Having a new baby in the house does all sorts of interesting things to you. Of course there is the massive change in routine and general lack of sleep, but there is also a desire to know how your baby is at all times. Having seen the fancy baby video monitor devices at the stores we had thought to ourselves "Hey that's cool I could see what's up without having to move". The problem is that after reading some online reviews it was clear that not only do those things cost an arm and a leg and have somewhere around negative 10 minutes of battery life, but they broadcast your baby (and anyone else in the frame) over the airwaves for anyone with a similar model device to see.
Oh well it was a nice thought... But wait. Why not try and build our own?
Supplies we would need:
- Camera - A webcam should do the trick
- Microphone (optional) - Since new computers seem to come with these we had a bunch lying around.
- Means of broadcasting the signal - we used a laptop in this case since it is small and quiet (we don't want the noise of the computer to wake the baby)
- Means of receiving the signal - Another computer somewhere else will do for this.
- Some kind of software to act as a capture / broadcast server, as well as a client to view the video stream. We started with VLC, the universal video program but due to issues with VLC not liking some of the webcam drivers we ended up switching to Windows Media Encoder.
After lots of painful searching I found some settings which more or less worked for VLC. Here are the basic steps if you want to give this a try:
So first things first download and install VLC on all of your computers (if it is not already on them).
On the system with the webcam run VLC.
Media => Open Capture Device
Select your webcam and microphone from the video and audio lists
Down at the bottom beside the Play button click on the little arrow and select Stream from the list which appears.
Check off HTTP and type your IP address.
In the Profile section:
Video codec: Check the Video checkbox and set Codec to WMV2
Audio codec: Check the Audio checkbox and set Codec to MP3
Click the stream button
Client (the system(s) you want to view the stream from)
Media => Open Network
Change the dropdown to HTTP
Type your IP address followed by colon 8080 and click play.
Windows Media Encoder
WME is a free addon to windows which allows you to capture and stream audio and video from your PC over the network. While not as flexible as VLC is seems to be a little more polished (at least for streaming webcam video from a Windows based system). Using WME is basically a point and click job. To view the stream we found that we had to use Windows Media Player on the other end (figures).
The really neat thing here is that with this setup you can tweak settings to your heart's content and can view the stream from almost anywhere with almost any device that has network access. Grab your laptop / portable media device with WiFi and sit out on the deck enjoying the sun while having a clear view of what's going on in the baby's room.
Of course like any baby monitoring device, this is no substitute for proper parenting...