Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To: Convert your webcam to see infrared

Okay, so I should put in a bit of a status update here on Operation Fury. The surveillance rig is up and running (a couple minor hiccups with the wireless connection, the culprit being a bad wireless adapter).

I still plan on doing a How To on setting up the actual surveillance setup itself, but I should probably do this one first. NOTE: This is a project in progress, I'll update the post when I'm completely done.

My major problem with my surveillance rig is not enough light. The security setup I used to have set up was an interior setup and used 1 webcam as well as 2 laptop cameras to watch the the inside of the house when I was away. As I mentioned in my previous post, the configuration will watch for significant amounts of motion, or motion on a specific part of the screen, such as a doorway. When the motion detection was triggered, a program would email me photos of what caused the motion as well as text message my cell so that I could investigate immediately.

The configuration worked well except for 2 major problems. Having 3 cats in the house meant I was blessed with a significant quantity of cat pictures in my email box every day, and Lynn was just kinda creeped out by the big-brother aspect of it all.

However, my current configuration with cameras looking out into the dark outside has come up against a rather obvious (in hindsight) shortcoming; the cameras simply do not capture enough light to see effectively in the dark.

What I need to do is convert my webcam (not breaking open the laptops for this project, so they'll have to remain on internal surveillance) into an IR webcam.

Now, through my work (a security company) I knew that the only real difference between internal and external cameras is whether or not they contain an IR filter. What I didn't know was what removing the IR filter involved.

[PROJECT IN PROGRESS] So far I've opened the webcam, removed the lenses, and looked around for the IR filter. I was worried when I didn't find one (it's usually just a little piece of glass) until I realized that one of the lenses itself is coated with an IR-blocking film. You can tell because when you tilt it just right, a bright red tint shows.

What I'm trying to figure out now is the safest way of removing the film without damaging the lenses. However, it's too late tonight to work on this any further, so I'll be doing some more research in the morning. I'll be updating this article with pictures etc, as well as my solution to this rather interesting problem.


  1. So... there's been a minor hold-up... I put the webcam which I'd taken apart in a plastic bag, and it disappeared.

    Lynn tells me she remembers finding it and putting it somewhere, but she can't remember where.


    Oh well. It'll turn up. Unless that place she put it was in the garbage can...

  2. Ugh. Dug up the camera (it was shoved into a vase to keep out of my daughter's reach) but not the lenses. Crap.

  3. Found the lenses, now we're back in business!

  4. An update: the webcam I was trying to convert has the filter painted right onto the CCD, and thus is pretty much impossible to convert without risking damage to the CCD.

    I guess I'm going to pick up another webcam and convert it. On the other hand, if I'm going to get a new cam, I might as well get one that's already IR-ready!

    I really wanted to post this how-to though!