My wife asked me to film our hamster when he's active at night. I've got a webcam and a pretty bright infrared LED already, the only thing missing is some software.

There are plrenty of programs out there, but I am yet to find something that's free and runs on Windows. ZoneMinder looks great but I only have a Windows box.

Could you please recommend a free piece of software which can trigger on motion and start recording from a couple of seconds before the trigger until a couple of seconds after the motion stops? Ideally it would save each clip to a separate file.

3 Answers 3


There is "Motion Detector" (at the bottom of this page), reviewed on LifeHacker.

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The LifeHacker article also points to another free motion detection tool: YawCam.

BTW how could a program "start recording from a couple of seconds before the trigger"? How could the program know that a movement will begin in a couple of seconds so it can start the recording (unless it has a psychic feature built in ;-) ) ? The recording will always start when a movement is detected.

  • 1
    I thought somebody was going to ask that :))) It's very easy - the program would buffer 2 seconds worth of video, and upon triggering would dump the 2 seconds "from the past" plus all the frames that follow.
    – RomanSt
    Oct 17, 2009 at 22:20
  • Had a go at this one. Turns out it has a limit of 60 minutes as well! Moreover, it has absolutely no indication of when it has triggered, so I ended up recording a whole lot of noise. Unimpressed. YawCam next...
    – RomanSt
    Oct 18, 2009 at 9:51
  • It is not that difficult to start recording BEFORE movement actually happens. Not its not magic and not psychic! It called time shifting and you use it on your smart TV or set top box everyday. Basically the stream is buffered with 5, 10 30 seconds and if you want to save a recording seconds before it happens this is possible with time shifting - The simplest things are the most difficult to imagine :)
    – Piotr Kula
    Jun 27, 2013 at 21:31

have a look at AbelCam.

amongst many other features, it does this:

Motion detection / replay

Configure fixed or dynamic Motion detection level Store images on the local disk or with FTP Upload Optional email on motion detection replay detected motion

AbelCam is freeware.

  • Had a look. It's freeware in a very narrow sense: you can get it to work up to 6 hours straight only if you register. The UI is, in my opinion, rather quirky. The "Add cam" screen consistently caused my mouse pointer to become very laggy. Perhaps I'm better off just grabbing OpenCV and doing a bit of DIY.
    – RomanSt
    Oct 17, 2009 at 18:42
  • 6 hours? that must be one hyperactive hamster!:)
    – Molly7244
    Oct 17, 2009 at 20:04
  • Hehe :) Well I got the impression that it's 6 hours from the time I start it, not 6 hours of continuous recording.
    – RomanSt
    Oct 17, 2009 at 23:20

Went back to Yawcam, it has a strange interface but works as it is actually written in Java so you need to install Java first. Here is a quick tutorial on how to setup the motion detector in Yawcam

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