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Media Software Hardware

Security Camera-to-DVR Setup on Linux? 36

mrperkins asks: "I have been asked to help a friend setup a Linux DVR (Digital Video Recording) system for security cameras. Previously this has been done on Windows XP using Avermedia video capture cards from the MP3000 and MP5000 series, and using their bundled software. They have a Linux version but the software is horribly broken. The Windows software allows playback/recording/backup from 4-16 cameras. This works reasonably well but certainly has it's share of problems - the PC's hardware being only one. Can this be done on Linux using Free Software and compatible hardware? I have heard that the frame rates achievable under video4linux are simply too slow, but I would like to prove otherwise! Are there any software packages that can do this kind of thing (not just a single stream but a fully featured package)? Also, what cards (pref. up to max $200US) would you recommend? If anyone is already doing this kind of thing please let me know what you're using!"
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Security Camera-to-DVR Setup on Linux?

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  • by acramon1 ( 226153 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2004 @07:52PM (#9122311) Homepage
    Although the frame rates may be low (I don't know, never tried), I can't imagine a necessity for high frame rates when it comes to digital recording for security. Certainly 5 FPS should be enough to get a good shot at a criminal in the act.

    But if you don't want to take any chances, I suppose the higher the FPS, the better.
  • by chuckcolby ( 170019 ) * <chuck AT rnoc DOT net> on Tuesday May 11, 2004 @08:00PM (#9122404) Homepage
    I've been casting about for this as well. So far, the best one I've found is here [zoneminder.com]. Check it out, it's pretty feature rich. Like anything, it will take a little up front configuration.

    Don't forget to donate!

  • Motion (Score:5, Informative)

    by angst_ridden_hipster ( 23104 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2004 @08:38PM (#9122710) Homepage Journal
    Try Motion [sourceforge.net].

    I have a security system for my house running on an older version of Motion. This is what can happen when a gadget-freak has a paranoid girlfriend...

    The system has more than three and fewer than nine cameras, some obvious, some concealed in and around the house. Each camera goes into a BT878-compatible card (some dedicated cards, some multiport).

    When motion is detected, I can capture on the order of 10-15 fps (not at stunning resolution, admittedly, but 320x240 pixels is good enough for me). If there is motion on two or more cameras, the frame rate decreases. Captured images are saved as timestamped JPEGs in a hierarchical directory structure, along with MPEGs that are assembled of each incident. This is not a particularly mighty machine; it's an Athlon 1800+ with 512MB memory. The limiting factor tends to be the PCI bus when you have a lot of cameras.

    Motion supports some nice features. You can set noise and motion detection threshholds on a per-camera basis. You can use a 256-level grayscale image for a sensitivity map, so you can mask certain regions out or decrease their contribution to triggering the recording (useful if plants sway in the breeze). You can label individual cameras with descriptive text ("Front Door"), and all frames are time and date stamped.

    I have some custom scripts that manage disk space consumption, deleting the oldest data when drive capacity goes below a set level. I can maintain several week's worth of data in normal conditions. I monitor my setup with a secured Apache setup that groks the file layout, and provides some additional telemetry.

    If you need to view data in realtime (normally, I don't), you can use something like Cambozola [charliemouse.com]. If you look at the Motion email archives, you'll find postings on how to run multiple Cambozola applets in a single browser window.

    You can do cool stuff, like linking motion detection alarms to scripts. When a known burglary suspect was seen casing the joint, I had some of the cameras send an email to page my phone when they detected motion. Some of the images captured were useful for the police in an ongoing investigation.

    Also noteworthy, Motion has one of the friendliest and most helpful communities of any OS project I've been involved with. The mailing list is a great resource, and the maintainers will often go out of their way to help on even the most bone-headed newbie configuration questions on unsupported hardware.

    • Re:Motion (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      I have a very similar setup. It's mostly only limited by the number of PCI slots you have.

