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I would like to create a small video surveillance system. I have two or maybe four WiFi cams and I would like to record video.

  • What can I use? Is VLC a good option?
  • If yes, which hardware do you think I need?
  • Finally, do you think I can record smooth video using a WiFi cam?
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What cameras are those? (Model, etc.) Might help. – slhck Mar 11 '12 at 0:20
I haven't it. I would like to buy maybe Foscam wifi ip cam... – stighy Mar 11 '12 at 9:46
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I had the same need as you did and found a program called iSpyConnect ( It is a free and opensource program that will record on motion detection. I used it for several months to spy on my mailbox. Some neighborhood punks were stealing my mail and tearing it up. This software was setup with my webcamera inside the house, looking down to the street and watching. There was a nearby tree that I was able to omit that area from the motion recording and just record when detecting any kind of motion around the mailbox.

Example from their website, you can see the top right one is detecting motion (blue bar) and it has passed the green marker which will indicate that it's pass the threshold and should record a few seconds prior and a few seconds past.

The software is a progressive learner so it will not detect a cloud, shadow, etc as motion. But it is sensitive enough to catch a person walking. The person would have to be moving soooooo slow ( < 1 meter per minute) in order for the system to ignore it.

enter image description here

As far as hardware goes, I ran this program with two cameras (Microsoft HD LifeCam and a FireWire Camcorder on Tripod). It took about 10% CPU usage on a Core i5. When it detected motion and recorded, I had it compress the 1080p video with a H.264 codec (which is processor intensive). I ended up moving it over to a Core i3 2100 and 8GB of RAM (overkill) and it did a good job as well. I did try it on a Core2Duo that already had heat issues and it sucked.

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Unfortunately, iSpy works only with Windows, not Linux or Mac. If you start up multiple instances of VLC, theoretically you should be able to capture multiple webcams, but there seems to be a bug in VLC on my system where even though you select a different webcam in the video capture device drop list, you get the same first camera. Also, to open multiple instances of VLC on Mac OS X, you have to create a simple AppleScript to launch them.

On the Mac, running multiple instances of VLC is not supported out of the box.

As a workaround, you can create a Droplet that behaves as expected. Paste the code below into a new AppleScript Editor script and save it as an application. Launch the app to get a separate instance of VLC, or drop one or more files onto it.

on run
    do shell script "open -n /Applications/"
end run

on open theFiles
    repeat with theFile in theFiles
        do shell script "open -na /Applications/ " & quote & (POSIX path of theFile) & quote
    end repeat
end open
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