seem like it was an auto-focus issue as I had the focus on manual focus to infinity. But, this change required me to leave the software running all the time which was an issue when the computer rebooted and I would have to turn off the auto-focus again. Lastly, the CPU was always running around 50% usage.
But, the image quality became the sticking point. I decided to do some more research. The research pointed me to using an actual digital camera. The Willing Webcam software said it supported some models of Canon cameras. I had two cameras but neither worked. I did some more research and found out that Canon supported a protocol called PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol). A free software called gPhoto has a list of camera that support PTP so that explained why my two didn’t work. But, now I had a list of what did.
I was thinking of buying a new camera didn’t make a lot of sense. I looked at eBay first but actually found better results at Amazon which sold many old, used camera. I selected a Canon PowerShot A520. It only cost around $20. I needed to order an USB cable, too.
I tested the camera and it worked fine. I had to change my mount on the window frame but finally got the right position for the camera view. The images were excellent. In fact, I had to reduce the resolution because the time-lapse movie was too big to store. Check out the results at Woicik Weather Camera.
Willing WebCam has a feature that will add text from a file to the web camera image.
I created a new HTX template file for WeatherLink and included the date, time, temperature, wind speed and daily rain weather tags along with a title. Then I created another Data Upload Profile but one that updated every 1 minute to match the daily time-lapse settings. I changed the file extension to be TXT. I also had to enable Local Transfer so the file would be stored on the hard drive.
In Willing WebCam, I went to the Text Caption and enabled the Text to File and linked to the camera.txt file. I also had to turn off the Time Caption feature since it was overwriting.
I tested and everything was working fine. Check out the results at Woicik Weather Camera.
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.
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.
Since I was convinced that ImageSalsa wasn’t the right choice and I couldn’t get the weather camera to work in Weather Display, I started over and searched for web camera software in general that could automatically upload an image and do a time-lapsed video. I found these products:
- Webcam XP
- Willing Webcam
Webcam XP didn’t have a time-lapse feature. SebecTec only worked with a specific Olympus camera. Willing Webcam looked good. PhotoLapse just converted a JPG sequence to an AVI file. Yawcam looked good. HandyAVI couldn’t do single imaging.
I looked at Yawcam first. It did met all the requirements and was even free. However, though it did have some forums and did have a few upgrades in the 2011, that lack of a purchase price made me feel like it was just a hobby project.
Willing Webcam also meet all the requirements. It had a forum and a large amount of support and FAQ content. All the features were fully documented. The price was reasonable for the full version at $59.95.
I tested both Yawcam and Willing Webcam. I decided to move forward with Willing Webcam.