How to hook wireless cam to laptop for pics?
April 8, 2006 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Can I hook a camera (meant for security) to a computer to take pics?

A friend gave me some equipment, including this camera. I'd love to mount it in my yard by my birdfeeder to take pics of the different birds that stop by, but I'm not technically gifted enough to figure out if this can be done.

The camera outputs to a male RCA wire. Could I purchase a connector the has female RCA on one side and male S-Video on the other, and connect it to my laptop and somehow snap pics that way?

Or, could someone suggest another way to use this camera to snap the birdies?

Thanks for any help and suggestions,
- Tom
posted by thinds66 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Do you have a mac or a pc?
posted by hooray at 12:10 PM on April 8, 2006

What you probably want is a "usb video capture device. These are available for both Mac and PC and are usually marketed towards the "watching TV on your computer" crowd. The above link is (I think) only for devices with PC drivers, but you can find similar devices (or even the same ones) with Mac drivers.
posted by todbot at 12:19 PM on April 8, 2006

Could I purchase a connector the has female RCA on one side and male S-Video on the other, and connect it to my laptop and somehow snap pics that way?

No. The RCA connector is carrying NTSC composite video; it's completely incompatible with S-Video. Conversion is more than a simple mechanical change of plugs; I think it requires a scan buffer. (NTSC composite is interlaced, and I believe that S-Video is non-interlaced.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:31 PM on April 8, 2006

S-Video to RCA (composite) converters do exist (they are not "completely incompatible"), as a simple google search will tell you. If your laptop accept s-video as a video input (although I've never seen a laptop with video input built in) it should work fine.
posted by rpn at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2006

If your laptop has s-video, it's almost assuredly s-video out, which means hooking a camera into it won't work. As stated above, if the camera has an RCA connector, you could get a USB video capture device and hook the camera (and if you wanted, a tv) into that.

They can get kinda pricey though. Another alternative would be to get yourself an inexpensive usb web cam. It will probably have a similar resolution to the one you linked to, and it will allow you to take pictures without buying a pricey adapter. You could also try plugging the RCA on the camera into a video-in port on your TV or VCR, it wouldn't allow you to snap pictures, but you could monitor the birdies without their knowledge from your living room.
posted by quin at 1:29 PM on April 8, 2006

Watch out for older USB 1.0 video capture boxes. They use very heavy (and crappy) compression to deliver the picture though the paltry 10 mbits USB 1.0 offers. USB 2.0 ones should be OK, and all Firewire devices I've ever heard of do a great job.

While converting S-Video to Composite is as simple as a 1 cent capacitor, going BACK from RCA to S-Video requires a comb filter, AFAIK. I believe the cheap S-Video->Composite adaptors will work "backwards", but my intuition tells me they will just send copies of the same signal on each of the luma/chroma pins of the S-Video connector, and it just happens to be the TV doesn't care about that. But without a comb filter it wouldn't be real S-Video! Here's the (more complicated) homebrew circuit you can buy plans for to go the other way.

And yes, the S-Video on your laptop is 99.999% surely for video output, not input.
posted by shepd at 1:52 PM on April 8, 2006

Thanks for all the help. You've definitely saved me some cash.. I should have figured the s-video was output.. d'oh!

Getting a usb capture device seems like the next logical step, so I'd be able to use the wireless capabilities of the cam and snap pics.

You folks are all great!
- Tom
posted by thinds66 at 9:13 PM on April 8, 2006

« Older How do YOU make rum punch?   |   Problems with naming a band after other people's... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.