      I didn't bother with "outdoor rated" cameras. I just used cheap B+W cube cameras, put a line of silicone around any seals on them, and used artic silver thermal epoxy to glue a small heat sink on the back of them (they get surprisingly hot).

      The outdoor ones aren't in direct weather, but generally under eaves and the like.

      Good move not saying exactly how many cameras you have, I would have probably let that slip. :
    • Re:Motion (Score:3, Funny)

      by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) *

      This is what can happen when a gadget-freak has a paranoid girlfriend...


      The lengths a paranoid gadget-freak will go to protect his only girlfriend ever.

      (parent - I'm just joking; your post is very insightful)
      • Hey! Be nice!

        I suppose the system could look like a paranoid's nightmarish control system. After all, I could easily use it to monitor all my girlfriend's activities, when she comes and goes, what visitors are at the house, etc. But that's a double-edged sword -- she can monitor me just as easily. Then again, either of us have the ability to go and deactivate the system (or delete files). I can see how a system like this could be a divorce lawyer's wet dream.

        We've been living in this house for four years.
    • Re:Motion (Score:4, Funny)

      by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @09:32AM (#9125847)
      Just make sure you never give out your address on /. You'd find dozens of geeks coming by your house just to drool at the video setup.
      • Motion triggers camera, /. crowd drooling on the patio. This could be a whole new way to /. a server. Can somebody set up a mirror before it goes down ?
    • Re:Motion (Score:3, Interesting)

      Allow me to second the suggestion for Motion.

      I've quietly run a security camera with Motion in my cubicle at work for a couple of years now. It's picked up lots of interesting things, and cost a bad security guard his job.

      Hardware? I've experimented. My current setup is a Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000 on USB. I tried a cheapie BT878 card but wasn't happy with the results. The hardware is a 733 MHz Pentium 3 running a heavily patched and upgraded system that started life as RedHat 7.3.

      If things look inter

  • ... and either:

    1) Use XP because that does do the job


    2) Buy some Axis cameras, spool the captures to your Linux box (preferably with time stamping turned on in the Axis camera), make some mpeg or DiVX videos from the captured images, timestamp as you save them (setup a cron job to do this), and then backup to a secure place.

    I've done a few of these installs now and either one of those ways will work. You will ALWAYS have trade-offs (easy route is going to be an XP solution, the more involved route but negligibly cheaper is going to be the Axis solution) so choose wisely. If anyone comes up with another way, I would love to hear it.


  • by np_bernstein ( 453840 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2004 @08:51PM (#9122797) Homepage

    I'm a unix administrator. I believe in unix's flexibility and open architecture allows for better system administration, and thus better service/uptime/etc. However, I also firmly believe in using the best tool for the job. If a windows system will allow you to do what you need to do with a minimal amount of work, and a linux solution is not available, or will require a lot of work, use the windows program. That's just common sense.

    • You're new here, aren't you?
    • I definately support using the right too for the job (which, in this case, does seem to be Windows) but think about this: The *only* reason this is easier on Windows is because someone took the time to make it happen. If someone were to do the same thing on Linux then it would broaden the market and allow future users more choice. So, by doing this on Linux instead of Windows the OP wins in two ways: 1) he gets his DVR based security cam setup on Linux and 2) he contributes something to the community so tha
    • ...how do we knowthat Windows is the best tool for the job?

      It might be if there is no network connectivity (a functionality limitation for keeping the worms out). Windows is pretty high maintenance, too.
  • Rolling your own (Score:3, Informative)

    by KingOfBLASH ( 620432 ) on Tuesday May 11, 2004 @09:04PM (#9122925) Journal

    Rolling your own through a shell script shouldn't be hard. MPlayer [mplayerhq.hu] supports grabbing video and compressing it on the fly (see link [mplayerhq.hu]). So create 2 shell scripts, one to switch files for each camera (have an alpha and beta file), and one to backup the files to your favorite media. Then run a cron job. Every hour (or day) switch the files and do whatever you need with the files. It should even be possible to create redundant copies across the network, so you can keep a copy safe.

