Home Video Surveillance Setup - Part IV (Software)

Thanks for returning - this post is the fourth and final segment in this thread on how to set up a Apple Mac Compatible Video Surveillance Monitoring System...

In the prior segments, we've learned about how to select and prep a Macintosh computer for this system. We've learned about what types of cameras are available for us to use in this spy system. And we've seen what features these web cameras have that would be important to us. In this segment, I will be teaching you about some of the software you can use to capture and manipulate the images your spy cam(s) are going to gather for you.

As in all software selection processes, features and ease of use probably are going to dictate what you feel is the best solution for you. What one person might feel is important might not matter that much to the next. Please keep that in mind.

There are many software products available so creating a review of all of them would be an exercise in futility. Instead, I'm going to only concentrate on three of what I consider to be the best. But as I just stated, this is very subjective - you will need to work with each of these (or others) and make your own decision. My goal here is to give you a starting point where you can go on to experiment on your own and find the product that works best for you.

The three packages I will be referencing include
Ben Bird's SecuritySpy, Evological's EvoCam, and Econ Technologies ImageCaster. I've talked about and reviewed EvoCam and ImageCaster here in this blog. An in depth review of SecuritySpy is still on my "todo" list. However, I will provide a mini review here to complete this segment...

The one thing that all of these software packages share is that they are dirt cheap for what they do. I'm truly amazed that these developers can produce such high quality software for such a reasonable cash outlay. If I were writing these packages, I would easily ask 2 to 3 times what these folks are asking. That aside, let's look at what each of these puppies bring to the table.

SecuritySpy is produced by an individual (Ben Bird) versus a company. I don't see this as a plus or negative, just something you should be aware of. The current release is ver 1.6.2 and was published on 1/5/2009. This package is a bit more expensive than the other two but still reasonable. Some of the features include:
- Displays and captures live video from multiple cameras simultaneously
- Supports Macintosh-compatible video and audio input devices, including multiple DV devices
- Supports network video devices (Axis, Panasonic, Vivotek, Sony, D-Link etc.)
- Motion Detection and Timelapse capture features, with audio
- Built-in web server for remote viewing and administration (supports iPhone)
- Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) support for many network cameras
- Real-time MPEG-4 or H.264 compression for efficient storage of captured footage
- Broadcasting support for video delivery via QuickTime Streaming Server (QTSS)
- FTP upload feature for off-site storage of captured footage
- Motion-triggered events such as email notifications, alarms and scripts
- Pre-capture buffer to capture video and audio before the time of motion
- Browser feature for playback of captured footage, with synchronised multi-camera playback
Of all these features, the ones that stick out are Pan/Tilt/Zoom for remote control of your camera, remote viewing capabilities through an iPhone or iPod Touch, and Pre-Capture buffer - this means the software can go back in time and record captured video a few seconds prior to a triggered event. The only negative I see is the pricing structure ramps up as you add more cameras. You can find more information on this application by visiting the link above.

EvoCam is another very capable video capture application with some nice features as well. I won't go into great detail here as my review is already on this site, but I will go over a few of the highlights. Current version is 3.6.5 and was released on 8/1/2009. Pricing is very modest at $30 for a single user license with site licenses available. Upgrades are also modestly priced.

Some of my favorite features are simultaneous multi-camera support. Each camera can be in it's own window with it's own independent settings, Support for any quicktime capable webcamera with unlimited quicktime effects, Triggered events and remote alerts, and a never ending list of 3rd party webcam support. To see a list of supported cams, just visit my post
Evologicals supported webcams. A full featured download is available for a 15 day free test. I suggest you take advantage of this by visiting the publishers website link above.

ImageCaster is the least updated software title of the three talked about here. Current version is 2.1 and it was released on 4/26/2006. A lot has happened in the webcam universe in the last few years and this package needs to be brought up to date. It's a commercial product with a cheap price tag of only $30 with free updates for life. That's a nice feature but if updates are long in the making, that really doesn't mean much.

However, given the age of this release, it must have been years ahead of it's competition for it's still very current in it's capabilities. And it has a few features still not in the other packages. My favorite is the ability to manipulate the images captured. You can add graphic overlays, put borders around your image, rotate, embed the image in a larger picture, and generate a variety of output formats. You can also set up a schedule when you want your webcam running. These features would serve a business well that wanted to broadcast live events. I could see a resort or club using this as a great advertising tool.

Of the three packages, I find the user interface of ImageCaster to be the easiest to navigate and understand. Not, that the other packages are hard, this one just happens to suite me best and seem the most intuitive. This package is also available as a free trial where you can download the latest version and test it with your webcam to see if it will work. Visit the site link about for more information.

Alright, there it is, a quick look at three different video capture software packages. Another reason I've chosen to showcase these three applications is that they ALL allow you the chance to download a free copy and test to your hearts content. Please remember, this post has only touched the surface of what each of these software products are capable of. I can't emphasis enough how you should download a free trial version of each one and test it to see how it will work for you. Spend some time on each site and read everything the publisher has to say about their product. Education is a good thing and you're going to learn lots about webcam security by visiting all of these sites.

Ok, that's it for this thread. You've learned the basics about setting up your own Mac based Computer Security Video Surveillance System - quite a mouth full but very exciting to fathom. And the best part is that it's pretty easy to do with incredible results. I hope you enjoy your new venture.