  • <flameproof suit>
    Posting a question about security cameras on Slashdot! We know that only the Big Bad Government(tm) uses them.
    </flameproof suit>
  • Using the Microjack 4-eyes [microjack.com] card (way cheaper than 4 separate capture cards). It's got 4 inputs and a BT878 encoder so I have a good feeling I'll get it working.

    The software I'll use is ZoneMinder [zoneminder.com].

    I'll post my success. :-)
    • In fact, it has one input, internally multiplexed into the card. Your app will have to grok this.

      What this means is the maximum frame rate while running all inputs is somewhere under 15fps / card, switching between the inputs as required between frames, which is still acceptable.

      I'd also suggest looking on ebay [ebay.co.uk]

      Unless, of course, you're paranoid enough not to give your address to someone that is selling security gear.
  • I know this one (Score:3, Informative)

    by thefiish ( 777708 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2004 @06:56AM (#9125126) Journal
    Disclaimer: I sell these & other dvr type products.

    If you are going for Windows use a GeoVision card.
    -Their variety of features is better than most. -The question of stability comes down to the OS. The application runs fine for months - Streaming via net, Remote recording etc etc

    If you go Linux you can try the HiCap card. It also has a windows software package. The Linux software is not as good as the Windows one but for a home user its pretty good. These cards only go up to 200fps, so for PAL you are limited for 8 cameras for Real-time Display.

    Please note that I am still searching for a card supported by Linux that has every feature I would like to sell but for a home user these are more than enough for basic door monitoring while blocking out that waving tree to use motion detection.

    Both cards support up 16 cameras - depending on the model with the smallest being 4 (still has same features). Motion etc & pretty must anything else you want.

    Price range AU$400-2000.
    Google for links. Id be biased :D
    • Sorry. I should probably point out that these cards refers to the HiCap brand only. The GeoVisions go up to 400/480 PAL/NTSC.

      I work for neither of these companies & purely sell similar equipment.
  • linux sec. cams (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bobsalt ( 575905 )
    I don't record full motion as what I am doing is just for security purposes. I setup up a location with 4-8 Panasonic cameras. they come in different flavors. kx-hcm270 is a wireless outdoor model. It can pan and tilt and has pretty good range. I've gotten over a 1000' range using a wap11 with an ext omni. I set the cameras to upload a pic every 5 seconds. I set up scripts that embed a time stamp on the pic using image magicks convert command. I have a bunch of folders that I share out so people can go back
    • I would be interested. I've been looking for this type of setup and haven't started on one yet. When I get it started I'd gladly document the steps I take to put a How-To together. Part of what I'm planning on doing goes hand-in-hand with my MisterHouse home automation setup.
      • k, I will do something similar to what I did here...
        what me to drop you an email at your website when I'm done with it?

  • I sell DVRs based on a CDROM ISO image of debian linux (boots sraight from ROM, so no problems with disks failing etc) and custom software which runs on top of linux.
    i use a modified BTTV based card (or a hardware ASIC for more than 4 cameras) with several patches to the regular bttv drivers for multiple inputs and a java application to handle the parsing and recording.
    If youre looking for unix based DVRs with multiple cameras i can sell you a unit for upto 64 cameras at rates of up to 2000+ fps.
  • a real simple kludge would be to have your Linux based TIVO recorder capture line signals fed from a video mux box. receiving input signals any attached video cams. treat the signal like a programmed channel on cable or sat? is ... http://www.computing.net/linux/wwwboard/forum/2537 5.html ... helpful?
  • From the website:
    Linux Video Surveillance AKA eLViS provides a user interface for watching motion frames captured by the motion program as JPEG files. eLViS lets you view up to four motion threads and has a simple configuration panel to setup the motion.conf file and eLViS configurations.

    eLViS is intended to be used as a low cost security monitoring system. For that reason we have chosen Linux for the high reliability and flexible licensing of software.

    We recommend that you use eLViS on a standalone Linux

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